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Home > Safer roads for motorcycles > Chapter 5. Adressing motorcycle safety

ITF stated at the workshop in 2021 that addressing the safety of motorcyclists is essential to meet global road-safety targets and helping create a Safe System for all users. One of the eight priority actions from the workshop was to redesign infrastructure to increase motorcyclist safety:

“Infrastructure must be safer for PTW users, starting with the design of roads and traffic systems. Governments and road authorities should comply with the latest infrastructure safety standards related to PTW use and update documentation to reflect best practice and Safe System principles. Infrastructure managers, researchers and institutions should update and promote road design standards, manuals, and guides to reflect best practice knowledge on PTW safety. All stakeholders should develop new ideas to rethink the traffic system, for example regarding space re-allocation and infrastructure design. Researchers, manufacturers, and governments should share knowledge of safe and efficient infrastructure solutions which support the mix of PTWs, other vehicles and other vulnerable road users in road traffic.”

Today, motorcycles are not given enough attention in many countries when it comes to all stages of infrastructure like planning, building, maintaining and inspections. Motorcycle safety needs to be included in the safety routines, to undertake a safety assessment and evaluate the need for additional motorcycle safety measures. To do this, particular attention needs to be given to understanding where motorcycle crashes are occurring, why they are occurring and how to address them.

Motorcycle safety should be included in considerations in the safety routines, to undertake a safety assessment and evaluate the need for additional motorcycle safety measures. Even if motorcycles aren’t included in all aspects of the road environment there are some good examples. The Norwegian handbook for motorcycle safety (36) presents several measures during road works and maintenance to improve motorcycle safety.

The Norwegian handbook states that there can be a particular need to assess motorcyclist safety, both when auditing construction plans and auditing constructed roads before being opened. Auditors must ensure that details regarding location and design will not create significant problems to motorcyclists. Two checklists are included in the handbook for auditors, one for the construction phase and one for existing roads (Annex 1). Special chapters about cleaning the roads after maintenance to minimize the crash risk and the need of predictable friction is also a part of the handbook. The Vicroads guide for making roads motorcycle friendly also contains a checklist (Annex 1) for designing and maintaining roads with consideration to motorcycle safety (33).

Another good example is Slovenia where the guideline for motorcyclists includes both the construction and the maintenance phase. The following situations/locations/elements are defined as dangerous and need to be eliminated as soon as possible: obstructed visibility in bends, guardrails with no underrun protection in dangerous bends, dangerous draining systems, height difference between carriageway and shoulder, damaged or slippery pavements, road patches, obstructed visibility in bends, dangerous patchwork, and serious flaws in the road pavement like patches of varying grip, lane ruts and patchwork repairs (38).

The Australian report (32) about infrastructure improvements to reduce motorcycle casualties recommends that the following general measures are considered by practitioners in safety, design, asset management, maintenance, pavement technology road engineering disciplines:

  • Motorcyclists should be recognized as a unique road user group and have specific needs about road infrastructure.
  • The likelihood of a crash occurring, and its likely severity are both important considerations, however with more focus on treating road infrastructure elements that affect likelihood further crash reductions can be achieved.
  • It might be more economical to treat road infrastructure elements that effect the likelihood of a crash. Greater reductions in fatal or serious injury crashes may be achieved through a targeted focus on reducing the likelihood of a crash occurring as well as reducing the severity of a crash.
  • As the proposed mitigation measures are road infrastructure-based treatments, over time they can be integrated into existing practice and therefore existing funding.
  • Motorcycle crash risk should be proactively identified, and a remedial action program developed through motorcycle focused network safety assessments or road safety audits.

It is important to collect and analyse data from crashes to find the spots where most crashes occur, to find out why the crashes happened and what measures that need to be taken. There are several examples of this in the USA (California), Australia (Victoria), UK, and Norway (49-50).

