Signalling – it’s a tricky business

Dimi Ioannou from Maurice Blackburn, Bicycle Network's partner law firm, has had look at the origins of the signalling rule and why sometimes you do and don't have to signal while riding a bike.

Maurice Blackburn have been supporting Bicycle Network members with legal advice for over 25 years. 

It’s important to communicate with other riders and road users while on a bike, but the rules around signalling while riding can be confusing.

This is largely because the relevant road rules are not clear cut.

Knowing the rules around signalling is important because almost every time you ride a bike you will need to stop or make a turn and it will increase your safety if those around you know that you will be making a change.

It can also be a legal requirement.

What are the rules?

Whenever moving to the right, including when changing lanes or turning, you must signal by extending your right hand out to the side.

By contrast, when moving to the left, bike riders are not required to signal to other road users.

Bike riders are also not required to signal that they’re stopping.

Why the difference?

The answer can be found in the road rules of each state and territory.

Bike riders are required to obey the same road rules as drivers.

There are specific road rules that provide when and how a road user should signal.

For a right hand turn in Victoria, the rules state that if a vehicle in question does not have "direction indicator lights”, the driver must indicate the change of direction by signalling with their right hand.

The rules explain that to give a right hand signal the driver must extend the right arm and hand horizontally and at right angles from the right side of the vehicle, with the hand open and the palm facing the direction of travel.

The same does not apply when turning left.

According to the rules, a driver can only indicate that they are moving left by using a vehicle’s left direction indicator lights.

As bicycles have no direction indicator lights, it seems to be the case that bike riders don’t have to signal for left turns.

The rules in Victoria also make it clear that the requirements for stop signals do not apply to bicycle riders as they are not fitted with brake lights.

Signalling in practice

It is worth remembering that signalling while riding a bike is more difficult than signalling when you’re driving. As such, it is important to take extra care when signalling.

Signalling can compromise your stability or ability to steer as it involves taking your hands off the handlebar. This is something to be wary of if you are travelling on a slippery or bumpy surface or there are tram or train tracks nearby.

While you may not always be legally required to signal, provided it is safe to do so, it is still a good idea to signal when turning or stopping.

This will let others around you know what you’re doing.

A simple hand gesture can make all the difference.

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