Communicating While Riding: Verbal and Non-Verbal Skills
Our communication skills are what make our lives interesting and easier. Whether it's hearing the sound someone's voice over the phone, reading a funny text message or just having a quiet laugh at a friend's facial expression during a boring meeting at work, humans have adapted an amazing range of ways to communicate.
But as cyclists, especially if we are on road bikes cycling the busy Melbourne streets, communication takes on a whole new level of importance. Riding on busy main roads, with plenty of ambient noise and at high speeds means that our normal ways of communicating are far less effective.
Misunderstandings like shouted a 'no!' which sounds like 'go!' or unclear signals to your cycling companions and other road users can have serious consequences. So before you go on your next ride, here's a list of some verbal and non-verbal communication tips you can use to stay safe.
This is the first and most commonly used signal. Yelling 'clear' is much better than yelling 'go' because when you add ambient noise, it can easily be misunderstood as 'no' which is the complete opposite instruction.
Typically, the rider at the back of the group will call this out when a car is near them and attempting to overtake. Because the car will likely be attempting to overtake the whole group, this is called out by each person who hears it until it reaches the lead rider.
It can also serve as a signal for the lead riders to moderate their pace slightly and for the back of the pack riders to speed up so the group compresses and makes it safer for the car to overtake more quickly.
Amber lights present a challenge that has split many riding groups. Generally speaking, if you are the lead rider, calling out 'rolling' when you have a light that has just transitioned from green to yellow is good practice. It prevents a sudden stop that could catch other road users and your fellow cyclists off guard.
If you are stopping at a clear amber light then the verbal call 'stopping', as well as an open palm next to your leg, is a clear indicator of your intentions. When there is an intersection without lights this takes on extra importance as the word 'clear' can often sound like 'car' to trailing riders.
When there is a pothole, broken glass or loose gravel coming up, simply pointing down with your finger at an exaggerated angle to your body is a clear signal to those behind to be wary of an upcoming hazard.
If you fall victim to a puncture from one of these hazards, first of all, keep your bike moving as straight as possible. Second, raise your arm straight up and allow the group to overtake before you veer off the road and deal with your flat.
To find out more about buying a new road bike in Melbourne, the best cycling routes around the city or more communication tips for cyclists, we invite you to drop into Ivanhoe Cycles to chat with our friendly team. They are passionate about safe cycling, and would love to meet you and help make your cycling experience better!