Motorcycle UseMotorcycle AccidentsRidersRoad User BehaviourMotorcycle DesignThe Environment

The Environment

Road Design is of particular importance to motorcycle riders since bad design features can increase risks to them. Features that are unnoticed by a car driver can be dangerous for a motorcycle rider. For example, features such as steel manhole covers positioned on the line round a bend, white paint on the road where a rider needs to change direction and loose grit gathering on the road surface can all prove dangerous if not lethal to motorcycle riders.

Therefore, it is important for engineers to consult with motorcycle riders at the design, implementation and safety audit stages to ensure that roads are easy for motorcyclists to read and have no sudden surprises

The publication by the Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers (IHIE) of Guidelines for Motorcycling74 in 2005 was a significant and welcome development in ensuring that the needs of motorcyclists are considered when designing, constructing, changing and maintaining the road environment. It should help to educate engineers on the specific engineering needs of riders.

Road Surface

A good road surface with a high co-efficient of friction is of particular importance to a motorcycle rider, particularly when braking or cornering. A motorcycle also has different handling qualities because it has 2 wheels instead of 4. Engineers must take these differences into account when designing new roads, re-designing existing ones and doing safety audits. Being two wheelers, motorcyclists are more susceptible to difficulties and hazards created by the design, construction, maintenance and surface condition of roads. They are particularly vulnerable to
Other road surface hazards include leaves which can appear dry but may be soggy underneath, tram tracks, gravel, melted tar in hot weather which may reduce tyre grip or roads that become greasy and slippery in summer during rainstorms.


Skidding occurs in about 30% of the personal injury accidents in the wet for motorcycles12, and as discussed in section 3.18, the accident risk for larger motorcyclists is greater on dry, rural roads.

Road Markings

Raised road markings can cause problems for motorcyclists, either by affecting their stability or by retaining water on the surface, resulting in a loss of adhesion between the tyres and the road. The use of bitumen for repairs can lead to difficulties, especially when the road surface is wet, as it leads to reduced friction and skid resistance. A better repair substance is needed to replace bitumen.


Maintenance is a particular safety issue for motorcyclists because of their need for a good road surface with a high co-efficient of friction. It is good practice for Authorities to set up and run a system where road users can report problems such as potholes. To maintain credibility the system must have good response times and reinstatement work must be done to a high quality.

Traffic Calming

Traffic calming is a proven, effective highway engineering measure to reduce speed-related accidents. It benefits all road users. Traffic calming features need to be effective in reducing motorcyclists’ speed while at the same time not inadvertently causing additional hazards to two wheelers. For example, traffic calming measures should be sited far enough away from junctions and bends so that they can be approached with the motorcycle vertical. It is essential that traffic calming design guides provide suitable advice and options for achieving this balance. They also need to be well maintained and visible under all lighting and weather conditions.

Street Furniture

Street furniture may hinder visibility and cause serious injury to motorcyclists who collide with objects while sliding along the road after an accident. Street furniture should be as far back from the road as possible, and where necessary, protected by appropriate fencing, that does not itself cause an injury hazard to motorcyclists.

Crash Barriers

Crash barriers are a concern for motorcyclists. They tend to be tested using four wheel vehicles, and present certain hazards to motorcyclists. Exposed parts of support posts concentrate impact forces on the motorcyclist’s body, and the edges of horizontal beams or wire rope may cause laceration injuries.

The European Experimental Vehicle Committee reported75 that one study of motorcycle accidents involving crash barriers found that 15% of motorcyclist fatalities were caused by a direct impact of the rider against the barrier. A study in France76 found that collisions with crash barriers accounted for 8% of motorcyclist fatalities, and 13% of fatalities on rural roads. It also found that collisions with crash barriers were more likely to result in the motorcyclist being killed than other types of accidents.

The British Motorcyclist Federation77 believes that smooth, featureless barriers, such as concrete or water-filled ones cause the least problems for motorcyclists. Barriers with energy absorbing protectors are also being developed which could lessen injuries suffered by motorcyclists colliding with them. Barriers should be tested with both two and four wheel vehicles. Highways Authorities are now installing motorcycle-friendly barriers at key sites.

Bus Lanes

The government’s advice on bus lanes78 recommends against allowing motorcycles to use bus lanes, although Local Authorities can permit them if they choose. For several years now, motorcycle groups have called for motorcyclists to be allowed to use bus lanes, along with pedal cyclists and taxis, and several Local Authorities have allowed them to do so. The results of these trials have not yet been published, but interim data has not identified any safety problems created by motorcyclists being allowed to use bus lanes.79 The Department for Transport is currently considering its position regarding the use of bus lanes by motorcyclists. Pedal cycle organisations are opposed to motorcyclists being allowed into the bus lanes.

RoSPA has not supported the use of bus lanes by motorcyclists. However, this policy will be reviewed once the results of the various trials have been published.

Advanced Stop Lines
Advanced Stop Lines for pedal cyclists are now commonly provided at junctions. They are designed to allow the cyclist to stop in a position where he or she can be clearly seen by drivers. As with bus lanes, motorcycle groups are now seeking to be allowed to use the Advanced Stop Lines as well. Not surprisingly, pedal cyclist groups strongly oppose this.

A number of trials are underway which Transport for London is monitoring, although the results to date have been inconclusive.

Bends and Night-time Crashes
Accidents on bends on non-built-up roads, and night time accidents are a particular problem for motorcyclists. Design solutions to reduce these risks should be considered, especially at sites, routes and areas where accident data indicates that there is a motorcycle accident problem.

The Environment - Conclusion
Although not a major cause of motorcycle accidents, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to road surface hazards and it is essential that the needs and particular vulnerability of two-wheelers are considered carefully by highway designers, engineers and that high standards of road maintenance are provided