When you’re on your bike, communicating with drivers can seem like an impossible task. But with a little thought and some practice, you can let drivers know what you are going to do before you do it, making yourself more predictable and safer. Use hand signals and body language to get your message out there:
1. For turns, simply hold out your arm in the direction you want to turn. You can also signal a right turn by holding your left arm out and bent up at the elbow.
2. Remember, bikes don’t have brake lights, so signal your stops by holding either arm out and bent down at the elbow. This is especially helpful on off-street trails.
3. Add motion to your signals! Movement attracts attention, so flex at the wrist or elbow as you make your hand signal.
4. Earlier is better, so try to signal your turns half a block or 500 feet before an intersection, whichever is further away.
5. For lane-changes, point at the lane you are moving into, so drivers don’t think you are turning off the roadway completely.
6. Don’t stop there: make eye contact, wave, smile and use other body language to communicate your intentions to drivers. If they can predict your actions, you stay safer.
This is just one tip for safer cycling, but the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is a wellspring of more useful information. Make them your go-to resource for safety tips, bike classes, events and more at waba.org