Include motorcyclists in the Vision Zero concept!
Political secretary at the Swedish Motorcyclists Association
It’s been 20 years since the Vision Zero was introduced in Sweden. The vision is a huge success and has made Sweden into a global role model for road safety. One important factor for the outcome is that road users have worked together with the government and other stake holders to reduce accidents. The motorcyclists in Sweden are no exception, we want to travel safe, like other road users. SMC has spent money, time and resources to improve safety among the Swedish riders. But, despite good intentions since the introduction of Vision Zero 20 years ago, motorcyclists are rarely taken into account when planning, designing and maintaining roads. The way the roads are built in Sweden based on the Vision Zero concept actually increase the risk of fatalities and severe injuries for motorcyclists!
Since Vision Zero was introduced in Sweden 1998 the infrastructure has changed completely. One of the key innovations are the 2+1-lane roads with median barriers. There are about 4000 km of roads with median barriers, most common is the cable barrier. This measure has made a significant reduction in head-on collisions between cars. The Swedish Transport Administration points out median barriers, alco locks, speed cameras and safer vehicles as the major measures that has contributed to the low fatality figures in Sweden.
Median barriers reduce the risk of collisions but also increase the injury risk for motorcyclists. Median - and side barriers - are killing motorcyclists and causing lifelong injuries. American studies shows that that the risk of death is higher in collision with both concrete and W-beam rail compared to a collision motorcycle - car.
24 % of the motorcyclists that were killed in Sweden 2016-2017 died in a collision with a barrier. Most of these accidents were on the TENT-road which are supposed to be the safest of all roads and thus have the highest allowed speed limit, 100-120 km/h. Barriers are the most common obstacle that kills motorcyclists in single vehicle accidents. In every second fatal single motorcycle accident 2017, the rider was killed in a collision with a barrier!
It is possible to reduce the fatalities with barriers among motorcyclists!
It is rather easy to reduce the risk of injury to motorcyclists in terms of both the design of the guardrail and the installation. There is enough existing knowledge and experience to make the right decisions to increase the safety of motorcyclists in terms of design and installation. This was clearly pointed out in the literature study ”Definition of a safe barrier for motorcyclists” which also included a classification table of barriers, based on collision-friendly features when a motorcyclist, sitting or sliding, collides with a barrier. However, without initiative, requirements and wishes of road management, there will be no development in this area.
A safe barrier for motorcyclists is
• a barrier where you cannot be thrown over in a collision
• a barrier without protruding parts where parts of the body and/or the motorcycle can get caught
• a barrier without openings, vertical or horizontal, where parts of the body and/or the motorcycle can become trapped
• a barrier with a smooth upper surface
• a barrier without unprotected posts in both the ground level and the top side
• a barrier with energy-absorbing Motorcycle Protection System, MPS
• a barrier that is not fitted with attachments which involve a higher risk of injury and
• a barrier which is located at a distance from the road surface allowing a recovery zone/rescue space
Based on the findings, these conclusions were made in the report ”Definition of a safe barrier for motorcyclists;
• If the barrier itself is more dangerous than what the barrier is designed to protect from - no barrier should be installed.
• The more barriers that are installed without MPS, the more motorcyclists will be killed and seriously injured in barrier accidents.
• The risk of injury to a motorcyclist who collides with a barrier is very high compared to those traveling in the car.
• The main task for the median barriers is to reduce the risk of collisions, which will benefit all road user groups. But the median barriers must also include a minimal risk of injury for those who collide with them, also vulnerable road users like motorcyclists.
• A gentle slope or a ditch without a fixed obstacle means significantly reduced risk of injury to a motorcyclist compared to a side barrier.
• Barrier types with unprotected poles; w-profile, kohlswa- and cable barriers have the highest risk of injury to motorcyclists. Uneven top with accessible pole tops increase the risk of serious injuries.
• Barrier types with MPS have the lowest risk of injury to motorcyclists, regardless of how the collision occurs.
• Most Swedish fatal accidents on motorcycles occurs in curves, also among the barrier accidents. The risk of being injured and killed in guard rail accidents is very high on TENT roads.
• A wider recovery zone, between barriers and road reduces both the risk of accidents and the risk of injuries.
• Guardrails where body parts may get stuck is worse than barriers where body parts can slide along the barrier.
• A motorcycle-friendly barrier shall not impair the safety of those traveling in cars or other types of vehicles.
• The road authorities can reduce the risk of injury to motorcyclists in the selection of the roadside measurements, the choice of barrier and the distance between barrier and roadway. An increased use of barriers without unprotected poles would reduce the risk of injury among motorcyclists significantly.
As stated earlier – it is easy to include motorcyclists in the Vision Zero concept, also when it comes to planning, designing and building roads. We have the facts. We’ve seen the brutal consequences in numerous fatalities where bodies are diveded and parts are spread on the road. We have the knowledge about what to to to improve motorcycle safety. But, without initiative, requirements and wishes of road management, there will be no development in this area. The riders will continue as the losers in Vision Zero.
Facts about Vision Zero:
The Vision Zero according to the Swedish Transport Administration: ”Vision Zero is the picture of a future where people are not killed or injured for life in road traffic. Vision Zero is an ethical approach, but is also a strategy to shape safer road transport system. Vision Zero states that it is unacceptable that road traffic claims human lives. Road safety in the spirit of Vision Zero means that roads, streets and vehicles should be more closely adapted to human needs. The responsibility for road safety is shared between those who design and those who use the road transport system. Road safety work according to Vision Zero assumes that everything that can be done should be done to prevent people from being killed or seriously injured. While measures are taken to prevent accidents, roads must be designed with the basic conception that people make mistakes and that accidents cannot be avoided completely. The perfect human does not exist. Vision Zero accept accidents happening, but not that they lead to serious injuries”.
Definition of a safe barrier for motorcyclists: http://www.svmc.se/smc_filer/SMC%20centralt/Rapporter/2015/Safe_barriers%20Final%20report.pdf
The Motorcycle Vision 2.0: http://www.svmc.se/smc_filer/SMC%20centralt/Rapporter/2014/The%20Motorcycle%20Vision%202.0%20English%20print.pdf