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What Do Bicycle Hand Signs Mean?

Bicycling is an environmentally-friendly way to travel, but riding a bicycle on roadways alongside motor vehicles can pose a significant threat to the health and safety of a cyclist. According to the CDC, over 130,000 cyclists suffer injuries in roadway crashes annually, with nearly 1,000 cyclist fatalities. In Wisconsin, an average of 884 bicycle crashes occurred ever year between 2015 and 2019. These accidents resulted in an average of 800 injuries and ten deaths every year.

Cyclists use hand signals to communicate their actions to reduce the risk of injury or death in a collision with a vehicle. However, drivers don’t always understand these hand signals or exercise a duty of care for cyclists on the road. Collisions can occur when this happens, leaving cyclists with debilitating injuries and medical bills.

Who Has the Right-of-Way in Wisconsin?

Whether a cyclist uses hand signs or not, drivers and cyclists must understand the right-of-way laws in Wisconsin. Cyclists and motorists must follow all traffic laws, such as stopping at stop signs, giving pedestrians the right of way, and obeying traffic lights.

Drivers owe cyclists additional consideration on the roadways and should give them the right of way. This includes keeping an eye on their surroundings to scan for cyclists, allowing cyclists ample space to avoid potholes or road hazards, and giving at least 3 feet of space when passing a cyclist.

However, cyclists must obey the following guidelines for riding near traffic:

  • Ride at least 3 feet from the curb
  • Ride in the same direction that traffic is moving
  • Give at least 3 feet of clearance for parked or passing traffic
  • Use hand signals for turning, stopping, and decreasing speed

Is it Ever Appropriate to Drive Around a Cyclist?

Wisconsin was one of the first states in the U.S. to enact laws regarding passing a cyclist on the road. Statute 346.075 states that any motor vehicle operator passing a bicycle must leave a safe distance between themselves and the cyclist.

According to the law, a safe distance is at least 3 feet and must be maintained until the motorist is a safe distance from the overtaken cyclist. Drivers must pass on the left-hand side when overtaking bicycles.

Common Bicycle Hand Signs

By law, cyclists must use certain hand signs to communicate their intentions on the road. Wisconsin bike law states that cyclists must signal the following:

  • Left turns and U-turns: Extend your left hand and arm horizontally to signal a left or U-turn.
  • Right Turns: Signal a right-hand turn by extending your right hand and arm upward.
  • Stopping or decreasing speed: Extend your hand and arm downward to signal a stop or reduced speed.

Although Wisconsin doesn’t regulate additional hand signs, cyclists also use the following to communicate maneuvers:

  • Give way: Extend your arm with your palm open to signal giving way and move it in an upward swinging motion.
  • Road hazard: Road hazards are signaled by extending your arm downward and opening your palm to face downward. Rotate in a counterclockwise motion.
  • Road hazard – potholes: To signal a pothole, extend your arm downward and use your thumb and pointer finger to indicate the pothole.

Why Motorists Should Know Bicycle Hand Signs

To avoid striking cyclists, motorists should familiarize themselves with the common gestures bicyclists use to signal their intentions at intersections. Most bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas around careless or distracted drivers. Motorists should always proceed cautiously when pedestrians and cyclists are in the vicinity.

It is equally important for drivers to use good judgment when moving at higher speeds, as 64% of bicyclist deaths occur away from intersections, where speed limits are higher.

As always, never drink and drive. With one-third of crashes that result in a bicyclist’s death involving alcohol, it is not okay to get behind the wheel of any vehicle if you have been drinking.

Schedule a Free Case Review

If you have suffered injuries in a collision with a motor vehicle, you have a right to seek compensation to cover your medical bills and lost wages. You may also pursue compensation for non-calculable damages like emotional distress, pain, and suffering caused by your injuries.

Contact the skilled Appleton bicycle accident lawyers with Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers to help you with your case. Our legal team is ready to stand up for your rights and get you maximum compensation for injuries caused by a careless driver.

Contact Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers today for a free case review and get started on your settlement claim.

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