Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On signaling in traffic

The directional blinker: one of an automobile's more useful interactive features, universally available in any model of car as a standard option.

What really irks me about signaling in traffic is the unforgivable number of road users who simply choose to forgo the practice altogether.

I don't really think the directional blinker in a car could be much easier to use; there it is, a finger's grasp from the steering wheel on the left side.

Even car users who prefer an automatic transmission should have at least their left hand on the steering wheel at all times, making that simple signalling wand oh so easy to use during any and all traffic situations.

I am pretty sure all of us road users realize this convenience is not often utilized. Many motorists (and cyclists) swerve suddenly from lane to lane, assuming no harm will come to them as they display their complete ineptitude on the road.

Is it really that hard? Perhaps they should install directional indicators right on the steering wheel, so completely under-skilled drivers could actuate a signal without even moving their hands.

Unfortunately, this real estate on the steering wheel has typically been occupied by an alternate access point for the car horn, a far less useful traffic device which offers other road users no actual message as far as your intentions on the road are concerned.

As a daily commuting cyclist, my frustrations with non-signaling road users is tremendous.

When I ride next to a car, I observe them carefully to try to figure out what they are doing. Sometimes they are turning right and I plan to travel straight ahead, and I cannot recall a single instance where I was interested in crashing into the side of their car.

Even motorists who turn and look at you, and see you, might still perform their traffic maneuver without signaling. I suppose the expectation is that the cyclist will just...figure it out? I find this phenomenon quite vexing.

I am completely willing to slow down and allow another road user to perform a turn while I wait, but a little warning would be nice! If you don't have a blinker on, I assume you are headed the same way I am.

I have the following message for road users who fail to use a directional signal to describe their intentions in traffic: you suck.

This Proclamation of Suckiness (POS) is not exclusive to motorists; it is a universally applicable description of all road users who perform traffic maneuvers while failing to issue a signal.

While I may have an impartial sense of compassion for fellow cyclists on the road, they are not exempt from the POS.

Cyclists are expected to signal their intentions on the road, and I shouldn't need to explain why it is a practical and realistic thing to do in all situations.

If you are riding a bicycle which renders the practice of simply lifting your left hand from the handlebar for a traffic signal somewhat inconvenient, perhaps you should rethink whether that particular bicycle should be ridden in traffic (by you).

As a side note, I have actually seen a cyclist who displayed a right-turn signal with his right hand (should be displayed with the left), and then proceeded to turn left.

I have only this to say: what an idiot.

The only thing I cannot emphasize enough about this particular cyclist is his idiocy in choosing this unusual traffic signal.

The cyclist's left-hand turn signal (pointing to the left with your outstretched arm) is the easiest and most universally understood traffic signal available to cyclists. Period.

This is fitting, as it is the most dangerous move a cyclist can make on the road.

Instead of opting for this convenient signal, our cyclist in question decided to make up a signal that doesn't even exist at all, and I would not have been surprised if he were flattened by the car behind him on the scene (fortunately, he was not).

And duh: of course he was not wearing a helmet.

I shouldn't have to point out that forcing motorists to interpret your non-existent hand-signal on a bicycle while you are trying to execute a left-hand turn is a very bad idea, and definitely warrants you a POS award.

If you are a new cyclist and are confused about your hand signals, you should keep the following advice in mind:
  • All traffic signals may be made with the left hand. This is especially important if you are making a left-hand turn, which exposes a cyclist to greater risk than less innocuous traffic maneuvers.
  • Signaling a right-hand turn with your right hand is acceptable (and many cyclist prefer it, as motorists are often confused by the right-turn signal), however it may be less visible to some road users in certain conditions as you are usually traveling to the right of traffic. Keep your audience in mind.
If you use our roads like I do, please consider the courteous and obligatory behavior of signaling your intentions to other people on the road.

Some of us are not interested in dying today.

1 comment:

  1. Right on Jeremy! This is a constant irritation when I drive. I know you have been in cars with me when I get annoyed and rant about how drivers should always signal. It is not only courteous but also an extremely easy and effective safety tool that all drivers have at their disposal. My favorite is when Drivers are going along in the left lane as if they plan to continue going straight then they stop short at the light and make a left instead! I hope more people read this post and follow your simple logical advice!