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It is difficult to define exactly what a motorcycle is, because in its many forms it has come to represent many things to many people. From mode of transport, to leisure-pursuit enjoyed by many at the weekend, through to work of art, a consequence of designs expressing automotive elegance and beauty deemed by many to be worthy of a place in galleries worldwide.

With its beginnings firmly footed in the latter half of the 19th Century, it is estimated that there are now in the region of 200 million motorcycles globally (Adachi, Shuhei, Yamaha Motor Company Ltd., 2006). In September 2009, there were 34.4 million vehicles licensed for use in Great Britain on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency register, with motorcycles and scooters accounting for 1.35 million or 3.9%, of this licensed traffic (Department for Transport, 2009).

Motorcycle ownership in the UK has risen steadily since the mid 1990’s (Department for Transport, 2009). Although figures suggest that motorcycles are a minority in terms of the overall composition of traffic on UK roads, there is reason to give powered two-wheelers appropriate consideration within transport schemes as a functional and affordable mode of transport.

This point has not been lost on the UK Government, who identified the potential of motorcycling in terms of transport mode and congestion reduction capabilities. The Governments’ White Paper for Transport, PPG13 (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2001), highlighted improvements to Park and Ride sites and areas of parking to facilitate greater use of motorcycles, and discussed the potential benefits of motorcycle use in rural areas.

This increase of interest in the use of two wheelers led to the creation of a specific document, the Governments’ Motorcycling Strategy (Department for Transport, 2005) that outlined a plan of action to make motorcycling safer and encourage greater use as a mode of transport. The strategy has subsequently been updated following a review by the National Motorcycle Council to reflect changes to the original plan and to include new actions that have been agreed by the parties involved (Department for Transport, 2008).

However, not all bodies believe that adequate progress has been made in recent years. In a study on commuting trends, the RAC Foundation identified that 65% of two-wheel journeys in the UK are for work or education. This has prompted the Foundation to suggest that transport policy should place greater emphasis on encouraging the use of motorcycles as a means of reducing congestion, and gaining recognition for the role they play as a commuting workhorse (RAC Foundation, 2007). Why don’t they think adequate progress has been made? The second sentence isn’t a sentence

According to the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA), the number of people in Europe turning to motorcycling is continuing to increase, with levels of congestion being a motivating factor. The number of motorcycles on European roads has more than doubled over the last two decades, and FEMA suggest that motorcycling offers an inexpensive, environmentally friendly and an effective means of transport (FEMA, 2007).

This is gradually being recognised within the UK, with motorcycles starting to take a more prominent position within travel plans. A number of organisations have introduced incentive schemes with the sole purpose of encouraging staff members to use a small motorcycle for the commute to the workplace (Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers, 2007).

A local government funded initiative, Wheels to Work (W2W), tackles the issue of transport in rural and isolated communities, where those seeking work are encountering barriers to employment because of a lack of private, or poor public, transport (Countryside Agency, 2002). Young persons in particular are often faced with a situation where, without a job, they cannot afford to purchase a car or scooter, and without access to transport, they are unable to travel to work. The scheme offers assistance by providing a scooter on loan, for a short period until a longer-term solution is identified (Steer Davies Gleeve, 2005).

It is evident that a direct result of the Motorcycling Strategy has been the significant impetus by authorities and organisations to encourage people out of their cars and onto two-wheeled transport. However, it remains unlikely that the majority of the car driving public could be persuaded to view motorcycling as a realistic all-year alternative to the car.

A recent study by Post Office Insurance found that 4.8 million, or 13%, of car drivers would consider changing their vehicle for a motorcycle or scooter to reduce costs and facilitate their commute (Clutch and Chrome, 2009). However, figures released by the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCIA) would suggest that the recession has a stranglehold on the industry, with registration of new motorcycles for each month of 2009 being up to 20% less than the corresponding period of 2008 (Motorcycle Industry Association, 2010). The potential for a shift away from the car, as highlighted in the Post Office study, has not translated into action. The reasons for this are not just economic. Consumers will make a calculated judgement based on a number of factors such as running costs, ease of use, potential time savings, and environmental performance, all of which may point in favour of motorcycling. However when the final decision is made there is, in the majority of cases, one element that overrides the final decision, and that is safety.

Concerns about safety are the biggest factor in deterring people from taking up motorcycling (Mintel, 2008), suggesting that until significant improvements are made, a segment of the personal transport market may ponder the question of whether to change the car for a motorcycle, but will never feel confident enough to actually do it.

Is a strategy required?

Considering that there are relatively few motorcycles on our roads, it is interesting that the Government have produced a motorcycling strategy for dealing with this mode. This raises the question of whether a specific strategy is required for this minority group. This is the second time that you’ve mentioned that motorcycles are a minority group on the roads, but no figure to say what %

To determine whether there is any justification for such a strategy, one has to examine the statistics for motorcycle related accidents whereupon it becomes clear that there is a requirement for measures to reduce the number of Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) persons on the highways of Great Britain.

The sobering reality of the vulnerability of motorcyclists is brought home by the figures which show they are 25 times more likely to be killed than car users and 5 times more likely to be killed than cyclists (Department for Transport, 2005). Check. Have seen more recent reference, 2008, from IHIE or other source but originating from DfT

Statistics from the Department for Transport suggest that motorcycle accidents are reducing, but not to the same extent as other vehicle classes. For example, in Great Britain there were 493 motorcycle user fatalities in accidents reported to the police in 2008, which was 16 per cent lower than during 2007. Furthermore, the reported number of killed or seriously injured fell compared to 2007, with a reduction of 10 percent from 6,737 in 2007 to 6,049 in 2008. The ‘All motorcycle user’ casualties figure for 2008 of 21,550 is 8 per cent lower than in 2007. It should be made clear that motorcycle accidents are not spiralling out of control, but there is scope for measures to be developed and KSI’s to be further reduced (Department for Transport, 2009). You’ve said this isn’t the same reduction as other vehicle classes – how does it compare? Or take out the comparison.

The quoted statistics provide headline figures but they tell us nothing about the people, the type of machines, or the circumstances that surround accidents. As with cars, powered two-wheelers are available in a wide range of styles and performance levels designed to cover all market segments, appealing to an array of rider types populating the market, and capturing their imagination and bank balances. This gives rise to machines ranging from scooters to race replicas ridden by persons of varying ability, sharing road space with other traffic on the urban and rural road networks of the UK, and encountering situations where perhaps they are riding beyond their skills and abilities, leading to injury and in some cases death.