Collection of crash data in Germany, Slovenia, Norway, Austria, UK, and other countries has resulted in addressed measures on road stretches with many crashes, “black spot management”. Black spot is sometimes seen as a reactive’ approach where crashes have already happened which cost lives and injuries. However, the effects of measures taken in areas with high crash figures show good results. Slovenia has for example added signage before curves, installed soft roadside pollards, MPS on barriers and installed red and white elements on barriers in curves with many crashes. These measures have reduced speed as well as motorcycle crashes. Several of the guidelines that have been mentioned in this document are using black spot management on popular motorcycle roads to improve the safety for motorcyclists (38).

The Norwegian Trafikksikkerhetshandboken (Road Safety Handbook) concludes, by using different calculation examples, that that in most cases it can be assumed that the benefit of improving crash points and sections clearly exceeds the costs of the measures (51). An important factor to improve safety for riders is to include the socio-economic cost of human lives and serious injuries at all stages from planning to building and maintaining.

Road safety audits and inspections are described as “a formal, systematic, and detailed examination of road safety concerns by an independent and qualified team of auditors.” (52) It involves a review of road designs and inspections at specific locations of a new or upgraded road to identify potential safety concerns and opportunities to eliminate or mitigate risk. They are carried out by experienced auditors and look at cross-cutting issues, such as road safety engineering, design, and local road user behaviour (301). It is not guaranteed that motorcycle safety is included in all audits but there are several good examples from USA, Norway, Austria and UK. The audits in Norway are done by national, regional and local road authorities in cooperation with the motorcycle organisation NMCU. Certain roads are inspected to propose the most efficient measures which are budgeted in the Norwegian National Plan of Action for Road Safety 2022-2025 (37.

As addition, a semi-automatic inspection can be done, using a specific motorcycle for safety inspections, for example the Austrian MoProVe motorcycle, is The MoProve motorcycle is a sensor-equipped motorcycle, that is used for risk analyses and safety inspections, based on collected vehicle dynamics data. The MoProve is a rolling road infrastructure laboratory which makes it possible to create risk maps and risk models, based on processed data. It can also deliver objective and comparable observations of safety relevant parameters. The integrated use of AI-methods opens the field for data cross-validation, big data analytics and risk prediction models (53).

Unlike reactive approaches to known crash locations, proactive risk assessment approaches, such as Star Ratings, help road authorities address risk before crashes happen.

The European Commission published guidelines on a methodology for network-wide road safety assessments in January 2023. The guidelines are not mandatory but aim to help public authorities in EU Member States to carry out the safety assessments of their road networks as required under the Road Infrastructure Safety Management Directive where motorcyclists are considered as vulnerable road users. The amended article 6b states that the Member States shall ensure that the needs of vulnerable road users are considered in the implementation of the procedures set out in Articles 3 to 6a.

The guidance documents comprise a framework addressing both a reactive (crash based) and a proactive (feature based) safety assessment, covering issues such as the lane width, road curvature, design of junctions, roadside layout and potential conflicts between motorized vehicles and vulnerable road users. The guidelines have no proposals to them member states how to improve road safety for riders and passengers on motorcycles and mopeds. The only vulnerable road users that are mentioned and cared for to a large extent are bicyclists and pedestrians (10).

To address these risks for motorcyclists, it is imperative the approach includes a motorcyclist-specific component which can detect the infrastructure-related hazards particular to this road user group (54).

The input from motorcyclists is crucial for enhancing the safety of the road infrastructure. No one knows better the effects of for example a slippery road, potholes, rutting and obstacles on and near the road, than the motorcyclists themselves. This knowledge is based on own experience and information from other motorcyclists. In many countries, recognizing hazardous or potentially hazardous situations is part of the training. In some countries it is initiatives from the motorcycle community that has started the work to improve motorcycle safety with different measures to reduce the injury risk. National motorcyclists’ associations play a special role in building a safer infrastructure since they collect the knowledge and translate it into concrete action. The outcome can be in form of general recommendations, awareness actions, publications, a hotline for hazardous road infrastructure and political actions.

