February 2, 2016 at 10:07 am #11478
Rank: 1200cc Rider
- Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
- Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
A motorcyclist rides through breathtaking scenery between Wanaka and Queenstown.
OPINION: As any returning or would-be rider can tell you, persuading your spouse or partner that motorcycles aren’t dangerous isn’t an easy assignment to take on.
The sheer thrill of sliding through the breeze, or leaning into gravity on a curve can all too quickly turn to pain or worse. The New Zealand Household Travel Survey shows that, on average, the risk of being killed and injured in road crashes is 21 times higher for motorcyclists than for car drivers over the same distance travelled (2010-2014 data).
For many this is where the concern begins. After all, the days when motorcycles were a substantially cheaper alternative to cars as practical transport are gone. Nowadays we buy them predominantly for pleasure. People know it can be dangerous to ride a motorbike, and sometimes wonder why we do it.
The simple conclusion may be to stay on four wheels. But as motorcyclists we don’t see it that way. If riding is your thing there are few substitutes for the freedom and exhilaration a bike can bring. At the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council we are all about combining two seemingly opposing propositions: that motorcycling is a thrill; and that as motorcyclists we can experience that thrill safely.
Life is for living. We want to make sure every rider also lives to ride again. It’s a mission close to our hearts. How do we do that? By working with ACC to develop and deliver effective safety messages – for motorcyclists and other users. By supporting ACC in its training programmes for motorcyclists, such as Ride Forever. And by exploring other ways to make roads, riders, bikes and other road users safer.
One way of achieving this is making roads safer. We determined that 80 per cent of hazards on one popular ride, along the Southern Coromandel Loop, related to maintenance, operations and levels of service.
Working with partners, we invested in a range of improvements including better drains, road markings, road services and corner visibility that have been recognised as benefitting all road users. This work is continuing with initiatives being considered for both the northern section of the Coromandel Loop, and the Top of the South.
We have also done ground-breaking work in testing motorcycle lighting configurations to improve motorcycle visibility and are continuing to seek ways to address the problem of motorcyclists often just not being seen. Literature reviews of oversees studies that we have undertaken also indicate good gains to be made by raising the awareness of other road users to motorcycle riders.
The benefits of safer motorcycling are of course shared by all. Fewer crashes mean less trauma and grief for families and friends. They mean lower health costs and also lower ACC costs. Safer riding means more of us live to ride another day.
It has been a tough start to the year. There were six motorcycle fatalities on New Zealand roads before January had ended. Over the next few warmer months we will see a lot more riders out on their bikes. So what can motorcyclists and other road users do to help keep riders safe?
Importantly of course a lot comes down to riders themselves. A large percentage of rider fatalities involve no other vehicle, suggesting a potentially high level of rider error. Riders should never forget the basics: always wear the right gear, look after and check your bike regularly, and ride to the challenging reality of New Zealand roads. Riding with your mates is fun, but you need to look out for each other.
And remember when other road users make bad decisions you are most likely to pay the price.
So to all road users, we ask that you remember to drive to the conditions, watch your speed, and make it a habit to look twice for the bike.
And to all motorcyclists: get out and enjoy those glorious summer rides, and come home to your family and loved ones, just as healthy as when you left, but maybe with that rider’s smile. Make sure it is only the rubber, and not you, that hits the road.
* Mark Gilbert is chairman of the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council.
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