RoSPA – 8. The Environment

8.1 Road Surface
Being two wheelers, motorcyclists are more susceptible to difficulties and hazards created by the design, construction, maintenance and surface condition of roads. They are particularly vulnerable to

  • changes in the level of friction of road surfaces
  • pot holes
  • uneven surfaces
  • poor repairs to the surface
  • spillages
  • drain covers
  • debris
  • road markings.

8.2 Other road surface hazards include leaves which can appear dry but may be soggy underneath, tram tracks, gravel, melted tar in hot weather which may reduce tyre grip or roads that become greasy and slippery in summer during rainstorms.

8.3 Skidding
Skidding occurs in about 30% of the personal injury accidents in the wet for motorcycles, and as discussed in section 3.18, the accident risk for larger motorcyclists is greater on dry, rural roads.

8.4 Road Markings
Raised road markings can also cause problems for motorcyclists, either by affecting their stability or by retaining water on the surface, which results in a loss of adhesion between the tyres and the road surface. The use of bitumen for repairs can lead to difficulties, especially when the road surface is wet, as it leads to reduced friction and skid resistance. Therefore, there is a need for a better repair substance to replace bitumen.

8.5 Traffic Calming
Traffic calming is a proven, effective highway engineering measure to reduce speed-related accidents. Traffic calming features need to be effective in reducing motorcyclists’ speed while at the same time not inadvertently causing additional hazards to two wheelers. It is essential that traffic calming design guides provide suitable advice and options for achieving this balance.

8.6 Accidents on bends on non-built-up roads, and night time accidents are a particular problem for motorcyclists. Design solutions to reduce these risks should be considered, especially at sites, routes and areas where accident data indicates that there is a motorcycle accident problem.

8.7 Street Furniture
The siting of street furniture also needs to be considered. Street furniture may hinder visibility and cause serious injury to motorcyclist who collide with objects while sliding along the road after an accident. Street furniture should be as far back from the road as possible, and where necessary protected by appropriate fencing (that does not itself cause an injury hazard to motorcyclists).

8.8 Crash Barriers
Crash barriers are also a concern for motorcyclists. They tend to be tested using four wheel vehicles, and present certain hazards to motorcyclists. Exposed parts of support posts concentrate impact forces on the motorcyclists body, and the edges of horizontal beams or wire rope may cause laceration injuries. The European Experimental Vehicle Committee reports that one study of motorcycle accidents involving crash barriers found that 15% of motorcyclist fatalities were caused by a direct impact of the rider against the crash barrier.

8.9 The British Motorcyclist Federation believes that smooth, featureless barriers, such as concrete or water-filled ones cause the least problems for motorcyclists. Barriers with energy absorbing protectors are also being developed which could lessen injuries suffered by motorcyclists colliding with them. Barriers should be tested with both two and four wheel vehicles.

8.10 Bus Lanes
In recent years, motorcycle groups have called for motorcyclists to be allowed to use bus lanes, along with pedal cyclists and taxis. A trial was conducted in Bristol in the mid 1990s, but unfortunately was not properly monitored or evaluated. Pedal cycle organisations are opposed to motorcyclists being allowed into the bus lanes.

8.11 Before deciding whether motorcyclists should be allowed to use bus lanes, appropriate trials, which are properly evaluated using Before and After studies, should be conducted. There are several issues which need to be considered in such trials:

  • would it cause problems for cyclists (and pedestrians)
  • would it cause problems for buses
  • would it encourage drivers to violate bus lanes
  • would it deter pedal cyclists from using bus lanes
  • are the design standards of bus lanes suitable for motorcycles to use?

8.12 The Environment – Conclusion
Although not a major cause of motorcycle accidents, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to road surface hazards and it is important that the needs and particular vulnerability of two-wheelers are considered carefully by highway designers, engineers and that high standards of road maintenance are provided.