Two Tongue Approach

According to new figures published on the 29th March 2012 by the European Commission (EC), progress in cutting road fatalities significantly slowed last year (to -2%) compared with a very promising EU-wide reduction throughout the last decade (on average -6%).

A press release issued by the EC states, “Worse still, some EU Member States, like Germany and Sweden, who have very strong safety records, now show a significant increase in deaths. In other Member States, like Poland and Belgium – already lagging behind in road safety – the number of deaths went up.”

However what the EC press release did not mention was that road deaths are falling in countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Hungary and Greece. This information is contained in a separate memo.

The press release continues, “The problem of motorcycles – where fatalities have still not fallen after more than a decade – still persists”, whereas the memo states, “Motorbikes remain a problem. EU road deaths have fallen over the last ten years, but not for motorbikes. There the number of deaths remains the same. This is not acceptable. Faced with these tendencies, what can we do?”

Siim Kallas the Vice-President of the EC, is quoted as saying, “These figures are a wake-up call. “ “This is the slowest decrease in road deaths in a decade.” “We will need to sharply intensify efforts at EU and national level to reach our goal of cutting road fatalities in half again by 2020.” and At EU level, I intend also to target specifically fatalities on motorcycles in 2012, we need to see the current trend reversed and these deaths start to fall.”

The Commission provides a graph which shows that, “while fatalities for cars, pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds have all decreased since 2001, this is not the case for motorcycles.”

Before the EC start the work to intensify the implementation of the EU’s Road Safety Action Plan 2011-2020 and Vice-President Kallas’ announcement of his intention to intensify efforts relating to national enforcement and to vulnerable road users using motorcycles.

However, there appears to be a two tongue approach from what was actually said by Mr Kallas and what is reported.

Challenging Plans

In July 2010 the Commission adopted challenging plans to reduce the number of deaths on Europe’s roads by half in the next 10 years.

One of the seven strategic objectives announced was, “A new focus on motorcyclists,” this entailed a focus particularly on motorcycles and other “powered two wheelers (PTW)”.

At that time the Commission stated that, “While other vehicle transport modes have shown significant decreases in fatalities and serious injuries over time, those for PTW riders have exhibited much lower decreases or remained even static.”

The proposed European measures for powered two wheelers were:

  • to introduce a number of functional vehicle safety measures like e.g. mandatory fitting of Advanced Brake Systems, Automatic Headlamp On and updated anti-tampering measures (so speed controls cannot be removed) for certain categories of PTWs
  • to develop technical standards on protective equipment such as clothing, and to study the feasibility of equipping motorcycles with an airbag and/or including the airbag in the protective clothing,
  • to extend EU legislation on road worthiness testing/inspections to motorbikes and other powered two wheelers (which does not exist at the moment)

Considering that none of these proposals have been introduced since July 2010 it is a somewhat premature and inaccurate to state “The problem of motorcycles – where fatalities have still not fallen after more than a decade – still persists.”

EU Level Solution

This leads to Mr Kallas’ reported EU level solution to target specifically fatalities on motorcycles in 2012. We are now three months into the year, there does not appear to have been much forward planning, as we appear to have a target from Mr Kallas but no substance to this action, apart from a wish list of proposals.

One is already going through EU Parliamentary procedures; one which has rumbled on for years and is already in production by certain motorcycle manufacturers (ABS) and some clothing manufacturers (airbags in protective clothing). The last on the list was a consultation and remains dormant.

None of these proposed measures are due for 2012

There is the planned introduction of the 3rd European Driving Licence for motorcycles, which has partly been introduced (supposedly to help reduce motorcycle casualties), however this is not due until January 2013.

At Right To Ride we have to ask, “What does Mr Kallas have in store for motorcycling in 2012?”

Memo Notes

Published separately is a short list included in the memo notes.

2. Second, we need to cut motorbike deaths.

This year, we will bring forward plans for regular technical checks on motorbikes – just like we do with cars. That should cut the number of accidents due to technical faults.