The introduction of the Government’s Motorcycling Strategy has acted as a catalyst for investigating the issue of motorcycle safety. Central Government departments, such as the Driving Standards Agency and Department for Transport, have significant responsibility for delivering the actions set out in the strategy. However, success cannot be delivered by Central Government alone, with input from Local Authorities and bodies such as the Police being instrumental in moving the strategy forward. In conjunction with this increase in Government activity, the last five years has seen an upsurge in the body of research coming to fruition in an attempt to improve motorcycle safety, with a range of innovative ideas and suggestions coming to the fore.

There have been significant legislative changes that have focused on the motorcycle test with several reviews over the last two decades. Led by the European Commission, directives have been issued with the intention of bringing the licence systems of Member States closer together to create a single European Driving Licence. This has brought a consistent approach to licensing and testing across the EU member states in terms of format, standardising of licence categories, and consistency in standards of driving and fitness to drive (Butcher, L, 2009). However, significant numbers of riders and pillions are killed or injured every year on UK roads, suggesting that further work is required.

Study aims and objectives

This dissertation provides a review of current motorcycle training and testing in the UK. The principal research aim of this work is to explore whether the current training and testing regime delivers the most appropriate skill-set to ensure riding a powered two-wheeler is as safe as practically possible.

Training for riders and drivers at pre-test level has tended to place emphasis on control skills and to neglect higher order cognitive skills such as those related to the anticipation, detection and assessment of hazards (Elliott, et al., 2003). In light of this, the focus of the study will consider whether fine-tuning could produce a ‘best practice’ toolkit, equipping prospective riders with the skills, knowledge, and awareness required to anticipate potential problems and ride within his or her abilities.

To promote further understanding of the research question and to provide focus to the study, the following objectives will be met:

  1. To explore the behaviour of P2W riders and critically review current literature dealing with the subject
  2. To analyse accident data to identify causational trends linked to rider/driver behaviour
  3. To explore how an evidence-led approach could assist in the development of a ‘best practice’ training regime

Outline methodology

Satisfying the aim of the work and providing answers to the research questions requires an appropriate methodology to allow a rigorous and proper analysis to be conducted. This will be achieved using a two-fold approach, involving both qualitative and quantitative techniques, to reveal the defining conclusions from the research.

A review of printed and internet based literature discusses current road safety and motorcycle policy. This leads into an exploration of current thought and research into the educational element of motorcycle safety, with focus guided towards rider behaviour, education, and training.

In 2008, Cheshire County Council arranged a series of consultation exercises with local motorcycle riders to gain an understanding of their opinions, motivations, and concerns, particularly in response to questions relating to road safety in the Vale Royal area of Cheshire. This case study recruited participants that matched, as closely as possible, the profile of motorcyclists involved in accidents on the roads of Vale Royal (Cheshire County Council, 2008). Findings from this consultation provide relevant insight into the minds of a segment of the motorcycling fraternity at risk, and support the literature review by providing a qualitative and extremely valid perspective.

The quantitative analysis will focus on a sample of motorcycle related accidents for a region of the UK. Detailed records for Greater Manchester, obtained for the years 2006 to 2008 inclusive, will provide the background for the analysis. The data take the form of STATS 19 records, compiled by the police officer called to attend the accident site.

An evaluative, evidence-led approach will explore the accident records to identify indicators of how the current training and testing regime could be enhanced to deliver a best-practice system.

Structure of the dissertation

Following this introductory chapter, Chapter Two provides a background to motorcycles and motorcycling, commencing with a brief history of the development of the motorcycle from the end of the 19th Century to the present. A brief history of the licensing and testing process is provided, concluding with the current requirements for obtaining a moped or motorcycle licence.

The first section of Chapter Three discusses the UK Government’s approach to motorcycling in terms of current policy. This is followed by an appraisal of current and historic research relating to motorcycle safety, with particular emphasis on behavioural and cognitive studies directed towards education and training of road users.

Chapter Four provides a description of the methodology chosen to answer the research questions effectively and concisely, with Chapter Five providing the detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis of the study.

Chapter Six provides a discussion of the outcomes from the research, and documents conclusions that have been drawn from the study.


The history of the Powered Two Wheeler

The motorcycle was born in the second half of the 19th Century, evolving from the ‘safety bicycle’ of the time, a bicycle with front and rear wheels of the same size and a pedal crank linked to the rear wheel for propulsion. This vehicle was to act as a catalyst for engineers all over Europe who took it upon themselves to develop a ‘powered two wheeler’ that could be produced at reasonable cost and offered to the public (The Motorcycle Guide, 2010).

Trying to pinpoint the very first example of these pioneering machines is not as straightforward as it seems, as designs were emerging throughout Europe during the late 1860’s, many of which provide influence for the form of the motorcycle as we know it today.

By adding a form of engine to what was essentially still a bicycle, the motorcycle formed the basis for the first mechanised personal mode of transport, providing the general public with levels of freedom that were previously unseen, at least for those who were fortunate enough to be able to afford to purchase one.

By the start of the Twentieth Century, the industry flourished with new companies producing machines that were continually pushing the boundaries of technology. Motorcycle racing was commonplace in Europe, and by 1904, there were 25,000 motorcycles registered in England alone. Racing was also becoming a popular pastime the world over, with the first race purportedly being at Sheen House, Richmond, Surrey in 1897 (Le Santo, 2000). Racing ensured machine development moved forward at a rapid pace with consumers keen to get their hands on the latest and fasted machines. Racing provided the ideal platform for the enticement of prospective customers, succinctly described by Ford Motors racing legend Bob Tasca Sr. when he famously coined the phrase ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’.

Its evolution as a transport mode

The development of the motorcar and commencement of the First World War saw a massive decline in sales of motorcycles, signalling the demise for a number of manufacturers, but by the end of the war the motorcycle trade began to flourish, with the interwar years coming to be regarded as the golden age of motorcycling (Am Baile, 2010). However, the British economy had emerged from the First World War severely damaged (The National Archives, 2010), and the onset of an economic slump meant this good fortune was not to last.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, sales of personal motorcycles were brought to a standstill. Following on from the mechanisation seen in the First World War, manufacturers identified an opportunity, developing machines suitable for military operations, and the security of a lucrative military contract. A handful of firms managed to secure a contract, but the remainder ceased production and closed (Chadwick, 2009), some for good.

After the economic turmoil of war, the 1950’s saw motorcycle and scooter use in the UK began to thrive again, when a post-war Britain looked forward to a new dawn of prosperity. Elements of society had money to spend and there was a lust for taking opportunities and experiencing life, which the motorcycle was able to provide in abundance. Coupled to this, its ability to provide a means of cost effective daily transport further added to its appeal.

