A worrying thought about hand signals

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recumbentpanda
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A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby recumbentpanda » 2 Feb 2020, 9:17am

A little while ago I found myself approaching a group of pedestrians at a point on a former railway cycle path where there was a junction. The group were spread over the road in the mouth to the junction, so as I slowed, I indicated right. Instead of understanding the signal as applying to me and my intentions, they took it to mean that I was directing them to move in the direction indicated, and with polite smiles, they kindly moved to block the exit I wished to take.

Since then I have noted a number of incidents, both on and off roads where people seemed to be confused about the meaning of hand signals. The most recent was a driver using the entrance to a side road on my left to perform a 360 turn that would result in him exiting the junction across my path and taking the opposite lane of the road I was on, to travel in the opposite direction to me. Seeing me approaching, the driver stopped and did not pull out, the car sideways on and blocking the entrance to the side road. All good so far, except that I was slowing and indicating left! I had to come to a halt and engage in a conversation in mime: eg, me pointing at chest then down side road as in ‘Me wanna go that a way!’ Eventually the penny dropped and the driver completed their manouvre, leaving the side road clear for me.

Pulling away from that last encounter, and thinking of others, I began to wonder if people are beginning to forget the hand signal, and that we cyclists are the only people left still using them. Even motorbikes universally have indicators these days. This is a worrying thought. Signals aren't always necessary of course, but in many situations they are an important aid to safety. But what really concerns me is the apparent confusion about what they mean. That is dangerous in any circumstances.

Postboxer
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby Postboxer » 2 Feb 2020, 9:39am

It might be a problem that not all cyclists use them, so people are unfamiliar with them, although drivers should be. There are also some cyclists who use them but not very clearly, dangling a lazy arm down by their side. Were you on a recumbent? Perhaps people get distracted looking at the cycle and not the cyclist?

Marcus Aurelius
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby Marcus Aurelius » 2 Feb 2020, 12:33pm

Always ‘augment’ your hand signals with verbal signals. “On your left”, “on your right”, “coming through mind your backs” etc.

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[XAP]Bob
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby [XAP]Bob » 2 Feb 2020, 3:44pm

Marcus Aurelius wrote:Always ‘augment’ your hand signals with verbal signals. “On your left”, “on your right”, “coming through mind your backs” etc.

No use at all against those who claim that we are clearly suicidal when listening to music - those who are enclosed in a sealed box with music on...

Most pedestrians don't get the concept of 'on your left', I started to use "passing to the left" but even that is misinterpreted as "please step left" some significant proportion of the time.
A shortcut has to be a challenge, otherwise it would just be the way. No situation is so dire that panic cannot make it worse.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those can extrapolate from incomplete data.

recumbentpanda
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby recumbentpanda » 2 Feb 2020, 4:15pm

Postboxer wrote: Were you on a recumbent?


Of course!

Perhaps people get distracted looking at the cycle and not the cyclist?


Clearly not in the first instance, since they clearly saw the signal because they reacted to it -just in the wrong way. I know recumbents mess with some people’s heads but . . . :?

The real issue that concerns me here is that cyclists in general are left as the last bastion of hand signalling. If nobody else understands our signals we’re in a bad place!

flat tyre
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby flat tyre » 2 Feb 2020, 5:01pm

Sometimes I wonder if sticking my right arm out to turn right means "please overtake" to motorists approaching from behind.

Slowroad
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby Slowroad » 2 Feb 2020, 8:33pm

Always ‘augment’ your hand signals with verbal signals. “On your left”, “on your right”, “coming through mind your backs” etc.

I'm a cyclist and I don't really know what those mean! But I think 'on your left' is different from 'I'm turning left'?
“My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.”
― Peter Golkin

thatsnotmyname
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby thatsnotmyname » 2 Feb 2020, 8:58pm

Slowroad wrote:
Always ‘augment’ your hand signals with verbal signals. “On your left”, “on your right”, “coming through mind your backs” etc.

I'm a cyclist and I don't really know what those mean! But I think 'on your left' is different from 'I'm turning left'?


I don't think he even read the OP. His answer doesn't relate to it at all..

