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Belgian motorcyclists go for safety

Belgian research identified eight types of motorcyclists; which type are you?

To better profile the Belgian motorcyclist, a representative sample of 3,000 Belgians over the age of 16 were interviewed about their use of motorcycles and other powered two-wheelers.

The Belgian road safety research organisation Vias studied powered two-wheeler use in Belgium. They identified eight kinds of motorcyclists, but more important, they analysed who the motorcyclists are, how they behave, what their experiences are, how well they are trained, and what their views are on subjects as road safety, intelligent transport systems, et cetera.

First the types of motorcyclists. According to Vias there are eight profiles:

  1. The Time optimizer: uses the powered two-wheeler (scooter) to optimize travel time during the good season (11,6%).
  2. The ‘Time-for-me’ seeker: in the peak of the family-work life / travels mainly by car and takes the powered two-wheeler to gain time in his personal life, powered two-wheeler offering time for him/herself (18,8%).
  3. The Unconditional: uses car or powered two-wheeler equally often, rides for all purposes, in all conditions, in all environments, all year long, whenever he/she ‘feels’ like it (9,5%).
  4. The Good-Vibe seeker: uses the powered two-wheeler when the weather allows it in order to get a good feeling / the PTW is equally often used as other alternatives to replace car trips (14,2%).
  5. The ‘I want it all’ rider: wants the best (including experience) of mobility options depending on his/her needs (18,2%).
  6. The Multimodal rider: uses the powered two-wheeler (scooter) along with other mobility alternatives as an alternative to cars during the good season (11%).
  7. The Day-to-Day rider: uses mainly a powered two-wheeler, every day for any kind of needs and in all weather conditions (7,5%).
  8. The Life-long experience rider: has been riding most of his/her life or whenever he/she could afford to have a powered two-wheeler / travels mainly by car and rides when comfortably acceptable (9,2%).


Some other findings are:

  • Today’s market shows a popularity for small cylinder capacity powered two-wheelers and more urban powered two-wheelers (mopeds <50cc, scooters >50cc) with a growth in electric variants (as long as there was a purchase premium). Large motorcycles seem to lose their appeal.
  • The majority of powered two-wheeler trips are short-distance leisure trips (<500km), followed by home-to-work (commute) trips. Professional use of powered two-wheelers remains infrequent.
  • About 40% of the motorcyclists and moped riders ride without passing a formal test (A licence received automatically with the B license up to and concluding 1988); the younger riders are trained the best and undergo the most continuous training.
  • Users tend to avoid unfavourable riding conditions (night, bad weather, winter conditions).
  • Unilateral accidents (for example loss of control of the vehicle) are more frequent compared to multilateral accidents based on self-reported accidents by the riders. This proportion is the opposite of what is found in police reports (and statistics) and can be explained by the fact that many of these unilateral accidents do not necessarily lead to an accident report if the rider is unharmed.
  • In general, motorcyclists (>50cc) are informed and aware of the risks associated with motorcycling. They disapprove risky behaviour.
  • Among the behaviours that are considered to be dangerous by motorcyclists are found: doing stunts (wheelies, skids, etc.), driving when feeling tired or after consuming alcohol. A majority of the riders considered these activities as dangerous.
  • Among the behaviours that are considered to be the least dangerous are seen: filtering traffic at low speed, modifying the motorbike for comfort or more power, riding with an audio system, riding without a fluorescent jacket.
  • Motorcycle users are still very reluctant towards the advent of in-vehicle technology and consider it to be extremely distracting; they are however more positive about M2V (motorcycle to vehicle) communication technologies that allow better visibility of motorbikes in traffic (cf. the functionalities developed by the industry in the context of V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication).
  • Despite the low number of riders that followed a training and passed a test and a growing number of riders of A1 motorcycles who are allowed to ride a light motorcycle in Belgium after two years’ experience as a car driver and four hours training (after that they receive a ‘code 372’ on the B-license), the number of fatal accidents and accidents with injuries has much decreased, as is shown in the graphic.

Compared to 10 years ago, the number of injured has decreased by 44% and the number of deaths by 54% (from 132 to 61). The objective safety of motorcyclists has improved over the past 10 years.

Motorcyclists injured or killed in accidents in Belgium and development motorcycle park (sources: Vias, Statbel)
Despite the decline of fatalities and injuries, the view of Vias is that in future all motorcycle riders should have a dedicated training and testing. This would also mean that the opportunity to ride a light motorcycle (<125cc) with a B-license with the code 372 (after additional training) would no longer be possible. Riders who already ride a motorcycle without having followed formal training are urged by Vias to follow some additional training.

The Vias study is available in French and in Dutch.

Written by Dolf Willigers

Top photograph by Wim Taal

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