Blog: Motorcycles no longer dangerous - official

Steve Rose
By Steve Rose

BikeSocial Publisher. Has been riding since before Frankie said ‘Relax’, owned more than 100 bikes and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’. 

Good news fellow riders. Motorcycling is now officially and governmentally safe. All those years spent explaining to relatives and friends about how it’s not really that dangerous are over. All those tedious conversations with colleagues relating how their neighbour’s nephew’s biker child had his head come off…twice are history. Motorcycling is no longer dangerous.

How do we know this? Well, there was a report published recently about vulnerable road users and how the Government is planning to help make them safer. In it there are discussions about many impressive initiatives to improve the safety of people choosing to cycle, walk and ride horses, but no mention anywhere of motorcyclists. How brilliant is that? Finally, after all those years being vulnerable and dangerous, motorcycling must now be officially safe.

Of course, most of us knew this already because we’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of miles and the worst thing that’s happened is an occasional scabby elbow. Yes, there are people who get hurt in the same way as there are people who get hurt falling down the stairs, but overall the number of miles ridden compared to the number of heads that come off is very much in our favour.

What’s interesting here though is that the proposed initiatives to help the vulnerable don’t really include anything that makes them actively less vulnerable. So, instead of looking at maybe whether the wearing of cycle helmets should be made compulsory when using public roads, for example, or whether there should be a CBT for cyclists on the road, the paper focusses on things that will make motorists more aware of cyclists without the cyclists actually having to take any more responsibility at all.

One suggestion is that motorists (including motorcyclists) may get an insurance discount if they undertake the National Bikeability training scheme.  That’s fine, but, in the same way that most motorcyclists learn quickly that the only way to stay safe is to take responsibility for our own wellbeing, I’d suggest that it’s long overdue for cyclists to do the same.

And I say this as a keen cyclist. I spend a lot of time on a push bike and, when I commute to work on one it’s frightening just how dangerous it is. I’m not talking about cars and trucks here – where I live, I can do the whole journey from house to work on pockmarked, leaf-covered cycle paths. No, the dangerous bit about cycling is the difference in speed between me doing 15mph and the hundreds of pedestrians, schoolkids and dog walkers all ambling along at 2mph, staring at a phone, often with headphones in, completely unaware of the world around them.

Imagine being in a vehicle on the road where you were travelling seven times faster than the other traffic – the equivalent of doing 210mph in a 30mph limit. How dangerous would that be? Cycling in amongst dawdling pedestrians makes spanking a spider seem safe. And that’s before you add in the dogs not respecting the racing line, wet leaves, pot holes, push chairs and people just stopping for no reason.

Allowing anyone to ride something clearly as dangerous as a push bike without protective kit or training is reckless, bordering on insanity and yet, as parents and parlimentarians, all of us send our kids off into this anarchic battle zone without any protection at all.

Ok, I’m being overly-dramatic here…probably. And cycling on cycle paths is dangerous in the ‘scabby elbow’ arena, rarely more. Being run over by a push chair isn’t as life-changing as being squashed by a Ford Transit, but in congested city centres a cyclist doing 15mph is still going much, much quicker than most of the traffic and pedestrians around them and those drivers or walkers are mostly completely unaware of anything other than whatever’s going on on their phones.

So, the Government’s new focus on these horrifically dangerous methods of transport such as walking is welcome, but please, have the conversation with the cyclists and the pedestrians about taking responsibility for their own actions. Don’t just make it our fault, we’re still getting used to being safe.

 

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