Report from MCI/ACPO Road Safety Conference


Background to the conference A closed conference of invited road safety and transport policy influencers took place on Monday 11th at the Department for Transport Offices (DfT) in London.

This was organised by the MCI and the Association of Chief Police Officers in conjunction with the DfT as a means of exploring the call for ‘bigger thinking’ regarding motorcycle safety alongside the proposition that ‘More motorcycles could reduce casualties’, which was the title of the conference.
  Whilst there have been a number of valuable one-off road safety initiatives in the past which have helped motorcycle casualties fall year on year, motorcyclists still represent 19% of all serious or fatal accidents, despite being just 1% of road traffic. The industry wants this to change and the conference marks the beginning of a process to help this happen.  Steve Kenward, CEO of the MCI and David Griffin - Deputy Chief Constable of Humberside Police and the ACPO lead for motorcycle safety, jointly led the conference.
  The following is a summary of key points raised by speakers.   In his opening address, Steve Kenward explained:   “To be aware of motorcycling we need visibility and to be visible we need usage. Greater usage will benefit UK plc.”  He went on explain how the line-up of speakers would “Propose the benefits and opportunities (of embracing PTWs) in addition to improved safety which should encourage UK plc to urgently ‘mainstream’ motorcycling in government transport policy.”   “Single track vehicles (anything with two wheels) are the future of personal mobility and the UK must be ready with a strategy to ensure safe usage.”   DCC Dave Griffin began his address by explaining why the police and MCI were collaborating:.   “This is a first to see the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Motorcycle Industry Association sharing a platform. It might seem odd to some to have business and policing on the same platform. Actually that’s because we want the same thing.  And I think in terms of social corporate responsibility, I know nobody that does it better than the Motorcycle Industry Association. I know you want to promote motorcycling but your attitude towards safety is commendable.”   DCC Griffin told the delegates that they had been strategically chosen:   “You were handpicked – and the reason is because we wanted people who are the movers, the shakers, those who influence and those who influence those who influence.”   He considered that since 2010 there had been a “strategy void” regarding motorcycle safety and that the conference was about “the genesis of getting that going again.”   He went on to explain how persuasive figures from Europe were in putting forward the case for more motorcycles:   “When I look at comparable statistics from around Europe in particular, why is it that in some of our European partner countries, per kilometre travelled - you are much safer on a motorcycle than you are in the UK?   “It seems counter intuitive ..that by having more motorcycles on the road, more power two wheelers, you can reduce casualties. I took some convincing, but when I started to see the evidence, some of which you will see this morning, it was quite a powerful argument and today is about thinking differently.”   KAREN Cole, Director of Safety and Training.   Karen Cole, explained the context of previous road safety initiatives.  She began by acknowledging “the numerous” schemes which had been successful in helping to half the rider road death rate since 2003.    However, she warned that the “gentle slope down” meant motorcycle safety was no longer seen as a priority by many and that she feared the number of serious motorcycle accidents could well begin to rise again, should motorcycle safety education at local and national level become a casualty of budget cuts and shifting priorities.   She concluded:   “We have benefited from almost ten years of safety initiatives but these seem to be winding down now.  We’ve achieved all we can reasonably expect to achieve via these traditional safety routes. The achievements of everybody, and there’s so many people involved, should be applauded, but it’s time to take a much braver approach.”   Craig Carey Clinch – Public Affairs Advisor to the MCI   Craig Carey-Clinch looked in more detail at casualty rates for motorcyclists in comparison to other modes of transport – particularly cars and cycles.  He highlighted the fact that whilst fatalities for motorcyclists were down 40% compared to the baseline figures for 2005-9, this was still too high proportionately compared to car drivers.  He also pointed out that the absolute numbers of causalities for motorcyclists and cycles were now at a similar rate.*  (figures from Road Casualties Great Britain for 2012)     He noted the huge disparity between spending on motorcycle safety and safety for cyclists, which he suggested was down to an “image problem” for motorcycling.   He explained that the public, political and local authority attitudes to motorcycling were based on “outdated notions” and pointed to market trends as offering a more insightful means of understanding contemporary motorcycle use.    “Since the recession we’ve seen the emergence of motorcycles being used for very different things,” he explained “with naked type machines and scooters really in the ascendency… supersports coming down…adventure sports going up.  So you’re seeing much more use of motorcycles for practical purposes …we’re not the same as we were when attitudes to policies were developed.”   He also presented statistics showing that accident rates were reducing faster for rural roads than for urban ones, suggesting extra work was needed in urban areas.   Robert Goodwill MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for State for Transport   The Minister began by revealing his personal connection to motorcycling;  that he had a motorcycle licence himself, and that his son had recently taken his test just ahead of the 3DLD changes to avoid what he described as the “palaver” of the new licence regime.