Motorcycling today

In today’s society, the reasons for purchase are a little more widespread. A study conducted by Mintel (2008), discovered that practical features such as fuel economy, insurance costs and safety features were most important to buyers, rather than speed and performance.

Albeit to a lesser extent, emotional elements also had importance, with styling and brand name having significance for owners.

As with previous generations, powered two wheelers continue to be used as a means of transport. Nevertheless, media coverage has also inspired people to look at a two-wheeler as a tool for adventure and fun, a leisure pursuit, and this is substantiated by sales of more versatile adventure sports machines outstripping the rest of the market, growing by almost one third in 2007 (Mintel, 2008). No longer does the motorcycle have a singular purpose as an affordable means of getting around; it has transformed itself into something much broader and segmented.

Not all Powered Two Wheelers are the same

Historically, PTWs were designed such that one machine would suit all purposes. In today’s society, prospective purchasers come equipped with discerning requirements, and manufacturers create machines that satisfy the needs and wants of its customers; fit for the intended purpose, be that the ability to tour Europe with a pillion, ride dirt track roads in Tanzania, or provide cost effective transport for the daily commute. That is why the majority of manufacturers now have a range of PTW’s tailored to appeal to each segment of the market.

Identifying a motorcycle, moped or scooter

Part Seven of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (C.52), defines a motor cycle as a “mechanically propelled vehicle, not being an invalid carriage, with less than four wheels and the weight of which unladen does not exceed 410 kilograms”.

The definition of a moped is a motorcycle that has the following features:

  • a maximum design speed not exceeding 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph)
  • an engine capacity no greater than 50 cc

Additionally, if the moped was constructed before 1 September 1977 then it can be fitted with pedals and propelled in a similar way to a bicycle if required. An interesting point not often realised by young riders involves de-restricting mopeds to improve performance. This act of altering the machine to produce a maximum speed in excess of 50 kilometres per hour actually changes the definition of the vehicle, such that it is no longer classed as a moped, but a motorcycle. The effects of this are significant, with the rider potentially placed in a situation where his or her licence does not allow this category of machine to be ridden Furthermore, such changes to the vehicle may invalidate the insurance policy.

The term ‘scooter’ spans a number of segments of the motorcycle market, tending to represent the archetypal perception of the urban two-wheeler. Legally, a scooter is not a distinct categorisation within two-wheeled vehicles, but refers to a style with a step through chassis design, and often having an automatic transmission.

For the purposes of this study, the term ‘motorcycle’ is used within the text as an all-encompassing expression, complying with the descriptions under UK law (Transport for London, 2008) that refer to:

  • Motorbikes
  • Mopeds
  • Scooters
  • Tricycles (three wheeled motorcycles)

Furthermore, to adhere to the conventions set out in the STATS 19 accident record system, collected by the attending police officer at the accident scene, the analysis section of this dissertation refers to four machine categories based on engine size:

  • motorcycles 50cc and under,
  • motorcycles over 50cc and under 125cc,
  • motorcycles over 125cc and up to 500cc, and
  • motorcycles over 500cc

This allows for a consistent approach in line with current UK guidelines to be maintained.

How do I get to ride – a brief history of motorcycle Licensing and Testing in the UK

In the 1930’s the UK developed a dual licensing system; one licence for vocational drivers, and one for ordinary drivers. This system continued until 1986 when the two licence types were amalgamated, however this was only completed after a series of other changes, led by the European Commission, aimed at bringing the licence systems of Member States closer together to create a single European Driving Licence. To facilitate this move, three European Driving Licence Directives have been created to deliver a consistent approach to licensing and testing across the EU member states in terms of licence format, the standardising of licence categories, and consistency in standards of driving and fitness to drive (Butcher, L, 2009).

Initial changes were brought in by the First Directive (80/1263/EEC), agreed by the Council of the European Union in 1980 and implemented in 1983. This created a model Community Licence and instigated the process of harmonisation of the licence systems of member states. It also brought about change for the free travel of citizens within the EU by establishing a system to ensure mutual recognition of licences (Butcher, L, 2009). However, it was the Second Directive (91/439/EEC) which was to have a greater impact on Powered Two Wheeler users.

The two main aims of the Second Directive were to facilitate the free movement of Community citizens and to assist in the improvement of road safety. Measures for implementation included the requirement for a photograph on all UK driving licences issued after 29th July 2001, which coincided with the UK Governments phased introduction in 1998 of plastic photo card style licences. More importantly for motorcyclists this Directive also brought about the introduction of a theory test and the Direct Access Scheme (Butcher, L, 2009).

The EU wide theory test was introduced in on 1 July 1996 for motorcycle riders and vehicle drivers, with the aim of testing theoretical knowledge of road traffic regulations, the driver and other road users, the road, the vehicle itself, and general rules and regulations.

The test consists of two sections with the first part being a set of fifty (one hundred for PSV and LGV) multiple-choice questions. The second part is a hazard perception video in which the applicant must identify potential hazards at the earliest opportunity and register this response by a mouse click. To cater for the different vehicle classes, there are three variations of the test covering car, motorcycle, and PSV/LGV vehicle licence applications.

The alternative routes available for gaining a licence are shown in Figure 1.2 for mopeds, and Figure 1.3 for motorcycles.

Where next – the third European Directive

The majority of the provisions in the Third European Directive will come into force in 2013. The three main reasons given by the European Commission for its proposal relate to the enhancement of free movement, combating fraud, and improving road safety (Butcher, L, 2009).

Currently there are two categories of motorcycle. The third Directive will replace this format with three categories, ‘A1′ for motorcycles up to 125cc, ‘A2′ for motorcycles with power output up to 35Kw, and ‘A’ for motorcycles with power output greater than 35Kw.

New rules focus on riders of larger machines, with the route for riders of medium sized machines, small commuter motorcycles and scooters not undergoing significant change (Motor Cycle Industry Association, 2008). Riders wanting to progress to larger categories of motorbikes will have to take additional training or a further test and there will be a rise in the minimum age from 21 to 24 for those wishing to start riding larger bikes without previous experience, in effect raising the entry age for the Direct Access scheme.

In principle, every stage of learning will require a rider to complete training and pass both off road and on road tests at each step towards the Category ‘A’ Licence (Motor Cycle Industry Association, 2008).


A strategy aimed at improving the safety of motorcycle riders will consist of elements aimed at delivering improvements in the areas of engineering, education, and enforcement. This dissertation considers education in detail, with an exploration of the training route riders follow in their quest to obtain a motorcycle licence. It also explores the behaviour of riders, and whether there is potential for the incorporation of behavioural training into the current testing regime to produce a more accomplished toolkit with which to arm fledgling riders encountering the highways of the UK.

