How safe really is riding a motorbike in Britain

A deeper look into the safety of riding a motorbike on British Roads

Si Ragnarsson on his Yamaha Virago

For those who don’t ride a motorbike, the thought of being on the open road with very little protection is a scary prospect and maybe they just can’t understand why this is something that people actually choose to do.

Well, I can say from personal experience that it is in fact an experience like no other, but as either a rider or a pillion (passenger on the back of the bike) one thing all bikers must know and understand is the dangers.

In 2019 approximately only 1% of road users were motorcyclists however motorcycle accidents account for approximately 20% of fatalities on the road. These statistics show that the dramatic number of motorcycle fatalities mean your 57 times more likely to suffer an injury than if you are in a car. But of course, you’re more likely to suffer an injury going 60mph on two wheels out in the open than doing the same speed in a metal cage.

Riding a motorcycle, however, is actually becoming safer. According to the department of transport from 1979 to 2013 fatalities and serious injury fell from over 21,000 to 5000 in the UK. This sounds so much better right? Well yes and no. Since the 1960’s the percentage of bikes on the roads has actually fallen so it really only makes sense that the numbers are also dropping.

The drop-in fatalities and serious injury do also have other control factors such as higher quality training that is given to bike riders as well as a better overall awareness from other road users. You can now see awareness campaigns in the mainstream media and road users are encouraged by the government scheme “Think Bike”. On the UK Gov website it is described like this ‘THINK!’s motorcycling strategy aims to create empathy between car drivers and motorcyclists. It also raises awareness about the steps that both parties can take to avoid crashes. So no, it isn’t all just down too there being less bikes on the roads.

Si Ragnarsson in front of a mural in Sunderland

Let’s talk about cars for just a second. Cars clearly make up the biggest percentage of traffic on the roads. In 79% of vehicles on the roads are cars, this is where the biggest danger for motorcyclists lies. It is also where the importance of schemes such as Think Bike come in to play. I spoke to Si Ragnarsson an avid motorbike rider about the dangers of being on a bike “Other road users are the main danger to us motorcyclists because they too often don’t look” 84% of casualties and 71% of fatalities were involving cars, with the most commonly reported reason for accidents being ‘failed to look properly’, which are crazy high numbers.

As you might have expected ‘Failed to look properly’ to be the most commonly reported reason for accidents it is a substantial percentage of accidents that have reported this reason, 46% of cars and 47% of light vans to be exact.

Behind failing to look properly the next biggest cause is ‘a poor turn or manoeuvre’, the numbers for this being the reason however are dramatically lower at 18% of collisions with cars saying this was the reason for the accident. Gayle Price suffered an injury after coming off her bike, when asked about the main dangers to riders, her response was “The world isn’t a particularly motorbike-friendly place. Cars have many distractions for the people inside, and I think the sense of comfort and security can make drivers considerably less aware of what’s happening in the world around them. 20% of accidents that occurred between motorcyclists and long vehicles also had the reason of poor turns and manoeuvres.

While of course being on the roads all riders are at risk being one of the most vulnerable road users, it is young riders who are statistically most at risk. 33% of all motorcycle fatalities and serious injuries happen below the age of 25 with the majority of these being those under 20.

So, so far, I have looked at why and who now for where.  According to the department of transport (2015) 40% of all motorcycle traffic is on rural roads. In my opinion the main reason for this being most people now have a motorbike for the fun and excitement and it is these roads that bring that. However, it is also these roads that pose the most danger with twists, turns and blind bends it can be all to easy for a rider to come across a pothole or similar that will throw them off their bike in an instant. Rural roads are also the reason for 68% of motorcycle fatalities. Urban roads have the largest percentage of serious injuries at 53%. So, as it turns out the safest road for motorbike users is actually the motorway.

Si Ragnarsson happy riding his Motorbike


With all these risks and the scary statistics why are so many people choosing to ride then? Well a motorbike is a sense of freedom that doesn’t come from anything else. For most it isn’t just a mode of transport but rather a way of life and everyone I have spoken too have all agreed, the statistics as well as their own experiences and accidents wouldn’t stop them doing what they love and getting back on that bike.



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