A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
- To decrease rider vulnerability through policy support and greater awareness on the public highway
- To help reduce traffic congestion and pollution
- To improve transport efficiency and economy. To reduce emissions from road transport
- To improve departmental knowledge and expertise about motorcycles and to address long-held institutional attitudes and opinions about motorcycles
- To create better policy making that can help improve motorcycle rider safety and allow government and society to benefit from the motorcycle opportunity
- To improve the ability of government transport policy to deliver core objectives.
Summary of Actions
Action 21: To Seek a ‘Level Playing Field’ Approach to Ensure Proportionate Support for Motorcycling Within Both Safety and Transport Policy
Action 22: To Encourage Policy Making Improvements to Incorporate Motorcycling Into Transport Policy
Action 23: To Encourage Action From Different Government Departments to Allow the UK to Benefit From the Motorcycle Sector
The most sustainable route to safer motorcycling lies within taking a comprehensive approach to safety policy and practice, based on a ‘shared responsibility’ approach.
In order to realise this and ensure that safety is managed with an even hand and on a level playing field, the first and most important step is to recognise motorcycling’s place within society and overall transport strategies.
Such an approach will open up the ability to integrate motorcycle safety as part of broader transport planning, so helping to realise not only reduced numbers of motorcycle casualties, but also realise the important role that motorcycling plays in social, business and emergency transport.
Does an ‘Integrated Transport Policy’ Really Exist?
It is entirely possible that the existing unwillingness to fully incorporate motorcycling into mainstream transport policies stems from a perception that motorcycling represents nothing but a safety problem; that in a wider societal sense, motorcycling doesn’t matter, that wider society would not miss motorcycles or scooters if they were removed from the roads. This thinking needs to be reconsidered and negativity removed – at all levels.
This is important, because the current approach to integrated transport policy appears to exclude motorcycles. Consequently, motorcycles are seen as a problem rather than a solution by many. The perceived lack of a motorised alternative to the car means that there has been no meaningful reduction in car use. Cities remain congested as a result.
The success of any transport policy depends largely and considerably on a systematic approach, without favouring arbitrarily one or other transport mode, and at the same time applying realistic and economically viable principles such as:
- Fair and equal access between and within ALL transport modes
- Freedom of choice by users/business and accordingly the respect of the right to select the most appropriate transport mode for individual mobility needs
- Transport and mobility efficiency, encouraging the most suitable and effective mode of transport according to the circumstances
- Integration of motorcycles, as well as other vulnerable road users, in transport and urban policy plans
Failure to consider all modes of transport, including motorcycling, denies the opportunity to create fully rounded transport policies, which are relevant to all who need to use transport for differing purposes and in widely varying circumstances. This narrow approach to transport policy also fails to maximise the opportunities that exist to reduce urban traffic congestion and pollution – an area where motorcycles can play a significant role.
Including motorcycles in transport policy also has the added benefit of addressing an environment for motorcycle users which is subject to greater vulnerabilities than should exist – thereby opportunities to improve safety.
Motorcycling offers the flexible personal transport that is missing within the current policy paradigm. Additionally, if commuter motorcycles are included with bicycles, e-bikes and ePTWs as part of a ‘two-wheeled paradigm’ an opportunity exists to offer the car using public an exciting, flexible and versatile 0-30 mile commuter option (bicycle to e-bike to ePTW to small motorcycle etc). The benefits in terms of opportunities to develop complementary safety policies are clear.
Furthermore, motorcycles and scooters are part of the solution in terms of easing congestion, improving the commute, contributing to minimising carbon emissions (low emission motorcycles and ePTWs), reducing pressure on public transport, improving transport efficiency and the transport ‘economy’, plus providing transport options in remote areas (for example the Wheels to Work network). Policy inclusion will lead to greater overall awareness of motorcycles, so reducing rider vulnerability and improving safety.
