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Biking to Work Tips and Bike Hand Turn Signals

Updated on February 7, 2013

30 Day Bike to Work Challenge

I embarked on a personal quest to bike to work, and everywhere else, as often as possible for a full month. Keeping track of my trips and times was for the first two weeks, but chronicling the second half of my personal bike to work challenge was difficult for me for several reasons. Mostly, I began to accept biking to work as normal, so I kept forgetting to write down notes about my ride or how long it took. I guess that means my bike everywhere challenge worked! These are the most important lessons I learned during this month on how to stay safe and enjoy a bike commute.

Visibility on a Bike

First and foremost, biking to work has taught me the importance of visibility and vigilance. As I wrote in my how to bike to work hub, I assume that every car could kill me at any time. Every day, I see drivers that clearly have not noticed my presence on the road. I rely on constant vigilance, staying as visible as possible and frequently use my breaks to keep myself safe and sound. If I see a car with its turn signal on, I slow down or stop for it until the driver visibly acknowledges me. If I insisted on biking on, I would have been hit by turning cars several times by now!

Grimy and wet - what to expect from biking in the rain without rain gear!
Grimy and wet - what to expect from biking in the rain without rain gear! | Source

To increase my visibility, I always turn on my flashing LED lights. Also, my bag has strips of reflective material. For added safety, you can purchase bicycling clothing with reflective strips, or items like a bright orange, reflective belt to wear over your normal clothes. If you want to bike in all types of weather, consider investing in high-quality rain gear with built-in reflective strips to make you more visible in cloudy conditions. If you bike in the rain without protective gear, be prepared to not only drive wet, but also covered in road grime. It is not a pleasant experience!

Bike Hand Signals

Left turn hand signal
Left turn hand signal | Source
Right turn hand signal
Right turn hand signal | Source
Stop hand signal
Stop hand signal | Source

Traffic Signals on a Bike

I also advocate always following traffic signs and signals. Sometimes I feel goofy sitting at a red light without a car in sight, but most places, including Charleston, legally consider bicycles as vehicles and one must act accordingly. I stop at stop signs and red lights, no matter what. Not only could the practice keep you from getting a traffic ticket, but it could also save your life.

Using Hand Signals on a Bike

An important part of bicycle safety is using hand turn signals. To signify a left turn, extend your left arm strait out to the side, as pictured. To signal a right turn, hold your left arm to the side with a 90 degree bend in your elbow with your hand up and about the same height as your shoulder. To signal a stop, rotate the right turn signal so your elbow is bent, but your hand facing down with palm to your rear. I have seen people signal right by extending their right arm straight to the side, but I prefer to use my back breaks instead of my front breaks, so I like to keep my right hand on the breaks while signaling with my left as I approach a turn. A bad experience years ago with applying the front breaks too quickly left me with a dislike of using only the front breaks (and a nice bruise across my stomach where I rocketed into the handlebars). Lastly, since the driver is on the left side of a car, your left arm is usually more visible to divers on the road.

View from the top of Ravenel Bridge
View from the top of Ravenel Bridge | Source

Biking the Ravenel Bridge

The crowning achievement of my 30 day bike to work challenge was biking nearly 10 miles each way to hang out at the beach. This trip involved biking the Ravenel Bridge's several miles of 3-4% grade. Needless to say, making it to the top of the bridge - twice - felt like like one of the biggest accomplishments in my life! If you ever visit Charleston and do not bring your own bicycle, there are several shops that rent bikes. There is also a water taxi, so you are not forced to bike both ways. Standing on one of the viewing decks, feet almost almost 200 feet above the water, is an amazing experience and well worth the effort to get to the top.

Thoughts on Biking to Work

At the time or writing, I am now six weeks out from the beginning of challenge to bike to work, and everywhere else, as much as possible. I plan to continue biking to work, as frequently as I an, because I love saving money on gas and how accomplished biking makes me feel. After biking about 40 miles a week for the past month and a half, I feel great and cannot wait to continue cycling.

So - is anyone convinced? Ready to bike to work? How about ready to take a trip to Charleston to bike the Ravenel?

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    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      That is awesome that you are biking to work! Thank for the reminder on the hand signals! I always forget which is which...and I should teach my kids! Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I feel like a big nerd when I use the hand signals, and some people give me funny looks because they don't know what I am doing, but it has helped me make a left turn before because a driver noticed and motioned me across.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Awesome Natasha, I am really happy that you are enjoying this an you did a great job on this hub sharing safety tips !

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! Living in a college down, I see so many people do stupid things on bikes and it really bugs me. "Saving" a few seconds isn't worth it if you get hit by a car.

