Signalling on a Motorcycle

Motorcycle Arm Signal

It would seem that there would not be much to write about turn signals, would there? It turns out that there is so much to write that I’m going to split the subject into two posts! In this post, I’m going to talk about the use of your turn signals. More precisely, the intelligent use of your turn signals. In the following post, I’m going to cover the subjects of Signal Reinforcement and False Signals.

So, let’s get started!

The humble turn signal provides a lot more than just bling-bling and, when used correctly, it silently and efficiently announces our intended way through the urban jungle. When used incorrectly, it is an invitation for disaster just waiting for a gullible victim to fall for its glittering deception.

But first, let me step back a little and remind you about a crucial routine we should follow each and every time we perform any manoeuvre:

Mirror, Signal, Mavoeuvre

There are a few of points to remember about MSM:

  • The order is crucial. Sadly, we see instances all the time of people jumbling up the order. One of my favourites is the people who swing into a filter lane at a set of traffic signals, come to a halt, and then switch on their turn signal. It’s a little late my friend, and now you’re in the filter lane, we’ve got a pretty good idea where you’re going! Then there are the people (I’m sure you’ve all seen them) who are already half way through their lane change when they switch on their turn signal (if at all).
  • A manoeuvre isn’t only a turn. It can be braking, coming to a halt, setting off or performing a pass.
  • A signal is informative only. It’s not a request, and it’s not permission. Again, sadly, we see people all the time who think that a signal is a tacit right to do what they’re about to do.
  • One signal per manoeuvre. Don’t signal a right turn, then, knowing you’re going to turn right again in a while, just leave that signal on. Cancel it, and start another at the appropriate time.
  • You need to allow time for other road users to see your signal. Clearly, a signal is there to convey intention. For this to be useful, it has to be presented early enough so that other road users can see it, and react to it. Try to get into the habit of putting your turn signal on early enough so that you can at least count three flashes before any change in direction is made.

The “Life Saver”

It is prudent, just before you perform a turn or lane change, to take a quick glance over your shoulder for vehicles that may be hiding in your blind spot. Although good use of mirrors should mean that you are always aware of all the vehicles around you, this last-minute shoulder check has proven beneficial enough to earn itself the name: “Life Saver”.

Here are a couple of examples of the application of MSM:

Changing Lane Left

Mirror: Before anything, you check your mirrors to make sure you knew exactly what is around you.
Signal. Having established that it is clear to change lane, you switch on your turn signal. Now, wait! For a lane change in moving traffic, I always count three flashes of the turn signal before I do anything. Quick shoulder check: The “Life Saver”. Somebody who is very good with their mirror work, could consider skipping the shoulder check, but there is no harm in performing it — and it often saves the skin of even the most experienced rider.
Manoeuvre. Make the lane change.

Braking in preparation for stopping at a traffic light.

MSM still applies:
Mirror. Before you perform any manoeuvre — and that includes braking — check your mirrors to see who is behind you, and assess the risk that braking will create. If you have vehicles following too closely behind, you won’t want to apply forceful braking until you are sure that the following vehicles have started their braking.
Signal. Your signal is your brake light. Just because it’s automatic, remember it’s still a signal. There may be instances when you might consider reinforcing that signal. More about signal reinforcement later.
Manoeuvre. In this instance, the act of braking runs simultaneously with the Signal part (your brake light). Keeping this in mind, remember you can start light braking earlier as a way to make that signal (the brake light) happen earlier if you see heavy, close traffic behind you.

Let’s get back to the humble turn signal:

A signal must be given early enough, but not too early. You must also be mindful of what signals (excuse the pun) you are actually giving, and how they could be misinterpreted.

As an example, an invitation to disaster could be approaching a right turn you are about to make, but there is a car waiting to exit a gas station just before the junction (see diagram):

Motorcycle Signalling

Your turn signal could easily fool the driver into thinking that you’re entering the gas station. Out he comes… ouch! Sometimes it’s prudent to leave that signal a little later.

Conversely, you could also be intending to turn into a gas station on your right, but there is a vehicle waiting to exit the junction just before it (see diagram).

Motorcycle Signalling

In this instance, the driver could easily misinterpret your signal as an intention to turn into the road he is waiting to exit. It would be prudent to leave that signal until after you have passed this vehicle.

It goes without saying the possible consequences of leaving a signal too late, but here’s a conundrum for you: Say you’ve just made a left turn — with following traffic, and you need to make another left turn into a forecourt (see diagram below). Your signal is rendered useless because it has already signalled your first left turn, and there hasn’t been enough time to cancel your signal, and start another.

Signal Reinforcement

What to do? Well, that’s going to be one of the main subjects of the next post! Yes, it’s a cliff-hanger.

See you next time!

 

 

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