Communicating effectively can help keep you safe while cycling
Whether you are churning out some high-speed miles with your local road cycling group or just taking a scenic tour with friends, it is essential that you are able to effectively communicate your intentions or any potential dangers to other riders and motorists.
“Hand signals and vocal calls are the two best ways to pass vital information to fellow riders. But it can become confusing and dangerous when everyone uses their own vocal calls or signals. Responsible cyclists will use standard hand signals as their primary means of communicating and use vocal calls as a secondary means when appropriate,” explains David Bellairs, CEO of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust.
“The key objective is for riders to make responsible and safe decisions for themselves first while also keeping the rest of the group informed of the actions they intend to take.”
Many hand signals have slight variations but there are some basic signals that every cyclist should be familiar with. Learning and using these hand signals can greatly enhance safety when cycling in a group. Use these hand signals to point out objects in the group’s path of travel as well as inform the other riders and other motorists of your intentions.
Vocal calls are quite useful, in addition to hand signals, to communicate in a pack of riders. Ambient noise from traffic or other sources may present problems with vocal calls along your route so stay aware of your conditions and use necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all riders. Here are a few of the basic vocal calls that you should become familiar with if you intend to ride in a group. If you are new to a group, pay attention to the calls they use and adapt accordingly.
Clear – When an intersection is safe to cross you can call out “Clear!” NEVER call out “No!” as this can easily be confused with the word “Go!”.
Slowing or Stopping – Yell “Stopping!” if you are going to be stopping your bicycle quickly. It is better to give the riders behind you ample warning before you stop. Announce that you are “Slowing!” as you roll up to a traffic light or stop sign. This gives the other riders plenty of time to prepare for your next call of “Stopping!” It is important to note that in the case of an emergency, removing your hand from the handle bars to signal before braking will more than likely make the situation more dangerous. Signal only if there is time before braking.
Car Back – Those riders at the back of the group shout this when there is a vehicle behind the group and it is attempting to pass. NEVER call out “Car!” as this can be confused with the word “Clear!”
Car Front – This is shouted by those riders at the head of the group when there is a vehicle in front of the group and the group intends to pass the vehicle, either because it is slowing down or it has indicated that it will turn out of the path of the cycling group. Once again, NEVER simply call out “Car!” as this can be confused with “Clear!”