I'm nervous about hand signalling (taking a hand off the handle bar) while I'm decelerating: I'm worried that my body being pushed forward will act on the one remaining hand and change the angle of the front wheel.

So I'm sometimes not signalling as much as I'd like to (e.g. while I'm decelerating): as much as I would in a car.

Is this a known problem? Is there a work-around or solution?

This is for riding in city traffic. For example on a main road, relatively fast with cars following, I want to slow down before turning off onto a side street.

  • ...anyone implemented a work-around and inserted led-signals to the back and the front like in cars -- and signal-buttons to the handlebar? It should not be too hard to make, anyway interested to know whether there is some ready implementation?
    – user652
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 13:33
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    @hhh: instructables.com/id/turn-signal-biking-jacket
    – freiheit
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 20:05
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    The lighting solution that you suggest is ingenious but would not be expected or understood quickly enough by motorists, I fear. Motorists have enough trouble trying to imagine cyclists as other vehicles--a blinking LED to signal a turn or decellerating would be lost on most, I believe. After all, such light wouldn't be very far from your center, from a motorists perspective so direction wouldn't be obvious. Clever idea, though--I've experimented with LED's embedded in the backs of my gloves to aid in signalling.
    – DC_CARR
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 15:26
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    Come on! Car drivers aren't stupid - not completly. They know this signs from cars, motorcycles, mopeds - everybody should understand immediately, what it means, even motorists! Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 19:09
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    @user unknown - Not a matter of intelligence, more of reaction time. Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 1:55

7 Answers 7


I have one big turn at the bottom of a hill on my ride into work. I usually signal that I'm going to slow down, then gradually slow down. Halfway through slowing, I do a real quick turn signal and then get back to slowing. Then right before the turn I signal a little more.

You don't really need to keep your arm out the entire time for people to get where you're going. A quick split-second signal usually isn't going to make you lose stability.


Yes, it's a known problem, at least to me. The work-around is not to signal, or to use head-turning and lane positioning as a signal.

What I do is very dependent on the situation. In the worst case, fast moving traffic on a busy, multilane road with no bike lane/bus lane/parking that would allow me to slow down out of traffic I will overshoot and just pull in at the next opportunity. If I knew about it in advance I'd avoid that road. My experience of signalling and slowing down, forcing the moronist behind me to also slow, is that it doesn't help. I get signals back, shall we say.

Cyclists in Melbourne do signal more than they do in Sydney, but rarely to motorists. The most common is the right arm out "I'm pulling out in front of you" which when done assertively works almost all the time for persuading motorists to let you turn. (left arm/move left for countries that ride on the right hand side of the road). The slowing down signal I don't recall ever seeing except in primary school.

Signals between cyclists are much more common, but that's because they're safer, easier and the following cyclist is more likely to notice them.

  • do you know whether homebrew systems exist to let you signal with lights at the back and lights in the front? I have been wondering whether termistor in the handle-soft-stuff would be enough to notice that you are turning that way it would be easy to make extra signalling system every time you raise your hands. When both hands are raised, the system would stop automatically or show some full stop thing. Or perhaps just buttons to the handlebar. Any good ideas for light-signalling system to bikes?
    – user652
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 13:35
  • @hhh: yes, there are various systems you can buy that do this. I've seen brake lights that use a sensor on one brake or brake lever to activate your rear light that are slightly fiddly but useful. At the other end of the scale there are cheap brake/indicator systems that look fragile and unreliable. For the Trisled Avatar velomobile we built our own. Assuming you have 12V lighting that's very easy to do using car parts and LED lamps. You could build something using lower voltage but to make it work we'll would take a but of electronics skill.
    – Мסž
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 22:18
  • There are a surprising number of ready-made systems out there: topelectricbikes.co.uk/… and bicygnals.co.nz/indicator-bike-lights.html in a quick search.
    – Мסž
    Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 22:22
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    @hhh: in terms of building sensors into the handlebars to automatically signal a turn every time you scratch your nose, perhaps not a good idea? The real problem with all of these systems is that the only place far enough from the centreline to clearly say "turning" is the end of the handlebar. That's busy (lots of things happen there) and gets knocked about a lot (check the ends of handlebars in a bikestand to see). On a velomobile you have more places to mount and hand signals are harder, so an electric/electronic system makes sense. You also have more budget...
    – Мסž
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 2:42

The work around is to practice.

