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Home > Safer roads for motorcycles > Chapter 3. Global, regional and national guidelines

The Safe System was mentioned in chapter 1.1 evolved from Sweden’s Vision Zero. Although the definitions for the Safe System differ, the main idea is that mobility should not lead to fatalities or serious injuries. It involves a shift from trying to prevent all crashes to preventing death and mitigating serious injury in road traffic collisions.

According to iRAP, a Safe System approach has the following characteristics:

  • Mistakes, errors of judgment and poor decisions are intrinsic to humans. The road system needs to be designed and operated to account for this.
  • Humans are fragile. Unprotected, we cannot survive impacts that occur at greater than around 30km/h.
  • The ‘engineered’ elements of the system – vehicles and roads – can be designed to be compatible with the human element, recognizing that while crashes might occur, the total system can be designed to minimize harm, particularly by making roads self-explaining and forgiving of human error.

Road safety is a responsibility shared between those who use roads and those who manage, design, build and maintain the road system and those who provide post-crash care.

Commonly recognized are the five pillars of the Safe System Approach. These are:

  • Safer vehicles
  • Safer speeds
  • Safer roads and roadsides
  • Post-crash care
  • Safer road users.

However, for example, Transport Research Laboratory, TRL, uses a slightly different setup as is shown in figure 3.

Figure 3. The Safe System Pillars (131), click to enlarge

The Safe System approach is the base of almost all current road safety strategies and programs. However, the existing strategies and programs reveal that they are mainly aimed at car occupants and lately also at pedestrians and cyclists. The latter two categories are included by aiming at separate lanes for cyclists and reducing the speed limit on roads with mixed traffic. Few dedicated provisions are seen for motorcyclists. A crash does not have to mean injuries for car occupants who are protected by a designed cage and crumple zones. Motorcyclists do not have these provisions and a crash means death or serious injuries more often compared to car occupants. Also, because motorcycles have only one track, there is a risk of losing balance on e.g., slippery road surfaces. Therefore, motorcyclists need an approach that is primarily aimed at avoiding crashes. This starts with education and training, but just as safe vehicles, these aspects are out of the scope of this document.

The road infrastructure plays an important role in avoiding crashes which was already. Already the Hurt report from 1981 (19) mentioned the element of infrastructure. Good examples of safe roads for motorcyclists are mainly to be found in some European countries like Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Austria, and France, where dedicated road safety strategies for motorcycles exist and are in effect. However, many countries do not have dedicated motorcycling safety strategies in place. The reasons for the lack of inclusion of motorcycles in road safety programs differ per country. It can just be that motorcyclist, due to relatively low numbers and lack of a lobby, are overseen, it can be because authorities do not understand the importance of dedicated measures, it can be that motorcycles and motorcyclists have a bad image or that crashes are due to the behaviour of the motorcyclists themselves (139).

Unlike the traditional approach to road safety, the Safe System approach recognizes that human error is no longer the primary cause of crashes. Rather, a failure of the road system is the cause of many collisions that result in death or serious injury (140). Thus, it is important to recognize that motorcyclists need to be protected against unnecessary road crashes, their needs and include this in guidelines at all stages of transport policies.

There are several documents at the global and regional level which aim to help countries address motorcycling safety. A summary of the key ones is provided below.

The World Bank “Guide to integrating safety into road design” has one chapter that describes the need of motorcycles in different parts of the world. The document also gives examples for improved motorcycle safety (30).

The 2022 WHO document Powered two- and three-wheeler safety: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners, 2nd edition states that road traffic injuries are a major public health problem and a leading cause of death and injury around the world requiring appropriate and targeted action urgently. The manual was initially published in 2017 and provides guidance to countries wishing to improve road safety organization and to implement specific road safety interventions outlined in The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention (9).

The report “Riding in a safe system – workshop on safety for powered-two-wheelers” was the outcome of the 2021 workshop on motorcycle safety, as a follow-up to the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm 2020. One of eight priority actions was redesign and improve infrastructure safety for motorcyclists. Governments and road authorities are actively encouraged to consider the latest standards and update their road manuals and design and maintenance guidelines to include best practice and safe system principles for motorcycles (8).

“Policy recommendations to enable infrastructure improvements to reduce motorcycle crash risk at a network level” were presented by David Milling, ARRB, at the International Transport Forum Summit in 2018. The paper concludes that motorcycle crash risk can be reduced when providing targeted treatments or improvements to road infrastructure elements. As each element is developed, designed, and managed by multiple road engineering disciplines a logical conclusion would be that motorcycle crash risk could be reduced through a collaborative approach, achieved through changes in practice across all road engineering disciplines. Given that the benefits of managing, designing, and improving road infrastructure to reduce motorcycle casualties can be proactively quantified it would seem logical to include motorcycles as a design vehicle that should be catered for in transport and infrastructure policies at all levels of governance. Changes in policy to identify motorcycles as a design vehicle should enable significant improvements to road infrastructure to reduce motorcycle casualties at a network level (31).