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 5 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      Great Natashalh. you are doing a good job. I had pass through all your article, including blog. Beautiful pictures you have got.

      This hub is pretty useful. Thank you very much for sharing this and voted up.

      In India, we use right hand for signalling.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for reading and commenting - and checking out my pet project of pictures over on Stalking the Wild Snark!

      I have seen people here use their right hand, on occasion, I just really like keeing a few fingers of my right hand on the brakes!

      Thanks again.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good Hub I am impressed and humbled by your efforts and accomplishments. I loved biking when I was a teenager. And my three sons loved biking. But I don't think there has ben a bike in my garage since all my sons got married and moved out and that would be about 15 years ago. :( Of course it is not all sad, now I have three grandchildren. :)

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      My bike sat, totally unused, for four years after college. Honestly, I didn't really use it much of college, either. It's never too late to get back on a bike! Cycling again made me remember why I loved it so much in middle and high school.

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 5 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      I wonder, How fast you are getting comments. You are a good writer. Keep it up.

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! I've been pretty surprised by the comments, too. Maybe it's luck and several people happened to look just then.

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 5 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      Best of luck

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Interesting images- never actually seen a cyclist in traffic do your stop signal or right turn before. In fact in group riding your signal for right turn is the regular sign for 'I have a puncture'A

      re those signals from the American version of the Highway Code?

      Do you use a static LED light as well as the flashing? The human brain struggles to comprehend distance to an object when it's flashing and while flashing LED's are a great way of spotting a cyclist it's recommended to always have a steady beam LED in place as well for safety

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I love your hubs on this 30 day adventure. Your bike signal photos are a great enhancement to the content. I can see where having to consider your bike as a car would be somewhat uncomfortable, but it is a safety measure for you and the vehicles. I heard the other day that is a good idea to put an LED light on your helmet also so that you have visibility up high also. Great read and so enjoyable.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      CyclingFitness - I've never ridden with a group of folks, but know people who have if you're curious about the signs used in groups on this side of the Pond. As for the signs themselves, they are what I have always been taught, have seen others use, and have found online in the past. I believe them come from hand signs used by car drivers, and I have seen someone with broken turn signals use them. It makes sense for a car driver, be cause one driving a car here could only use a left arm out a window, while the exact opposite would be true for your. It never occurred to me that signals might be different other places, but it makes sense.

      I do also have two smaller lights, one white and one red, on my bike. They are also LED lights, but they aren't bike lights, per se, and they aren't waterproof, so I take them off most of the time when the bike isn't in use. I have also gone so far as to strap three flashlights lower on the on the frame when I had to ride in low light conditions. I know how inattentive Charleston drivers are!

      Teaches - I like the idea of a helmet LED. I have a headlamp LED I got as a totally random Christmas gift, maybe I could just wear that, since it already has an elastic band.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm proud of you Natasha; you have made a conscious decision to better your life and in so doing better the environment and I applaud you.

      You have some beautiful scenery to see during your travels. Happy cycling!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Billybuc - thanks for your comment! And thanks for asking what happened to the rest of my chronicle about biking to work - you motivated me to finally write about the rest of my personal challenge to bike to work.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Great job, and great hub. I would bike to work, but it is only a few steps, over the lump of sleeping cats to my desk...lol. Up +

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Yeah, you probably don't need a bike! I just have dogs that grunt at me when I move them, but at least they don't get on my desk.

    • vims003 profile image

      Vimesh Ummer.U 5 years ago from india

      HI NATASHA GOOD HUB....KEEP ON WRITING....ITS FIRST TIME I AM READING SOMETHING ABOUT CYCLE RIDING.WE USUALLY LEARN IT WITH OUT ANY PROPER GUIDE LINES...ITS REALLY GOOD.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it and appreciate your stopping by.

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I'm not ready to bike to work. It is great you summarized the hand signals, those are integral to safe riding.

      I have to drive my kids to and from school every day so riding my bike is not an option. Good luck on completing the challenge!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Fair and understandable! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Great Hub Natashalh! I love my bike and sometimes use my trainer. I'll use your hub to teach my oldest boy how to signal correctly when turning! Voted up!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! I'm glad you find it useful and thanks for voting.

    • profile image

      Jlbh 5 years ago

      I agree! Biking the "Big Bridge" is a totally awesome experience!

      It's become one of my very favourite things to do when in Charleston.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      This is a great idea for a personal challenge but as you say you started to take it for granted but I think your lovely photos show that you're 'mixing it up' route wise and it will keep you interested.

      Good Luck!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      My biking to work is continuing, and I'm still enjoying it. A brand new seat (less than a week old) has returned some joy to my commute.

      Thanks for stopping by, Jools99!

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