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Is Motorcycling in the UK Dangerous?


James F · October 22, 2019

Riding a motorcycle in the UK is becoming safer and safer year after year. From 1979 to 2013 fatalities and serious injury fell from over 21,000 to 5000 in the UK*

This reduction in incidents is due to higher quality training and better awareness from road users. In 2019, awareness campaigns can be found in mainstream media and the majority of road users consider the notion of “Think Bike” whilst driving.

Why is motorcycling considered dangerous?

Is motorcycling safer than driving a car? No. In short, it’s common sense that driving around in a metal box at 60mph will keep you safer and at less risk of serious injury or fatality than riding on two wheels.

Approximately 1% of all road users are motorcyclists in the UK. Over the previous years fatalities on the UK roads have consisted of approximately 20% from motorcyclists*. Statistics show that this over-representation of motorcycle fatalities means that you are 57 times more likely to suffer harm than in a car.

Are all motorcyclists in the UK at risk?

Young riders are especially vulnerable to accidents with 33% of all motorcycle fatalities or serious injuries on motorbikes in the UK occurring below the age of 25. The sub 20 year olds have the highest proportion of these incidents.*

At the age of 17 you are legally allowed to ride a 125cc sports bike such as the Aprilia RS125 that has a 0-60 second speed in 4 seconds that is a lot of power off the line and is a lot to carry for a young rider.

On a CBT licence you are unable to ride above a 125cc bike whatever age you are, and as the CBT course is typically completed in 1 day, this bike restriction is in place for a good reason. Once you turn 19 you will be able to take your full licence further training to ride up to a 35kW bike. This step up is significant for any rider, especially for the less risk averse young person.

Is motorway driving safe for motorcyclists?

Motorway driving for motorcyclists is categorically safer than any other riding for you on a motorbike.

Rural riding constitutes 40% of overall motorcycle traffic and contribute 68% of all motorcycle fatalities. Riding is fun, no doubt about that and a large proportion of riding for fun is undertaken on rural roads.*

The issue with riding for fun is that it often is associated with “speed” and on a less maintained rural road around sharp blind bends, riders are more likely to find bumps, holes and debris that can fling it’s rider off his or her bike in a millisecond.

Urban roads however do contribute a larger figure around more serious injuries with 53% of all serious motorbike injuries occurring on urban roads. The largest factor to this is junctions.

When I think of the Think Bike campaign of 2017 onwards, I immediately think of look once, look twice, think bike. Other road users pulling out in front of bikes is the situation that riders are most likely to injure themselves seriously.

47% of all motorbike injuries are due to the other vehicle not looking properly. Second is a poor manoeuvre contributing 19%. Campaigns like Think Bike are excellent in solving problem one, which is primarily road users at junctions not taking the care and attention to save lives.*

Is motorcycling worth the risk?

Motorcycling is fun. It is exhilarating and for many a route to the ultimate freedom. If you live your life ensuring that every risk is taken down on to a spreadsheet then maybe a car is for you.

From the start of your training to getting your dream bike, motorcycling is enjoyable and fun. Is it without risk? No. Riding a motorbike is statistically less safe than driving a car. There is no doubt in this.

However, motorcycle accidents in proportion to motorcyclists are on the decline due to higher levels of training and awareness surrounding bikers across the UK. A rider that is not reckless, takes the necessary training and in many cases further training will put themselves in a safer and great position to enjoy their two wheels that for many is a great source of daily enjoyment.

The story of motorcycle risk is depth and convoluted. The data suggests that a high proportion of riders that are below 20 years old and riding predominantly on rural roads skew the data for motorcyclists as a whole.

With such a large issue surrounding road users ‘failing to look properly’ resulting in fatalities and serious injury, awareness campaigns and knowledge surrounding bike users is essential to safety and further years of declining motorcycling fatalities in the UK.

In the UK overall road deaths fell from 3172 in 2016 to 1792 in 2017 a staggering decrease of 44%.* We have a fatality number that is extremely low compared to other nations and we are continuing to strive to get this number down year on year from improving training and awareness surrounding the motorcycling industry.

highway code dangerous blog

What can I do to be a safer rider?

When learning to ride and riding more often one of the best pieces of advice you can receive is to ride confidently with experience. You should be able to ride confidently that you are able to ride your bike safely and if there is a case where you need to get out of danger you will be able to do so.

The way to achieve this is with high quality training to become a better and safer rider.

High Quality Training

First and foremost, make sure you have the best and highest quality training on offer. In the UK RideTo works with over 150 locations in which every single location is visited by one of the RideTo team. We make sure that our instructors are the best, so you train safe.

Further training

There are a number of advanced and further training courses that you can take in the UK. If you start your journey on an automatic bike and wish to ride a manual we recommend taking a gear conversion course.

A number of locations offer advanced rider training and enhanced rider training. Both of these give you as a rider the best knowledge and skills to be safe out on the roads. The instructor can accompany you on your daily commute and will ride behind you and train you to be aware of potential hazards. Get in touch with RideTo to find out more about further training.

Top Tips to Motorcycle Safety

Riding in the day and in dry conditions is the safest option for any rider. This removes a lot of the dangers surrounding night and wet riding. If you are riding at night then ensure that you wear reflective gear at all times. Our top 4 tips are as follows:

  1. Ride Defensively
  2. Always assume that other road users haven’t seen you and check your blindspots before changing road position.

  3. Wear the Correct Clothing
  4. Wear the best protective clothing that covers you from head to toe, strong botos and a helmet that fits properly.

  5. Don’t Ride Tired
  6. Don’t push your limits. Take regular breaks to stop, stretch and keep hydrated.

  7. Follow Traffic Laws
  8. They are there to keep you and other road users safe. Saving 1 minute isn't worth risking a life.

*Reference: Department for Transport. (2015). Facts on Motorcyclist Casualties. Last accessed 23rd October 2019.

This information is given to you as a guide to support you in your choice of licence and RideTo has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided about motorcycle licence and training requirements. However, RideTo cannot guarantee the information is up to date, correct and complete and is therefore provided on an "as is" basis only. RideTo accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever arising. We recommend that you verify the current licence and training requirements by checking the DVSA website.