This chapter presents an introduction to current road safety and motorcycle policy, which leads into an exploration of current thought and research into the educational element of motorcycle safety, with focus guided towards rider behaviour and training.

Casualty Reduction Policy

In March 2000, the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions released ‘Tomorrow’s Roads: Safer for Everyone’ (Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, 2000) which set out the Government’s road safety strategy and targets for casualty reduction until 2010. Targets were set that made comparison with the average figures for 1994-98, and were specific in their intention of delivering the following:

  • 40% reduction in the numbers of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) in road accidents;
  • 50% reduction in the numbers of children killed or seriously injured; and
  • 10% reduction in the slight casualty rate, expressed as the number of people slightly injured per 100 million vehicle kilometres.

Outlining a number of recommendations, the strategy focused on the ‘Three E’s’ of road safety – engineering, education and enforcement, and included a chapter dedicated to improving the safety of motorcycling. Seven years into the strategy, a second review revealed significant progress had been made against the targets, including motorcycling, which had shown a reduction in KSI’s but not to the same extent as other modes. Going forward motorcycling remains one of the key areas of concern for the Government (Department for Transport, 2007).

The Three E’s approach to road safety

The three E’s of Road Safety form the basis of the road safety engineers toolkit, and refer to engineering, enforcement, and education. The main topic of this dissertation deals with the education and training elements of motorcycling, however, for completeness the following paragraphs briefly discuss the areas of enforcement and engineering.


Central to the Government strategy is the need for enforcement. In 2008, The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) published a document outlining a strategy for national implementation with the intention being to deliver a consistent approach to enforcement, focusing on key collision causation factors and aiming to reduce the number of KSI casualties (ACPO, 2008).

The two main objectives of the strategy are to reduce the number of KSI’s arising from motorcycle collisions, and to reduce the level of anti-social behaviour associated with motorcycling, thereby improving the quality of life for communities. To achieve this ACPO are looking to engage motorcyclists by ensuring there is ‘an emphasis on securing compliance through education, encouragement and advice, with a clear statement of intent to deal appropriately with serious and/or persistent offenders’ (ACPO, 2008).

There is a feeling amongst elements of the motorcycling community that significant variation exists between Police Constabularies in the methods employed when dealing with motorcyclists, with several Constabularies taking a ‘zero-tolerance’ stance for misdemeanours such as noisy exhausts and small number plates. However, in the late nineteen-nineties, North Yorkshire Police decided to address the issue by developing the BikeSafe Programme, which attempted to engage the motorcycling community and provide education and support in a safe and professional, non-confrontational environment (Crowther, 2005).

The ACPO strategy highlights that ‘inconsistency in enforcement undermines public confidence and contributes to resentment and alienation’ (ACPO, 2008), echoed by the number of Constabularies that have developed intervention programmes with similar methods of engagement as BikeSafe in an attempt to improve relations with motorcyclists and have influence upon their behaviour.


Europe has seen a reduction in road fatalities across all categories of vehicle, however motorcycle related fatalities are falling at an annual rate of only 1.5%, somewhat slower than anticipated. In the UK alone, the annual cost of fatal and serious crashes involving motorcyclists is in the region of £1.8 billion, and this is without considering the mental cost that has to be borne by friends, relatives, witnesses and other involved parties (EuroRAP, 2008).

The design and implementation of highway infrastructure has a significant bearing on the safety of road users. Highway safety practitioners and component manufacturers are continually striving to improve designs and minimise the potential for road users to suffer serious injury or death. However, eliminating the potential for injury is not feasible due to the nature of the environment and its reason for being, and so it must fall to the design team to make informed decisions to deliver a highway that is as safe as practically possible for all road users.

Road conditions that pose no concern to double-track vehicles, such as a car or heavy goods vehicle, can be perilous to a motorcycle, significantly changing the level of adhesion and the width of carriageway that is available for use. For example in wet conditions, a car driver would not necessarily include road markings and manhole covers in his/her processing of potential hazards, whereas to a motorcyclist these could prove fatal due to the lack of grip afforded by them. If a road displays a shimmering rainbow across the surface, it may have a pleasant appearance, but in reality, a diesel spill on a wet road is a potential disaster for a motorcycle. A rider must develop skills other than vehicle control, using strong hazard perception skills to continually evaluate the surroundings to minimise potential conflict.

The Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA) suggest that current road design, maintenance and construction are generally directed towards the needs of double-track vehicles, with the needs of motorcycles often addressed as an afterthought or not taken into consideration (FEMA, 2007). However, this is certainly not the case in the UK. The Government’s Motorcycle Strategy explicitly details that ‘Infrastructure needs to be designed and maintained taking into account the needs of motorcyclists’. This message has filtered through to Local Authority and Highways Agency schemes, resulting in designs that consider the motorcyclist and embrace ‘motorcycle friendly’ safety systems and intelligent positioning of street furniture. In spite of this, hazards such as surface debris, slippery utility covers, and excessive use of road markings still exist and require further research and development to make the highway environment a safer place for motorcycles (Mounfield, 2009).

The UK is not alone in striving for improved motorcycle rider safety. Since 1981, the German Institut für Zweiradsicherhiet e.V. (Institute for Motorcycle Safety) has endeavoured to improve the safety of motorcycling, with a combination of research projects and international conferences discussing the fields of Accident Research, Safety Technology, Environmental Compatibility, Rider/Vehicle/Rider Behaviour and Tendencies in Development (Institut für Zweiradsicherhiet e.V., 2006). This work has provided, and continues to provide, road safety practitioners across the globe with relevant findings and recommendations to combat this global issue.

The UK approach – The National Motorcycling Strategy

In February 2005, the Department for Transport (DfT) published the Government’s Motorcycling Strategy. The principal aim of the document is the ‘mainstreaming’ of motorcycling, thereby ensuring its recognition as a core transport mode requiring full consideration and inclusion within the transport policy decision making process.

The theme of the strategy is to ‘facilitate motorcycling asa choice of travel within a safe andsustainable transport framework’, whilst having an understanding of the vulnerability issues surrounding this mode, with the government specifying a need for action from a number of bodies and departments, including local authorities, motorcycle interest groups and the Police. However, what exactly is a safe transport framework?

Definitions of ‘safe’ from the Oxford English Dictionary are ‘protected from danger or risk’ and ‘not causing or leading to harm or injury’. To deliver a ‘safe’ transport framework where motorcyclists come to no harm is an impossible task due to the dynamics of the machine and the environment in which it is used. Making it completely safe could not happen in the real world, even if limitless resources were available. However, measures can be implemented to make it as safe as practically possible, and this is what the Government are striving to achieve.