Concrete examples are:
– The hotline that the Dutch Motor Actie Groep (Motorcycle Action Group, MAG NL) had for a long time where motorcyclists could call in with complaints about infrastructure that were forwarded to the road authorities and followed up by MAG NL.
– Reports with recommendations of national associations in cooperation with researchers and experts like it is done in Germany with MVMot
– Guidelines drafted by road authorities with input from motorcyclists’ associations which is done in the UK, Norway, and the Netherlands.
– Working groups with road authorities and motorcyclists who annually prioritize the measures that should be taken with the dedicated funds for motorcycle safety like the MC Forums in Norway
– Motorcycling researchers from several universities with cooperation from the motorcycling community and government officials published infrastructure guidelines in Slovenia that were partially based on real life tests.
– Other examples of activity from the motorcycling community are political actions from many national motorcyclists’ associations like the Swedish Motorcyclists Association SMC and international associations like the Australian Motorcycle Council (AMC), the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA).
– To our knowledge, there is little involvement of the motorcycle community in the design and maintenance of infrastructure in developing countries.

iRAP’s road safety Star Rating methodology is a free tool to assess the safety of roads worldwide.

Star Ratings can be used by road authorities and others to proactively and objectively address high risk sections of the road network. Data about the features of a road is collected via a road survey, and then Star Ratings are produced to represent the risk of crashes along the road. Star Ratings includes a specific component for motorcyclists, which means that the safety of the road for motorcyclists and PTW can be analysed and addressed independently from other road user types.

Star Ratings objective measure of the likelihood of a road crash occurring and the severity of the outcome. The focus is on identifying and recording the road attributes which influence the most common and severe types of crash, based on scientific evidence-based research.

In this way, the level of risk to a road user on a particular road section or network (or road design) can be defined without the need for detailed crash data, which is often the case in low- and middle-income countries where data quality is poor. Research shows that a person’s risk of death or serious injury is highest on a 1-Star road and lowest on a 5-Star road. Star ratings are produced for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

There are advantages to this approach. First, the level of risk to a road user on a particular road section or network can be defined using Star Ratings without the need for detailed crash data. This is particularly useful where there is low crash frequency, where there is poor or incomplete crash data, or for urban road networks where crashes tend to be distributed throughout the network making it difficult to identify specific locations to treat.

Another advantage is that only one assessment is required for Star Ratings across all road user types. That is, no additional data is required to produce them for motorcyclists. This makes it easier for road authorities to undertake a single assessment but isolate the results and analysis for motorcyclists.

Example of a motorcyclist Star Rating map from an assessment of secondary rural roads in The Netherlands (from 2014).

For each road user types, the model selects the relevant road features to inform specific crash types and calculates the likelihood and severity for each. The motorcyclist model has six crash types: run-off crashes, head-on crashes from a loss of control, head-on crashes from overtaking, intersection crashes, property access crashes and crashes while travelling along the road. Each crash type is then calculated using the likelihood and/or severity factors associated with particular road characteristics, and which are based on scientific evidence-based research. These are shown in the figure below.

Road features which inform the motorcyclist Star Rating Score equation.

Using Star Ratings to estimate the number of fatal and serious injury (FSI) crashes.
Star Ratings represent the risk of a fatal injury to an individual road user. For example, for motorcyclists, Star Ratings equate to the number of deaths and serious injuries per vehicle kilometre travelled on a road. Collective risk, that is the number of fatalities and serious injuries of a road, is a function of individual risk (Star Ratings) and traffic volume.

Star Ratings are paired with flow data (e.g., the total number of motorcyclists using a road section) to understand the collective risk. This is referred to as FSI Estimations. Similar to Star Ratings, these can be mapped across a road network to understand road sections where there are likely to be high rates of motorcycle crashes.

From the FSI Estimation, a Safer Road Investment Plan (SRIP) can be developed. A SRIP is a prioritized list of safety treatments that can cost-effectively improve a road or its design Star Ratings to reduce road user risk. SRIPs are based on an economic analysis of a range of safety treatments which compares the cost of the treatment with the reduction in crash costs that would result from its implementation.


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