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From a UK government website I found the following document (linked from a page about the Highway Code for cyclists).

Signals to other road users (scroll to the bottom for cyclist information)

Essentially there are three signals for cyclists:

  • Left arm out - "I intend to move in to the left or turn left"
  • Right arm out - "I intend to move out to the right or turn right"
  • (Right) arm up and down - "I intend to slow down or stop" (very rarely if ever used...)

In reality you will find only the left and right signalling used by UK cyclists - any other gestures would not be understood by enough other road users to make them worthwhile.

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As I said above, I don't think I've ever used (or ever seen anybody else use) the slowing down signal. – Amos Oct 2 '10 at 19:36
I expanded my answer to reflect our shared experiences :) – 8128 Oct 2 '10 at 19:48
I didn't understand the slowing/braking signal until I saw this: – Neil Fein Oct 2 '10 at 19:51
In N america is seems that you use the arm on the traffic side bent to say you are turning the other way - because the view of the other arm is blocked. Of course no driver knows this so there isn't much point! – mgb Mar 28 '11 at 5:20
One extra tip: if you're just waving to somebody on the right-hand side, use your left arm, and vice-versa. That way, it's less likely that anyone will mistake your friendly wave for a signal. This applies when waving to your friends as well as when waving thank-yous to other road users. – Dan Hulme May 18 '12 at 22:08

When I'm turning left I put my left arm straight out.

When I'm turning right I put my right arm straight out.

Then I do the Hokey Cokey.....sorry got a bit carried away there.

I vaguely remember from my Cycling Proficiency test that flapping your right arm up and down signals that you're stopping, but in the more than 30 years since I passed it I don't remember ever using it.

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In addition to the normal right, left signals, I also like to give little friendly waves to any drivers where they've demonstrated a rudimentary knowledge of the highway code, such as not turning across my path when I have right of way.

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And a one-fingered "wave" when they demonstrate a lack of that rudimentary knowledge? ;-) – freiheit Oct 2 '10 at 19:07
Two fingered, surely. – Amos Oct 2 '10 at 19:32

I use all four official hand signals when cycling. This is in the UK of course.

Turning left: Left arm out.

Turning right: Right arm out.

Slowing down or stopping: right arm out, palm down and waving clearly up and down.

Going straight across (for junctions): Right arm bent out at the elbow with hand pointing up.

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In Canada, It's

Left Turn: Left arm straight out.

Right Turn: Left arm bent up at the elbow.

Stop/slow down: Left arm bent down at the elbow.

The right arm isn't used because it's harder for drivers to see. I thought the rules were pretty universal. But according to @Amos, they aren't.

Actually, In the UK, I assume it would be reversed to use the right arm, sing you ride on the left and side of the road.

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The Highway Code does contain hand/arm signals which can be done just with your right arm for car drivers, but I can't remember whether cyclists can employ them too. I passed my driving test 24 years ago and I don't think I've looked at a copy of the Highway Code since. – Amos Oct 2 '10 at 18:54

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