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How to use your bike hand signals

Cycling is a healthy and effective way to commute. There is nothing more satisfying than passing by hordes of traffic on a bike after a long day of being in an office. It is also important to know how to navigate safely past the vehicles, and hand signals are essential. Here are a few tips on the most popular hand signals and how to use them properly.

Left turn signal.
Left turn signal
  1. Left turn signal

The left turn signal is pretty straightforward and is useful if properly displayed. When turning left, be sure to stick your arm straight outwards at a 180 degree angle so that vehicles have the best chance of seeing it. This is the bike signal I use the most often when biking because left turns can be dangerous for cyclists. When turning left or merging into a left lane, it is essential to use this hand signal and shoulder check as well. If you are merging over two lanes into the turning lane, be sure to have your hand signal engaged the entire time. Otherwise, for turning left in a heavy intersection, I use the crosswalk instead and do a two-point turn.

Right hand signal. Photo provided by JugendstilBikes.
Right hand signal. Photo provided by JugendstilBikes.

2. Right hand signal (using right-hand)

The best right-hand signal is often debated, but I prefer to use my right hand. In light of left and right turning signals used by vehicles today, using right and left hand signals is more universally understood. Similar to the left-turn signal, make sure to extend your arm at a 180 degree angle to increase visibility to drivers. It can be difficult to see a right-hand signal from a vehicle so be sure to hold out your signal for at least 30 seconds prior to turning. The longer and more emphasized the signal is, the more likely it will be that a driver is paying attention to your turn.

Right turn signal with left hand.
Right turn signal with left hand.

3. Right hand signal (using left-hand)

The traditional right-hand turn signal uses the left-hand. Using a flat-palm, place your left arm at a 90 degree angle. This indicates to cars that you are turning right. Some people believe this hand signal increases visibility, but it seems more often it increases confusion. The hand signal came into existence in the days before vehicles has automatic signals. Drivers would have to use their arms to signal turns, and it wouldn’t have been possible to use your right arm to indicate a right turn. Thus, the left-armed right turn was born. Some supporters of this hand signal also believe it is more visible than the alternative because cyclists travel with traffic, so vehicles can see the left hand more easily. It is a hotly debated topic in the world of cycling, but I am personally a fan of using the right-hand. I find this signal outdated and confusing for drivers, which could be dangerous in the long run.

Stop hand signal.
Stop hand signal.

4. Stop hand signal

The stop hand signal is always good to use, especially when there are no stop lights on the roads. It allows the driver to know you are going to stop ahead of time, which helps avoid an accident. I don’t use this hand signal very often because cycling lanes allow the flow of traffic to remain fairly consistent between cyclists and motorists, and telling the vehicles I’m slowing down is unnecessary. I also find it to be very awkward on the arm. It is an odd angle to bend at, and feels weird when cycling. Besides its aesthetic properties though, it is always good to have this hand signal tucked away for emergencies.

Bike hand signals help cyclists and motorists communicate and keep people safe. Not using bike signals is disrespectful to other cyclists and can cause accidents between bikes as well. I have nearly hit people who don’t signal when turning on my bike, and not doing so definitely warrants angry yelling and hollering from other parties. The bottom line is bike signals are safe, effective and enforce communication between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. Use your hand signals, and enjoy feeling like a more confident urban two-wheeler.

Note: Riding with no hands is effectively known as the hand signal that means you are having a great time and love cycling more than anything else in the world. Use with caution though, and not in traffic.

 

10-year cycling plan “mostly” satisfies two-wheelers

The 10-year cycling plan was adopted last week by a landslide vote of 38-2 at Toronto’s City Council. A few amendments were made to the bike network, but many of the desired changes were kept in the 525 km plan to make Toronto the one of the best cycling cities in North America.

Corridor studies will be removed from the cycling plan until council members see the outcome of the Bloor St. pilot project. The Bloor St. pilot is a cycling path from Shaw St. to Avenue Rd. on Bloor St. that will allow cyclists to travel safely. A report on the much anticipated Bloor St. bike lanes is due to be released next summer and this could lead the way for cyclists gaining access to other major arterials. In the meantime though, no further studies or cycling paths will be built on major roads in Toronto. The corridor studies that were removed from the plan include Yonge St., Danforth Ave., Jane St., Kingston Rd., Kipling Ave., Midland Ave., and Lake Shore Blvd. W.