  He talked about the fact that the UK had the best overall road safety rate behind Malta and ran through the stats specifically for motorcycling:
  • The lowest number of motorcycle fatalities since 1921
  • 9% decrease in motorcycle fatalities between 2011 and 2012 from  362 to 328
  • 5% fall in those reporting serious injury - down to 5000 a year
  • Importantly the number of motorcycle casualties fell faster than a slight drop in motorcycle traffic.  4% fall in casualties against a 2% fall in motorcycle traffic
He acknowledged that the Government “want to see these numbers reduce still further.” The Minister referenced the ‘Strategic Framework for Road Safety’, published in May 2011, which he explained “sets out our policies and a clear vision for reducing road accidents and collisions involving all modes of transport.”
  He mentioned that “Motorcyclist safety is currently a priority issue for the Department’s Think! Campaign …(which) reminds drivers to look out for motorcyclists, particularly at junctions and to see the person behind the helmet.”
  He explained that the Think! Campaign team were working with stakeholders to help promote key messages to motorcyclists, such as:
  • Wearing protective gear
  • Post test training
  • Defensive riding
  The Minister explained that the “testing economic times” meant that local, like central government, were facing tough choices with regards to spending, but that local authorities were funded to tackle road safety issues:
  “Local communities rather than Whitehall bureaucrats are best placed to design local road safety solutions to meet local road safety challenges and that includes deciding where to focus their resources.  That’s what localism is all about…Backed by the funding to deliver.
  “Over the period of this parliament (Parliament will be) giving a billion pounds to local councils, enabling them to improve transport infrastructure including the design of better and safer roads.” He added £600 million was being used to fund changes to local transport through the local sustainable transport fund, which he explained:
  “Gives local authorities power to deliver their own transport projects, such as the Wheels to Work Schemes.”  He went on to praise the concept explaining how they “help people to come off benefits and regain independence.”
  He also acknowledged that riding a moped “can improve awareness of safety on the roads, knowledge of the highway code and road signs, which can in turn make it easier to learn to drive a car.” He added that riding a moped had additional benefits in terms of being able to “help drivers be aware of other vulnerable road users such as cyclists.”
  He described Wheels to Work as a “value for money way of bringing people and jobs together.  We will certainly continue to encourage inclusion of these schemes in the transport planning process.”
  Young Drivers Green Paper.
  The Minister touched on a Young Drivers Green Paper, which he described as a “series of proposals to reform young driver training (which)...will include a chapter on young motorcyclists.”
  He mentioned CBT specifically as being “only intended to be a starting point in learning to ride and going on to take a full motorcycle test – we need to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose in addressing the needs of young riders.  Thus enabling them to be safe and responsible road users.
  “The motorcyclist chapter (of the Green Paper) will set out proposals for making improvements to compulsory basic training.  We will also be commissioning research shortly to better understand the uptake of CBT and the candidates’ motivations.”
