A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
There is sometimes a mistaken view that motorcyclists are a homogenous ‘lump’. That people are in the main enthusiasts and that aside from a few scooter riders, it’s all about ‘the sport’. This view can be reinforced in the minds of the non-biking public when they see motorcycle publications that are largely aimed at the leisure sector and marketing which is aimed mainly at the leisure and sports sector.
However, motorcyclists comprise people from all walks of life. Many are not ‘bikers’ and would not even describe themselves as motorcyclists. Of the roughly 1.2 million people who regularly ride, besides a recognised leisure market, a large proportion use motorcycles or scooters purely as practical and commuter utility transport. DfT has estimated that well over half of all motorcycle miles travelled are for non-leisure purposes such as work, business or education (approx. 2.3 billion miles in 2012). This compares with only 27% of miles travelled in a car for such journeys3.
PTWs in use on UK roads and total miles travelled
Even those who buy and ride machines aimed at the enthusiast will sometimes use their bikes for commuting and other day to day practical purposes.
In summary, ‘motorcyclists’ are mainly ‘transport users’ who make their transport choice based on a range of factors – just as the rest of the travelling public do.
This is not to take anything away from the leisure and sport sector. Biking’s heart and soul is often described as being the sport and the market has a wide range of products which cater for enthusiasts, with sports bikes and adventure/touring bikes comprising the core of the leisure sector.
Motorcycling attracts many people due to the personal benefits motorcycles can bring: stress reduction, social interaction with others, the personal and economic perspective of motorcycle tourism and the pleasure of riding as an end in itself. The UK has a vibrant sports sector which contributes notably to economic activity. In 2014, it was found the leisure and sports sectors alone (excluding tourism) accounted for 8,685 people employed in 640 businesses. (ICF Industry Economic Report)
The term ‘Powered Two-Wheelers’ (PTWs) includes products from small 50cc step-through vehicles, up to motorcycles of 1000cc and over. These products are divided into different segments, such as moped, scooter, adventure, naked, supersport, touring, custom, etc.
As mentioned above, many people consider motorcyclists to be a homogeneous group of people, with road safety solutions and public policy decisions often aimed at this group. Sometimes, motorcycle safety policy is poorly differentiated from car safety policies, with motorcycle statistics in transport indicators ‘lumped-in’ with car statistics. Safety policy often considers the motorcycle safety problem as a standalone issue, without considering how PTWs are used, or their contribution to the overall traffic and transport mix. Little regard is given to how motorcycle safety issues can be transformed into safety and transportation opportunities.
However, the reality of the situation is that motorcycle riders use vast numbers of different vehicle types, with different characteristics, designed for myriad different terrains and used for numerous distinct purposes.
It is this diversity that means policy approaches cannot work to a one-size-fits-all approach designed to improve motorcycle safety globally. Safety policy needs to be tailored to differing local environments and take account of the PTW position in society and the economy – plus the social, mobility and economic opportunities that safer motorcycling can bring to such societies.
3 United Kingdom Department for Transport, “Transport Statistics Bulletin. Compendium of Motorcycling statistics 2009”. www.motorcycleguidelines.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/motorcyclingstats2009.pdf