This page is a work in progress and I've got to spend more time, which I don't have right now, on it. Any comments on where to take it would be greatly appreciated.
Hybrid Pedal-Power Cycles (HPPCs) (see Tell me more about Hybrid Pedal-Power) can be operated either as pedal cycles or as motorized bicycles. To the extent that HPPCs are operated as bicycles, their safety performance will resemble that of bicycles and to the extent that HPPCs are operated as light motorcycles, their safety performance will resemble that of light motorcycles. In practice, this rule only applies if the vehicle weight is less than 30 kilograms.
Losing a loved one in a crash is everyone's nightmare. Serious accidents are catastrophic for those concerned, their families and their friends. In summary, the safety issues for HPPCs are:
- Global circumstances - peak oil, the financial crisis and climate change are likely to compel Australians to take up light personal transport such as bicycles and motorized two-wheelers. This may lead to a higher incidence of crashes amongst the two-wheeler operators.
- Research shows that there is safety in numbers. The more cyclists that there are on the road, the safer it is for cyclists. HybriPed considers that this argument can be extended to motorized bicycles, provided that they are operated like bicycles within safe bicycle limits.
- Shared road networks suitable for vulnerable road users where the speed environment is controlled to an acceptable speed, say 45 km/h to 50 km/h should be established in Australia as a matter of urgency.
- A bicycle has a maximum operating speed of about 50 km/h. This maximum speed should also apply to HPPCs.
- Power-assisted bicycles capable of speeds in excess of 30 km/h should not be permitted on bicycle paths.
- Research confirms that helmets contribute to fewer deaths and serious injuries and mandatory helmet-wearing in Australia should not be relaxed.
SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research
There is a great deal of research going on around the world to minimise and prevent fatalities and trauma from land transport accidents.
One research organisation is SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research based in the Netherlands. This commentary draws on SWOV's publication Advancing Sustainable Safety which is available on the SWOV website.
Bicycles (known as bromfietzs in the Netherlands) and mopeds, have long been part of the Dutch way-of-life. Australia, with its spread-out cities and towns and vast open country spaces, fell in love with the motorcar to such an extent that bicycles are almost exclusively for sport and recreation and only the the most hardy enthusiasts use them for commuting or utility purposes. Motorized bicycles are all but prohibited in Australia and have been since the early 1970s.
However, the Netherlands provides a vision of personal transportation for Australia as we enter an energy-constrained future. Australia should quickly absorb the lessons of the SWOV's vision of safe transport for all rather than 'reinvent the wheel' through unnecessary road fatalities and trauma.
Fatalities and motorized two-wheelers
In this discussion, the term 'moped' refers to light motorcycles, typically without pedals. Elsewhere, such as the Ministry of Transport, Ontario, Canada uses the term to apply to motorized bicycles. However, the overwhelming evidence is that 'moped' refers to a 2-wheeler with 50cc to 100cc engine.
Peak oil, the financial crisis and climate change are likely to drive the uptake of motorized two-wheelers, but many new riders will not have solid experience behind them. As a result, it is likely that there will be higher casualty rates which would appear to be the case in Europe (??). Issues:
- SWOV reports that there are 75 fatalities per billion person kilometres for motorcyclists, and 91 for moped riders, whereas the risks for car drivers and pedal cyclists are respectively 3 and 12 fatalities per billion person kilometres (Advancing Sustainable Safety, p163). Unfortunately, the burden of moped fatalities falls on teenagers. Combining the motorized two-wheeler statistics, motorized two-wheelers are 30 times more likely to be involved in fatalities.
- Personal mobility involves a mix of factors - distance, load, convenience and safety. The effective operating range of bicycles for daily commuting to work is about 10 kilometres. What are the commuter options available to those who find themselves commuting distances over 10 kilometres? Public transport is uneconomical and environmentally irresponsible except in the major city centres,car-pooling (which may be inconvenient), drive your own car (which will become prohibitively expensive) or motorized two-wheelers or three-wheelers.
Safety and motorized two-wheelers
Combination of juvenile recklessness, tuned-up engines and excessive speeds results in relatively high risks for this road user category (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page 22). In Australia, young adults can obtain a provisional motorcycle license at 17.
- The moped is a dangerous vehicle when in hands of young road users primarily due to their inexperience, overestimation of their own skills (especially among boys), a limited ability to convert knowledge into safe traffic behaviour, riding too fast, and not wearing a moped crash helmet (SWOV Fact Sheet - Young moped riders).
- SWOV recommends that the minimum age for riding a moped or light moped should be 18 years. A minimum age to 17 would result in a large, but obviously smaller, casualty reduction (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page ??) compared with 18 years.
- Since 2006, mopeds must be registered In the Netherlands. This makes police control more effective.
There is no evidence to suggest that motorized bicycles are any more or less safe than mopeds or scooters. Bicycles are readily capable of downhill speeds of 50 km/h, and experienced cyclists would expect to operate motorized bicycles at that speed, even though road safety research points to slower operating speeds such as 30 km/h. However, LMPCs have a distinct advantage. To the extend that they could be used as a bicycles, they would benefit from the much lower risks associated with bicycles compared with motorized two-wheelers.