  He said the DSA is considering continuing to promote its enhanced rider scheme, which he stated was “an ideal refresher for those who return to motorcycling later in life”, which he added might be useful for him!
  He summed up by saying he recognises the role that the industry, police and stakeholders make in promoting safe motorcycling through initiatives such as BikeSafe and in working in partnership. But that there was “Still much more we can do” if we want to see motorcycling fall further.
   “I applaud the commitment from the industry, police and stakeholders who feel it’s time for a greater impact to be made in the key influencing areas of motorcycle safety, especially if we are to see the kind of safety breakthrough that we all desire.”
  Jacques Compagne Secretary General – ACEM – does volume breed safety?
  Jacques began by establishing the need for a robust scientific approach to road safety, which he pointed out can’t be based on “personal anecdotes.”
  He explained that he is convinced road safety is a system.  An accident is therefore a failure of that system. He said that ‘the product’, i.e. motorcycles are part of this system and that it is possible for manufacturers to make improvements to safety in a strategic way by developing better stability, braking, night vision and conspicuity.
  He set the context regarding the need for transport solutions. 85% of the EU population will live in urban areas by 2030, which will lead to more and more congestion and that the current economic climate in Europe was unlikely to deliver large infrastructure projects to help tackle this, leaving PTWs as an ideal solution for urban congestion.
  Relative Safety
  Armed with a large set of comparative data for European countries, the US and Japan, Jacques made the case for encouraging PTWs based on the correlation between volume and ‘relative safety’.
  Jacques referred to data for 14 European countries, concluding that where there are less than 50 motorcycles per 1000 head of the population and when motorcycle traffic is less than 10% of all traffic on the road, safety outcomes are worse.  The UK has the lowest rates of PTW ownership in the EU, some six per cent below the ten per cent that Jacques referred to as the ‘tipping point’.
  Jacques made further comparisons with figures for Japan which endorsed the correlation of greater volume equals ‘relative safety’.  It has more PTWs per 1000 inhabitants than the average in Europe, with 14% of parc made up of PTWs.  Yet fatalities are equal to the lowest in Europe, whose average is 1.52 per year, per 10,000 motorcycles owned (2.91 for the UK). (See Fig.1)

  Fig. 1
Japan   Europe
12.5 million Park 37 million
98 PTWs/1,000 inhabitants 73
14% Share of PTW stock 11%
0.80 Fatalities/10,000 PTWs 1.52
  In contrast the US has over three times less riders than Japan per 1000 of the population  at 27, compared to Japan’s 98 and Europe’s 73 (20 for the UK) and yet has a fatality rate of 5.32 per year per 10,000 PTWs.  This is nearly twice the rate of the UK at 2.91 and over five times the rate compared to Japan.  (See Fig. 2).   Fig. 2
USA   Europe
8,4 million Park 37 million
27 PTWs/1,000 inhabitants 73
3% Share of PTW stock 11%
5.32 Fatalities/10,000 PTWs 1.52
  Jacques maintained that there is a reduction in fatalities in absolute terms too.  He demonstrated with a chart which shows percentage growth in the size of the parc in Europe between 2011 and 2001 (PTW) and then breaks that figure down further for Motorcycles (MC).  This shows a dramatic reduction in the rate of fatalities per year per 10,000 PTWs. (See Fig. 3)
  Fig. 3   EU Results 2011 vs 2001
Vehicle Parc +19% +49%
Fatalities -31% -17%
Ratio fatal./10,000 vehicles -42% -44%
  Why are safety outcomes better with more PTWs on the road?
  Jacques Compagne said this was most likely through greater recognition from society and therefore other road users.  It brings social inclusion and underlines recognised benefits in terms of leisure and urban mobility, which he said justified care, attention and attracts dedicated investments.
  Both greater awareness of motorcycles and a positive attitude towards them ensured the place of PTWS in integrated transport planning.  So in fact higher volumes induces a “virtuous cycle” and improved safety in relative and absolute terms. 
