London is a wonderful city to travel across on two wheels, and it's hoped that bikers will now be able to beat the traffic more safely, thanks to the recent launch by Transport for London (TfL) of its first Motorcycle Safety Action Plan.
Motorcycle safety has always been an issue in the capital, and the action plan has the aim of reducing the numbers of those who are killed or seriously hurt (known as the KSI statistics) by an ambitious 40% by 2020.
This plan has been broadly welcomed, and could even be considered as overdue. Motorcycles in city centres are often a popular choice. They can be relatively inexpensive to buy compared to cars. They allow the rider to get around the city quickly, especially when it comes to getting t work (and contributing to the Capital's economy) without waiting in long queues of traffic. Motorcycles are also attractive as parking in the city centre is also never a real issue.
Despite their popularity, risks that motorcyclists face every time they ride the city's streets and roads are disproportionately high.
London Motorcycle Accident Statistics
In 2012 629 motorcyclists were killed or seriously injured across London. It's true that this represents just over a fifth (21%) of all those who met the same fate in the Capital that year, yet motorbiking made up just 2.3% of all vehicle kilometres travelled across London in 2012.
In 2014 there were 27 fatalities, and 2015 has already seen nine deaths.
But even if a motorcycle accident doesn't result in a death, the injuries sustained by the motorcyclist are very often extremely serious. The action plan has details of hospital episode statistics that show that almost half of all motorcycle accident admissions have serious injuries to their legs or hips and over a third to their arms or shoulders:
|Injury Sustained||Percent of Hospital Admissions |
|Legs or Hips
|Arms or Shoulders
|Head or Face
|Lower back or Pelvis
|Upper back or Thorax
But the plan also goes beyond looking at injuries from motorcycle accidents, as in 2012 it was calculated that the cost to society of biking accidents London-wide was more than £220m. This calculation includes costs associated with:
• Lost earnings and output
• Medical expenses (ambulances and hospital treatment)
• Impact on the road network with disruption and congestion caused
Motorbike Safety Equipment
Given that there will always be human error and accidents, it's important that the use of protective equipment such as gloves, trousers, jackets, helmets, boots etc. is encouraged. All of these can help prevent both the risk of injury and reduce its impact; so understandably this is a key focus of the plan.
Some interesting research figures are also presented, which highlight the probability of protective clothing preventing injury to various parts of the body in the event of a collision:
|Injury to...||Probability of Preventing |
||26% - 17%
||45% - 20%
||39% - 11%
||45% - 21%
It is clear from this data that the correct safety equipment can have a dramatic impact in avoiding motorcycle fatalities and reducing the chance of serious injury.
Through engagement with the public and working with manufacturers, TfL hope to develop new types of protective clothing and take forward other safety advances such as air-bag jackets and use of light weight materials.
Video of cutting edge safety technology - Multistrada D-Air Ducati's first production motorcycle to have an integrated wireless airbag riding jacket
On technology advances the action plan also worrying shows that over the last 10 years while the number of bikes registered in the city has steadily increased, volumes of new motorbike sales have steadily decreased since 2000. This suggests that more second-hand and inevitably older bikes are on London's roads, not benefiting from safety technology like anti-lock braking systems etc.
A Nationwide Solution
Overall the plan sets out 29 actions focusing on the risks and challenges faced by motorcyclist whilst riding on London roads which will include engineering, education and enforcement, along with a commitment to investment in road safety. There will be extensive working with other agencies including the British Motorcycle Federation and Motorcycle Action Group UK, to ensure it is as successful as other initiatives to boost safety have been in the past.
Nationwide campaigns like the popular Think Bike have been around for years and are vital in raising awareness for drivers to look out for bikers, especially at junctions where they can often cross a motorcyclist's path and be difficult to spot.
However personally I would like to see other major towns and cities in the UK follow London's lead, and introduce a dedicated plan to reduce motorcycle casualties in their areas.
Do you ride a motorbike in London? Do you agree motorcycling in the capital is more dangerous than ever? Let me know in the comments.
About the author
Amy Smitheringale is a Chartered Legal Executive and Solicitor with more than 16 years experience in civil litigation. Amy is the manager of a team of litigators at Spencers Solicitors who deal with a wide variety of personal injury and biking accident claims.
Amy's last blog was Compensation Culture: Don't tar all drivers with the same brush.