Should Motorcycles even be allowed?

Love’ em or hate ’em, they whizz around roads and wriggle through traffic, and contribute to a startling number of road fatalities. Automologist, MAC, weighs in on the fate of the humble but hazardous MOTORCYCLE.

There is a very quiet debate going on throughout the world at the moment, with the fate of the humble motorcycle hanging in the balance in many countries; or at least where, when and how you can ride a bike. In California, there has recently been a bill passed to allow for ‘lane-splitting’; it is a move designed to improve two-wheeled vehicles safety that follows many other cities, states and countries around the world, as they attempt to end the carnage on the roads that occurs when four wheels collide with two wheels.

The University of California at Berkeley published a report in May 2015 which concludes that motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists; are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries; and are less likely to sustain fatal injuries in a crash. For those of you who do not know the term, ‘lane-splitting’ is when the motorcycle’s narrow width allow it to pass between lanes of stopped or slow-moving vehicles, a move which is illegal unless there is specific legislation to allow for it.

This is also referred to as white lining that little ‘no-mans-land’ gap of road, where some 50% or more of the four-wheel-two-wheel accidents occur, according to studies published by various traffic authorities around the world. Apart from the obvious irritations of the road rash that countless bikers suffer, there is also the frustration experienced by the much maligned car driver as they are restricted from changing lane by the unending flow of motorcycles or the constant ‘clipping’ of wing mirrors when the gap is just that little bit too small; but they are going to get through it any way.

Malaysian authorities and in particular an NGO called the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) are now looking for a bit more of a radical approach, calling on the Government to increase the minimum age for motorcycle license from 16 to 21. The CAP president, S.M. Mohammed Idris claims, this is the only way to reduce the carnage on the roads. In a recent press conference, he was quoted as saying, “Each year, there is an average of 465,000 road accidents resulting in nearly 7,000 deaths, and 60% or 4,200 of the deaths are contributed by motorcyclists, with 40% of them between 16 and 25 years of age.”

Malaysia, like a lot of other developing countries, has a large proportion of its population that relies on the motorbike as its sole mode of transportation, and has lax enforcement of basic rules such as possession of a license, insurance, helmets and over-loading.

Going home for the holidays, Malaysian style.

But will this stop the carnage? I would imagine every car driver in most countries has experienced a close call with a rider recently; I know I have. Just the other day I had to take evasive action to avoid a motorcycle, who just happened to be riding on the wrong side of the road, coming around a blind corner and, by the looks of it, he was well over 21 years old; most days I have what I would call a near miss.

I doubt that raising the age will help at all; no, the sad fact is that around the world, there is a distinct proportion of the riding population who have a cavalier attitude to road rules and common courtesy, and believe that all other vehicles should get out of the way when they are coming through. We need to completely separate drivers and riders if we are to resolve the terrible tragedy of unnecessary road deaths every year and, in my mind, we need to declare that motorcycles are dangerous to our health and try to ban them in much the same way that we are trying to ban smoking.

Just consider, if in one year, eleven Boeing 777’s crashed in Malaysia, killing 4,500 people, would anyone get onto another 777? Would any government allow the plane to still to fly? Well, that is what in effect happened – 4,500 motorcyclists were killed yet we say nothing about it. Heck, airbags killed a lot less than that GLOBALLY, yet the various automakers recalled all of their vehicles to replace the airbags to avoid liability issues; shouldn’t we start to think this way about motorcycles?

To put it simply, it would appear that bikes and cars do not mix and thus segregation of some sort, shape or form is necessary to stop the appalling loss of lives on the roads around the world. I, of course, would chose cars, but so many would prefer the two-wheel option.

Members of the Jury, I rest my case.

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