Communicating with other road users
On the road, you’ll need to use signals to let other road users know what you’re planning to do. It’s important that you understand the signals, both so you know how to use them and so you know what to do when you see someone else using them.
You must use signals to tell other road users when you’re changing course or direction, stopping or moving off. However, you will not always need to use signals: if there are no other road users around you (for example, if you’re riding late at night), it’s not essential to signal when you’re turning or using a roundabout. If you’re not sure whether you need to signal, it’s best to give a signal just in case.
Signals for turning
If your motorbike has direction indicator lights, you must use these to show when you’re going to turn. If you do not have indicators or if you want to emphasise your signal, use arm signals. Hold out your arm on the side that you’re going to turn.
Controlling your motorbike while you’re using arm signals takes some practice. Sometimes, such as if you’re travelling fast, it’s best to rely on your direction indicators because giving an arm signal can upset your stability.
- Be careful to use your indicators in good time to warn other road users what you’re going to do, but not so early that it could confuse others.
- Make sure your indicators are cancelled as soon as possible after you’ve turned.
Other road users, especially cyclists and horse riders, may also use arm signals to show that they’re going to turn, slow down or stop.
Your position on the road will also help road users to understand what you’re doing. Move to the correct position on the road in good time; for example, moving towards the centre of the road if you’re going to turn right, at the same time as using your indicators. Make sure you use the OSM/PSL routine.
To show you’re slowing down or stopping using an arm signal, hold out your right arm and move it up and down. Do not try to do this when you are braking suddenly because you’ll need both hands on the handlebars to keep the motorbike stable.
You must only use the horn when your motorbike is moving and you need to warn other road users that you’re there.
Unless another vehicle is putting you in danger, you must not use your horn
- while your motorbike is not moving
- when you’re riding in a built-up area between 11pm and 7am.
You can also flash your headlights to warn other road users that you’re there: this can be useful where the horn might not be heard or at a time when the horn should not be used.
Drivers might sound their horn or use flashing headlights to give other messages, such as thanking you for letting them pass or warning you of a fault on your motorbike.
If someone uses a signal incorrectly, before you act on the signal
- think carefully about what the signal could mean
- decide whether the signal was meant for you.
Use hazard warning lights to warn road users when you’re obstructing traffic, such as
- when you’ve broken down
- if you have to slow down quickly on a motorway or dual carriageway because of a hazard ahead – only use them long enough to warn the driver behind you.
You must not use hazard warning lights to excuse stopping in a restricted area, such as on double yellow lines.
See The Highway Code for information on signals used by other road users (GOV.UK).
Co-operating with other road users
The roads in the UK’s towns and cities can be very busy so it’s vital to co-operate with other road users to help keep traffic flowing and to avoid incidents. Always scan the road ahead to gather information about your route.
Remember that not all road users have to follow the same rules: drivers of large vehicles or vulnerable road users such as cyclists will do some things differently to motorcyclists. For example, when turning left, a large vehicle may first swing out to the right-hand side of the road to make the turn. Allow these road users plenty of space.
Look out for other road users and try to predict what they’re likely to do. This is especially important for vulnerable road users, such as
- other motorcyclists and cyclists, who may look over their shoulder, showing they might be about to move out or turn
- children, who may run into the road
- the elderly, who may not be aware of approaching traffic because of poor eyesight or hearing.
Many incidents involving riders are caused by drivers not seeing them. You need to use your observation and skills to keep you safe.
While you’re riding in a stream of traffic
- remember to keep checking the traffic ahead of you, behind you and, if necessary, beside you
- keep a safe separation distance between you and the vehicle in front
- anticipate problems so that you can slow down in good time.
Riding without care, attention and consideration for other road users is an offence for which you could be given penalty points, which could lead to you losing your licence. See GOV.UK for more information on penalty points given for driving offences.
If you hear or see an emergency vehicle, try to keep out of its way so it can get past you safely. Check where it’s coming from and see where it’s going; take any reasonable action you can to help it get through, but you must not break the law.
Watch this video for more information about helping emergency vehicles get past (YouTube).
Filtering through traffic
When you’re in stationary or slow-moving traffic, you may be able to filter through the traffic. This means you can ride slowly between the queues of traffic, but you must remember that other road users might not see you coming towards them. Watch out for
- vehicles suddenly changing lane
- doors opening
- pedestrians and cyclists passing between the cars
- vehicles emerging or turning at junctions
- pedestrian crossings
- road markings or studs that could upset your balance.
Be ready to brake and/or use the horn if you think a driver has not seen you.
Overtaking on the left
You should not overtake other vehicles on the left unless the traffic is moving in queues and the queue on your right is moving more slowly than the queue you’re in.