A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
PTW safety is an absolute priority for the motorcycle industry and the police. Over several decades, industry has made considerable efforts to develop technologically advanced vehicles with enhanced safety characteristics. Police and industry have also taken the lead on road safety campaigns, supported government activities and promoted pre and post licence test training among users, as well as developments in roads infrastructure and other specific activities. This effort has been instrumental in substantially reducing the number of fatal collisions involving powered two and three wheeler users in the UK.
The latest data from the DfT (2015) 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 in the casualty rate over 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 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.
These are early signs that the long term trend may be stalling, with this being a major factor that prompted the development of this Framework. Industry and police are also concerned that the level of resources and direct interest in motorcycle safety from the Government needs to be improved. It is notable that the latest edition of the DfT’s ‘Road Casualties Great Britain’ did not contain a notable focus on motorcycle safety, indeed RCGB used to be a comprehensive publication that has now been replaced with a series of factsheets and downloadable tables. There is a worrying lack of in depth analysis in this new format. This means that the core statistics had to be obtained by cross referring several tables within the document.
This is a cause of great concern. The use of motorcycles across the UK is growing and will continue to grow over the coming years as a result of different factors, one of the most important of which is increasing urbanisation and the expansion of major cities. As a result of this, UK citizens will increasingly turn to mobility options that avoid traffic congestion, cut journey times and are easy to park. Additional factors driving this process will include affordability compared to public transport, journey efficiency and practicality (which cannot always be offered by walking, cycling and public transport on its own), fuel-efficiency and the fact that motorcycles offer door-to-door mobility.