MOARspeed
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby MOARspeed » 2 Feb 2020, 9:13pm

Don't use hand signals off road, make some noise, use your bell, change gears, say something, etc etc and then watch to see where they move to. people don't expect road signals to be used off road.... On the road most people will understand.

Bmblbzzz
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby Bmblbzzz » 3 Feb 2020, 10:17am

It's not a problem I've encountered. Groups of pedestrians or even cyclists doing their own thing oblivious of others and using their own private, but easily misinterpretable, hand signals, is a thing on converted railways and other off-road situations, but that's not quite the same as not understanding hand signals.

As for cyclists being the only group left that use them, I suppose this is true (well, I guess horse riders use them, and police directing traffic [but not in the UK obviously as we don't have any of those left]) but it has been true for at least four decades. Indicators have been standard on motorbikes since the 70s (someone will come up with a set of dates, I expect). So I don't think that's a problem, or else it would have shown up at least 20 years ago.
Last edited by Bmblbzzz on 3 Feb 2020, 10:35am, edited 2 times in total.

Bmblbzzz
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby Bmblbzzz » 3 Feb 2020, 10:27am

Bmblbzzz wrote:Indicators have been standard on motorbikes since the 70s (someone will come up with a set of dates, I expect). So I don't think that's a problem, or else it would have shown up at least 20 years ago.

Mandatory on m/cs registered since 1 August 1986 in UK. 1981 in Australia. But definitely standard fitments in the 1970s (possibly this was like wheel reflectors for bicycles, where pre-1986 -- but post another date, which I'd guess to be in the 1970s -- m/cs were required to have indicators when new but did not need them on the road).

John Holiday
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby John Holiday » 3 Feb 2020, 3:25pm

Always a good idea to have a decent cycle bell, & not a pinger.
Usually gets a path users attention, slow down & share with care.
With regard to signalling, was amused recently on a Bikeability session in school, when one girl demonstrated the old left turn signal with circular motion of her right hand.
When asked where she had learnt that said her Grandad had taught her!
I now only use it when driving my 1928 Swift Tourer.

tony_s
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby tony_s » 3 Feb 2020, 5:37pm

Much more worrying to me is the habit/convention that group cyclists have of waving an arm out to indicate a pothole or whatever, meaning "avoid whatever is under my hand", which is pretty much the opposite of "I am going to turn that way". It is often ambiguous even to those in the know, and to other road users it is downright misleading. I fear there is an accident waiting to happen.

Bmblbzzz
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby Bmblbzzz » 3 Feb 2020, 5:46pm

tony_s wrote:Much more worrying to me is the habit/convention that group cyclists have of waving an arm out to indicate a pothole or whatever, meaning "avoid whatever is under my hand", which is pretty much the opposite of "I am going to turn that way". It is often ambiguous even to those in the know, and to other road users it is downright misleading. I fear there is an accident waiting to happen.

There are three main ways this seems to be done:
[*]Pointing at the hole, etc. This usually means the finger is pointing almost straight down.
[*]A circular motion with a finger or whole downward-pointing hand. "Go around".
[*]A patting motion, with the hand horizontal, moving rapidly up and down.

They probably all look pretty mysterious to those not in the know, but I don't think any of them could be mistaken for direction signals.

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The utility cyclist
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Re: A worrying thought about hand signals

Postby The utility cyclist » 3 Feb 2020, 7:59pm

Hand signals by cyclists are for politeness only, they are unduly unnecessary in the vast majority of cases and road position, reading the situation plus control of your vehicle is massively more important.

For the OP, you had already slowed, IMO there was little point you indicating at that juncture if you had already taken account for the pedestrians potential actions, unless you asked them you might not know if your hand signal actually was seen or taken as anything at all.

When I encounter a mass of peds or if there are some at a crossing/pedestrian refuge and there's nothing bearing down right on my tail I'll ease off, wave them across and the hazard we present to each other is out the way and done. This to me is massively more important than hand signalling and then having to react retrospectively and with surprise to a mis-communication.

I'd rather not cede priority and in some cases you're setting a bad precedent that others will expect but sometimes helping others in a tricky spot can be beneficial all round.