Policy - road design

Designing roads to save motorcyclists' lives

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Road designers frequently ignore the needs of motorcyclists when they design and upgrade our roads. The location of manhole covers, junction design, fuel spills, use of bus lanes and basic road maintenance programmes all have a direct effect on the safety of motorcycle users.

The solutions to all these problems are well known but the will is not yet there to ensure that the special risks that bikers face are designed out of our road system. The IHIE have just revamped their detailed guidelines for motorcyclist friendly designs but progress has been slow in getting a motorcycle champion or design expert in every highway design office.

The IAM’s 2007 report Barriers to change: Designing safer roads for motorcyclists highlighted how lethal a crash barrier can be to a rider unfortunate to hit one, and the simple safety measures that can be implemented to reduce the severity of injuries.

Hitting a barrier is believed to be a factor in between eight and 16 per cent of motorcyclist deaths. A rider who hits a barrier is 15 times more likely to be killed than a car occupant, and injuries will be up to five times more severe than if the rider had hit the rigid object at the roadside that the barrier is there to guard against.

Two-thirds of riders in collision with crash barriers are killed or maimed by sliding into the supporting posts. Road authorities around the world are now working to make barriers ‘crash friendly’ to riders, with a particular focus on these support posts. Evaluation suggests that these strategically placed barriers halve the number of biker deaths caused by the old style barriers.

IAM recommendations

  • The UK government must implement a mass action programme of motorcycle crash friendly barriers at the highest risk locations on our motorways and trunk roads
  • Local highway authorities should urgently retro fit crash friendly products at the worst sites
  • All new crash barriers on bends should be designed with bikers in mind
  • All highway authorities should adopt the IHIE guidelines on safer design for motorcyclists
  • Every highway authority and trunk road body should have a motorcycle design champion in their office to ensure the needs of bikers are met
  • Proven road safety success stories such as allowing motorcyclists to use bus lanes should be adopted as standard practice across the UK

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