A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
Motorcycle and Scooters, sometimes known as Powered Two Wheelers (PTWs), can make a significant contribution to addressing the nation’s transport and traffic problems, offering real benefits in terms of reduced congestion, improved air quality and an affordable transport solution for those who could not otherwise be able to travel for work or study. However, despite a significant long term casualty reduction, motorcycling remains disproportionately represented in overall road user fatalities. PTWs have consistently been over represented in casualty statistics. Motorcyclists account for 1% of UK traffic but almost one in five UK road deaths are motorcyclists and this framework will explore new opportunities and renew efforts to reduce the number of collisions involving motorcyclists.
It is vital that further safety improvements are made. This can be facilitated not just through traditional road safety initiatives but also through a positive approach to motorcycle ‘integration’ within wider transport and social policies. Exploring partnerships with other vulnerable road user groups such as cyclists and pedestrians are considered. Such an approach would allow the development of initiatives that reduce rider vulnerability and allow the creation of a safer and more ‘visible’ environment for motorcycle and scooter users.
For this reason NPCC and MCIA welcome Highways England as a third partner to the framework. Highways England was set up by Government to operate and improve the motorways and major A roads in England. They have responsibility for the Strategic Road Network, and for delivering the Government’s vision for that network. Their primary role is to deliver a better service for road users and to support a growing economy. A key element of success involves making the network a safer place to use and work on for all.
Highways England has put safety at the core of its work, and will work towards the goal of bringing the number of people killed or injured on the network as close as possible to zero by 2040.
It is encouraging that Highways England recognises motorcycling as a legitimate mode of transport and is committing resource, expertise and enthusiasm to help deliver many of the actions within this framework. Continued investment is needed to improve safety, Highways England recognises this and has set an ambitious KSI reduction target of 40% (from the 2005-9 baseline)
The latest data from the Department of Transport (2015 DfT) shows that fatal casualties have risen by 3.4% over a new 2010-2014 baseline. Serious casualties are steady and all casualties have risen by 2.39%. These figures are not welcome and clearly indicate that the approach to motorcycle safety over the last few years is not working. This Framework instead contends that the traditional focus on casualty reduction campaigns needs to be augmented by taking a holistic view of motorcycles as transport and working via command transport policy to reduce rider vulnerability and improve access (as has been done with cycling). This will not only improve safety, but will also ‘unlock’ the potential of motorcycling as a transport mode on the UK’s congested roads.
However, the figures above do represent an extremely short term view. It is also worth considering the long term trends, as these tell us much more about how motorcycle safety has progressed. Motorcycle deaths were at their lowest since records began in 1926 between the years 2012 and 2014 (average of 332). The 365 recorded deaths in 2015 are still the lowest recorded in any of the 74 years before 2010.
Historically, it can also be seen that casualty trends seem little affected by sometimes large changes in the motorcycle parc and number sold per annum (both up and down). This demonstrates that the oft-claimed connection between increasing motorcycle usage and an increase in casualty trends does not exist in any meaningful way.
But the 2015 figures do reveal a number of reasons why a fresh approach to safety is needed. The reduction in the all-important casualty rate per mile travelled has also slowed, with only a 2.06% decrease since 2014, but a rise of 3.88% over the new 2010-2014 baseline.
Worryingly, the motorcycle percentage of all road user fatalities remains a concern. Motorcyclists comprise 21.1% of all road deaths, despite being only around 1% of road traffic. The rate of death and injury reduction is showing signs of slowing. Industry and police are also concerned that the level of resources and direct interest in motorcycle safety from the Government has also reduced. However, government commitments to improve motorcycle safety made in the 2015 British Road Safety Statement together with Highways England’s safety focus as a public company, creates a welcome opportunity to raise the profile of motorcycle safety as we develop this framework.
In November 2013, a conference organised by the MCIA and the NPCC (‘More Motorcycles Could Reduce Casualties!’) discussed motorcycle safety, both in terms of traditional approaches and also how the overall transport policy environment impacts on casualties. Evidence was presented from across Europe that suggested it is possible to have a wider integration of increased motorcycle use within the urban environment in particular, while at the same time reducing casualties. The same evidence suggested that there is a tendency for casualties to fall at a faster rate during a rising motorcycle market.
This framework seeks to focus the resources and combined capabilities of the partnership in order to address the above issues. A refreshed delivery plan, using the internationally recognised Safe Systems Approach will build upon the achievements of the original framework with carefully targeted actions divided into seven broad themes. The original six themes have now been supplemented by Theme Four: Safer Infrastructure. This is a key area where Highways England can make a hugely significant contribution towards safety. By applying the Safe Systems Approach across all the themes, we will ensure that the full range of solutions are addressed. The Safe Systems Approach and its relationship with the seven themes is covered in more detail later in this document.
Theme One: Road User Awareness
This theme addresses the issue of general road user awareness. These actions are primarily intended to embed the concept of ‘mode neutral’ road use into road users from a young age as well as address the shortcomings of wider policy in integrating motorcycles into general transport policy.