In October 2022, the Asia-Pacific Road Safety Observatory convened a Global Dialogue on Powered Two-Wheeler Safety. The meeting statement calls on governments, funding bodies, road operators and industry to holistically address PTW safety through investment, research, policies, and standards (145). Specifically, it requires road owners and operators to address infrastructure safety by:

  • Separating PTWs from heavier traffic and other vulnerable road users.
  • Requiring that road safety audits are performed for all designs such that they reach 3-stars or better.
  • Regularly undertaking safety assessments of existing roads and implement speed management, maintenance, and safety upgrades so that 75% of travel occurs on roads rated 3-stars or better.
  • Working with development partners to implement demonstration and evaluation projects to show what works and facilitate wider adoption of successes.

To support discussions on the safety of motorcyclists during the Dialogue, iRAP provided an interactive Powered Two-Wheeler Insights report which provides an interactive analysis of road infrastructure data from around the world which is collected during iRAP safety Star Rating assessments (146).

In 2018 the UN in Asia Pacific (UNESCAP) adopted Asian Highway Design Standards for Road Safety for the Asian Highway network which spans 140,000km across 32 countries. The document is based on the Safe System approach and specifically addresses the safety of motorcyclists (141).

Current and recommended best practices for motorcycle safety in Latin America was published in 2022 and is based on the Safe System approach. It aims to improve motorcycle safety; it examines best practices in all areas and outlines policy recommendations for Latin American and Caribbean countries. One part is about motorcycle infrastructure and policy planning.

FEMA has played an important part when it comes to motorcycle safety in Europe. The European Agenda for Motorcycle Safety was published in 2009 (142). The aim with the document was to provide a brief summary of why motorcycle crashes happen from a rider’s perspective and recommendations how to improve motorcycle safety in some selected areas of particular concern to legislators, decision makers, and all stakeholders dealing with motorcycle safety.

In 2015 FEMA presented RIDERSCAN after scanning Europe for information in various ways and from different stakeholders. The project included identification and comparison of national initiatives on PTWs and best practices. Existing knowledge was collected and structured at European level Finally, and to identify critical needs for policy action at a European or national level (143).


The most comprehensive example is Infrastructure improvements to reduce motorcycle casualties, Austroads Research Report AP-R515-16 (32). This report was published in 2016 after a two-year long process of literature review, crash analyses and explanations of why, and how, road infrastructure elements influence motorcycle crash risks. It also identifies how the design and condition of road infrastructure elements can influence either the likelihood of a crash occurring or the resulting severity of a crash. The study has built up a compendium of treatments, presented in a way that engineering decisions to manage these elements can be justified. The guidelines are not included in general demands for planning, building and maintaining roads in Australia but are used for locations where measures to improve motorcycle safety have been decided (26). Several jurisdictions in Australia have published guides about improving the infrastructure for motorcyclists. The most comprehensive is the one from Vicroads “Making roads motorcycle friendly, A guide for road design construction and maintenance”. The latest version is from 2022 and includes advice to road authorities, contractors, and important issues from construction to maintenance phase. The guide includes a check list (Annex 1) to assist with designing and maintaining roads in order to consider the needs of motorcyclists (33).

The German Forschungsgesellschaft für Straßen- und Verkehrswesen (FGSV) presented revised guidelines in 2021 ‘Merkblatt zur Verbesserung der Straßeninfrastruktur für Motorradfahrende. improving road infrastructure for motorcyclists MVMot’. The document describes crashes, where they occur and how to prevent them or minimize the injury severity. Since the German system of road authorities and their responsibilities is quite complex with different road owners and different regulations and guidelines, a formal decree was issued in May 2021 by the German Federal Ministry of Transport to implement MVMot 2021 on all roads within their responsibility on highways and federal roads. In addition, the Ministry recommended that the Federal State Ministries should implement these guidelines in their area of responsibility as well and to further ask the counties and communities to do the same. It is up to the jurisdictions to follow this recommendation (34).

Austria published their first guidelines in 2010, “Empfehlungen zur Verbesserung der Sicherheit für den Motorradverkehr (Recommendations to improve safety for motorcycle traffic)”. The guidelines are presently being revised and it is hoped they will be published in 2023. The document has looked at crashes at popular motorcycle roads and proposes different measures to prevent them or minimize the risk injuries.

