Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fahrradsport Wednesday - Hand Signals

Growing up in the US, I learned that there are certain hand signals that you need to use in order to indicate to other cyclists and vehicles that you intend to turn. The way I was taught is that you always use your left hand, even when turning right. You are supposed to use your left hand because no one is going to see your right hand, given that most likely you have a line of parked cars on your right.

But since I've moved to Germany, I have never, ever seen anyone use their left hand at a 90 degree angle to go right. Instead, if they signal (and in all honestly the majority of cyclists do, though not the vast majority), they always use their right hand.

This may seem really minor, but it's thrown me for a total loop. I understand that it seems counter-intuitive to use your left hand to go right, but there are many situations where no one can see your right hand if your signaling. And of course there are plenty of people that use their right hand in the US, but I would say the majority used their left hand (at least in Seattle).

I did a little googling, and I found that it's perfectly legal in many places in the US to use your right hand to signal, apparently, though using your right hand is consider an alternative it seems. But do they just not do this in Germany? I am continuing to use my left hand to signal, but I feel like it is a bit like the QWERTY keyboard situation. Sure, a QWERTY keyboard gets the job done, but the fact that a better layout exists will never catch on because everyone is already using a QWERTY keyboard. I can only imagine what German cyclists and drivers are thinking when they see me with my left hand at 90 degrees taking a right hand turns. I guess I'm a lone soldier in my own personal war for left-hand based cycling turn signals.

Also, what about in the UK, given that they drive on the wrong side of the street? Do they use their right hand for all turns like Americans do?

9 comments:

headbang8 said...

Surely, in Germany, you're using a QWERTZ keyboard.

Afferent Input said...

Fortunately, my laptop is US-purchased, and I drag it to work with me. But if I have to use one of the lab computers, manz of mz emails start to look like this, unfortunatelz. Itäs, reallz, reallz, irritating.

C N Heidelberg said...

I never use the American signals here because I don't think drivers would understand them. I've never seen anyone use them. Are they actually international?

cliff1976 said...

I've never seen anyone signal at all, except to point in the general direction the biker wants to turn.

I am pretty sure I got a merit badge back in the day for learning the left-hand signals, so I observed carefully for a month here in April/May 2004 to see how well they were implemented.

What a crock.

heather in europe said...

More options--from the UK Highway Code:
http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_070566.pdf

lettershometoyou said...

It's a European thing - they point to where they want to go. I remember in a French class in the early 80s in France: the teacher had a ton of fun with my explanation of the right turn signal we were taught. Why don't you point your fist up in the air and make like you're some sort of revolutionary? he asked. He got lots of laughs out of that one at my expense...

Afferent Input said...

Wikipedia actually has an entry on handsignals. They seem to suggest that the left-arm-at-90-degree signal is just in the US and Canada. Hmmm... I guess this means I should start using my right hand for signals.

Resistance is futile... Next thing you know, I'll be wearing a black scarf 24 hrs a day when I'm sick!

Sandy said...

Funny, I recently dreamt of riding a bike using actual hand signals...

Your hand signals above, except for left turn, wouldn't be recognized, particularly the “stop” signal. I learnt “left hand out” for left turns, “right hand out” for right turns. If people actually do that is probably another question...

Urban School Teacher said...

Yes, as a cyclist in the UK, I use my left hand to turn left and, amazingly. my right hand to turn right. Anything else is unnatural.