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If you have recently started riding a motorcycle or plan to, you will want to ensure you are as safe on the road as possible.

Having the correct safety gear, ensuring your motorcycle is well maintained, and riding the bike safely all play a big part in your safety. Still, one thing you might not have considered is learning hand signals.

You will find all the information you need below to learn how to signal to other road users and motorcycle riders safely.


Why Learning Motorcycle Hand Signals Is Important

Whether you are out on your own or travelling in a group, being able to communicate clearly and effectively is essential for any road user. We can do this by using indicators, but having another way to tell people your intentions can be extremely useful, especially if things go wrong. 

Hand signals for motorcyclists are beneficial when travelling in a group. It will allow you to direct the group, advise of any plan you have to turn or pull off, and let other road users know of approaching hazards on the road.

Car drivers should also learn motorcycle hand signals to fully understand the rider's intentions and be safer drivers.


Essential Hand Signals for Motorcyclists

All motorcyclists should learn the following hand signals. They will be the most commonly used and should help minimise risk to you and other road users. In many places, motorcycle hand signals are part of the curriculum for novice riders. 

Let's take a look at the most important hand signals motorcycle riders should know!


Right turn

Because motorcyclists control the throttle in their right hand, holding this arm out to indicate your intentions to turn right isn't possible.

Instead, you should use your left arm held out with a 90° bend at the elbow. You should then close your fist to let other motorcycle riders and road users know you will turn right.

You should use this turn signal with your indicators to reinforce to other road users what you are planning to do.



Left turn

When turning, you should always use your indicators first. If you do not have indicators, or they are broken, the left turn hand signal is straightforward, and most road users should understand what you mean.

With your palm facing down, you should extend your left arm out to indicate your intention to turn left.





Hazard

If you spot a hazard on the road, such as a pothole, roadkill, oil, or something else that could be dangerous to a fellow rider, letting them know will give them enough time to prepare for it.

This is a useful signal for people travelling in groups or if there is another motorcycle rider behind you. To alert them to the roadway hazard, you should point with your left arm at the hazard if it passes on your left.

If the hazard passes on your right, you should point with your right foot at the hazard. Letting them know about the hazard will allow them to adjust their speed and reassess their plans safely.



An indicator is still on

Because indicators do not automatically switch off after a turn as they do in a car, it can be easy for motorcycle riders to forget if they have them on.

This can be dangerous in certain situations, such as vehicles looking to join the traffic or emerge from a junction. A motorcycle indicating left might encourage a driver to pull out if they think the bike will be turning off.

To let another rider know that their indicator is still on is to extend your left arm and open and close your hand.




Stop

Planning to stop should be indicated by your brake light, but using the hand signal in certain situations can help alert other road users to this fact. Large groups can then pass the signal back, allowing people at the back to know the intention or need to stop.

You should hold the left arm out from the body with an open palm and fingers pointed towards the ground.




Group Hand Signals for Motorcyclists

The previous hand signals should be used by everyone and will help keep other road users aware of your intentions and alert them to potential dangers. The following hand signals are more appropriate for group riders who want to tell the other people in their group about any plans.


Single file

If you are leading a group passing a message back and you need to travel in single file, you can alert the other riders to this by holding your left hand in the air and raining your index finger.

Motorcycle riders should ride single file on twisty roads, roads with limited visibility, or national speed limit roads.






Double file

If you are returning to a road where you can legally ride double file, you can hold your left hand in the air and extend your index finger and middle finger.

Riding double file can help motorcyclists be more visible to other road users, improving their safety.





Follow me

If a smaller group is breaking off from a larger group, discussing who will follow which rider should be addressed. The leader can then raise their left arm with their palm open and facing forward to indicate to the riders to follow them.







Speed up

Keeping pace can be difficult in inexperienced groups. A more experienced group leader should be able to control the group.