- SWOV advocates crash speeds of motorized vehicles need to remain below 30 km/h in order for pedestrians or cyclists to survive the crash. This means that pedestians and cyclists have to be separated from high-speed traffic (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page 22)
- In Europe, a moped is no longer a bicycle with auxiliary engine, but has developed into a real motor vehicle with a technically limited speed of 45 km/h. Many mopeds are tuned up, after which they can easily reach speeds of around 80 km/h.
- In 1976, the light-moped was introduced in the Netherlands intended as a bicycle with auxiliary engine. The light-moped has a technically limited speed of 25 km/h. From 1984, pedals were no longer compulsory. The light-moped uses the bicycle lane both in urban and rural areas. Like mopeds, light-mopeds are often tuned up (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page ??). This writer does not know the reason why the requirement for pedals was relaxed, but it may have arisen because pedals rapidly become useless as the vehicle weights exceed 30 kilograms.
- Tuned-up moped engines remain a problem and authorities have not managed to prevent tuned-up mopeds from circulating in road traffic. Neither domestic regulation nor European regulation has solved the problem (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page 166).
Wearing of helmets by riders is compulsory in Australia for bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles. These days, helmets can be attractive and appealing to teenagers and any move to relax these regulations would be contrary to the principles of Sustainable Safety.
Safe Roads and paths
Riding bicycles, scooters or motorcycles on roads in Australia is NOT for the faint-hearted. The speed environment tends to suit cars and motorists tend to regard other road users as nuisances to be tolerated. Its not surprising that there is only a sprinking of motorcyclists and cyclists on roads. Riding motorized two-wheelers is regarded as too dangerous by many and crash statistics bear this out. As people are compelled to look to scooters and motorcycles for personal mobility, there is likely to be an escalation in fatalities. The answer is to establish shared road networks suitable for vulnerable road users where the speed environment is controlled to an acceptable speed, say 50 km/h.
- SWOV reports that; "Where vehicles or road users with great differences in mass have to use the same road space, speeds will have to be so low that, should a crash occur, the most vulnerable road users involved should not sustain fatal injuries (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page 15).
- According to Sustainable Safety, vehicles that differ too much in speed and/or mass should be separated. Cars and motorcycles are equivalent in terms of speed, but they are incompatible modes in crashes due to differences in mass and structure (among other things). The motorized two-wheeler offers virtually no protection when compared with drivers in passenger cars.
- On cyclepaths, the speed difference between bicycles and cycles is also a problem, many jurisdictions have introduced a speed limit of about 30 km/h . In the Netherlands, with the measure of 'moped on the carriageway' introduced on December 15th, 1999, the Sustainable Safety principle of separating moped and bicycle traffic in urban areas was partly met (Sustainable Safety, page ??). However, this caused a mix of car and moped traffic on carriageways in which travel speeds, or in any case the maximum permitted speed limits, were not made homogeneous.
- The moped continues to be restricted to the cycle path in rural areas in the Netherlands, but the current speed limit (of 40 km/h) results in a too large speed difference with light mopeds (speed limit 25 km/h) and even more so with bicycles. Plans exist in the Netherlands to lower the speed limit for mopeds on rural cycle path to 30 km/h, making the speed difference with light mopeds smaller, but a large difference with bicycles remains.
- The reality is that mopeds are not welcome on cycle paths (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page 166).
Risk awareness and avoidance
Motorized two-wheeler risks are considerably higher than those of pedal cycles and cars. The most important knowledge items for this ?? are 'the ability to recognize and to avoid risks' and 'the development of skills to safely control risks'. This has to be learned first, and to be applied subsequently.
- Research (from the UK) has shown that motorcyclists often have incorrect risk perception and risk awareness; this may also be true for light moped riders and moped riders. SWOV recommends that the period of the training phase for novice riders of motorized two-wheeled vehicles be extended. When riders have mastered more higher order skills, they can participate in traffic under more dangerous conditions (Advancing Sustainable Safety, page 169)
- With respect to moped rider training, a trial has been conducted in the Netherlands with young moped riders who followed a sixteen-hour practical training course. This trial showed an improvement in their vehicle control and traffic behaviour, but the effect subsided after one year (Goldenbeld et al., 2002). One obvious conclusion is that this (limited form of) training perhaps helps for a year, but that gaining experience normally also leads to risk decrease, albeit later than after having followed a training course.
- More experienced motorcyclists perhaps use their skills when seeking pleasure and excitement in riding a motorbike. They will have to learn to develop a careful, safe and responsible riding style. The will to avoid risks is connected with attitude towards motorcycle riding. If the will to avoid risks is well ingrained, then riding a motorcycle whilst still not being inherently safe can have significantly reduced risks. If this is not well ingrained, risks will remain to be high. This is also valid for moped riders, where the emphasis has to be changed to the problems of novices, given the often short period for which these vehicles are ridden.
- With respect to behaviour, the most important explanations for crash risk are risk awareness and perception skills. Riding style, enjoying motorcycle riding and the desire to speed turned out to be good predictors for unintentional errors (and these are crash predictors). This led the researchers to conclude that the safety problems of motorcyclists are related to the motivation for riding a motorcycle in the first place
The minimum age to obtain a Learners permit to ride a motorcycle in Australian states is listed below.