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Staying Safe on Two Wheels

Nov 2020

News & Campaigns

In order to improve road safety for users of motorized and non-motorized two-wheeled vehicles in the long term, there are a whole series of issues that need to be tackled. In addition to a wide range of measures in areas such as technology and infrastructure, the main onus in this regard is also on the road users themselves. It is their duty to adapt their behavior to improve their risk awareness and observe regulations and safety standards in order to help further reduce the number of accidents involving users of motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, pedelecs, and e-scooters.

Road with bicycles and cars

The previous sections of this Road Safety Report have clearly shown that the number or users of two-wheeled vehicles that are injured and killed on roads around the world can be reduced using a whole series of measures. We have already come a long way. Nevertheless, we still need to make every effort to prevent accidents before they even happen. After all, even if a car – by way of example as the most common second party in these accidents – is traveling relatively slowly, it can still cause severe injuriesin case of a collision.

Riders of two-wheeled motor vehicles in particular are at the greatest risk of suffering an accident on the road when evaluating the statistics by mileage. This applies not only in non-built-up areas, where most motorcyclist deaths occur, but also on inner-city roads. This is confirmed by research such as the study “Road Safety in European Cities – Performance Indicators and Governance Solutions” published by the International Transport Forum in 2019. According to this study, when evaluating the statistics per million kilometers traveled, there are almost four times as many deaths among riders of two-wheeled motor vehicles as among cyclists. When compared to drivers of cars, the death rate is even worse – 23 times as bad. As such, prevention needs to be our top priority.

Generally speaking, it is true of all two-wheeled vehicles that, while the most expensive option is not always the best, being too cheap often leads to high risks. In DEKRA’s e-scooter tests, models both with and without type approval in accordance with the German Road Traffic Permit Act (StVZO) were used. There were significant differences in terms of stability and manufacturing quality. For example, while the model approved for use on German roads withstood multiple curb crash tests with only minor damage, the steering column of the non-approved scooter broke during the very first identical crash. DEKRA’s many years of experience with pedelecs have often also uncovered significant quality differences in this regard. These differences can manifest in the stability of the frame and the forks, as well as the quality of the brakes and the lighting equipment. There can also be significant differences in terms of motor control. Particularly on pedelecs with a front motor, the combination of forks with little torsional rigidity and poor motor control can severely impair the handling of the vehicle on corners – and thus the safety of the rider. In such situations, severe crashes are inevitable.

As this report has once again illustrated very clearly, detailed and standardized statistics of the kind consistently called for by DEKRA provide a starting point and an important foundation for any measures designed to tackle these issues. International statistics such as CARE’s EU database and the annual reports published by IRTAD (the International Road Traffic and Accident Database) provide much more precise data than was available a few years ago, as do the national statistics. However, many accident statistics still fail to distinguish clearly between different types of two-wheeled motor vehicle: motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, and small mopeds. Specifically, a harmonized European accident database would be important because politicians can only establish the appropriate basic conditions for improved road safety if they have detailed and precise accident data on which to base their plans.

There are a whole series of measures that can be introduced in order to reduce the number of accidents involving unprotected road users, ranging from ensuring that vehicles are in good technical condition – particularly in terms of their brakes and lighting – to properly fitting helmets, active safety systems such as ABS and ESP, and the automatic emergency call system, eCall. In addition to this, the number of accidents where technical defects can also play a role should not be underestimated – which makes it all the more important to carry out safety checks as part of periodic technical inspections, especially for motorcycles. There is also significant room for improvement when it comes to making danger zones safer, proper maintenance of road equipment, speed monitoring at accident hot spots, installing suitable traffic barriers, and extending bicycle paths, to name just a few measures.

Finally, however – as has been stated in previous DEKRA Road Safety Reports – there is one clear requirement we should never forget: If we want to prevent as many dangerous situations as possible on the roads before they even occur, it remains absolutely essential for all road users to behave responsibly, be realistic when judging their own abilities, and demonstrate a high level of acceptance for the rules and regulations.

DEKRA’s Demands

  • Users of motorized and non-motorized two-wheeled vehicles should always wear a suitable helmet – regardless of whether or not they are required to do so by law.

  • All users of two-wheeled vehicles should be aware of how important active and passive lighting equipment is to their safety.

  • In order to ensure more harmonious interaction, all road users should be taught the rules that apply with regard to cyclists.

  • Elementary school children should be given bicycle training in order to teach them basic traffic regulations at as early an age as possible.

  • When monitoring compliance with traffic regulations, specialist police bicycle squads should also focus on ensuring that bikes comply with legal requirements and do not display any irregularities.

  • Periodic inspections should also be a standard procedure for motorcycles – and not just in Europe.

  • Motorcycle ABS should be used more widely – if necessary, it should be made a legal requirement for smaller motorcycles.

  • It should be made even harder to tamper with the software in pedelecs – and those who do so should be punished consistently.

  • Newly purchased pedelecs should be equipped with a “learner” mode. This would allow users to voluntarily throttle their vehicle (or have it throttled) so that they can get used to it gradually.

  • Speed pedelecs should be equipped with ABS as standard.

  • Bicycles and e-scooters in rental systems should be subjected to regular and independent inspections to ensure their technical safety.

  • Companies that rent out bicycles and e-scooters should find ways to enable users to wear suitable helmets.

  • Companies that rent out e-scooters should provide training measures that will enable their users to handle the vehicles safely – in the form of a tutorial, for example.

  • Before using their vehicle on the road for the first time, e-scooter users should practice how to handle the vehicle safely under controlled conditions.

  • Strict alcohol limits should also apply to the use of e-scooters, and adherence to these limits should also be monitored.

  • Infrastructure should be expanded and maintained for all road users. In particular, maintenance of bicycle paths is a key actor in ensuring the safety of cyclists.

  • Cycling infrastructure should also be usable in winter weather conditions. This will require suitable gritting and clearing concepts.

  • Research into important issues relating to two-wheeled vehicles should be increased. New road safety ideas should be evaluated thoroughly and, if they pass muster, approved quickly.

  • A legal framework based on corresponding studies should also be established as quickly as possible for new mobility concepts in order to prevent a dangerous “Wild West” scenario whereby the market is flooded with unregulated designs.

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