Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Two Wheels on the Line

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Two Wheels on the Line

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMS

Motorcyclists in London are more than twice as likely as average to have an accident

NEW figures from a leading insurer show that, for the second year running, London motorcyclists have the worst safety record in the UK.

Overall, they are nearly twoanda-half times more likely to have an accident than the average rider. And some experts fear the casualty rate could rocket even further.

Transport analyst Stephen Plowden believes that motorcyclists' exemption from the pound sterling5 charge is a bad thing because the attendant rise in motorcycling could see 50 extra fatalities a year and 500 more serious injuries.

He admits his calculations may be pessimistic but "not unreasonably so".

Many senior police officers also believe accident levels will rise as more commuters turn from cars to scooters and bikes.

Others disagree, including insurance firm Carole Nash, which compiled the safety statistics and says congestion charging is a good thing for riders because as there are now fewer cars in central London (Transport for London estimates there has been a 20 per cent drop), accident levels will fall.

Dave Bowcock, of Carole Nash, says: "We found that around twothirds of motorcycle accidents are caused by car drivers. While it is too early to confirm a definite trend, the indications are that we could well see a reduction in the number of crashes."

But if the pessimists are even half right, it is very bad news, especially when the overall trend for motorcycle accidents in the capital makes shocking reading. On the face of it, the latest figures from Transport for London - the mayor's organisation that also runs congestion charging - are good news.

They show that in 2002 there was a six per cent drop in the number of "powered two-wheel" riders killed, from 71 the previous year to 67.

A total of 1,157 were seriously injured in 2002, a five per cent drop over 2001, and the number of slight injuries fell by 12 per cent to 5,619. The total number of accidents was down by just over 11 per cent, to 7,043.

Sadly, the overall picture is far more depressing. TfL is aiming for a 40 per cent reduction in the number of riders killed and/or seriously injured by 2010 - in line with national targets based on average accident figures recorded between 1994 and 1998, to obtain a baseline. Compared with these, accident figures for motorcyclists in London are a staggering 99 per cent worse, with the number seriously injured up by 29 per cent.

Fortunately, there is something you - if you are a rider - can do.

And TfL, which says that bikes and scooters are 10 times more dangerous than travelling by car, are taking the issue seriously, too.

EARLIER this year it staged an audience-participation show that reached 55,000 people, highlighting the vulnerability of motorcyclists at the same time as screening hardhitting TV and cinema ads. …

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