One area that the Government is focussing on is rider behaviour, and in particular the exploration of the characteristics of road users that exhibit the most dangerous behaviour that can often lead to injury and death for themselves and others (Department for Transport, 2009). This has been taken forward within the Governments’ consultation document, A Safer Way (Department for Transport, 2009), which sought views from internal parties and external practioners on visions, targets and measures to shape road safety strategy for the next twenty years.

One of the key challenges highlighted within the consultation is the protection of motorcyclists. Over recent years this has had a prominent position on the road safety agenda, resulting in research institutes and the Department of Transport alike exploring new methods which could be developed to achieve this aim. The following section provides a brief discussion concerning the people who use this transport mode and their motivations. This leads into a review of current research into motorcycle safety, exploring the behaviour of road users and the implications of their actions.

Who rides a PTW and why?

“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.” (Pirsig, 1974)

Motorcycle riders are not a homogeneous body. There is no single mould in which riders are created, and so they come in all shapes and sizes with different reasons for riding and different attitudes to related aspects, including safety.

There is also the possibility that some of the reasons riders take up motorcycling may actually be causational in a percentage of accidents that occur. Research into policies and claims by the Insurance Company Aviva (formerly known as Norwich Union) has identified two main groups of at-risk rider having witnessed an increase in sports bike hobbyists in their late forties and fifties, who have either just started riding, or are returning after a significant period without riding. Secondly, there has been a considerable increase in the number of commuters buying mopeds and scooters, perhaps in an attempt to beat parking charges and fuel prices, who have taken to the road with little training and often with inadequate protection (Telegraph Media Group, 2008).

Taking this exercise a step further, the Department for Transport commissioned a research project to investigate the potential level of risk and attitude to safety for a number of groups within the motorcycling community. (Christmas, Young, Cookson, & Cuerden, 2009).

Attempting to classify riders into groups is a difficult process. On the one hand, it is not possible to classify every rider as an individual as this would be too laborious and unwieldy a task, whereas grouping riders into one or two classifications does not provide enough specific detail. As a compromise, research carried out by Simon Christmas et al involved segmenting the riding community into seven distinct categories, with detailed attitudinal, demographic, and perception of risk information collected by means of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The seven segments of rider are as follows:

  1. Riding hobbyists – Older summer-only riders who like to look the part and enjoy the social interaction with other riders almost as much as the riding itself
  2. Performance disciples – committed all-year round riders focussed on high performance riding, with a strong dislike for anything that interferes with that objective
  3. Performance hobbyists – enjoy the experiences and sensations of riding alone during summer months, with no real interest in what other riders are doing
  4. Look-at-me enthusiasts – tend to fall into the young or never-grew-up categories with limited experience but limitless enthusiasm. Riding for this category is all about self-expression and looking cool
  5. Riding disciples – passionate riders who enjoy being part of a wider motorcycling fraternity with a strong relationship with the bike itself
  6. Car aspirants – Young people using a motorcycle as a stepping stone to a car when age/finances allow. Happy to have their own transport and the freedom it provides
  7. Car rejectors – often women who are escaping the tediousness of traffic jams, parking tickets and fuel costs associated with using a car. Don’t really care for motorcycles but do want low cost mobility

This insight into the mind of the motorcyclist; understanding their attitudes and motivations; how they think, feel, and act, especially in terms of risk and the management of risk, has armed practitioners with insider knowledge that can, by carefully tailoring it to each segment, be used to deliver the safety message to ensure it has greatest impact.

How age plays a part

There is a generality within the biking fraternity that young riders tend to ride small machines and their older, usually more affluent counterparts, ride larger capacity products. However, this is an area where size isn’t important because a bike is a bike is a bike. It has two wheels in contact with the road surface, lacks lateral stability when stationary (Limebeer, Sharp, & Evangelou, 2001), it has a throttle to make it go, and brakes to make it stop. It is true that large capacity machines tend to be able to accelerate much quicker and are able to attain higher speeds, but both small and large capacity machines work on the same principals of operation.

Weather and road conditions have a significant role in how a motorcycle behaves (Cornwall Council, 2009), but surely the element with greatest influence over the behaviour of the machine is the rider himself. This is not the end of the story though, because within the generic term, rider may exhibit different behaviours for reasons such as gender, level of experience, fatigue, and age. For example, age has a significant impact on how we view risk, and this can have a bearing on the propensity for involvement in accidents.

Much of the literature regarding the development of the brain suggests that the structure of the brain is not predetermined at birth, but follows phases of growth and pruning. Ironically it is the frontal lobes, whose function among other things is to inhibit risky behaviour, which are the last to mature, and this occurs at around the age of twenty five years (Broks, 2005). Given that young drivers are significantly over-represented in fatality statistics (Department for Transport, 2009), there is possibility that further research into frontal lobe development during this period of psychological transition may further understanding of the cause of accidents among young drivers.

Another important aspect is the effect of peer pressure. Gardner & Steinberg (2005) identified that relative to adults, adolescents were more susceptible to the influence of their peers in risky situations, a scenario that does not bode well considering that young riders often travel in groups. This behaviour is not entirely the domain of the young rider however, as it affects mature riders also. Within a group dynamic there is a rider who will be the slowest or least experienced member. In some cases this can lead to the rider pushing beyond their capabilities in an attempt to avoid holding up the other group members. On one hand it could be said that peer pressure is in effect here, but on the other it is surely the individual who must take responsibility for their own riding and the level of risk that they are willing to accept (Davis, 2008).

Stephen Lyng: Edgework – the sociology of risk-taking (2005, Routledge)

Loss of control accidents

My text!! Explain how bike technology is so advanced now that only racers are truly pushing the capabilities of the machine, and so in instances where a motorcycle crashes on a bend on a country lane it is the limitations of the rider that will likely have caused the accident. The bike would have got round the bend but the rider didn’t have the skill to perform the manoeuvre, or panicked and grabbed a handful of brake or shut down the throttle when entering or mid-bend thereby destabilising the machine. Understeering results, and the bike fails to negotiate the bend.

Riders helping themselves

Do motorcyclists need to ride their machines to their capabilities to truly understand what can be done, and therefore have use of these tools in an emergency. However, if this is true then surely this should not be done on the public highway.

Very interesting sociological study that delves into the cognitive conditioning, giving mental strength and belief in ones own abilities when the situation appears to e in a state of complete chaos.

Has any progress been made???

