Outdated perceptions of the motorbike rider and improving motorcyclist accident rates were just two of the topics raised at a private conference, entitled, ‘More Motorcycles Could Reduce Casualties’, held at the Department for Transport Offices (DfT) in London in November.
Organised by the Motorcycle Industry Association (MIA), the Association of Chief Police Officers and the DfT, the chief aim was to explore the need for ‘bigger thinking’ towards motorcycle safety and the reduction in disproportionately high bike rider injuries and motorcycle accident claims compared to other road vehicle users.
“Huge disparity between motorcycle and cycle safety spending”
The debate comes at a timely period when cyclist safety has never been more in the media spotlight and in government investments plans for improving national road conditions. Public Affairs Advisor to the Motorcycle Industry Association (MIA), Craig Carey Clinch noted “the huge disparity between spending on motorcycle safety and safety for cyclists”, which he claimed was due to an “image problem” for motorcycling.
It was also suggested that attitudes to motorcycling were based on “outdated notions” and a lack of “understanding contemporary motorcycle use”. Mr Clinch also pointed out that while fatalities for motorcyclists had decreased by 40 per cent in the last ten years, the rate was still too high when compared to car drivers: motorcyclists still account for 20 per cent of all serious or fatal accidents, despite being just 1 per cent of all vehicle traffic.
“Motorcycle safety no longer seen as a priority”
Karen Cole, MIA Director of Safety and Training voiced her concern that motorcycle safety was no longer seen as a priority despite the many awareness schemes and one-off road safety initiatives which had been instrumental in halving the motorcyclist death rate since 2003. Her fear was that budget cuts in motorcycle safety education at local and national level could see serious motorcycle accidents on the rise again.
According to Steve Kenward, CEO of the MIA, evidence that more motorcycles on the road would reduce casualties was “compelling.” According to recent research results from the Motorcycle Industry In Europe, it was shown that when motorcycle traffic is less than 10 per cent of all vehicles on the road, safety outcomes are worse.
Moving towards social inclusion
In the discussion that followed over why safety outcomes seem to be better when there are more motorbikes on the road, it was suggested that higher numbers meant greater public recognition and awareness among other road users. Greater awareness and a positive attitude towards motorcycles were seen as vital to including motorcycles in integrated transport planning.
The Government’s Under Secretary of State for Transport, Robert Goodwill who attended the conference, said that “Motorcyclist safety is currently a priority issue for the Department’s Think! Campaign - which reminds drivers to look out for motorcyclists, particularly at junctions and to see the person behind the helmet.”
Issues of perception and reactive behaviour may be said to lie at the heart of improving road safety culture for all users.
According to the MIA, there are now nearly 8 million motorcycle and moped license holders. With more than 1.3 million motorcycles estimated to be on the road, and more than half ( 54 per cent) being used for commuting to work every day, the Conference was seen as marking a new chapter in renewing efforts to improve inclusion, safety awareness and ultimately, accident reduction for Britain’s vulnerable motorbike rider.