I live in a country where people drives on the right.

Say I am riding my bike like this:

    - main road
    vvvv      - narrow path
    vvvv      vv 
    \    \   |  |
     \    \  |* |  <-- I want to get here
      \    \ |  |
       \    \|P |  <-- pedestrians crossing
        \       |
         \      |
          |     |
          |     |
          |   * |  <-- I am here, going straight
          |   ↑ |
          |     |
         main road

That is, I am going straight and want to continue like this in an intersection. For some reasons, people typically turn to the left in the crossroads (it is the main road), but I do want to go straight (a narrower path).

This means that pedestrians typically cross on point (P) without paying much attention to cyclists, despite us having preference. They check the road, though.

If I would go to the left I would indicate it with my arm. However, is there any way to indicate that I am going straight? I think on putting my hand straight but I am not confident that this will be understood by my fellow cyclists or pedestrians.

  • 9
    In addition to the good answers below, I'd suggest using a bell to warn inattentive pedestrians that you're coming. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 15:01
  • 3
    You gotta look out for them - can't assume they've seen you. Pedestrians get vocal if you do to them what cars do to us cyclists.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 18:23
  • @Criggie I looked for an answer to that effect to upvote, but there isn't one. You might consider writing it! Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 19:02
  • 6
    'This means that pedestrians typically cross on point (P) without paying much attention to cyclists, "despite us having preference"'. <==== I don't know how can I emphasized this more but if a pedestrian is crossing a street, he/she always has preference. They could be wrong in the first moment (jaywalking) but once they decide to cross all vehicles (bicycles included) should give them the priority.
    – rdllopes
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 9:06
  • 1
    @Criggie You're right!
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 22:06

8 Answers 8


It's difficult to say without seeing photos of the road layout. However, if the road itself continues round to the left, you should indicate right when you're leaving it.

In general, you should think about the topology of the road, rather than its geometry. It doesn't matter that you're following a geometrically straight line; you're still leaving the road for a separate carriageway, and you need to signal this intention.

The default assumption for someone crossing the road is that you'll continue along the carriageway you're already on.

This said, of course, common sense should always prevail! Never do anything that feels dangerous (for you or for someone else).

  • 3
    @fedorqui It's difficult to say without seeing a picture of the road layout; a satellite image would help here. But I expect it will at least make them pay attention to you. You don't necessarily need them to understand exactly what you're going to do, just as long as they're paying attention! Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 11:28
  • 8
    If I saw a cyclist at the position indicated, with their arm out indicating right, I'd assume they're leaving the (logical/topological) carriageway to take a (conceptually) right turn onto the narrow path which coincidentally happens to be straight on in purely geometrical terms.
    – AlexC
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 13:00
  • 10
    @fedorqui Some of them will understand you. Some of them will be confused and, hopefully, pay more attention to what they think is a weirdo who's signalling an impossible turn. The rest of them will pay no attention, just like always. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:53
  • 1
    This is why I'd point where you are going. Unlike a car you are not restricted to left and right indicators
    – WW01
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 8:55
  • 1
    Common sense is a rare thing...
    – copper.hat
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 20:57

Will's answer is correct - this is to provide an identical example when driving:

enter image description here
Source: Google Maps

If you are headed northbound on State Road 213, the normal course of action is to continue around the left bend on SR213. However, a fair amount of traffic exits SR213 onto County Road 400 E. (I'm not sure why that little spur of road is labeled SR213 - that's not the case & needs to be fixed.)

The traffic exiting SR213 onto CR400 E, should indicate they're leaving the main road by using their right turn signal, even though they are actually traveling in a straight line. (I say should because who uses turn signals these days? I know where I'm going, what difference does it make if you know where I'm going? /rant)

Since bicycles, at least in the US, are supposed to be road vehicles and follow the rules of the road, you would follow the same logic, whether "exiting" straight onto another road or onto a path/sidewalk/etc.

I think your biggest challenge is having people understand why the heck is this guy waving his arm about in the first place.