Motorcycling also contributes significantly towards the wider economic and social goals of society as a whole. Examples include:
- The importance of motorcycles to many people on low personal incomes
- The role of motorcycles in public service (emergency and rescue services)
- Importance as a business ‘enabler’
- Importance as a mobility provider
- Importance as a means to reduce overall congestion and emissions
- Importance as a means to increase social inclusion, access to work and the engagement of young people
- The role of the industry in creating economic growth
- The social and economic contribution of motorcycle sport
- The significant contribution of industry businesses to employment
Example: The ‘Wheels 2 Work’ previously funded government scheme has helped many thousands of mainly young people to have the means to travel to work since it began 16 years ago. This award winning scheme has focussed on loaning mopeds to people in mainly rural areas, who would not otherwise be able to get to and from work or training.
Commenting on Wheels to Work, the then Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Wheels to Work does a great job of tackling the basic issue of making sure everyone who needs to travel to a job is able to do so. This is an invaluable service without which many of these young people would have to move away from their friends and families. It also helps young people to find employment and stay in the rural villages where they have grown up which is important in maintaining these diverse and vibrant local communities.”
To realise the opportunities outlined above, the safety of motorcycle users is essential to successfully reducing the total number of road casualties. This can most effectively be done by adopting an integrated, comprehensive approach including mainstream transport policy inclusion, infrastructure improvements, advances in vehicle technology, plus added emphasis on the human factor, education and training for all road users.
The promotion of motorcycle usage in transport policy could, over time, have a considerable and positive impact on reducing traffic density in heavily congested cities and can bring economic gains through access to jobs, social mobility and leisure, where other transport modes are unavailable, impractical or too expensive. However, it is important that measures to support motorcycle usage go hand in hand with improved safety and education messages.
Cities will also significantly grow. Public transport is not always well organised or adequate in terms of capacity, frequency, available routes, or reliability. Personal average income is under pressure, with this going hand in hand with individual need for personal mobility solutions. Motorcycle usage can therefore be expected to grow due to:
- Relative low purchase cost and low fuel consumption
- Often, motorcycles are the only affordable means of motorised transportation for the household
- Their ease of movement in crowded urban environments
- Smaller parking areas needed
- Reduced environmental footprint
- Benefit of a personal door-to-door solution
Total Motorcycle Distance Travelled
(Source: DfT. Note, the steady rise in distance travelled was interrupted by the economic downturn and pressure on the market. However, the market started to grow again towards the end of 2013 and we are beginning to see the upward trend re-emerge.)
It has been contended that it would be a bad thing if people chose motorcycles over the bus or train. Industry contends the contrary. In many urban areas, buses and trains are already beyond sensible or comfortable passenger carrying capacity, which reduces their attractiveness to both existing and potential new users. If a proportion of bus and train users were to switch to motorcycles, valuable capacity would be opened which would then be more attractive to those current car users who would never consider riding a motorcycle or bicycle. Transport usage and choices would start to balance better than at present.
In November 2014, the Trades Unions Congress highlighted statistics from the Office of National Statistics which showed that average commuting times had risen in the last 5 years. This was the case across all modes with the only notable exception being those commuting by motorcycle who had actually shortened their journey time.
Average daily commuting times by modes of transport
(Source: TUC, ONS)
A 2011 study by Transport and Mobility Leuven showed that a modal shift of 10% from private cars to motorcycles reduced lost vehicle hours in congestion on a trunk road by 63% for everybody using that route (ie not just the motorcyclists). A modal shift of 25% (one quarter of all cars replaced by motorcycles) eliminated congestion altogether. Another study published in 2011 by Pierre Kopp showed that the 36% increase in motorcycle traffic in Paris between 2000 and 2007 accounted for a net benefit of €168million.
So, not only are there significant benefits to the individual of changing to motorcycles in terms of reduced journey times, but the reduced congestion is beneficial to both society, business and the public purse.
Whichever way one considers the issue, if motorcycles are considered in a properly integrated approach to policy, greater opportunities to reduce casualties and to solve our overall transport problems are opened up.