The Transport and Road Research Laboratory (TRRL) conducted a survey of motorcycle accidents in 1974, using a data sample of 450 injured riders involved in 425 accidents (Transport and Road Research Laboratory: Whitaker, J, 1980). The conclusions of the report detailed the characteristics of motorcycle accidents that reveal a disturbing similarity to the characteristics that are prevalent today, some 30 years later. A common theme appears to exist.

One of the most eminent pieces of motorcycle accident research from the United States, known universally as The Hurt Report (Hurt Jr., Ouellet, & Thom, 1981), performed in-depth on-site investigations on over 900 accidents during 1976 and 1977, and collecting over 3600 police accident reports in the process. Many discoveries have been forthcoming from this work, however one of the key findings relates to the most frequently occurring accident types.

The report identified the most common accident as one involving another vehicle, a car, with the resulting collision caused due to a right-of-way violation of the motorcycle at a junction, because the car driver did not see the motorcycle. A right of way violation by a car was the cause in 64.5% of multi-vehicle collisions. For single vehicle accidents, the most common causal factor was rider error, which was present in two-thirds of the cases with the most typical manoeuvre being a slide and fall due to excess braking or running wide on a corner due to excess speed or under-cornering (Hurt Jr., Ouellet, & Thom, 1981).

This does not come as a revelation as loss of control and collisions will continue to occur, irrespective of time. One finding of the TRRL survey that continues to have prevalence today is the lack of conspicuity of both rider and machine to other road vehicles, including other motorcyclists. Over half of the car drivers involved in an accident with a motorcycle stated that they had not seen it before the accident occurred (Transport and Road Research Laboratory: Whitaker, J, 1980).

In accidents involving a motorcycle and a four-wheeled vehicle, it is apparent that in the majority of cases it is the motorcycle rider who is injured and not the driver or passengers of the other vehicle. This stark fact illustrates the vulnerability of riders, and is one that generally is not embedded within the psyche of the majority of road users. To illustrate this point, a review of the STATS 19 data for Greater Manchester revealed that between 2006 and 2008 there were 1971 accidents, resulting in 1956 casualties. 91.5% of all casualties were riding a motorcycle.

Interventions and measures to assist

However, for certain road vehicles we have seen preventive measures become the norm, with significant advances in active and passive safety equipment such as seatbelts, ABS braking systems, and airbags. This is in stark contrast to the options available for motorcycles, with only a minority of manufacturers having released active systems to the consumer market.

This raises a question of whether technological advances have been suitably forthcoming to assist in reducing the level of motorcycle accidents, or if the motorcycle industry has failed to keep pace with other vehicle manufacturers in the development of safety interventions. If this is true then what are the underlying reasons.

In all other respects motorcycle design is technologically advanced when compared to the majority of road vehicles, with the use of composite materials, efficient engines, and the ability to deliver substantial levels of performance. Is it possible that manufacturers fear a backlash from the buying public if they were to implement driver aids that diluted the purity of the riding experience?

There is a view within the riding community that the addition of driver aids can create more problems than they solve, with some motorcycling groups expressing concern that in certain situations, rider safety could be compromised by the introduction of ITS technologies that automate aspects of the riding task. The consensus being that significant testing is required to ensure that the implementation of such systems does not cause destabilisation of a motorcycle (FEMA, 2007).

Development of such systems is not a case of adapting an existing technology for another vehicle. The dynamics of a motorcycle are very different to other vehicles, and this creates a whole series of additional challenges that must be met to ensure the product is reliable, safe and effective.

A University of Leeds and MIRA project undertaken on behalf of the Department for Transport has explored Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) systems, whereby the vehicle “knows” the permitted or recommended maximum speed for a road (Carston, et al., 2008). Results from the study suggest that there is potential for this technology to assist motorcyclists, with information, advisory, and assisting systems on trial.

This type of technology has met with considerable resistance from the motorcycling community (Carston, et al., 2008), however once the benefits that exist are realised, and realisation dawns that ITS do not necessarily dampen the riding experience then perhaps there will be a more welcoming approach from motorcyclists in general. Is this the case? Will the introduction of active and passive systems reduce motorcycle related casualties? Consider the case of other types of vehicle, where systems such as anti-lock braking (ABS) and airbags are commonplace.

Studies have identified that a driver’s behaviour will alter depending on the level of risk that he or she perceives at that particular time. If the perception is that the level of risk has reduced, for example due to the introduction of a safety measure, then the individual will alter their behaviour and act in a less safe manner. This is known as the theory of risk compensation, or risk homeostasis.

In a study by Wilde (1989), it is suggested that people make a comparison between the accident risk they perceive and their target level of accident risk. In this case, the target is the accepted level of accident risk at which the individual believes they achieve the maximum utility from their action. Target levels of risk will reduce depending on factors that increase the perceived utility of safety, or decrease the perceived feeling of risky conduct.

A study conducted by Aschenbrenner & Biehl (1994) , explored the behavioural reactions of a sample of taxi drivers when an anti-lock braking system (ABS) was installed on half of the vehicles within the fleet. Drivers were randomly allocated to ABS and non-ABS equipped vehicles and the accident experience of both types of vehicle analysed over a three year period. The findings suggested that ABS equipped vehicles were involved in slightly more accidents per unit time of exposure.

Following on from the initial three year study, an extension to the work analysed results from monitoring equipment installed in the vehicles and the qualitative response from trained observers, hiring taxis but without knowledge of whether ABS was fitted or not. The results identified that cars fitted with ABS were more frequently driven faster, with extreme degrees of acceleration and deceleration. The observers statements recorded that significantly more frequent dangerous manoeuvres were performed by the ABS-equipped vehicles, highlighting that behavioural adaptation did occur. Over the period, theree was no significant difference between the accident rates for ABS and non-ABS equipped vehicles, suggesting that a less cautious approach had been taken (Aschenbrenner & Biehl, 1994).

European projects – the approach adopted by other countries


The general objective of the MYMOSA project (MYMOSA, 2009) is the improvement of motorcycle safety and rider’s safety, leading to a significant reduction of injuries and fatalities of motorcyclists. The project commenced in 2007 as a collaborative venture between research institutes, universities, and industry, joining forces to investigate four main topics:

1. Accident dynamics

The development of a computer aided engineering (CAE) simulation that describes the characteristics and interaction between vehicle-rider-environment in normal riding conditions, as well as in the pre-accident and accident phase.

2. Integrated safety

The development of an integrated safety system capable of detecting impending, and dangerous situations. For example, identifying instability and accident scenarios, and informing the rider or influencing the motorcycle behaviour, with the purpose of reducing the injury risk.

3. Personal protective equipment

The development of new protection concepts and an exploration of how new materials can further reduce the injury risk of motorcycle riders, with emphasis on motorcycle helmet design.