  • 5
    Irks me too. I just don't comprehend why some people don't indicate. What is so difficult about it? It breaks the entire system when statistically you can't even vaguely rely on vehicles not indicating to not be turning. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 16:42
  • Cars are "robust" against this degraded system, being that they're massive metal cages, so drivers can externalize the risk created by not signaling. It's neglectful but not impractical. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 19:51
  • It's probably labeled because it is an offramp/onramp and maintained/owned by the state rather than the county. The matching E/W spur isn't in the same color but it is labeled as SR 213 if you zoom in.
    – Random832
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 6:24
  • Interesting theory, @Random832, however, if you travel 1 mile west on SR213, the same situation occurs heading north, and the roads aren't labeled that way. Also, after living near here for 20+ years, I know first-hand that the state doesn't care for these little spurs, the counties do. I'd guess it's just that an overzealous road segment clicker got hold of it somewhere & identified those 100' incorrectly. No matter...
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 15:27

I find that on ambiguous roads the best course of action is to point where you're going. It's not a standard signal but I find most drivers and pedestrians tend to pick up on the meaning.

Also consider 'taking the lane' in instances like this to avoid cars wiping you out as they turn.

  • 1
    If you are taking the logical right turn that's physically straight-on, then a car making the same turn isn't going to wipe you out. If you're taking the logical straight-on that's physically a left turn, a clear left turn signal should be enough. (In the sense that a driver who'd drive straight through you while you're signalling left would probably drive straight through you if you took the lane.) Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 16:26

This is a right turn. You're entering a node from which you're taking the right-most exit. Going straight means taking the middle exit out of three.

Pedestrians are not all going to look at your hand signals and understand them; pedestrians can barely be relied upon to understand motor vehicle blinkers.

Pedestrians P already in the progress of crossing generally have the right of way. (Surely, you don't expect them to decipher your intent and then get off the road and out of your way?)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Gary.Ray
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 13:36

The notion of straight is closely related to the notion of the main road, not to the actual layout of the road. Technically, you are going straight. But if the main road is curved (as it seems to be the case), then you are turning right.

Thus, whenever you have an intersection, what you need to think first is what is the main road. If the main road coincides with your direction, then you don't have to do anything (no signal means that you will follow the main road). If you are not following the main road, you signal the direction on which you leave the main road (in this case, you're leaving the main road trough the right, so you signal right).

In order to find the main road, look around you as you approach the crossing. Usually, there are 2 exists from the intersection that do not have a sign (this depends a bit on the local laws) and the rest have a sign that indicate that you need to give way. Those are secundary roads.


Point where you're going.

Specifically: slow down, point where you're going, and look at the pedestrians until you have eye contact. Calling "Hi!" to get attention helps.

Once you see they'll yield to you, you can speed up; if they don't see you or won't yield, slow down and continue when they've passed.

  • +1 for slowing down - there's no reason to add speed. Slowing makes everything take longer, allowing more time for the brain to process inputs.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 21:07

If you are in a 'ride on the right' country, you are on the right of the road and can just cycle on, without indicating, as long as you give way to the pedestrians crossing.

There are options though:
In the Netherlands there are people, me amoung them, who would use the arm on the side of most traffic and stick that out forward, over the handle bar.
As in this case the traffic you want to tell what you are going to do is likely to your right, pedestrians, you can use your right arm.

If you are in a 'ride on the left' country you should indicate right, as you will cross the main lane of traffic. You can then swing the arm forward, pointing towards the road where you will enter it, to indicate to the pedestrians where you will cross their path.


There are MANY of these intersecting ways in Ye Olde Massachusetts. A Right turn signal by the cyclist would be correct and no questions, around here. Even though he was just a New York Yankee, in the words of the great Yogi Berra, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!". Nobody knows, but for some reason, the message is clear: Be careful.

  • There's one of those intersections (or exit ramps), though only one-way, every 5 miles on the interstate system. Nobody questions it, right signal ... please! Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 16:21

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