8 Ball In The Wind

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Motorcycles Should Be Comprehensibly Integrated Into Transportation Planning Policy

In the first few decades of the 20th Century, motorcycles were a critical transportation mode in America.  Especially in the urban areas, motorcycles filled many of the day to day needs of business for transportation and delivery.  However, by the time of the Great Depression, motorcycles had begun to be relegated more to recreation than commercial transport and delivery.  Part of this was due to marketing of the motorcycle manufacturers in America, just trying to maintain production and sales.  With improving road systems and highways, and the mass production of automobiles and trucks the motorcycle began to lose its commercial transport identity.  By the 1960's, the motorcycle had become merely a recreational machine in the eyes of transportation planners.  The statistical over-representation of motorcycle injuries and fatalities had begun to focus safety concerns of transportation policy makers on motorcycles.  That focus has shown itself to be self-refining and exclusive.  To a majority degree in today's American transportation policy planning, motorcycles are shunted into a primarily "safety" training and education oriented planning model.

This emphasis on motorcycle safety education and training has isolated the motorcycle in the transportation planning policies of America.  Few even consider the motorcycle when considering the next step in traffic planning policies.  The safety emphasis has become so rigidly focused on motorcycles that in discussions with motorcycle safety instructors, many will not even consider any other factor to be a danger to motorcyclists beyond which training and education can deal with.  It is for this reason that many viable options for traffic modeling and congestion relief are virtually ignored, or worse, neglectfully opposed.

The minimalizing of motorcycles into this minor recreational only mode is having repercussions in Europe.  There are those in the European Union that have actively begun to push for the banning of motorcycles built before 2006 within certain zones in urban areas.  All in a effort to prioritize public transport (like a light rail system), bicycles and pedestrians. This sort of policy is a sign of how far from the mainstream transportation policy motorcycles have been excluded.  In this sort of model, the motorcycles strongest assets are completely ignored.  The number of people who ride bicycles across a metropolitan urban area may be quite limited.  As will be the number of people who walk a significant distance in an urban setting.  Unless public transportation is well within the distance those groups wish to walk or pedal, those groups are more likely to choose to take an automobile as transport across the urban center.  Public transport, such as a light rail system, will be unlikely to be integrated into every neighborhoods convenient walking or pedaling distance for many years if ever.  Transit buses can aid in the offsetting of the transportation convenience issue, but whether they are carrying 40 passengers or 1, when stuck in heavy congestion they are still emitting the same level of exhaust particulates, and burning the same level of fuel, while making little if any progress along the roadway.  

Motorcycles can easily fill the needs this sort of transportation issue opens up.  However, due to motorcycles being so safety focused for such a prolonged period, there is little in the way of expertise in both the positive and negative aspects of motorcycles as a full mode of transportation.  This lack of expertise in the transportation policy field is continuing to bring disadvantages to the entire transportation paradigm.  It is for this reason that motorcyclists are a negligible transportation mode in the mind of policy planners, and government agencies,  It has come to the point that most only see motorcycles as a safety issue to deal with while planning for ways to use and benefit other "real" modes of transportation.

There is a term used mostly to describe pedestrians and bicyclists, but it is also used to describe motorcycles with an emphasis on the risks of riding motorcycles.  That term is; "vulnerable" highway users.  With both pedestrian and bicyclists, there have long been initiatives to bring about helpful and beneficial priorities to incorporate them as "real" or full modes of transport that can be of benefit to society's transportation needs.  Motorcycles, with their ability to move through traffic relatively easily, and continue traveling actually moves people and has been shown to provide quicker commute transit times than most other modes.  However, there is little in the way of voices speaking out on the priorities that should be given for transportation policy planners to view motorcycles as a full mode of transport.  To utilize motorcycles in an integrated policy that includes all "vulnerable" users  in a combined effort.  Taking advantage and benefiting from the high degree of commonality between each mode of transport.  

The other "full" modes of transportation have all been examined fully enough that their standard transportation issues are well known.  However, the habitual limiting of motorcycle expertise and study primarily into safety and training had had the effect of leaving the majority of these standard issues unquantifiable for motorcycles.  Because these issues are not safety or training related, there has been little effort in gathering these standard data issues.  What are those standard issues that are well known for other transportation modes?  They include; traffic flow estimation, capacity usage, travel behavior,fuel consumption, emissions, vehicle operating costs, route modeling, etc.  How can transportation policy planners make objective, comprehensive integrated transportation policy when they exclude a viable transportation mode to the point there is insufficient data to analyze?  It is rather disappointing that the other "vulnerable" highway users, bicycles and pedestrians not only have a great deal more data on these issues, but are also considered "full" transportation modes in today's society, while motorcycles are considered merely a dangerous recreational vehicle.

In the United Kingdom, there seems to be a growing governmental awareness of this problem.  There, the National Police Chief's Council, Motorcycle Industry Association, and Highways England have joined forces in a project called the Motorcycle Framework.  The premise behind this project is to bring into existence a truly integrated transportation policy.  However, the British are also dealing with the problem of the motorcycle safety bias.  As this excerpt from the Motorcycle Framework website shows; "It is entirely possible that the existing unwillingness to fully incorporate motorcycling into mainstream transport policies stems from a perception that motorcycling represents nothing but a safety problem; that in a wider societal sense, motorcycling doesn't matter, that wider society would not miss motorcycles or scooters if they were removed from the roads.  This thinking needs to be reconsidered and negativity removed - at all levels."

Those words should strike home strongly with all motorcyclists.  The concept that "wider society would not miss motorcycles or scooters if they were removed from the roads" is no doubt partially what is behind the efforts being discussed for European urban zones.  That is a clear demonstration of how marginalized motorcycles have become in the minds of the majority of transportation policy planners.  Without having data on those standard issues that are well known and understood when dealing with other transportation modes, many planners seem to have become convinced that there are no benefits in those areas regarding motorcycles.  Thus, motorcycles are not even seriously considered in transportation system planning.

To not consider all transport modes equally, including motorcycles, is to refuse the opportunity to create a fully rounded transport policy.  What that refusal does is to deny free and fair access to users of all transport modes within the community.  By doing so, it prioritizes one mode of transport over others.  That prioritized mode of transport may have little or no real relevance to those who actually need to use transport for differing purposes or in widely varied circumstances.   Such a narrow approach to transportation policy planning minimizes some of the opportunities that may exist ti reduce urban traffic congestion, emission levels, and travel times.  All areas that motorcycles excel at, and can be of significant benefit to society.

By truly including motorcycles in transportation policy planning, it can bring the additional safety benefits of addressing a roadway environment that negatively affect the motorcycles vulnerabilities more greatly than should exist.  Doing so would have the dual benefit of additionally providing opportunities for motorcycle safety to improve.  Thus improving the overall effectiveness of transportation policy, but also improving the safety benefits for all highway users.

Catch you on the road sometime...

No comments:

Post a Comment