Thursday, August 11, 2016

Signals and Shifting

A few weeks ago as I was approaching a four-way intersection, I noticed the driver in front of me using hand signals to indicate his intentions. It has been YEARS since I've seen anyone use the gestures. In the 1950s and even the early 60s many cars did not have signal lights, so I saw them frequently. Drivers even rolled down the window in the winter to signal.

The signals are encouraged for cyclists, but honestly, I've never seen a cyclist use the signals in my area.

After I moved through the intersection that day, I began to ponder other driving changes. I learned how to drive on the farm when I was in Junior High. When my brother fed the cows in the pasture, he would put the pickup in first gear (granny) and then jump in the bed to throw the bales off for the cows. Eventually, he expected me to put the pickup or truck in gear and drive through the field. He cursed a few (many) times, when I nearly threw him off of the truck bed, and out of frustration, I learned the mechanics of maneuvering the clutch and the gear shift.

Manual transmissions are still common in my area: my first car had a manual transmission, and the pickup I purchased several years later did, too. The gear shifts in both vehicles were on the floor.

I remember at least one of the cars (tanks) my family had in my early years, had a column shift, but I'd never driven one until I was teaching in Wheatland, WY in the 1970s. In those days, the advisor drove the van or buses on trips, and on one trip I drove a van with a column shift. Because I'd driven with a floor gear shift, I didn't have any problem adapting.

Some questions to ponder:
     •  Can you drive a vehicle with a manual transmission?
     •  Have you used a column shift?
     •  Do individuals in your area use hand signals when driving or biking?


  1. A friend of mine taught me how to drive his manual shift in college. And even though I became proficient at it and even drove my husband's manual shift pickup occasionally, I've never felt confident at it—always nervous that I'll do something wrong and stall out in an emergency.

    Never used a column shift.

    I've only seen hand signals used when a vehicle's signal lights weren't working. When I was a kid we used them when riding our bikes, but usually only right after taking a bicycle safety course. I never see bicyclists using them these days.

    1. Just in case you were wondering, Nancy, this comment is from me. I realized much later in the day that I was logged into my other email account. So much going on over here that I've only now had time to come back and check. ~ Tracy

  2. Oh yes the standard shift. We still have them and like them as they are better on gas if shifted properly! I too saw a lady giving hand signals about a week ago and several times I witnessed a "youngster" waving at her with one finger, when she would turn and they had clearly not understood what she was doing!!

    We have a lot of cyclist in our area that ride in packs and yes they use hand signals as they ride.

    Another thing that is different form when I learned to drive is the dimmer switch use to be on the floor and you pushed it with your left foot. Nowadays my left foot has nothing to do!

  3. Oh memories! My first (new) car was a manual transmission and then one or two after that...but I found as I got older my legs got tired from the clutch (too much city driving), so I switched to automatic. I see a lot of cyclists in my area (near Valley Forge) and they always use hand signals (thank goodness). And, I've used them when a bulb needs to be replaced on my car. Like Kim, my left foot has nothing to do now that the bright/dimmer switch isn't on the floor of the car!

  4. I do see some of the more serious cyclists and scooter riders use the hand signals, but not as often as they should. Wonder if the new generation even knows them?

    I can drive a manual transmission although I haven't for about 5 years. We kept buying cars with manual transmission until about 1990 when we were told it was a "special order". I actually like driving with it. Seat belts and air conditioning are the other changes that I would hate to give up now.

  5. Oh Yes my wonderful 18 year old Honda, Rhonda is stick shift. I made my kids learn to drive her. THey do so well now. Zach drives Rhonda all over the city.
    Troy drove Firetrucks that had gear shifts. It was crazy he said, but he learned.

  6. I can drive a stick shift, I do see bicycle's using hand signals.

  7. I learned to drive a manual and my first pickup I bought had one. It's been a few year now since I had to give up the pickup for the car with kid seats, but I loved my pickup. I don't see a lot use hand signals, but with the Sturgis Rally going on right now, I'm seeing them a lot. Bikers tend to be better at using them.

  8. On my 16th birthday my uncle gave me his old car with a column gave me a quick lesson and I nervously drove it home... I loved it...I have had many standard vehicles and still have a little miata with a floor shift....and when we bike around vehicles...we usually always hand signal...

  9. Before my Dad would let any of us kids take drivers education or get a car of our own, we had to learn how to drive a manual transmission. I haven't driven one in about 10 years but I do still miss it. It was much easier in my opinion, to get out of a snowdrift with a stick shift than an automatic transmission! I learned "on the tree", but have driven many cars with the shifter on the floor. I haven't seen anyone other than motorcyclists use hand signals in years, although it would be nice to see bicycles use them so you have a clue what they're doing. :-)

  10. I learned to drive with a manual transmission but it was on the floor. Later, we bought a car with the shift on the column.

    We have a biking/walking path near us and the bikers often use hand signals to let the walkers know which way they are going. It's not always the old up, straight, down signals but more a swish of their hand in the general direction they are going. Still, it's enough to warn a walker of a quick change in direction. Thanks for the memory tug Nancy!!

  11. Yes, I can drive a manual transmission vehicle. (I even know how to double clutch --- which you need to do on Model A Ford cars.)

    Yes, I can shift manual on the floor or column. Have had cars of each kind.

    I've not seen too many people using "polite" hand signals. However, when biking I do. I guess most people wonder what the heck I am doing.

    The impolite hand signals are very popular here in Orlando along with beeping and yelling!

  12. I can drive a manual shift but prefer not to because of our many steep hills. Lately I've notice people running stop signs and doing all sorts of weird things, cars and bicycles.

  13. I can drive a stick shift and in fact was once asked to park a Porsche that some teen couldn't drive all that well. Luckily, I could at least get it parked with out dinging anything! I hadn't driven one in 20 years at the time.

  14. Yes, I can still drive a manual transmission. In an emergency I had to drive one after about a thirty five year break. It all came back so easily.
    Yes, I have used a column shift.
    Only people who had signal are cyclists- and they don't bother most of the time.


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