Though City Council killed plans for major roads in the cycling plan, a separate proposal for bike lanes on Danforth Ave. is set to be revived and reviewed after the Bloor St. pilot project comes to life. The Danforth study is set for the third quarter of 2017.

The plan that is passed will see City council commit $16 million per year, which was more than the minimum baseline funding of $12 million that was originally pitched to council. This amounts to $153.5 million over 10 years. The 10-year plan will be reviewed in 2018 to see how it is progressing, giving an opportunity to review the need for major arterial studies if the Bloor St. pilot project is a success.

An unexpected addition was approved by council when deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong requested that seasonal cycling tracks be removed in the winter. This was approved by 25-15 council members. The cycling community was not impressed with this new regulation as biking in the winter is only possible with cycling tracks.

The 10-year cycling plan includes positive developments for the cycling community as well, including extending the Richmond and Adelaide cycling path across the Don Valley to bike lane at Eastern Ave. A tunneled cycling route will also be added below Highway 401 at Wilmington Ave. and Faywood Blvd. Cycling routes will connect to 12 subway stations, which helps transit commuters that want to bike part of their route. New routes were also approved on Palmerston Ave., Sumach St., Portland St., and Dovercourt Rd.

Overall, the 10-year bike plan is a considerable success because it doubles the amount of funding currently being put into cycling infrastructure and also addresses needed routes across the city. Dropping the major arterial studies is a disappointment since a few of the corridor assessments were reportedly already underway, but fingers crossed the Bloor St. project reviews this part of the plan.

Next up, get ready to bike on Bloor due to be ready this year, and let us know how it goes.

Do you want an extra 525 km of bike paths in Toronto?

Cycling is all the rage in Toronto and City Council will potentially be hopping on the bandwagon at the June 7 council meeting with a 10-year bike plan that has cyclists soaring.

Cyclists can look forward to 525 km of bike pathways throughout the city! These pathways will involve new infrastructure at Kipling Ave., Yonge St., Bloor St., Danforth Ave., Jane St., Kingston Rd., Midland Ave., and Lake Shore Blvd. W. It also includes 40 km of trails that travels through the West Toronto Railpath and connects paths to the Don Valley Parkway and Humber Valley.

The types of cycling lanes will vary: 280 km of cycle tracks will be directly on fast and busy streets, 55 km of the bike lanes will be sidewalk-level trails on major streets, and the remaining 190 km will be along quieter streets. Within the network, 100 km of the cycling routes will be on major arterial roads and studies will be undertaken to evaluate the best streets for the bike lanes.

The Bloor St. bike lanes that were approved in the last city council meeting are one of many feasibility assessments that would be required for this new cycling plan to go forward.  It will decide if the cycling network should be placed directly on Bloor St. or other major arterial roads in Toronto. The pilot project from Avenue Rd. and Shaw Rd, will assess whether the busy street can manage cycling traffic safely on the street and will use a mix of sidewalk bike lanes and routes directly on the street.

The 10-year cycling plan will cost about $153 million from 2016 to 2025, representing a $56.5 million increase in the Capital Plan for Transportation Services. The cycling network plan for 2016 was estimated at $13.5 million with an increase of $4 million in the budget.

Transportation Services has developed five funding concepts to support the program and they range from $8 million per year with 122 km of cycling routes being laid out on Toronto’s streets to $25 million per year with 247 km of track. As the annual investment increases, the amount of buffered bike lanes, which are cycling routes on lifted sidewalks, would increase as well. The last three scenarios have substantially more track built in the timeline and several more buffered bike lanes, but will cost more.

City council had a bike plan in 2011 for 495 km of bike lanes, but failed to meet this goal, only completing 495 km of the bike lanes by the allotted timeline. Cycling is fast becoming a higher priority in the city, but it remains to be seen if the new plan will be adopted. Bike lanes are essential because they help the city relieve congestion and keep people safe.

Hopefully, city council will work harder to meet cycling route goals within the 10 year plan if it goes forward and Toronto may just be put on the map for the best city for cycling.

Do you agree with the 10-year cycling plan? Share in the comments below.