Blog: Motorcycles, safer than almost everything

Steve Rose


Fact. You are twice as likely to die having sex as riding a motorcycle. More than twice as many people in the UK are killed by sexually transmitted diseases each year as they are falling off motorbikes. And yet, the media and advertising industry continue to bombard us with messages that getting grindy is the single most important thing in life. It’s disgraceful. Even worse, twice as many of us die after falling down stairs than riding a bike and yet the Government still encourages house builders to include at least one set of these killer wooden deathtraps in the very homes where your children will sleep. Given the hysteria surrounding something as relatively safe, in comparison, as motorcycling, this is tantamount to infant genocide.

Now, you might argue that a lot more people have sex and climb stairs than ride motorbikes so the numbers are bound to be higher, but maybe these people would think twice about such dangerous activities if they’d been exposed to the kind of continual, negative publicity that surrounds motorcycling.

A story on the news last night explained how commuting drivers spend between 24 and 74 hours a year sitting in traffic jams. It was clearly not researched by anyone who actually drives to work because that works out at between four and nine minutes a day. My recent experience (I did a month commuting by car just before Christmas) would suggest that, even in rural areas it is ten times that. So why aren’t more haggard commuters staggering into their nearest bike dealer?

Talk to any non-motorcyclist about life on two wheels and the first thing you get is some kind of horror story about someone they know who’s son-in-law’s head came off while he was looking at a photo of a FireBlade… or summat.

I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings with the bike industry and after the question ‘How do we get more people into biking?’ comes ‘How do we dispel the fears?’

Well, for starters, here’s a list of everyday things that are far more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in the UK.

Smoking (300 times more annual deaths),

Alcohol (100 times more deaths)

Passive smoking (30 times more)

Falling over (ten times more)

Catching flu (ten times more)

Medical errors in hospitals (20 times more)

Obesity (three times more)

Violent assault (equally likely)

The industry bodies representing those other things on the list must look at motorcycling with envy at its superb safety record.

I’m not a fan of negative advertising, but maybe what the bike industry needs is a campaign where a concerned parent sits their teenager down and begs them not to climb any more stairs to have sex with an overweight smoker after going to the pub, but to go for a nice healthy ride on their motorbike instead.

As someone who’s enjoyed thirty-five years on a bike, climbed many stairs, drunk a few pints, smoked for a while, eaten many pies and enjoyed the odd snuggle, that just leaves flu, assault or a medical error to finish me off. I’ve never tried falling down stairs, but I can’t see the appeal from up here.

So, motorcycling is not only relatively safe, but practical, economical and inspirational as well. Can you imagine the impact if the bike trade had the same money to promote the brilliance of what we do as the drinking, smoking, sexing and eating industries do on their irresponsible and dangerous killer products? My suggestion to the bike trade would be to blow the whole budget on one crazy, spectacular advert showing biking as it really is; thrilling, smart, life-changing and actually not that dangerous. No other product in the world, no matter how big the ad budget could even come close to that.

Count me in… As soon as I get down these stairs.


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