When I ride my bicycle, I am much more alert of drivers around me than most of them are of the cyclist around them. I actively watch and make an effort to engage them.
When a driver is coming toward me I will usually lift my hand off the handle bar and give a small fanning wave in their direction and watch to see if they respond back. If it isn’t easy or safe for me to take the hand of the handle bar, I will attempt to nod toward them in a way that will signal them that the motion is meant for them, and not just an unconscious movement on my part.
Part of these movements is my natural social nature to engage (somewhat curious in someone who is by nature an introvert), but much of it is a natural defensive mechanism. If those people are aware of me, they are not likely to try and purposefully occupy the same space on the road that I will be in.
In contrast, most of the time someone honks at me while I am riding my bicycle, it is not for the same reason. Most of the time it is their way of insisting that I am occupying a space that properly is theirs, and should vacate it immediately, if not sooner, without their having to physically collide with me to make them do so, and thus inconvenience them even further.
I know this for a general fact, based on the portion of times after being honked at where those same people who honked pass me and tell me specifically where to go, or suggest suitable sexual actions that I should perform. They seem to have passed their driver’s license tests without learning the traffic laws that give me the right to be where I am, doing what I am, and usually prohibiting me from doing what they suggest.
This is quite different from the horn etiquette I experienced during my very brief time in India. There there is a lot more horn action, but for what I experienced, much more polite. The honking is almost incessant, and yet it is a perpetual part of people’s courtesy to one another. Especially with the amount of motorcycles and small vehicles, it is a way to help each other stay constantly aware of the other motorists around them. In one sense, it creates almost a form of echolocation for drivers.
The action, less prevalent here, that is often counterproductive and annoying (both in origin from the person who honks, and to me, since it serves no productive and legal purpose), in the India context becomes something very positive and social.