Pay attention to bike and motorcycle hand signals – it can mean the difference between life and death

The vast majority of South African roads are filled with all kinds of vehicles, and their two-wheeled counterparts – cyclists and motorbikes – are somewhat hidden in the minority.

The same misconception exists between cars and bikes as there is between cats and dogs in the proverbial “war.” There is an unfortunate misconception that cyclists have less right to the road and should stay out of the way of motorists.

One of the most significant advantages of having two wheels instead of four is never having to wait in often frustrating bumper-to-bumper traffic. Motorcyclists are often the envy of many as they make their way between the stationary vehicles (revving their engines along the way to notify drivers of their presence), with the only natural caution having to be mindful of drivers wanting to change lanes at the last minute.

In terms of safety, those travelling on two wheels are at greater risk of being seriously injured or even killed in the event of an accident. A lack of patience, not paying attention, and speeding from drivers are some of the main contributing factors to this. On the other hand, a vehicle is enclosed and secure, so in the event of a crash, body damage is probably the worst that can happen.

Respect all road users

Automaker’s like Jaguar Land Rover, for example, is developing a range of new technologies that use colours, sounds and touch inside the car to alert drivers to potential hazards and prevent accidents involving bicycles and motorbikes. Sensors on the car will detect when another road user is approaching and identify it as bicycle or motorbike. Bike Sense will then make the driver aware of the potential hazard before the driver sees it.

It might seem like a simple piece of equipment, but a helmet can significantly reduce serious head and facial injury. According to the National Road Traffic Act and Compulsory Helmets in South Africa – Regulation 207. Compulsory wearing of a protective helmet – no person shall drive or be a passenger on a motorcycle, motor tricycle, motor quadricycle, or passenger in the side-car attached to a motorcycle on a public road, unless they are wearing a protective helmet.

In case you’re wondering if South Africa has its own set of hand signals, it is a standard set of signals used worldwide. It serves as a command and warning to fellow riders in the event that rider-to-rider and rider-to-driver communication is not immediately available.

Gumtree provides some additional tips for drivers and cyclists:

  • When making a right turn, remember there could be a cyclist next to you who needs to go straight. Double check that there are no cyclists before making the turn.
  • Do not underestimate the speed of a cyclist in the opposite lane coming toward you and risk quickly turning in from of them. A cyclist can ride at up to 30km per hour.
  • Give cyclists, the internationally accepted, 1.5m of space when passing and even more during wet weather. This is not only to avoid collisions but to give them room should they fall or encounter their own obstacle(s).
  • Be on the look out for cyclists before opening your door and exiting your car.
  • Do not park or stop in cycle lanes, it puts cyclists in even more danger when they move around your vehicle.

Maybe you’ve seen a (motor)cyclist gesture with his/her hands and thought to yourself “what exactly do they mean?” Gumtree, with the help of Arrive Alive, shares some handy (no pun intended) tips in understanding the various motorcycle signals:

Now that you’ve got the knowledge, it’s time to shop! Head to or your Gumtree app (click for Apple & Android) and don’t forget to use your location settings to find local service information close to home.

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