How to Read Bike Signs and Signals


Every year, about 130,000 Americans are injured in bike accidents involving cars. Another 1,000 people are killed in these types of accidents.

With these statistics in mind, it should be clear why bicycle safety in this country is such a big concern. If you’re going to ride your bike for pleasure, for exercise, or even for commuting purposes, you’ll need to make sure you’re safe at all times.

A big part of keeping yourself safe will be knowing what the various bike signs and signals mean. If you don’t know the rules of cycling, it’ll be very difficult for you to safely take part in biking in the city or elsewhere.

We’ve put together a cycling for beginners guide that breaks down the different bike signs and signals. It should help you stay safe when you’re on a bicycle and coming in close contact with cars, trucks, and SUVs.

Learn what the bike signs and signals mean below.

Bike Signs

As recently as just a decade or two ago, there weren’t very many bike signs out on American roads. It’s why there is an entire generation of drivers and cyclists who don’t always know what bike signs mean.

But there are quite a few bike signs that have started to pop up all throughout the nation, both in cities and in more suburban and even rural settings. Here are several of the most common bike signs you might see.

Bike Lane Sign

More and more cities all throughout the world have made pushes to start incorporating more bike lanes into the mix. These bike lanes make it possible for cars and bikes to share the road without having to constantly jostle for prime position.

You should always look for bike lanes in your city and try to stay in them as best you can. Bike lanes will have two solid lanes on each side of them with a bike and an arrow on top painted in the middle of them.

Vehicles aren’t allowed to enter bike lanes unless they need to make a turn that will require them to cross over a bike lane. And even in this instance, it’ll be up to drivers to look out for those on bikes since they’ll technically be infringing on their space.

Those on bikes should, of course, still be mindful of the vehicles whizzing by them even when they’re in bike lanes. But if you see bike signs for bike lanes around, you can use them and feel a little safer than you would otherwise while you’re in these bike lanes.

Shared Bike Lane Sign

If you’re riding a bike in a straight-up bike lane, you won’t need to be too concerned about vehicles ever entering it. But if you’re in what’s called a shared lane, it’ll be a different story.

Lanes like this will have different bike signs painted on them than regular bike lanes. They’ll have bikes with two arrows above them.

If you ever find yourself in a lane like this, you should know it’s designed for both vehicles and bikes. So you shouldn’t be too surprised if you see vehicles enter this lane every so often.

Even still, drivers should be on high alert when they see these bike signs. They’ll let them know they may encounter cyclists out on the road when they’re driving in lanes like this.

Dashed Bike Lane Sign

The shared bike lane sign we just described will typically be seen in cities that have lanes that are to be shared by cars and bikes. The dashed bike lane signs we’re about to describe have a similar meaning to those signs except you’ll usually see these ones in suburban and rural settings.

Dashed bike lane signs will have a dashed line on the side closest to the street letting drivers know that they can enter this lane to make turns or enter certain areas. So in a way, the bike lanes with these bike signs on them will be open to both drivers and cyclists at the same time.

Because of this, cyclists will need to be extra careful and look out for any drivers that might enter this lane. Drivers will also need to be mindful of the fact that cyclists could be in this lane, and they’ll need to yield to them as best they can to avoid accidents.

Bike Boulevard Sign

Some streets in this country get very little car traffic and have mostly bikes going up and down them instead. As such, many of them have been designated as bike boulevards. They’ll often have bike signs on them featuring a bike with the letters BLVD next to it.

Cars are technically allowed to drive down bike boulevards if they would like. But since vehicles tend to be few and far between, bikes will be given priority on these roads. You’ll have more freedom to ride your bike on these streets within reason since you’ll still have to look out for the occasional car.

If you have bike boulevards in your area, they will usually be the best roads to ride around on for fun. You won’t need to be too worried about what might happen to you because there isn’t going to be too much traffic you’ll have to deal with.

Bike Signals

Regardless of which types of bike signs you see in your city and which bike lanes you’re able to get access to, you’re always going to be sharing the streets in your city with drivers. As a result, your responsibility as a cyclist will be to learn the bike signals that exist and use them early and often.

Bike signals will help you communicate with drivers so they know what you’re going to be doing next. It’ll help keep you safe and prevent drivers from making any sudden movements that could impact you. Here are a few of the bike signals you need to know and use.

Left Turn Signal

If you’re going to be making a left turn, you will need to stick your left arm out and keep it straight and completely parallel to the ground. You’ll also need to keep your arm in this position until you’re finished making a left turn.

You can also utilize the left turn signal when you’ll be switching to the left lane while cycling down the road. It will, once again, inform drivers that you’re planning to move over to this lane.

Right Turn Signal

When you’re making a right turn as opposed to a left one, you will need to stick your right arm out and keep it straight and completely parallel to the ground with your palm facing down. Just like with the left turn signal, you’ll want to hold your arm in this position until you’re done making a right turn.

Whether you’re making a left or right turn, you’ll just need to be sure you return your hand to your handlebars once you’re finished turning. It’ll let drivers know you’re canceling the signal following your turn.

Slowing Hand Signal

If you’re planning to slow down while on your bike, you should let both drivers and any other cyclists in your area know about it. You can do it by extending your right or left arm out horizontally with your palms facing the ground and then lowering your hand.

Try to use this signal for at least a few seconds before you actually begin stopping. It’ll give other drivers and cyclists a chance to respond accordingly.

Stopping Hand Signal

If you’re going to bring your bike to a complete stop as opposed to simply slowing it down, using the stopping hand signal will be imperative. It’ll involve you extending your arm, bending it at the elbow to point your hand down, and putting your palm out so that it’s facing behind you.

Just like with the slowing hand signal, you should put this signal up for at least a few seconds before you have to stop. It’ll provide other drivers and cyclists with the time they’ll need to begin to slow down and stop themselves.

What to Do if You’re Ever in a Bike Accident

As long as you obey the bike signs in your area and use the bike signals we just talked about, you should be able to avoid getting into bike accidents. But anytime you get on a bike, there is going to be at least a small chance that a vehicle could hit you and cause you harm.

If you’re ever involved in a bike accident, you should speak with a lawyer about it to see if you might be able to collect compensation. You can use it to pay for everything from medical bills to a brand-new bike.

Visit to get more information on filing lawsuits connected to bike accidents.

Pay Attention to Bike Signs and Know Bike Signals

If you ride your bike through parks and other places vehicles aren’t allowed to go, you may not need to watch out for bike signs or use bike signals. But if you’re sharing the road with vehicles while on your bike on a regular basis, it’ll be important to look out for bike signs and know how to utilize bike signals to the best of your ability.

Read through more of the articles on our blog to get additional tips on bike safety.

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