Tuesday, July 12

Hoping for Better

MAC said; "I think you overestimate the ability of most motorists to interpret - and appropriately react to - hand signals."

MAC's comment applied to far more people than just motorists. I've often noticed that pedestrians fail to interpret and react properly to hand signals. For example, here, I related my experiences with school kids that waved back to me when I signaled for a right turn. In that experience, their misinterpretation became part of the fun. After a few speed runs, those kids all knew EXACTLY where I was going to turn.

Left Turn Signal - The Stodgy, Conventional Approach
Still, in a vain attempt to signal clearer, I've evolved from signalling as shown above, to signaling as shown below. I hope that actually POINTING will help get the point across. You can consider it a variation on the mythical teachable moment, as I still get people waving back despite my "pointy" turn signals. MAC caused me to realize that the honk in my previous post might just as likely have been a "friendly response back" to a perceived wave as anything else. MAC is, of course, correct that most people (not just motorists) are clueless about signals other than they realize the signals are supposed to mean SOMETHING and THAT catches their attention almost every time. It is why I am always careful before I hang one arm or the other out. I'd hate to cause a traffic pile-up through careless signal timing!

The "Expressive" Left Turn Signal - Hoping for a Better Response
Lest ye think I'm simply doing what everyone else does, look at the diagram of the signals at the bottom of this post. You'll not see any pointing on going on with any of those signals.

No Pointing in THESE Signals

16 comments:

PaddyAnne said...

My husband will love you - he points when he signals all the time!!

Steve A said...

PaddyAnne, I KNEW you married a smart man! I figure it does no harm and might do some good. In any event, it makes the signal seem "snappier" somehow...

John Romeo Alpha said...

I've been on the receiving end of a very firm and clear conventional hand signal from a cyclist. It's a thing of beauty--a combination of conviction, determination, sheer will, and communication, all rolled into one bold gesture. Not sure how anyone could mistake that when executed flawlessly. Me, though, I have flaws, and I tend to point, gesture, even blink my finger or wave, in an effort to get my point across, if it seems that my motorist isn't quite getting what's about to happen. They usually do, though, more often than not.

PaddyAnne said...

Steve, actually it does make it "snappier" - Pedestrians pull back, and drivers easily understand.

cycler said...

I had a great pair of "illuminite" gloves that were especially good for signaling, as they light up in a headlight beam. I tend to just use an open hand, but pointing assertively out and down, as opposed to a wave which tends to be more upward leaning.

MAC is wack said...

My thinking took similar lines as I rode home yesterday afternoon, though I related it to ethnographic research, Geertz, and burlesque winks (I've never been blessed with a cheering section). The gesture associated with signaling left turns can mean anything when there is not some socially (or legally) established code that motorists can use to interpret the signal's meaning. Based only on my own observations, this code may not be established firmly enough. Pointing is one way to clarify meaning by bringing these gestures more in line with the general social code, so to speak. Perhaps that is what makes it snappy.

As a recent Dallas transplant, your blog is always a stimulating, well-reasoned read that has been a boon to my cycling in The Metroplex. Thank you.

Steve A said...

SOME say you are a recent transplant unless you are eligible to be a member of "Sons of the Confederacy." Another theory about misunderstood left turn signals relates to the Texas political orientation, but I believe that to be of similar veracity as the claim that Texas is guaranteed a unique ability to secede from the Union.

I wouldn't mind if the low temperatures would drop into the high 70's, however. If only for a few days.

Chandra said...

I point. I also vigorously shake the "pointy" hand up and down to reinforce, if that makes any sense.

I like signaling and pointing my intention to other users of the road.

Good post, practical!

Peace :)

MAC is wack said...

I had been wondering about why some people refer to themselves as fifth-, sixth-, or seventh- generation Texans.

billyptx said...

I was riding behind my wife one day and she raised her right hand for a right turn signal. I asked her why we were turning right and she said she was signaling "stop" I told her that was the signal for a right turn, but she said that it was the way the they do it in westerns. I have since given her a piece of paper on proper signaling.

Steve A said...

billyptx more or less put it in a nutshell, along with MAC. A smart cyclist signals diligently and clearly, but NEVER depend on that signal to be interpreted correctly. That motorist might like westerns or simply be a fan of "driving friendly across Texas." For myself, I'll tailor my signals for such as JRA and watch for the clueless. It is fortunate that even the least capable road users mostly understand that arm movements of any kind represent SOME kind of upcoming change. Even if they have no idea what that change might be.

Steve A said...

I like signaling as much as Chandra, though I'm more of the "strong and steadily inflexible point" school than the "vigorously shake" faction. I'm not sure either works better than the other.

Velouria said...

I point when I signal right; otherwise it just doesn't get understood in the areas I cycle in. I have also seen people close their hand in a fist instead of using the open palm, so that others would not misinterpret it as waving. To me that looks rather hostile though.

Warren said...

Good point . . on pointing! I have done it this way for years, and promote this.

The BIG question: What about right turn signals? I do both, but like the "Right Turn" in your pictures because it is where the cars are, and in group rides it does not get lost in the bikes. However, the "Alternate" is probably more intuitive to motorists -- not sure many people know what the Raised left hand even means, even though it is in the Drivers Handbook ( I think).

Steve A said...

Warren, I suggest reading some of the comments to http://dfwptp.blogspot.com/2010/08/raise-your-hand.html from people that concluded the "official right" gets misunderstood just too often. I still practice it.

Kokorozashi said...

Chandra wrote:
"I also vigorously shake the "pointy" hand up and down to reinforce, if that makes any sense."

I do something like this, too -- a couple firm flicks of the wrist to catch the eyes of passersby (I always compulsively imagine the 'tick-tick' sound that turn signals in old cars make while I'm doing this). Coupled with my white-backed gloves, it really does seem to get noticed. Part of me is always vaguely worried that some other cyclist will think I'm aping Contador's 'fingerbang' gesture, though!

I've switched over from the traditional right turn signal to the alternate version -- I used to use a very firm, open-handed old-school right turn signal, and still people insisted upon thinking I was waving them on at four-way stops (or just plain waving). Since Louisvillians are ridiculously polite at four-way stops, this can result in wave-wars ("After you!" "No, you first." "But I insist!" "Why, I couldn't think of it..."), which take much longer than simply going on through, and sometimes require unclipping :)

Of course, in Kentucky, it's always a toss-up as to whether any given driver has even *heard of* turn signals. Very few drivers here use them (in part because there is absolutely no enforcement of our turn-signal regulations, which are lax to begin with). Sometimes I think those who do are probably just cyclists whose bikes are in the shop :D

(Appropriately enough, by the way, today's 'word verification' thingy says 'heatt.')

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