When it comes to riding a motorcycle on the road, safety is at the forefront of every rider’s brain, at all times, no matter where in the world you’re riding.
Government-led campaigns are often wheeled out to improve safety and reduce the number of motorcyclist fatalities, we have been looking at some that have been set out to truly making a difference and have conducted some polls of our own.
Earlier in 2016, The London Assembly released a document entitled Easy rider – Improving motorcycle safety on London’s roads. This insightful study was conducted due to the fact that despite motorcyclists only accounting for 1% of the capital’s traffic, they are involved in 24% of fatal or serious road casualties. With this in mind The Transport Committee commissioned a survey of over 1,200 riders in 2014, unearthing some eye-catching facts and figures.
Perhaps most concerning were the facts that more than a third of the city’s motorcyclists felt vulnerable on the road; alongside 20% who have been involved in a collision over the past two years; and more startlingly, that 62% have been involved in a near miss incident.
Other alarming factors included the rise in congestion, with a 2% increase in 2014; inconsistent access to bus lanes, with some Boroughs banning motorcycles from using them; while cycle segregation schemes have reduced the amount of road space for other traffic; and speed cushions placed on roads with bends encourage motorists to drive directly into the path of turning motorcyclists.
Ultimately, the Committee are aiming to reduce the number of motorcyclist fatalities, with 36 losing their lives in 2014, whilst also ensuring that younger riders undertake more training schemes, as 44% of those 15-24 year olds interviewed admitting that they hadn’t undergone any post-test motorcycle training.
The Chair, Valerie Shawcross remarked “Arguably motorcyclists have been overlooked in public discussion about road safety in recent years. However, 36 motorcyclists were killed on London’s roads last year, a death toll that is unacceptably high, and part of a bigger picture of collisions and injuries affecting motorcyclists, many of them life changing in their seriousness.”
She went on to say “Our first priority has to be to engage young riders. There is nothing wrong with young people riding for fun, as long as they do so responsibly and have access both to adequate training and the necessary safety gear.”
To follow up the findings of ‘Easy rider’, we asked members of the public whether they thought Riding a Motorbike is Dangerous? 83% of our participants believe it to be the case, with only 8% of those older than 55 years old disagreeing, in comparison to 25% of under 18’s who feel it isn’t a dangerous form of transport.
North of the border, it appears that the focus is very much on a different age group. Road Safety Scotland and the Scottish Government have pioneered a Live Fast Die Old campaign, aimed primarily at male bikers between 40 and 49 years old, a group who account for 30% of bikers that are killed or seriously injured in Scotland, despite making up only 20% of the road’s riders.
The strategy, which was launched in April 2015, has focused on reducing the number of casualties on the country’s roads, with 13% of its fatalities from motorcycle accidents, despite it only making up one percent of the country’s road traffic. One of its major talking points was the need to negotiate left hand bends safely, with one in three motorbike fatalities in Scotland occurring on them.
At the heart of the campaign has been an element of light-heartedness, surrounding the seriousness of the situation. There are three older bikers featured: Z-Boy, Turbo and Badger, who are portrayed as fast-living gents that do everything at 100mph, aside from going around left hand bends. This trio are at the heart of the headline video and then give a little insight to their personalities in other shorter sections, which have collectively been watched over 340,000 times.
The Director of Road Safety Scotland, Michael McDonnell advised that “Roughly one biker dying every weekend during the biker season is totally unacceptable, and our aim is to make such a statistic a thing of the past… The Live Fast Die Old campaign reminds bikers there are simple steps they can take to keep themselves and other bikers safe this summer while still enjoying being out on the road.”
With the focus of this campaign on the dangers of left hand bends, we have asked whether members of the public think motorcycle accidents occur more often on city roads, or out in the countryside. The results suggested a close split in thought, with 54% believing that the countryside is home to the most accidents, while 46% are adamant that more incidents occur in urban areas. Of this number, 100% of under 18’s believing that the city sees more accidents, while the results from 35-54 age group was much closer, 48% believing that accidents are more common in cities, with 52% in the countryside. The majority of both male and female poll participants believe that accidents happen more frequently in the countryside – 51% of men, and 55% of women.
All the way across the other side of the world, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) are over half-way through their decade-long scheme to reduce the number of fatalities on its nation’s roads. The National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) was implemented in 2011, with designs on reducing the number of traffic related deaths by 30% by 2020 using their Safety System principles.
However, it doesn’t appear to be going completely to plan, with suggestions that there is a possibility it might miss its target, following an increase in fatalities during 2015. Most eye-catching and concerning for motorcyclists in the latest AAA report was the fact that the number of riders killed increased by 5.8% to 202 during the year, a figure well above the notional NRSS target.
This is a figure that suggests Aussie motorcyclists are reckless and persistently dangerous, a preconception that appears to be much without foundation, following a survey conducted in 2015 by Canstar Blue.
Around 1,300 riders participated in the study, speaking candidly about their habits on the road and knowledge of bike maintenance.
The survey concluded that motorcyclists are very much safety conscious and focused upon ensuring a smooth ride when they’re on the road.
Perhaps the most striking of stats were those focused on tyres, with 82% knowing how to check if they need new tyres; 78% aware of the correct air pressure their tyres should be; while 80% tend to not to just buy the cheapest option available – it seems Aussie riders know really know their stuff.
While the sensible side of riders was also captured, with only 25% suggesting that they take risks while riding; 26% admitting to often exceeding the speed limit; while 75% are concerned that they won’t be seen by other road users. Most concerning, and not hugely surprising considering the latest AAA update, however, was that 23% of riders advised that they have been involved in a collision with another vehicle.
In reaction to the findings of the report which was released in December 2015, Michael Bradley, AAA Chief Executive, advised that:
“This is a stark reminder of the need to take care on the roads and be extra vigilant of vulnerable road users such as motorbike riders and cyclists. It’s important that efforts to improve road safety must focus on improvements in infrastructure and vehicle safety as well as driver behaviour.”
To further develop the results of this study, we asked if members of the public believe motorcycle riders take more risks than car drivers. The results were in stark contrast to the Canstar Blue Survey of motorcyclists, with a whopping 87% on our poll believing this to be the case. The results saw over 80% of each age category suggesting that they feel motorcyclists are bigger risk takers than other motorists.
So there you have it, three studies, all very different, but all geared towards the same end goal of improving safety for motorcyclists. The results of our survey questions suggest that the public perception of motorbike riders considers them to be a danger on the road to both themselves and others, with accidents occurring on the road regardless of the setting. This is something that all road users have in agreement, there’s always the threat of danger on the road whether you’re riding on two or four wheels, so keep your eyes peeled, but remember that Vélo Law are always here for you.