By Colin Brown, Director of Campaigns and Political Engagement
June saw the launch of an in-depth study by MAG into the phenomenon of safety in numbers when it comes to road safety. Author of the report, MAG’s Director of Campaigns and Political Engagement Colin Brown looks at the implications from a riders rights perspective.
MAG is not a road safety organisation but the issue of road safety is never far away from the debate when it comes to riders rights. We all have a personal level of risk aversion, and there is, in my view, no right or wrong position to take when it comes to the subject. I sometimes end up in discussions on the subject that lead to a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of my position on the subject.
The question is often raised, “what is an acceptable level of fatalities when it comes to road safety?” The official position of Vision Zero is that there is no acceptable level of deaths on the road – no one should ever leave home in fear for their lives. My response is well actually the current level of fatalities is already accepted by everyone who leaves their home in the morning – otherwise they would be staying at home.
The real point here is that everyone accepts a level of risk. I believe that you cannot live life without being exposed to some level of risk, but the rewards of leaving home and enjoying your life are far greater than the benefits of leading a risk free life shut away in your own home all day and every day. Should you have the choice to lead a risk free life by staying at home? Absolutely. Should your desire to lead a risk free life mean that you need take away the right of another to expose themselves to a level of risk? Absolutely not. Should we do everything we can to reduce the risks to riders? Absolutely. Should reducing that risk include restricting the choice to accept it by riding a motorcycle? Sorry, but absolutely not.
I am not cavalier when it comes to my own safety. I have the limp and scars to show that riding a motorcycle does carry an element of risk. I have taken every level of advanced training to help reduce that level of risk, but the level of risk is still far from zero. Do I accept that level of risk – clearly yes, I still ride. Would I accept a higher level of risk? Yes, actually – the risks were statistically much higher when I first started riding – I was aware of the risks and I still chose to ride. When I had an enforced break from riding due to the risk becoming reality, my only thought was my return to riding and how to expedite it. I did not turn into one of those hand wringing activists who say if I can stop just one person going through what I did, it will be worth it. That said, I will do all I can to help reduce risks for all riders while still promoting the benefits of the activity.
So to the investigation into the hypothesis that more motorcyclists on the road actually reduces the risk to riders. If you want to read the report (which can be found here) and don’t like spoilers, stop reading now…
…If you are still reading the answer is yes – a higher prevalence of motorcycles on the road does reduce the risk of any of us becoming a KSI statistic. Is the effect massive? No. Is the effect so great that more motorcyclists on the road will reduce the overall KSI stats for all road users? No.
Does that give me pause, make me think I shouldn’t promote people getting out of tin boxes and onto motorcycles? Most definitely not. The benefits in terms of reducing congestion and pollution, social inclusion, mental health and wellbeing and frankly having a fun and fulfilling life far outweigh the risks. The roads in the UK are some of the safest in the world, if we can’t enjoy riding a bike here there is something seriously wrong with the way we think. Life is for living.
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