And we will soon have tighter rules to stop people getting access to big powerful motorbikes too soon. The new rules will come into force in January next year (3rd EU Driving licence Directive).

They will be strictly enforced

We need to see the number of motorbikes deaths finally go down.

What this memo also brings out is a difference from the rhetoric in the press release from the commission regarding motorcycles.

The Problem Of Motorcycles

However continuing with what the Commission has said in its press release, “The problem of motorcycles – where fatalities have still not fallen after more than a decade – still persists.” The Commission states, “Worse still, some EU Member States, like Germany and Sweden, who have very strong safety records, now show a significant increase in deaths.” and have produced a table that they claim, “shows that while fatalities for cars, pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds have all decreased since 2001, this is not the case for motorcycles.”

Looking at the Commission’s graph and using their statement, “while fatalities for cars, pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds have all decreased since 2001, this is not the case for motorcycles.” It would appear that fatalities remained static, with a slight increase and a spike in 2007.

However since then there has been a decrease to 2010 but these figures are for the data for the whole of Europe.

Different States

For example in GB (Great Britain) statistics for motorcycles, the DfT (Transport for Transport) in their – Chart RAS45013 – reported road casualties by road users, rolling four quarter totals: GB Q3 2002 – Q3 2011 – shows that there is a small decrease regarding motorcyclists but an increase for cyclists. These are overall road casualties not fatalities and demonstrate how statistics can be used to match an agenda. In 2010, 403 motorcyclists died and 4,780 were seriously injured nationally these figures are down by about 14 per cent on 2008, however within GB there are areas were there are increases.

In Northern Ireland where Right To Ride is based, the Department of The Environment (DOE) reported in 2011 that the number of people killed on Northern Ireland’s roads last year (2010) was the lowest since records began in 1931.

The figures reported show the number of people killed in accidents in NI fell from 115 in 2009 to 55 in 2010, representing a 50% fall in fatalities and a 20% reduction in serious injuries. Of the 55 people killed in 2010, 10 were pedestrians, 10 were motorcyclists and the rest were in other vehicles. In 2011 six motorcyclists were killed, thus down 40% on the previous year. Based on figures provided that there has been a 60% reduction in motorcycle fatalities since 2004 (24) and 2010 (8 + 2 pillion).

We know that in Sweden the number of killed and severely injured in relation to registered motorcyclists in 1998-2011 has led to the conclusion by the Swedish Transport Administration and other road safety stakeholders that the risk of getting killed or severely injured on a motorcycle has been reduced over the years.

We believe that individual member state statistics need to be looked at for each transport mode, it is unreliable to use overall European fatalities to base a European Road Safety Strategy upon. Different states have different methodologies and carry numerous caveats, therefore it is fraught with problems to make a sweeping statement about European road casualties.

Enforcement Or Initiatives

In the press release Mr Kallas’ comment was, “I am writing to ministers in all Member States to ask for information about national road safety enforcement plans for 2012.”

However not included in the Commissions press release is that Mr Kallas had also stated, that he would be writing to ministers in all Member States to ask for information regarding road safety initiatives foreseen for 2012.

The following sentence in the Commissions press release, “I want to be reassured that even in tough economic times this important work, which is so central to road safety, is not being scaled back” takes on the meaning that was intended.

Therefore Mr Kallas believes that road safety initiatives have a part to play in road safety. What we don’t understand is why this part was omitted from the press release?

Initiative Examples

Across the UK including Northern Ireland, as well as in the Republic of Ireland, the police run the BikeSafe motorcycle assessment initiative.

At Right To Ride we have been involved in the setting up and running of the motorcycle safety initiative Ride It Right and First Aid For Riders, in Northern Ireland.

Ride It Right promotes motorcycle safety from BikeSafe to Advanced rider training through IAM and RoSPA and other road safety initiatives and reports on these from the UK and globally.

The First Aid For Riders course delivered by St John Ambulance (NI) provides the knowledge for riders to assess and manage an initial road traffic collision scene, to support comfort/reassure conscious casualties and management that may be required, such as helmet removal, head and neck (c-spine) injuries, airways, CPR and general first aider skills for everyday life.

