Motorcyclists

In many countries, motorcycles are a popular form of transport. Motorcycles are relatively cheap compared to other forms of motorised vehicles, and provide mobility to millions of people worldwide.

However, unlike other forms of motorised transport, there is very little protection for motorcycle riders and passengers. When crashes do occur, they often have very severe consequences, especially at higher speeds or in situations where larger vehicles are involved. The chance of a motorcycle rider or passenger surviving a collision with a car is greatly reduced at speeds over 30 km/h.

Even in countries where motorcycles form only a small part of traffic, motorcycle casualties can form a significant part of the crash problem, and the risk of injury or death is many times greater for motorcyclists than for other forms of transport.

In many low and middle-income countries motorcycles are a major means of transport and their requirements should be reflected in road design and traffic management measures. In high-income countries motorcycling is often a more minor transport mode but also a significant leisure pursuit, and the two groups of motorcyclists present very different risks and require different countermeasures to improve their safety.

Certain manoeuvres and road conditions carry a higher risk to motorcyclists than to drivers. For example, motorcycles are less stable, and so riders are more likely to lose control of their vehicle when cornering.

Motorcycles have very different road performance characteristics than other types of vehicles. Motorcyclists can accelerate much more rapidly than other vehicles. They may appear in positions where other road users do not expect them. Motorcycle riders may also suddenly change their lane position to avoid a pavement hazard.

The road environment has a significant influence on the risk of crashes involving motorcyclists. Contributing factors include:

  • Interaction with larger vehicles (cars, trucks)
  • road surface issues (such as roughness, potholes or debris on the road)
  • water, oil or moisture on the road
  • excessive linemarking or use of raised pavement markers
  • poor road alignment
  • presence of roadside hazards and safety barriers
  • number of vehicles and other motorcyclists using the route.

Road design and safety engineering countermeasures aimed at the specific needs of motorcyclists is, in part, being addressed with guideline documents produced by motorcycle user and industry groups. Aimed at road engineers, such guidelines recognise that measures that can protect vehicle occupants from serious injury in the event of a crash may have a negative impact on motorcyclists. By far the most contentious area of debate in this field regards crash barriers. Typically, standard safety barriers are not tested for their impact on motorcyclists, but research suggests that the exposed vertical support posts are particularly aggressive, irrespective of the barriers' other components. Secondary rails, such as the BikeGuard, BASYC or Moto.Tub systems, that protect riders from the posts and present a continuous surface, and impact attenuators that cover the support posts themselves are being increasingly implemented.

Motorcycle safety can also be improved by

  • separating motorcycles from larger vehicles in the traffic stream (e.g. lanes just for motorcycles, or lanes shared by motorcycles and small motorised vehicles) (Treatments\Safer Roads\Motorcycle lanes)
  • enforcement of helmet wearing laws and promotion of protective clothing (Treatments\Safer People\Helmets and Protective Clothing)
  • Intelligent Transport System (ITS) developments include Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA).

    Further information on motorcycle safety can be found in the global Transport Knowledge Partnership page on motorcycles and in the Asian Development Bank Vulnerable Road Users Guide.

    Where there are significant motorcyclist volumes or casualties on a network, it is recommended that specialist motorcycle guidelines are consulted. Examples include the IHE guidelines, and ACEM guidelines.

