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UK group pushing for more motorcycles

2014-12-10 13:11

SUDDENLY, TWO WHEELS GOOD: Bikemakers and top police officers in the UK are pushing for car drivers to switch to motorcycles to reduce road congestion. Image: Newspress

LONDON, England – Motorcycle companies and, bizarrely, the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers have come out in favour of encouraging more people to use two wheels instead of four to reduce traffic congestion.

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A statement says such a development “should improve road safety”. Motorcyclists, in proportion to their comparatively small numbers on the road, have the highest death and injury rate of any motorised road users in the UK - and now the government wants more of them.


The Motorcycle Industry Association and the UK’s top cops have launched a “landmark policy document” to encourage the greater use of motorcycles on UK roads. It’s called ‘Realising the Motorcycling Opportunity: A motorcycle safety and transport policy framework’ and was jointly devised by police and the biking industry in response to (their words) “the slowdown of reductions in rider casualties”.

What they mean is "fewer are dying so let's get more on two wheels". Wheels24 hopes it means fewer bikers are being injured on the roads. Anyway…

The number of crash deaths and injuries involving riders has, the document says, “improved considerably since 2000, but motorcyclists are currently over-represented in road-death statistics (one percent of traffic, 19% of deaths).

“This,” those involved in the paper, say, “could be reduced with government support.”


Police and the biking ndustry agree that traditional road safety policies directed at motorcycling will only partially deliver more positive outcomes for motorcycle safety beyond those already achieved.  However, encouraging rather than discouraging motorcycling should contribute to better safety outcomes.

The document, presented on Monday (Dec 8 2014) during a parliamentary reception hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Motorcycle Group (Wheels24 wonders how many of this grand-sounding bunch actually ride a motorcycle?), calls for motorcycles to be included in mainstream transport policy and sets out a framework of practical recommendations about how this might be achieved.

Here’s their thinking, pretty much verbatim:

Why should government and transport planners take note?

Two-wheeled transport offers an antidote to congestion. Motorised two-wheeled transport is particularly effective at keeping traffic moving.

A Belgian study which modelled a shift from cars to motorcycles on one of the most congested roads in Europe found that when only 10% of car drivers swopped to a powered two-wheeler congestion was reduced for all road users by 40%.

When 25% of drivers swopped, congestion was eliminated.

Over the coming years, it is likely increasing numbers of people will opt for two-wheels, whether bicycles, fully motorised two-wheelers, or a cross between the two.  

It is also likely some cyclists will migrate to motorised forms of two-wheeled transport and vice versa. The (UK) government has an opportunity to tackle safety issues faced by all vulnerable road users in an integrated and therefore more cost-effective way.  

Why encourage motorcycle use?

The idea that "more motorcycles on the road improves riding safety" was based on European data which showed that when a greater percentage of traffic was made up of motorcycles, mopeds or scooters riders were less likely to crash.

With around half of all motorcycle accidents initiated by other road users (translated: cars, buses and trucks knock them over) an effective programme to raise awareness of all road users could considerably reduce the number and seriousness of crashes.

There is a growing body of evidence which shows that if more people started their road careers on a motorcycle, scooter or moped drivers’ behaviour towards all vulnerable road users would improve.

It is also acknowledged that motorcyclists make better road users when driving cars.

The friends and relatives of motorcyclists are also more aware of vulnerable road users – a psychological factor which forms the basis of successful road-safaety initiatives.

Some of the measures called for in the paper include:

Education for all road users
One theory test for all road users (motorcyclists' at present is different to that of car drivers).
Compulsory road-user awareness lessons at school.
A culture of post-test training for all vehicle modes

A more-comprehensive breakdown of motorcycle accident data.
Encourage a ‘two-wheel paradigm’* to embrace all two-wheeled transport and end motorcycles' exclusion.
Include motorcycle use as core part of overall transport policy, along with walking, cycling buses and trains.

Grants for electric vehicles to in future include electric motorcycles (electric cars won’t help reduce congestion)

Training and safety
Continue progress made in setting new standards in motorcycle training through the
Motorcycle Accreditation Centre
Training for those licensed for a small bike but wanting a larger one
Develop coherent and appropriate clothing and equipment standards
Promote the use of Motorcycle Guidelines, recently updated by the Institute of Highways Engineers
Nationwide use of theBike Safe voluntary assessment programme

  • Greater use of the RIDE scheme (a course for motorcyclists displaying anti-social behaviour)

    Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick, for the Association of Chief Police Officers, explains why the association has joined forces with the MCIA:

    “Over recent yearS the number of motorcycle casualties has reduced - which is encouraging. However, this reduction seems to be slowing, with the emphasis moving away from progress in safety and too many motorcyclists are still being killed and injured.

    “I want to ensure that fewer injuries remains a priority and I'm pleased...  we should see real advancement in improving road safety, particularly for motorcyclists... with education at the heart of it."

    Steve Kenward, CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association, was clear that inclusion in transport policy was the only way to improve safety:

    “For too long the (UK) government, local authorities and transport planners seem to have deliberately avoided talking about motorcycle use. That will increasingly fail as a method of reducing riding accidents.

    "Motorcycles need to be treated as a legitimate form of transport that saves time, space and money for commuters while reducing congestion for all road users.”

    Steve Baker MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Motorcycle Group, gave a personal view of why motorcycles should be encouraged:

    “It’s time for officialdom to stop seeing motorcycling as a problem. More motorcycles gives affordable access to personal transport and an antidote to congestion.

    “As a lifelong motorcyclist, I have first-hand experience of the benefits that commuting by motorcycle can bring. I would be delighted to see the government adopt a more encouraging approach to motorcycle use.

    “If we want to reduce congestion and improve the quality of people’s lives, we need to embrace all forms of two-wheeled transport."

    Read more on:    england  |  road safety

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