You are here
Home > Member news > Motorcyclists take responsibility for own safety

Motorcyclists take responsibility for own safety

Tor Arne Bell LjunggrenTor Arne Bell Ljunggren, chairman of the Norwegian Motorcycle Union (NMCU), says it is no reason to argue that motorcyclists are reckless road users. Rather the opposite…

Despite all imaginable road safety efforts, riding a motorcycle can never be made entirely risk free. However, over the past 30 years Norway has seen a huge reduction in risk when riding a motorcycle. In 1980, 4.8% of all motorcyclists in the country were involved in accidents. In 2013 this share had fallen to 0.29%. This is primarily a result of the Norwegian motorcycling community having taken responsibility for improving own safety, painstakingly building competence and good attitudes. The hard work has paid off and Norway is now one of the safest countries in the world to ride a motorcycle in.

The Safety Dialogue – The safety dialogue within the motorcycling community is an important, but often underestimated contribution to improving motorcycle safety. Experienced riders share their knowledge of riding techniques, equipment, operational strategies and maintenance with less experienced bikers. At club meetings and ride-outs it is common that motorcyclists discuss safety issues. The booklet Full Control is a good example of how the safety dialogue within the motorcycling community works. In the booklet the Norwegian Motorcycle Union (NMCU) gathered experienced based knowledge of riding techniques and riding strategies and shared it with the riding community. Full Control has made the safety dialogue less anecdotal and more precise, and over time it has changed the motorcycling community’s attitudes towards safety. Full Control is produced by motorcyclists for motorcyclists, it’s free of charge and a total of 160 000 copies are now printed – not bad in a country with a circulating park of just 150 000 motorcycles. The booklet is also available in an easily accessible version online.

SEE US!! campaigns – Every year, motorcyclists are killed and injured in collisions with cars. These accidents are mostly caused by inattentive motorists. Experienced riders resolve potential dangerous situations by taking into account the mistakes made by other road-users. Inexperienced riders however, do not understand the potential danger and are innocent victims of the mistakes by others. Studies from the Norwegian Transport Economic Institute (TOI) and the Dutch research institute, SWOV, report that the most effective measure is constant reminders to motorists that two-wheelers are there. Therefore NMCU has organized SEE US!! campaigns since 1995 and produced the successful campaign film ‘Bugs’.

Dangerous Road Report Form – With two wheels and only a few square centimetres of traction available motorcyclists and moped riders are particularly vulnerable to dangerous road conditions. Instead of just whining and complaining Norwegian motorcyclists have taken on the job as “inspectors” for the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. The Dangerous Road Report Form has existed since 1995 and was the result of a fatal accident caused by slippery road repair. Every year 100 – 150 reports of dangerous conditions on the road network are submitted and NMCU keeps a complete archive of all reports submitted.

The use of Personal Protective Equipment – Motorcyclists themselves demanded mandatory use of helmets in the late 1970s. Only the use of helmets is mandatory, but most Norwegian riders always wear full riding gear – even on short trips. A conservative estimate says that Norwegian riders have invested NOK 1.3 billion in non-mandatory personal protective equipment. The manufacturers will gradually develop more and more so-called “intelligent riding gear”, such as airbag jackets, temperature regulated garments and helmet visors with head-up display. When such products are properly quality assured, riders will surly make use them.

Initial Rider Training – In the late 1970s, the riders themselves required systematic rider training Through the Full Control project in the late 1990s it became evident that the Norwegian curriculum for motorcycle training had to be revised. Likewise, it was obvious that the quality of many motorcycle instructors and examiners were poor. NMCU took an initiative with the Ministry of Transport resulting in both the requirements being set out in the National Transport Plan. A constructive partnership between government, motorcyclists and progressive forces in the training industry gave us in 2005 a new and improved curriculum and compulsory specialist training for motorcycle instructors.

Voluntary Post-Licence Training – Voluntary post licence training is an important part of the lifelong learning process and helps closing the gap between inexperienced and experienced. Many Norwegian bikers invest time and money in such voluntary education.

Vehicle Technology – The technical quality of the bikes has improved greatly over the last 30 years. Together with the fact that motorcyclists are very careful with technical maintenance of their motorcycle, this makes technical failure an extremely rare cause of motorcycle accidents. If it does not substantially influence the price of the motorcycle, motorcyclists will welcome most every technical development leading to improved vehicle safety.

Thus, there is no reason to argue that motorcyclists are reckless road users. Rather the opposite. Because riders know that they are on a vehicle that offers little passive safety, they are extremely safety conscious and well aware of the fact that they must have skills to master the bike, have well thought-through riding strategies, wear proper riding gear and last but not least, always interact with other road users.