The actions will set out a case for including compulsory road user education at school culminating in a Theory Test which is not mode specific. Starting road user education early will allow road users to develop good attitudes to road safety which will stay with them throughout their lives and will eventually not only make them better motorcyclists, but also better cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers.
The role of motorcycling in general transport policy is a key theme of this framework. Motorcycling needs to be recognised as a vital tool in addressing many modern day transport, economic and environmental challenges and a key priority will be to ensure that this is reflected in government policy and reflected in strategic and local decision making. Best practice guidance is available for local transport planners and should be promoted to encourage further use.
Theme Two: Educate to Deliver
This theme deals with some of the more traditional elements of road safety, notably education and enforcement. We propose a number of actions to specifically improve the standard of motorcycle training in the UK. The aim of this will be to move to a system whereby motorcyclists can feel more confident in the quality of the training they are paying for as well as allow a more training focussed approach to licence acquisition. The eventual result will be that new riders will be safer road users.
However, there is a significant issue of how to reach those who have already received a licence and this will be addressed by improving post-test training and schemes such as the widely acknowledged and supported BikeSafe. Further to this, we set out how we will work to improve the uptake of alternative disposals, most notably RIDE, a course specifically designed for motorcyclists. Traditional but effective methods such as public information campaigns and enforcement weeks will not be ignored whilst this work is ongoing.
Engagement, encouragement and education will always be the preferred method of achieving compliance. However there will always be a small minority that will not respond positively to these methods and for those, targeted enforcement will be the most appropriate tactic. Enforcement activity should be proportionate and intelligence led and this framework will bring together groups such as the National Roads Partnership Intelligence Forum (NRPIF) and Highways England’s Motor Cycle Working Group to ensure that resources are deployed effectively and appropriately.
Theme Three: Motorcycles as a Practical Solution
Building on the rationale behind some of the actions in Theme One, Theme Three: Motorcycles as a Practical Solution further expands on the role of central and local government in delivering safer motorcycling, specifically by including motorcycling in general policy. The benefits of cycling for bringing increased mobility, reduced congestion and environmental benefits are regularly considered in local and strategic transport planning and motorcycle solutions should be considered in the same way.
The actions in this section are intended to bridge the gap created by a lack of knowledge regarding motorcycling. Part of this may involve assisting in the creation of a motorcycle specific function within government to help inform general policymaking and to broaden the presence of motorcycling so that it is recognised by multiple government departments.
Theme Four: Safer Infrastructure
Theme Four concentrates on securing safer roads infrastructure for all motorcyclists and draws upon Highways England’s position and responsibility for managing and delivering the strategic road network. For the first time since this framework was launched there is a now a direct link to the resources which can influence the safety of infrastructure on the network with specific regard to powered two-wheelers.
Theme Five: Unlocking the Benefits of Motorcycling
Theme Five highlights the fundamental difference of this approach to previous approaches to motorcycle safety by aligning motorcycling with other areas of government policy where an incentive is offered to the public. As noted in this section, the motorcycle industry has a turnover of £6 billion (adding £2 billion to the UK economy) and employing 58,530 people. It also has great potential for growth. We will work to create a Motorcycle to Work scheme targeting commuter motorcyclists to mirror the Cycle to Work Scheme and also work to add motorcycles to the market incentives for low emission and zero emission vehicles where appropriate. It is intended that this will increase the uptake of motorcycling in non-traditional sectors thereby making motorcycling safer and unlocking the congestion and environmental benefits that motorcycling has to offer.
Theme Six: Better Motorcycle Industry Engagement in Society
The motorcycle industry is a responsible industry and this theme addresses specifically what the industry will do to improve safety. Naturally, a substantial portion of this is dealt with by the introduction of safer and more advanced vehicles and equipment. The industry has already had various voluntary commitments on braking and lighting over the years and a new regulatory framework will help roll out those advances further as well as introduce new areas where work can be done. The industry will also continue the effective work on widening the appeal of motorcycling beyond the traditional sports image to more commuting and practical motorcycling whilst still supporting a healthy leisure sector.
Whilst there are those who take pride in maintaining their machine, there is a significant group of riders who ride out of necessity and can often be unaware of the dangers of riding a poorly maintained motorcycle. Engaging with these hard to reach groups presents challenges for the partnership and innovative methods such as the use of social demographic data will help to effectively target campaigns.
Theme Seven: Partnership with Cycling
This theme highlights the continuum between cycling and motorcycling that is often ignored. We will be working more closely with the bicycle industry and cycling groups to highlight areas of shared concern on issues such as infrastructure and maintenance as well as creating a framework where new products that bridge the traditional gap between cycling and motorcycling can be used safely and responsibly. This will generally make two wheeled transport the practical and safe choice for door to door journeys in the 0-30 mile range.
Highways England’s 2016 Cycling Strategy: Our Approach, describes benefits in areas of mobility, congestion, easier parking and retail sales (where there are cycle lanes). There is a strong case that similar benefits could be attributed to increased PTW motorcycle and scooter use and these links are further explored in this framework.