United Kingdom
The UK Institute of Highway Engineers IHE published its Guidelines for Motorcycling (147) in 2005 with the aim to support the Government’s Motorcycle Strategy and ‘mainstream’ motorcycles into core transport policy. The IHE Guidelines were the first such publication to set out practical guidance for policy makers, transportation professionals and users on providing a safer environment for motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters. Its’ individual chapters cover Policy; Road Design; Road Safety; Travel Plans; Parking; Maintenance and Road Safety Audit. The Guide has been produced to provide advice to designers to ensure that the issues experienced by motorcyclists are known when developing highway schemes and to help achieve strategic road safety targets. The “Guide to designing for motorcyclists” provides information on infrastructure measures and supports design requirements and advice contained within the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) and is tailored to specifically improve highway layouts for motorcyclists. (22).

The Urban Motorcycle Design Handbook was published by Transport for London in 2016 and developed with input from stakeholder groups. It sets out the key highway design requirements for motorcycle safety in London. The key design issues for motorcyclists are friction, visibility, road-side features, traffic calming and filtering. The aim of the handbook is to increase understanding for all concerned with planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance (35).

In 2007, the Norwegian Public Road Administration published the guidelines MC safety Design and Operation of Roads and Traffic Systems. The document has been used as a guideline since then and the document was revised in 2014 in a Norwegian version MC Sikkerhet (36).

Several ongoing infrastructure improvements for motorcyclists are presented in the Norwegian National Plan of Action for Road Safety 2022-2025; road inspections and thematic inspections with a particular focus on critical issues relating to the road, the side terrain and optical guidance for motorcycles; survey side terrain route by route for the potential establishment of motorcycle protection devices or facilitation of forgiving terrain and a pilot to test measures to prevent motorcycle off-the-road crashes, including clearly visible and flexible delineator posts to improve optical guidance at unexpected curves (37).

Slovenia has published Guidelines for motorcycle safety written in cooperation between Slovenian Infrastructure Agency, Universities of Maribor and Ljubljana and DRI investment management, Ltd. The guidelines have been implemented and evaluated in areas with many crashes among riders. Investigations of high motorcycle traffic and crash risk were made to identify exposed road sections in terms of motorcyclist safety, where the guidelines have been implemented. The guidelines include several pragmatic solutions for improving motorcyclists’ safety on the roads and it is very important for road safety engineers to implement and use systematic and feasible solutions on existing roads and in the design or construction phase (38).

The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, the traffic department, in cooperation with the Motorplatform (cooperation of all parties that are involved in motorcycle road safety) published its first Action plan for improving road safety for motorcyclists in 2010. It’s been followed by a second action plan in 2018 (39).

In France, a first version of a methodological guide of recommendations for the consideration of motorcycles was presented in 2011. A revised version completed by the results of research and technical expertise was consolidated in 2018 with the help of user associations and representatives of the various authorities in charge of infrastructure and land use planning, Recommendations pour la prise en des deux-roues motorisés (Recommendations for the management of motorized two-wheelers). It is a decision-making tool, an incentive to improve the consideration of motorized two-wheelers in the management of existing infrastructures, but also for development projects, based on the quality approach to road safety, which has been in place in France since 2001. The recommendation has been updated with new recommendations in terms of road design to consider the safety of riders via recent publications and new reference safety studies. These recommendations also incorporate basic elements on the particularities of motorcycles and the impact on riding, but especially on the vulnerability of users in traffic due to road infrastructure. It also introduces the unsafe conditions for two-wheeler users (weather conditions; slippery road due to weather conditions or road markings; road surface condition; traffic; safety rails; roundabouts/intersections) with recommendations to ensure road safety quality for existing infrastructure and future projects (40).

Motorcycle safety is not only a concern for road authorities. Motorcyclist organisations such as FEMA and SMC who are responsible for this document and industry groups have made significant contributions to advancing the cause. One example is “Safer motorcycling, the Global Motorcycle Industry’s Approach to Road Safety” which was published by the IMMA in 2019. The chapter “Road infrastructure must be designed and maintained with PTWs in mind” describes infrastructure as a factor in motorcycle crashes and examples of best practice (41).

In New standard for road Restraint Systems for motorcyclists the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations, FEMA, i2012 presented how safety for motorcyclists could be improved concerning barriers. Examples from European countries were described and the need for a new standard (42).

The Swedish Motorcyclists Association, SMC, has published and distributed the leaflet Safer roads and streets for riders and passengers on motorcyclists to members, politicians, local authorities, regional authorities, road authorities and entrepreneurs for several years. The document contains a description of the most common motorcycle crashes, how to improve road environment to reduce the number of crashes and minimize the injury risk in collisions with roadside furniture (43).

All examples mentioned above show that there are plenty of good examples and guidelines around the world which can increase motorcycle safety.


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