While on the roads, one of two things can happen: road rage, or happy smiles of acknowledgment. The former is caused by cyclists or car drivers neglecting their please and thank you hand signs and simply take their right of way rudely. The latter results because of a friendly wave; a passing smile of acknowledgment as thanks at the other giving way, or according you some form of courtesy.

It’s thus important to know your hand signs if you’re cycling on the roads frequently. It’s even more crucial if you’re leading a pack of cyclists and have to give them clear hand signals on that group trip spanning Changi Village to Paya Lebar through Katong.


The Universal Wave

Wave at the height of your head or extend your palm upward to signal “thank you”.

Driving can be a stressful experience when one meets traffic jams and congestion. Similarly, more so for the cyclist, he should be afraid of oncoming cars which drivers can’t tell a road-going bicycle from a motorbike and seek to swipe the poor cyclist as he goes by. If you’re in the car, there’re airbags to reassure you. However, a bicycle is an open book…

Hold your hand at chest level or above and wave at the driver/cyclist who gave you the right of way. Alternatively, hold it up high with open palm in a gesture of thanks if you wish to be more visible.

This is also a universal sign for “thank you for giving me way” at pedestrian crossings/traffic lights where you have to go across. (Rule of thumb: disembark from your bike and push it across).

Waving can actively transform an irate driver’s frown into a smile. Ultimately, gratitude pleases everyone and helps to create a less hostile environment for cyclists and drivers.


Slowing Down 

Flag out your hand at 45 degrees and wave it up and down or wiggle your fingers to indicate “slow down”.

The alternative is to have your fellow cyclists slam into your rear wheel as you brake abruptly.

To signal your imminent intention to slow, extend your hand with palm facing down. Move your hand up and down. Complement your hand gesture by calling out “slowing” verbally. This double cue will alert your well-ordered pack of your intentions to cut the speed…


Left Turn, Right Turn

Cars have signal blinker lights. While it’s not feasible to install one on a bicycle unless you’re planning to mimic a motorcycle, your hands can deliver your intention just as effectively.

The left/right turn hand signal is used when you’re entering an adjacent lane in traffic, making a left or right turn at a traffic light or stop sign.

To signal a left turn, stretch out your left hand, hold it up 90 degrees parallel to the road.

To signal a right turn, use the right arm. Do it at an adequate distance before you reach the turn, so your fellow cyclists can be sufficiently forewarned.


Pothole, Avoid It.

Index finger out, point 45 degrees to the ground to indicate pothole or other obstacle so the group avoids it.

Going over a road hump, you’re probably okay. But sinking your wheel into a pothole isn’t a joke at all. It could also be a sudden dip in the road, or an obstacle liable to cause a punctured tyre/injury.

To point out a pothole to the group, extend your arm on the side of the obstacle and point to it. Ride around it and call out to warn the others of the danger (they’ll buy you iced coffee for it, trust me).


Debris, Avoid It

Wave your palm left to right on a 45 degrees to warn “debris on road”.

Similar to the pothole warning, except that you flatten out your palm at 45 degrees on the side of the debris. Wiggle your fingers or wave your palm up and down to warn your fellows.

This hand signal differs from “slow down” in the sense that you wave your palm side to side instead of up and down in “slow”.


Overtaking/Pull Through

Extend your elbow in the direction of overtake; then pull back and let the other cyclist overtake you.

It’s rude to overtake someone at close proximity without warning. On the same scale, one should forewarn his peers sufficiently before allowing them to overtake.

Flick out your elbow on the side you wish the next cyclist to overtake you on. Then pull back and allow him to bypass you to take the lead.


The Stop Sign

This sign is a universal sign for “stop”; it may also save your life by indicating to motorists to give way.

Stopping very suddenly is even worse than slowing: the cyclist behind you may practically wreck your wheel, or send you flying. Practicing clear stop signs is therefore important.

Raise your palm high in the air to indicate “stop”. You can either use it to warn your fellow mates, or indicate to a coming car to stop for you.


Wrapped fist behind back is a clear sign for “stop” to your fellow cyclists.

Alternatively, wrap your hand in a fist and put it behind your back to tell your mates to stop. Note that you can only use this sign with the pack and not on traffic.


While practicing these signs, you may also wish to consider trying out the Pasir Ris-Punggol trail here. It’s long enough to practice every hand sign on plus test your endurance riding limits.


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