RoSPA – 2. Motorcycle Use

2.1 Travel data about motorcycle use is fairly sparse, and it seems very likely that it does not capture the full level of motorcycling. There is also very little published data to indicate the level of motorcycle use between different age groups and on different types and sizes of motorcycle. Such data would be very useful in estimating accident risk and rates.

2.2 Around 2% of adults own a motorcycle. Ownership is highest among males, the youngest age groups, and middle income groups. Motorcycling accounts for just 1% of miles travelled in Great Britain.

2.3 Transport statistics show a long term fall in motorcycle use, although there are also indications of a recent reversal of this trend, leading to an increase in the level of motorcycling. Between 1998 and 1999, motorcycle mileage increased by 16%.

Two-wheel motor vehicle traffic, billion vehicle kilometres


2.4 This trend is echoed by the number of new motorcycles licensed each year. Table 2 shows a decrease of 13% in the number of licensed motorcycles over the decade, but conversely an increase of 28% since 1995.

Two-wheel motor vehicles licensed (thousands)1988 – 1999


2.5 The increase in new motorcycles appears to be restricted to the more powerful category, with an engine size of 350 cc and above, which supports the concept of “Born Again Bikers” (see section 5.4). However, sales of scooters also appear to be increasingly rapidly.

New Motorcycles Licensed (thousands) by Engine Size 1988 – 1998

Engine Size (cc)19881998% Change

2.6 The latest National Travel Survey data also shows a fall in motorcycle use. It records a drop of 43% in the average* motorcycle mileage per person per year, from 51 miles in 1985/86 to 29 miles in 1997/99. Over the same period, the average number of journeys by motorcycle also fell, by around two-thirds, although the average journey length increased by 65%.

* averaged over the population of Great Britain.

2.7 The 1993/95 survey showed that men aged 16 – 29 years travel further on motorcycles than other age groups.

Miles Motorcycled per person per year by Age and Gender

All Ages7510

2.8 Commuting appears to be the main purpose for motorcycle journeys, followed closely by Holidays/Day Trips. However, only 1% of all commuting journeys are by motorcycle (compared to 71% by car, 10% on foot and 3% by pedal cycle).

2.9 The long term decline in motorcycle use seems to be reversing, particularly among users of the more powerful motorcycles. Reports that scooters are becoming fashionably popular have not yet been translated into transport statistics.