    Safer Roads
    Estimated cost
    Casualty Reduction
    Central Turning Lane Full Length
    Low
    10-25%
    Delineation
    Low
    10-25%
    Intersection - Delineation
    Low
    10-25%
    Central Hatching
    Low
    10-25%
    Intersection - Turn Lanes (Signalised)
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Intersection - Turn Lanes (Unsignalised)
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Parking Improvements
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Regulate Roadside Commercial Activity
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Skid Resistance
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Roadside Safety - Hazard Removal
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Median Crossing Upgrade
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Sight Distance (obstruction removal)
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Road Surface Rehabilitation
    Medium
    25-40%
    Shoulder Sealing
    Medium
    25-40%
    Speed Management
    Medium
    25-40%
    Intersection - Signalise
    Medium
    25-40%
    Motorcycle Lanes
    Medium
    25-40%
    One Way Network
    Medium
    25-40%
    Restrict/Combine Direct Access Points
    Medium to high
    25-40%
    Intersection - Roundabout
    Medium to high
    60% or more
    Traffic Calming
    Medium to high
    25-40%
    Duplication
    High
    25-40%
    Additional Lane
    High
    25-40%
    Intersection - Grade Separation
    High
    25-40%
    Service Road
    High
    25-40%
    Realignment - Horizontal
    High
    25-40%
    Realignment - Vertical
    High
    10-25%
    Safer Vehicles
    Estimated cost
    Casualty Reduction
    Motor Vehicle Standards
    Low
    60% or more
    Vehicle Roadworthiness
    Low
    60% or more
    Safer People
    Estimated cost
    Casualty Reduction
    Enforcement
    Low
    60% or more
    Addressing Alcohol and Other Drugs
    Low
    60% or more
    Education
    Low
    60% or more
    Helmets and Protective Clothing
    Low
    60% or more
    Safe Speed
    Low
    60% or more
    Publicity
    Low
    60% or more
    Emergency Response
    Medium
    40-60%
    Licensing
    Medium
    40-60%

    Safer Roads

    Safer Roads
    Estimated cost
    Casualty Reduction
    Central Turning Lane Full Length
    Low
    10-25%
    Delineation
    Low
    10-25%
    Intersection - Delineation
    Low
    10-25%
    Central Hatching
    Low
    10-25%
    Intersection - Turn Lanes (Signalised)
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Intersection - Turn Lanes (Unsignalised)
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Parking Improvements
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Regulate Roadside Commercial Activity
    Low to medium
    10-25%
    Skid Resistance
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Roadside Safety - Hazard Removal
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Median Crossing Upgrade
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Sight Distance (obstruction removal)
    Low to medium
    25-40%
    Road Surface Rehabilitation
    Medium
    25-40%
    Shoulder Sealing
    Medium
    25-40%
    Speed Management
    Medium
    25-40%
    Intersection - Signalise
    Medium
    25-40%
    Motorcycle Lanes
    Medium
    25-40%
    One Way Network
    Medium
    25-40%
    Restrict/Combine Direct Access Points
    Medium to high
    25-40%
    Intersection - Roundabout
    Medium to high
    60% or more
    Traffic Calming
    Medium to high
    25-40%
    Duplication
    High
    25-40%
    Additional Lane
    High
    25-40%
    Intersection - Grade Separation
    High
    25-40%
    Service Road
    High
    25-40%
    Realignment - Horizontal
    High
    25-40%
    Realignment - Vertical
    High
    10-25%

    Safer Vehicles

    Safer Vehicles
    Estimated cost
    Casualty Reduction
    Motor Vehicle Standards
    Low
    60% or more
    Vehicle Roadworthiness
    Low
    60% or more

    Safer People

    Safer People
    Estimated cost
    Casualty Reduction
    Enforcement
    Low
    60% or more
    Addressing Alcohol and Other Drugs
    Low
    60% or more
    Education
    Low
    60% or more
    Helmets and Protective Clothing
    Low
    60% or more
    Safe Speed
    Low
    60% or more
    Publicity
    Low
    60% or more
    Emergency Response
    Medium
    40-60%
    Licensing
    Medium
    40-60%

    Did you know?

    The chance of a motorcycle rider or passenger surviving a collision with a car is greatly reduced at speeds over 30 km/h.

    Tell me more

    Latest Case Studies

    See practical examples of how deaths and serious injuries have been prevented.

    Read more
  • Related Images

    Related Case Study

    High Friction Surfacing Treatment (HFST) Crash Reduction Program

    '''Introduction''' The annual National Roadway Safety Awards recognises ground-breaking projects ...

    Read more
    3 more related case studies