4. Biomechanics

The development of biomechanical knowledge that is specific to motorcyclists, utilising existing information for pedestrians and car occupants.

The project has a wider reaching remit than delivering on the four main objectives, with a framework in place for educating a faction of early stage researchers in the partially unexplored area of motorcycle and rider safety. Project researchers are spread across Europe and it is hoped that a synergy between involved parties will lead to a research network, whereby further work will be carried out as a cohesive unit, with knowledge gained being disseminated within researchers’ home countries (MYMOSA, 2009).

MAIDS Project

The MAIDS project was devised as a means of gaining a better understanding of the nature and causes of motorcycle accidents. Participants in the study included the Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM) and the European Commission.

A total of 921 motorcycle and moped accidents occurring between 1999 and 2000 were studied across five sampling areas located in France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and Italy. This produced a staggering level of detail, with nearly two-thousand variables coded for each accident. Gathering this detail involved inspections of vehicles involved in accidents, interviewing witnesses, viewing the medical records of consenting parties, and performing full reconstructions of the accidents (Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers, 2009). The collation of this evidence enabled the contributory factors of accidents to be ascertained, and coupled with suitable exposure data for non-accidents, comparisons were made which allowed the significance of the accident data to be determined.

The findings of the study identified that the cause of the majority of motorcycle accidents was human error, with the most frequently occurring error being a failure to see the motorcycle due to lack of attention, impaired view due to obstructions, or low conspicuity of the motorcycle (Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers, 2009).

To obtain a better sense of the mechanisms of human failure response exhibited, the research team developed a group of failure codes to be applied if the primary causal factor was deemed to be human related.

The failures were defined using the following definitions, developed from work to create a methodology for on-scene motorcycle accident investigations (OECD, 2001):

Perception failure:

‘The investigator determines through reconstruction analysis or contributory factor analysis that the PTW rider or the OV driver failed to detect the dangerous condition based upon the strategy that he was using to detect dangerous conditions. For example; the OV driver fails to check his side view mirrors and moves into adjacent lane, striking the PTW that was in the adjacent lane.’

Comprehension failure:

The investigator determines through reconstruction analysis or contributory factor analysis that the PTW rider or OV driver perceived a dangerous situation; however, they failed to comprehend the danger associated with that situation. An example of a comprehension failure would be a rider who observes flashing police lights travelling towards him; but fails to comprehend that the police official is going to turn immediately in front of him.

Decision failure:

The investigator determines through reconstruction analysis or contributory factor analysis that the PTW rider or the OV driver failed to make the correct decision to avoid the dangerous condition based upon his strategy. For example; the PTW rider observes yellow caution lights and continues on same path of travel at same speed based on the PTW rider’s decision to continue through the intersection. The PTW rider hits the side of a passenger car moving perpendicular to direction of the PTW.

Reaction failure:

The investigator determines through reconstruction analysis or contributory factor analysis that the PTW rider or the OV driver had failed to react to the dangerous condition, resulting in a continuation or faulty collision avoidance. For example; the PTW rider observes small objects on the roadway and decides to continue on the same path of travel. An accumulation of these small objects in the tyre of the PTW causes the PTW rider to lose control of the PTW and crash.

Does this need re-writing or can it be used verbatim as it is clearly and concisely written?

Relevant findings from the MAIDS study

Findings on accident causation

  • The main primary contributing factors were the PTW rider (37.1%) and the OV driver (50.4%).
  • In 10.6% of all cases, PTW rider inattention was present and contributed to accident causation.
  • In 36.6% of all cases, the primary contributing factor was a perception failure on the part of the OV driver.
  • 27.7% of PTW riders and 62.9% of OV drivers made a traffic-scan error which contributed to the accident.
  • 32.2% of PTW riders and 40.6% of OV drivers engaged in faulty traffic strategies which contributed to the accident.

Findings on human factors

Neither males nor females were over- or under-represented in the accident population. Riders under 17 were neither under- nor over-represented in the accident data. Riders between 18-21 and 22-25 were over-represented, while riders between 41 and 55 were under-represented in the accident population. This suggests that riders between the ages of 41 and 55 have less risk of being in an ccident when compared to the general riding population. OV operators who also held a PTW licence were less likely to commit perception failures than OV operators who did not have a PTW licence (26.4% versus 50.9%). 29% of riders with less than 6 months experience had a skills deficiency and this percentage went down to 6.4% for riders with over 98 months of experience.

Motorcyclists taking responsibility – what about car drivers?

Research into motorcycle accidents has highlighted that a significant number involve a third party, often a car. With this in mind, there is a need to understand the mechanisms, the behavioural reactions that are performed by car drivers that lead to motorcycle/car collisions.

There is plenty of scope for improving driver training with regard to motorcycles, and this knowledge would prove invaluable (European Transport Safety Council, 2008). Using data from the MAIDS project, research conducted by Magazz`u et al.(2006)investigated the effect of a person having both a car and motorcycle licence in connection with involvement and responsibility in car-motorcycle accidents compared to single car licence holders. The findings identified that road users with both licence types were significantly less at fault in accidents than those without a motorcycle licence (Magazz`u, Comelli, & Marinoni, 2006).

In another study, it has been reported that drivers with relatives who ride motorcycles have fewer collisions with motorcyclists and have better observation skills in regard to motorcycles (Crundall, Clarke, Ward, & Bartle, 2008). This would suggest that a result of being a motorcycle rider, or even knowing one, a feeling of empathy is created with motorcyclists in general. This has importance as it appears to provide an understanding of the risks associated with riding a motorcycle, assisting drivers in some way by providing additional skills that help in the detection of oncoming motorcycles and the prediction of their manoeuvres (Magazz`u, Comelli, & Marinoni, 2006).

The ‘looked but didn’t see’ factor

It is apparent that the statement of ‘looked, but didn’t see’ is a common one when investigating accidents between a PTW and another vehicle. In 2008, ‘Failed to look properly’ was the most frequently reported contributory factor, cited in 37 per cent of all accidents reported to the police (Department for Transport, 2009).

This raises the question of conspicuity of the motorcyclist and the machine itself, but also of the expectancy a drivers brain has in terms of the type of vehicle; is the brain conditioned to expecting a car or other large vehicle rather than a cycle or PTW.

Is this mindset formed by our experiences of driving on the UK’s roads where the majority of vehicles are cars or goods vehicles? Compare this to parts of the Netherlands where a significant number of vehicles on the road are cycles and so drivers are programmed to expect to see cyclists. They are expecting and therefore ‘looking’ for cyclists on the road, which in itself is a form of mental conspicuity. Paradoxically, international research suggests that there is a correlation between higher levels of cycling and improved cyclist safety (Department for Transport, 2004).