The indication that the following riders are to accelerate is crucial. Driving below the speed limit or at a speed that is not in line with other traffic can endanger lives. Anything that disrupts the regular flow of traffic is a hazard; driving too slowly or driving at all is not safe.

The signal to get other riders to increase their speed is to extend the left arm out and raise it repeatedly with the palm up.




Slow down

Alternatively, there are always reasons that all road users will have to reduce their speed. This could be because of traffic ahead, poor weather, road works, or an accident.

To let the other riders in your group know that they should start slowing down, you should do the opposite of the speed-up signal by repeatedly putting the extended left arm down with the palm also facing down.





You Lead

If you want another rider to lead, you should pull alongside their bike and point to their bike before pointing forward. This indication urges them to move forward to take the lead.







Pull off

If you need to pull off the road quickly for either a mechanical or personal reason, you should extend your left arm and wave it away from the body, pointing that you need to pull off.

This should be used for essential or emergency stops, or to signal the group that they should exit the motorway at the next exit. This not a signal for  refreshments or a comfort break.






Stop for fuel

Nobody likes to drop off when group riding to refuel and have to make ground. If you do need to refuel, extend your left arm and point to the fuel tank. This will let the other group members know why you are pulling off or dropping behind.






Stop for a comfort break

If you need a comfort stop, you keep your left arm straight with a clenched fist and wave it in short up and down motions.

The motion should resemble shaking an aerosol can or stirring a drink. The hand signal should only be used if you are 100% sure that you can safely stop in a place where there is plenty of room and where there is no risk of debris or other hazards.






Stop for refreshments

Stopping for a drink or food is important as it will improve your mental sharpness and stop your mind wandering.

To indicate that you are planning to stop for a refreshment break, you should make a clenched fist with your thumb pointing up and gesture it towards your mouth as if it were a drink with a straw.





Police ahead

The 'cops ahead' hand signal is often mistaken as a way for motorcyclists to help each other avoid getting speeding tickets. But it can also mean that other road users might be slowing suddenly or that first responders are dealing with something and need to be kept safe.

Alert fellow riders of a police presence by tapping the top of the helmet with an open palm.

This will allow other members in the group to adjust their speed in plenty of time and manoeuvre into a safe road position.




FAQs

Why are motorcycles seen as being more dangerous than cars?

Motorcycles are not as visible as cars or larger vehicles, which means that even the safest rider can be in danger from other road users.

They aren't as protected as those in cars either, so riders must have a high level of awareness.


What is defensive driving on a motorbike?

Defensive driving is a technique used by conscientious drivers that take care of their driving and ensure they are not at risk from other drivers.

Never assuming how another driver will react or what they can see can help drivers avoid accidents.


Are motorcycle hand gestures the same in all countries?

There can be some differences between countries, so if you plan on riding outside the UK, learning these differences is advisable.


Do I have to greet other bikers?

No. Only if you want to. There are riders who will take offence if you don't wave. Other riders think it's weird to wave at a stranger because they also drive the same kind of vehicle as you. It's entirely up to you.



Final Thoughts

Road safety is important for all road users, especially motorcycle riders. Having the ability to safely communicate with other riders to indicate your intentions or warn of potential hazards can help to improve road safety around you.

Understanding these signals, whether you are a motorcycle rider or car driver, should also be a priority as it benefits everyone by knowing what the people we share a road with are intending.

With such a limited number of hand signals and their simplicity, it shouldn't take people long to learn these signals and improve road safety.

3 comments
Romeo
Romeo
Saturday 27th August 2022

Thank You. The police sign is the best ???? I’ll never forget it.

Christopher Broad
Christopher Broad
Friday 26th August 2022

Just wanted to say thanks for the informative useful information you sent ???? I read it from Start to finish and can honestly say I learnt something .Best wishes

Mario Zanotto
Mario Zanotto
Friday 26th August 2022

Thanks for bringing these to my attention. I had forgotten a few but now I'm up to speed and I will show others.

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