It takes practice to be able to turn around and look behind you while still biking straight. It sounds really simple and easy, but it's not. Signaling while slowing is the same way.

  • What I've been practicing recently is sitting further back (almost off the seat), while going over bumps, and while braking on hills. And that feels safer. I'm not actually sure that my seat's in the right place: maybe I'm too far forward normally.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 0:18
  • Yes I think I'm sitting too far forward: even a slight braking pushes me forward (and, I find it difficult to brake only 'slightly': the disc brakes seem to bite pretty well).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 16, 2011 at 17:54

The key to signalling is that you should not endanger yourself while doing it. To be honest, I only ever signal if I think that there is someone else in the immediate vicinity who will benefit from seeing the signal because I don't think that they understand what I'm going to do from the already available other cues.

The car brake light is passive, the cyclist trying to do the same is most definitely active. You should try to create other cues - head-turns, road position - if you think that someone behind you is going to be impacted by your slowing down.

If you know another cyclist is riding close, then just sit up a bit - this is definitely a cue to them, it will also help slow you down (a little) by providing more resistance.

I did actually see someone use the official (i.e. UK Highway Code) "I'm braking or slowing down" arm signal on a bike yesterday for the first time in probably years. Signals between cyclists are much more common, though, but are much easier to deliver quickly and without upsetting the balance as much.


It is important to signal at all times because we can never be SURE that we are totally aware of every other road user. Have you ever had a car "suddenly" appear on your left, seemingly out of nowhere? If you haven't at some point you will. It is natural. Sometimes, despite heightened awareness, we miss something in the near-chaos that is a busy street.

I signal in almost any situation that I would in an automobile--when turning, when changing lanes, when coming to a stop. If I am going to eventually get squashed by a car, I don't want it to be for lack of trying to communicate clearly.

In the situation that you describe, slowing down to make a turn, I would make two observations.

  1. If you are decellerating so quickly that you feel like your body may move forward, you should consider applying the brakes more gradually. No one is going to get impatient if it takes you five seconds instead of three to slow down. Slow down slowly enough that you can safely signal your intention. No sane motorist really wants to hit you. If they know what you are doing, they should respond in order to avoid damage to their expensive car (if nothing else--if they hit me, I'm going to definitely scratch that paint and I am uninsured).

  2. When in a situation where you must apply the brake rapidly while signalling, learn to assume a lower body position when you do this. On a commuter bike with riser bars, this would mean signalling with one arm while moving your head and shoulders down and bending the other arm. Use the non-signalling arm as a shock-absorber while maintaining control of your bicycle. This may sound like a challenge, but with a little practice it will come naturally.

In the worst possible scenario, you would brake hard while signalling and have your other arm with its elbow locked. Doing that, all of the g-forces are transmitted through your arm to your torso which may then feel like it's going to pivot over the handlbars. No one likes that sensation. Use more of your body to absorb that force and position yourself to account for it beforehand.

  • Those are good observations. I look forward to trying them.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 0:23

In UK we drive on the left. When making a right turn on my bike I carry out the same procedure I use when driving my car. I turn my head over my right shoulder and look for a gap in the traffic, when there is a big enough gap I make a positive signal with my right arm and steer out to the left of the line in the center of the road. I apply my brake with my left hand gently to slow my speed a bit while signaling and about 50M before my turning I put both hands on my brakes. Car driver like you to be positive with your positioning and signaling on the road as they can pass me on my left without having to stop. The trafic comming towards me quite often slow down and flash their lights to let me cross.

One of the biggest problems is if you are on a steep hill and want to turn right especially if you are climbing out of the saddle. You then have to turn your head and look, then position yourself correctly on the road without a signal, I find that more of a problem.


My workaround is: Early signalling. One place, I cross often, has a crossing before the crossing, while it is downhill pretty fast - so early hand sign would mean, I take the first road, not the second, but I take the second.

So I just turn the head right, and since it is a right turn (and we drive on the right side) it's not so much of a problem.

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