Cycling in Chicago? Use Proper Hand Signals to Prevent a Crash

Riding a bicycle in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois can be a fantastic experience. You can move about town with relative ease, travel without worrying about parking costs or the soaring price of gasoline, and you can even enjoy the scenery while you ride. When you consider the added benefits of the physical exertion you get riding a bike, the cost savings by avoiding an expensive insurance payment for your car, and even the price break you get avoiding costs and routine maintenance on a vehicle, the only question may be why more people are not riding.

However, every year, a greater number of adults and children alike take to Chicago’s roadways to cycle for one reason or another. As this culture grows, the daily interactions between cyclists and motorists increase as well. Most of these encounters are innocent and proceed as they should. A number, however, turn far darker when a bicycle accident happens or when a traffic incident causes one or more people involved to be hurt.

When questioned after a crash, many drivers report that they were unsure of what a cyclist was going to do or where she was heading, leading the driver to make an inappropriate call regarding her own conduct that caused the impact. Experts agree that understanding and using hand signals at the right time can go a long way to eliminating these incidents caused by miscommunication.

In Illinois, cyclists are required to use hand signals when they intend to turn to give those around them an idea of their planned movements. If you ride, keep the following hand signals in mind:

  • Left Turn: The ideal left turn hand signal involves a cyclist extending her left arm straight out to the side with all five fingers extended. In some areas, extending a left arm and pointing with an index finger to the left is considered acceptable as well.
  • Right Turn: The most common right turn hand signal involves a bicyclist extending her left arm with her elbow bent at a 90 degree angle and her forearm pointing toward the sky. When using this signal, the rider’s palm should be facing forward or towards the front of the bicycle.
  • Alternative Right Turn: Cyclists may prefer to use an alternative means of signaling a right hand turn by utilizing their right arm instead of their left. Here, riders can extend their right arm horizontally to the side with all five fingers on their hand extended. In some areas, extending a right arm and pointing with a right index finger may be acceptable.
  • Stopping or Slowing: Bicyclists should also signal when they are slowing or stopping so that motorists near them can adjust their speeds in response. To signal that you are slowing or stopping, use your left arm in an extended position with your elbow bent at 90 degrees, your forearm pointing toward the ground and all five fingers extended. Your palm should be facing backward when signaling that you are stopping or slowing.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is important for cyclists and motorists alike to know and understand these hand signals so that the use of these hand signals is both wide spread and effective. If a driver does not understand a cyclist when that cyclist signals she is turning right, the use of a hand signal will not do a lot of good. Therefore, whether or not you ride, make sure you realize that cyclists are on the roadways and that their rights must be respected at all times. Keep watch for signals and make sure you give a rider the space he needs to maneuver his bicycle in a safe manner.

Know that if you are involved in a collision due to the mistakes of another, you may be entitled to seek relief with the help of a personal injury attorney.

Prior Blog Entry:

The Dan Ryan Expressway, Busiest Road in Illinois, Sees Many Car Accidents, Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, published September 13, 2016.


Hand Signals, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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