When I am being followed by a car that is unable to safely overtake, I would normally take the lane and adopt primary position as recommended, making an obvious move to secondary position once it is safe for them to overtake.

Sometimes the car doesn't immediately try to overtake and may miss the opportunity to get past me, even though it is legal and, in the cyclist's opinion, safe to do so. If I can see further around the corner (being further ahead) that the road is clear, should I wave them through, or leave the decision up to them?

I'm interested in safety and legal issues as well as avoiding irritating motorists for the good of cyclists generally.

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    In general you should do the courteous thing without being dangerous or confusing. But you should not take the responsibility of "waving on" a car when the driver does not have a clear view ahead. What you consider safe may not be what he considers safe. Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 16:07
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    On zigzagging roads I wave them past if I see further around the bend or I show them the palm of the hand if there's on-coming traffic. Many flash their indicators as recognition when they've passed.
    – Carel
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:29
  • I can kind of see the sense of both comments. :-/ Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 18:39
  • I also wave them on when I can see that they've had clear opportunities but they're too timid to take them. It's up to them to follow my suggestion or not, but I find that it helps many timid drivers. The other drivers it helps are the savvy ones, probably cyclists themselves, who recognize your wave as simply an early indication they can pass you safely. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 6:07
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    I don't often find it helpful when cyclists do this when I'm driving - I don't trust many people enough to overtake when they say it's clear. So I don't do it cycling. What I do do sometimes is ride wide through the tricky bit, then very obviously tuck in when it's clear to pass -- one example is on a stretch of my commute with verge rather than pavement (sidewalk) and which is wider and straighter than the previous bit - it feels like it gets more cars through with less impatient-to-dangerous overtaking than just staying out.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 15:35

6 Answers 6


Never. I drive a school bus (and ride a bike, of course - but never at the same time) and when bicyclists wave me through, I ignore them. There is no way that they can truly judge the space that I need without running into an oncoming car or them.

Same goes for when I'm in my car. I trust my own judgment. If it means that I am driving behind them for a bit, so be it.

On my bike, I keep enough space between me and the curb and let them make their move. What if I wave them on, they hesitate, and then go after the golden moment has come and gone? Or if they pass a little too close because they are nervous? At worst, I'll stop and let them pass. As we all know, folks in the cars don't make the best calls but better than me making it for them.

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    +1, as a car driver I'm not going to bet neither my nor your safety on the judgement call of a cyclist I've never met and who perhaps has no clue about what it's like to drive a car. Making some space is appreciated though, but not so much as to tempt car drivers to squeeze past you despite oncoming traffic unless you are comfortable with them doing so.
    – AVee
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 21:33
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    +1 I've now changed my mind and behaviour to agree with this answer. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 10:54

I subscribe to the theory of "don't force the other person to make a decision".

In a car an example is to not stay in someone's blind spot as they are about to change lanes. That way they don't have to decide whether to speed up or slow down to get over.

On a bike, that means to communicate your intentions and provide one obvious path for the driver to take. For instance, I always take the ENTIRE lane if I'm going to take the lane, and when I want cars behind me to go past I get over to the shoulder as far as I can and wave them on. If I've had to take the lane in a somewhat problematic area I will even stop so I can get the bike off the road and let impatient cars past.

It's up to the driver to decide to go past when you wave them by. But it makes the decisionmaking process easier.


I agree with most answers stating that you can't make a decision for another road user, however, I want to share something that happens on my country, Honduras, were we have a generally poor vehicular culture, and just the first attempts are being made towards motorist accepting bicyclists as legitimate road and street users.

In our roads, truck drivers (18 wheelers) use to swerve temporarily towards the right while flashing the left turn indicator which is interpreted by small vehicle drivers as an invitation to overtake, indicating that the driver of the truck is aware that it is slowing down the rest of the traffic and that those drivers "are there" trying to overtake. The decision, of course is always for the small car driver to make, the truck driver won't get angry if you don't overtake right away.

I have had similar interactions on the road while I'm on the bike and an 18 wheeler driver performed the same signals and even waved with his hand.

What I'm trying to show is that waving for a driver that is behind you is not you taking the decision for them, instead it means that you are aware of their need to overtake and are briefly "willing to collaborate", i.e. you indicate that you won't be taken by surprise is the manoeuvre is performed normally in that moment.

I have also had a type of interaction where I was riding a bike and asked a driver not to overtake by waving my hand palm side down. This was because there where parked cars at both sides of a narrow street. As soon as there were more space, I waved him/her back as I swerved right. The driver seemed happy with the action, and greeted with a couple of beeps as passing by.

I realize this is subjective/anecdotal, but I wanted to point out that there is another interpretation for this type of signals, but also, that this depends a lot on local culture.


I found that at least here in Germany, most drivers are confused by trying to wave them by. Same goes for drivers in oncoming traffic that want to go left (across my lane) that I try to wave across when my traffic lights turn red.

My strategy is taking "primary position" or even closer to the middle line when overtaking is either not a good idea or if there is enough space (maybe an additional lane) that would allow easy overtaking. I only move towards the curb when the road is visible for a longer stretch and overtaking safely is definitely possible. This is to avoid being pushed against the curb when an overtaking car has to terminate its manoeuvre prematurely due to oncoming traffic. However, most drivers seem to ignore this signal as well, either overtaking regardless of the traffic situation or not overtaking at all.

Note though that I mostly ride a velomobile, so the UFO effect is far more pronounced than with any other type of bicycle.


It sounds like you're talking about waving a driver around where there's double yellow lines in the center of the road (and blind double yellow at that) indicating that vehicles may not cross it to pass. Either way, the driver needs to decide when to pass, based on their own visibility and judgment. Waving around just pressures us to make a possibly bad decision, based on a stranger's judgment.

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    Are you referring to double yellow lines on the road? If so, what do they mean? This will depend on where in the world you are.
    – vclaw
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 13:31

I try to wave cars through when I know that it is safe, there is enough room for them to get through. So I think that it is perfectly good practice but you have to think about the size of the vehicle and if it will get around you.

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