Recently in Northern Ireland a Motorcycle Safety Forum was established whose members include a range of stakeholders which will consider an inclusive and strategic approach to motorcycling. The forum was an action point in Northern Ireland’s, “The Road Safety Strategy to 2020 – Vision: Driving Road Safety Forward.”

Across the UK there are numerous motorcycle safety initiatives, three examples are below:

  • The launch of the DfT’s campaign ‘Named Riders’ which ran for the first time in March 2010 and aims to raise awareness of motorcyclists. This is part of the THINK! Motorcycle strategy which is supported by national communications campaigns aimed at both drivers and motorcyclists.
  • Local “Think, when will you need a biker?” campaign by Somerset County Council, Head of Road Safety for Somerset, Terry Beale, explains, “Research for the Department for Transport has shown that road users who personally know bikers – as friends, relatives, or work colleagues for example, are much more likely to be respectful and watching out for motorcyclists in general. “We want to remove the anonymity of motorcyclists and to try and reduce the number of collisions in which they are involved. ‘Sorry Mate, I didn’t see you’, isn’t an excuse when you put someone else in danger; nor is ‘Sorry Mate, I didn’t know you “.
  • HELI BIKES is a motorcycle safety initiative started in February 2011 to promote Motorcycle & Moped/Scooter Rider Awareness & Biking Safety. With almost 10 years experience of motorcycle accidents whilst working on Air Ambulances the HELI BIKES personnel provide first hand feedback to the biking community within the counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire & beyond. The aim of Heli Bikes is to provide pertinent information relating to the causes of accidents & injuries based upon the daily experiences of dealing with these types of incidents.

In Sweden, one of the countries that the Commission indicates as showing a significant increase in deaths, (which is actually not true), the Swedish Motorcyclists Association, SMC is actively engaged in road safety issues both consulting and delivering practical road safety training for motorcyclists.

In France recently FFMC – Fédération Française des Motards en Colère the riders’ organisation, organised motorcycle demonstrations across France part of their goals was to have a robust road safety policy including the introduction of road safety courses in school education, the improvement of road conditions and maintenance.

NMCU – Norwegian Motorcycle Union the Norwegian riders’ organisation, has those that are responsible for Road Safety in its own committees. They also hold a seat in the National Motorcycling Council, a consultative body with other members, representing the Department for Transport, the Police, the Norwegian Road Safety Agency and the Industry. NMCU have recently updated their motorcycle riding techniques and riding strategies book, “Full Control”. In 2011 was NMCU invited to present Full Control Project to the Road Safety Unit in the European Commission.


The list of initiatives in the UK and beyond highlight that there is an awareness of motorcycle safety in these specific member states and that motorcycle organisations are aware of motorcycle safety issues but more importantly are taking action to get the casualty figures down.

It appears evident that the statistics offered by the European commission are not robust when looked at in detail in individual member states.

We believe that Mr Kallas has been ill informed and has not been given the full European picture. Although we would suggest that he should really focus on those member states where motorcycle fatalities have actually risen. Possibly using best practice from other member states where high profile safety strategies are working, such as in countries like Sweden, Norway and the UK.

We would also suggest that Mr Kallas keeps an eye on what he is being reported as saying.

Comment to this article on Right To Ride EU – Click Here


Press Release European Commission – 29th March 2012 – Road safety: Progress in cutting EU road deaths falls to 2% in 2011
Press Release European Commission – 20th July 2010 – Road Safety Programme 2011-2020: detailed measures
Speaking Vice President Kallas – Road Fatalities 2011 [MEMO/12/229] – Click Here
Swedish Motorcyclists Association – SMC –
Norwegian Motorcycle Union – NMCU –
Fédération Française des Motards en Colère – FFMC –
First Aid For Riders –
Ride It Right –
BikeSafe –
Think When Will You Need A Bikers – Click Here
Heli Bikes –


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