Therefore is there a need to pre-condition the subconscious minds of road users to a state of awareness that not only identifies large four wheeled vehicles, but also to recognise that road space is shared with two-wheelers, both powered and unpowered, such that drivers habitually exhibit the utmost levels of awareness and attention.

This is not a straightforward task however. Failures of perception, often referred to as ‘Looked but failed to see (LBFS)’ accidents occur in all situations and environments. A study into accidents occurring on motorway and dual carriageway hard shoulders explored instances where a vehicle had collided with a conspicuous vehicle, such as a parked police vehicle with high visibility markings and flashing lights, in daylight conditions and under good unrestricted visibility (Langham, Hole, Edwards, & O’Neil, 2002).

This implies that it would be unlikely for collisions to be occurring due to sensory failure. For example, because of the road conditions and positioning of the vehicle it should have been above the physical detection threshold for long enough duration to allow the approaching driver to see it and take relevant avoiding action. However, this appears not to be the case as a number of vehicles failed to brake, or take any action until just before the collision occurred (Langham, Hole, Edwards, & O’Neil, 2002).

The results from this study support the findings of other researchers that have suggested that many accidents recorded as ‘looked but failed to see’ occur for cognitive reasons. The work of Crundall et al.(2008), develops a framework in which car-motorcycle interactions are divided, from the perspective of the car driver, into three behaviours which are revealed by asking three pertinent questions: whether the driver looked, whether the driver perceived, and whether the driver correctly appraised. The findings highlight that many factors exist for a failure to look or appraise correctly which, considering the majority of such accidents are reported as ‘looked but failed to see’, suggests that this category within the STATS 19 form may be too encompassing, and could be subdivided .

Many factors are involved in whether a driver looks at a motorcycle; such examples being the experience of the rider, the road and traffic conditions at the time, and the peripheral vision of the driver. However, the key point in determining if a driver looked is whether the eyes were orientated in the direction of the motorcycle. Taking a T-junction as an example, it is not adequate for the driver to merely turn their head to look up the road, as processing of the surrounding area would be minimal (Crundall, Clarke, Ward, & Bartle, 2008). There is a need for fixation. This is where the driver captures the trajectory of a motorcycle, akin to a missile locking onto its target, with the fixation point being where the most sensitive part of the retina is directed. As it covers only a small area, anything falling outside of this zone will be captured on a less sensitive section of the retina and therefore harder to detect. This description of fixation suggests disregard for all other movements, however this is not the case as fixation lasts for milliseconds, and so a continual process of the visual scene being scanned occurs.

It is possible that a driver could look straight at a motorcycle yet not ‘perceive’ it, which is the truest description of a ‘looked but failed to see’ accident. A driver just looking at a motorcycle does not provide sufficient processing, as the observed object must be identified and then categorised as a motorcycle before an appropriate behaviour can be chosen (Crundall, Clarke, Ward, & Bartle, 2008). Looking directly at an object does not confirm that it has been registered cognitively, as the thought processes occurring within the brain may be totally different to what is showing on the surface. It should not be assumed that because a driver has made eye contact they are aware of the existence of the motorcycle, as this could prove to be a perilous miscalculation.

The question of whether appraisal of a motorcycle has been applied correctly assumes that the car driver has already looked and perceived, and is deliberating the level of risk that the motorcycle poses. At a T-junction this could be represented by a decision as to whether a gap is big enough to pull out safely before the motorcycle arrives, with the final judgement based on several factors including the perceived distance and travelling speed of the motorcycle.

Research by Horswill et al. (2005), has found vehicle size to be an important factor in how drivers estimate speed and arrival time, with the findings discovering that drivers believed that a small vehicle, such as a motorcycle, would reach them later than a larger one. This has come to be known as the ‘size-arrival’ effect.

There are a number of theories as to why this might be. For example, it is suggested that smaller vehicles appear to be further away, and so there is a belief that they will arrive later. Other thoughts consider the effect of perceived negative consequences when dealing with a large vehicle, as people tend to have a higher safety margin when encountering a vehicle that appears more threatening, possibly due to a size differential (DeLucia, 2004). Each hypothesis provides an interesting perspective, however it will require further research and analysis to determine the reasons for its occurrence, and identify appropriate interventions to deal with it (Crundall, Clarke, Ward, & Bartle, 2008).

The importance of using the correct schema

A schema is a mental structure that guides behaviours in specific situations, telling an individual where to look, what to expect there, and what to do dependent on that information (Crundall, Clarke, Ward, & Bartle, 2008). These guides come about not from tuition, but from life experiences and exposure to situations that will develop this set of ‘rules’.

There is a drawback to this process, as interaction between cars and motorcycles is of a much lower frequency than everyday car-to-car contact, and so this lack of exposure could result in some drivers not having adequate opportunity to develop their motorcycle schemata to the full (Crundall, Clarke, Ward, & Bartle, 2008).

The actions of road users are guided by the schema that they have developed from experience, however it is suggested by Crundall et al. (2008) that the underlying influences that help shape the schemata also have great significance, with proposed suggestions for inclusion shown below:

  1. Drivers’ attitudes – ‘the conceptions and misconceptions that all drivers holdabout driving. These attitudes could concern themselves (e.g. ‘I’m an excellentdriver’; ‘I can safely maintain a short headway’) or other drivers (e.g.‘Motorcyclists are risk-takers’), or the environment (e.g. ‘These traffic lightschange to red too quickly. You have to jump them whenever possible’).’
  2. Drivers’ knowledge – ‘a driver’s understanding of the true nature of the world (orlack of it) will inform his or her actions and help shape attitudes.’
  3. Drivers’ skills and strategies – ‘driving skills and strategies are developedthrough training, practice and exposure. These skills may include knowingwhere to look while performing certain manoeuvres, how to handle the vehicle,and how to make informed decisions about specific driving situations (such asdetermining whether a particular occurrence is hazardous and, if so, what actionshould be taken to reduce the risk).’

The three influences represent how drivers impose their will upon the environment by choosing what to look at, how to process it, and then what action to take. This ability to choose at will suggests that incorrect schemas could be developed due to the presence of unsuitable attitudes or beliefs, with an unfortunate consequence being an increase in car and motorcycle collisions. However, it is possible that appropriate training interventions could be used to influence schema development, acting as a surrogate for experience and combating misconceptions and beliefs (Crundall, Clarke, Ward, & Bartle, 2008).

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Cite this page

Define motorcycle. (2017, Jun 26).
Retrieved September 19, 2023 , from

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