Monday, August 23

Raise Your Hand?

Turn Signals, From the City of Milwaukee
Since pretty much as long as I can remember, I've made right turn signals using the "Alternate Right Turn" approach of sticking out my right arm. It has seemed more direct than the approach of raising one's left arm as one would have to do if driving an car and making hand signals. I can't recall the last time I saw anybody in a car making hand signals, so I figure most motorists will understand the alternate signal best.

HOWEVER, there's another reason to raise your hand, and I can't believe I didn't think of it when I was in the situation. You see, the "Alternate Right Turn" signal is the only one a cyclist makes that takes his/her right hand off the handle bar.

So?

Well, as related by Sheldon Brown, here (as well as many other places including bike school), MOST of your braking power comes from your front brake. As I noted, in my blog post about the alternate braking universe of hooking up your brakes backwards, here, the problem with using the right hand to operate the front brake is that right turn signals get a bit squirrely. Well, that isn't the case if you pretend to be driving a car and, simply RAISE YOUR HAND! If you hook your brakes up backwards, and you're right handed, then you can use your strong hand on the strong brake whenever you signal. Even if you're signaling a right turn.

Duh. Now I have to think if I want to change all my bikes over to make them brake backwards. I think, maybe, I do, but I'll try some of that dweeby hand raising first. I wonder if that's why Whareagle signals that way. No, he probably doesn't have his brakes hooked up backwards.

13 comments:

Chuck Davis said...

There is no valid reason to have two (2) "accepted" right turn hand signals

The argument re "front braking" for "now stopping" may be valid but I wood submit that those who really "need/want" that enhanced braking "might" have thought of modulating that "now" excessive velocity by scrubbing off a bit of excess velocity by use of the rear braking prior (while traveling in a straight line) and prior to realizing the need for any modulation in the middle or a turn (write?)

I've reasonably controlled and sane "power slides" avec BSA et Schwinn initiated by the rear brake and direction change, and have ad the crap scared out of me on both when the front wuz grabbed with too much vigor (and with attending rash and discomfort a couple of times)

cafiend said...

I prefer pointing straight with my right arm because it is less often mistaken for flipping somebody off. Also, riding in a low position it is easier to extend the arm straight out than to make the proper right-angle bend upwards with the other arm.

Rantwick said...

I've got the single front brake lever on my fixed commuter on the "wrong" side for just that reason...

Ed W said...

It may be a good idea to ask Dave Moulton about the brake set up. He's the best authority on Brit cycling history that I know, and if I recall right, the 'backwards' brake set up was primarily British. Perhaps that has something to do with using the right hand for signaling?

All my bikes have had the front brake controlled by the left lever. I seldom use the rear brake unless the road is wet or snow covered. Brakes aren't intended to stop you, anyway. They're only meant to slow you down.

Steve A said...

Brake setups are arranged with the notion that the BACK brake is the primary brake, which I think each of my commenters know is not the case. The reason they have the brakes backwards in places like Britain is because they use the wrong side of the road and do most of their signaling with their right arm.

Motorcyles get it right. They recognized and take advantage of operating the strong brake with the strong hand. My commute bike was set up that way when I got it (right hand operates front brake). I changed it because all my other bikes work traditionally.

This morning, I tried making right turn signals with my left arm. I think I've done it the same way as cafiend too many times, because it seemed very awkward, particularly when I had my hands on the brake hoods at the time. Rantwick has never informed us of just how often he actually MAKES right turn signals, and of what sort. For Chuck's benefit, the main PIA time I have with the back brake is when I make a stop signal - it takes a LONG time to scrub off that speed with the rear brake, but I can't use the front and signal a stop at the same time unless things are hooked up backwards. Speaking of which, Ed W has never informed us of how, exactly, he makes stop signals with his hand that operates the front brake while not using the rear brake. Seems a little suspicious...

Rantwick said...

I signal whenever I think there might be somebody to see it, and sometimes even if no one is around. I have always used the left hand to signal my right turn.

Opus the Poet said...

I stopped using the "car signal" for making right turns when people would wave at me and turned in front of me

Ian said...

I wonder if it would be possible configure both brake levers to operate the same (front) brake.

If the back brake is used less often, that could be operated by a smaller lever mounted on the horizontal part of a road-bike handlebar.

This setup would allow confident braking and signalling both left and right, in the USA and Britain. Is there a catch (apart from cost) I have not thought of?

Ian

cycler said...

hmm, I missed the earlier post, but i think that all my bikes have the front brake on the right natively... Robert was that way, and then I just built up Gilbert the same way out of habit, and all three rod brake Raleighs are that way...

One thing that I wish there was a signal for was going straight. Often in boston the intersections are not orthogonal and or have more than 4 inlets.
I generally signal a turn in the general direction I'm heading (straightish-leftish) just to be on the safer side

Steve A said...

I sometimes simply point in the direction I plan to go. While it isn't any kind of official signal, an assertive point seems to be generally recognized. It's kind of like waving someone on in that regard.

cafiend said...

I always preferred to do my city riding on a fixed gear. I could control speed through the pedals. It has one brake, a front, lever left. My left hand is plenty strong enough. Using it helps me train myself out of my severe right-hand dominance, so it's good brain training.

I usually only signal lane changes. Coming in to an intersection with other vehicles, I want both hands on the bars at all times. I might toss off a courtesy signal to free up someone who can safely pull out. Other than that, I prefer to freeze everyone by keeping my intentions unclear. It's like attacking into a closed line in fencing. The opponent knows I'm going SOMEWHERE else, but they don't dare move until they're sure (or think they're sure) where I'm going.

I hate making left turns and avoid them whenever possible. I hate them in a car and even more on a bike. Too exposed. And given that the typical motorist will squeeze past a cyclist at any perceived opportunity, I don't make too much of a fuss over stopping on the rare occasions when I do. I let traffic signals speak for themselves while I prepare my speedy exit.

Stephen said...

About 10 years ago I had a car without electric turn signals (1949 model). None of the other driver understood hand signals, including the left turn signal - with faster acceleration or more aggressive driving, they would pass at intersections when I was signaling a left turn.

I would not expect many near where I live to understand a right turn signal with the left hand. Conversely, if we ride on the right, right turn signals typically require less reaction from other drivers, so I haven't had a problem with the right arm signal and any braking on the rear wheel.

Apertome said...

Like "Opus the Poet," I used to do all signals with my left hand, until I noticed that most people on the roads don't seem to understand the right turn signal made with the left hand. Too many people thought I was waving, and waved back. I now do the "alternate right turn signal."

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