  In contrast he warned: “Restrictive policy or simply ignoring motorcycling …reduces access to powered two wheelers and then we are moving from social inclusion to social exclusion and lack of recognition from society.  Restrictive policy – also leads to reducing awareness from other road users … Restriction induces a negative spiral putting riders at higher risk.”
  Jacques made the point that there is great disparity in safety outcomes across Europe – despite the product being a constant, i.e. the same makes and models are freely available within all European countries.  It is road safety ‘systems’ then that explain the risk difference - volume being a variables capable of compensating for other risk inducing variables.
  Stijn Vancuyck – Febiac, Belgium: ‘PTW: Social benefits in action’.
  *Febiac is the Belgian equivalent to the MCI, but which represents both cars and PTWs.
  Stinjn began by explaining how congestion is something he is personally familiar with - living in Brussels, which is considered to be one of the most congested cities in the world.  He explained his options for commuting were: public transport, car or PTW.  His own journey took an hour and a half by public transport, at least 45 minutes by car (often longer), but it always took the same amount of time by motorcycle – just 25 minutes.
  Febiac wanted to test whether there were any wider social benefits to greater use of PTWs, beyond the obvious personal benefit to the individual rider.
  Febiac commissioned a study to be conducted by Transport and Mobility Leuven in September 2011. 
  The focus for the study was a particularly congested stretch of road from Leuven to Brussels, for which data regarding volume, speed and density were collected at key points along the route for a morning peak hour in May 2011. This data was then used to model what would happen should there be a modal shift from cars to PTWs of 10%. 
  Transport and Mobility Leuven collaborated with Leuven University to develop a ‘Link Transmission Model’, details of which can be found by clicking here
  This models two scenarios for this particular stretch of road, which are updated at ten minute intervals.  One shows the actual traffic, while the other shows what congestion would be like with a 10% modal shift to PTWs.  These are placed side by side so a direct comparison can be drawn.  See pages 13-17 of the report to see this in diagram form.
  Traffic jams are 40% less in both length and time. By 8.30 traffic is completely free-flowing, compared to the actual situation which still has stationary traffic at that time.
  The researchers also found that when they modelled a modal shift of 25% - congestion was eliminated altogether.
  When extrapolating the gains of a 10% shift to all Belgian roads, there is a daily gain of 15,000 hours (otherwise lost to traffic jams) with a daily cost benefit of 350,000 Euros.
  There are also environmental gains.  For a motorcycle of around 250cc, researchers found there was around 20% fewer emissions and importantly – free flowing traffic results in less emissions from cars, buses and lorries, because they are not constantly stopping and starting.  Both gains can be added together.  More details of the Leuven study can be found here
  Eugene Daams – Share the Road
  Eugene Daams is an independent commentator from the Netherlands, who has worked extensively in the motorcycle and motor trade. His lively presentation considered how motorcyclists can be noticed, and how greater visibility is more likely to achieve much needed change to road furniture and design. 
  He highlighted the problem of badly kept roads, which affect motorcyclists disproportionately to those on four wheels.  He also suggested that relatively simple changes can be hugely beneficial to the safety of PTW riders.  As an example he put forward the case for getting rid of curves in the road on the approach to roundabouts.

  “Roundabouts they are challenging.  Traffic is increasing, more traffic has to be handled, so you really need the roundabouts to do something, but for motorcycle riders, particularly where roundabouts have this curved line – why is there?  If you want to separate traffic – why do it in this way? …remove it and traffic will flow also.”
  Eugene pointed out several times that a good deal of work had already been done in identifying good road design to aid the safety of motorcyclists. He stated that much thought and expertise had gone into producing these and urged other delegates to seek them out and put them into action.
  “It’s all written down already in all these manuals for road engineers for government officials...Everybody who really wants to know something about safety related to infrastructure and power two wheeler riders just have to grab the book, open it, read it and adapt.”