More bikes should reduce casualties

Leading figures from the motorcycle industry and the police have called for a radical change in attitudes towards motorcycling in the UK.

The plea was made at a safety conference on 11th November, organised jointly by the Motorcycle Industry Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers in partnership with the Department for Transport.

The conference, held in the Department for Transport offices in London, examined perspectives from the motorcycle industry, the police, the insurance industry, other road-users groups, road safety policy-makers, Transport for London, plus the Government’s view, via Robert Goodwill, Under Secretary of State for Transport, who delivered the keynote speech.

Unlike previous attempts to tackle motorcycle safety, this called for a fundamental change in how motorcycling is regarded by those responsible for transport planning. It explored the concept and conference title: ‘More motorcycles could reduce casualties?’ while identifying the limitations of continuing with the current tendency just to tackle safety through sporadic campaigns.

Delegates were presented with data which shows ‘volume breeds relative safety’.  This highlights the fact that:

• The UK has the lowest ownership of powered two wheelers (PTWs) in Europe but proportionately has one of the highest rates of fatal accidents measured against the PTW circulating Parc (fatality per 10,000 PTW).

• In sharp contrast, the Netherlands has three times the number of PTWs per head of the population and yet riders are five times less likely to be killed than riders in the UK (using the same measure).

• The highest rate of PTW ownership in Europe is in Greece at 33 per cent, and yet the fatality rate is still proportionately nearly a third of the UK rate.

According to Jacques Compagne, the Secretary General of the Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers who addressed delegates, “Ten per cent seems to be a critical tipping point”. Using source data from the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group IRTAD, he argued that when at least Ten per cent of road traffic is made up of PTWs, safety outcomes for riders improve considerably.

The correlation between high PTW ownership and fewer serious accidents quantifies the key findings from research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which recommended (as far back as 2008) that the way to reduce casualties significantly was to include motorcycles in mainstream transport policy.

Delegates were told about a study carried out on a particularly congested route in Belgium, which found that when ten per cent of car drivers swapped to motorcycles congestion was reduced for all road users by 40 per cent. When 25 per cent of car drivers swapped congestion was eliminated altogether. (Source: Transport & Mobility Leeven).

Steve Kenward, CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association and one of the speakers, said the conference should be the beginning of a process of change: “Today will mark the start of a serious dialogue to explore how motorcycling can become part of mainstream transport policy.  We are hopeful that the process of integrating and embracing motorcycling into the transport mix – in the way that cycling is – will see an end to policies which have historically sustained a vulnerable environment for motorcyclists.”

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