Could motorcycles help solve traffic congestion and poor air quality in Britain’s cities?

Posted on 22/06/23 |
  • Research commissioned by IAM RoadSmart has revealed that the public are divided about the benefits of motorcycling, despite evidence that it could help reduce emissions and ease traffic
  • Just one-in-five survey respondents believe that motorcycles improve air quality, while less than half recognise that motorcycles help reduce traffic congestion, prompting the charity to raise awareness of the true benefits of motorcycles in our road system
  • Similarly, the government’s plans to tackle traffic jams and polluted air have so far excluded motorcycling – missing a huge opportunity, experts claim
  • In partnership with five industry giants, IAM RoadSmart has launched a campaign to call on government to focus on motorcycling as a key transport option and recognise the importance of riders.

New research commissioned by the UK’s leading road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, shows that the public are divided about the benefits of motorcycling in improving air quality and traffic flow, leading the charity to raise awareness about the potential motorcycles possess in easing congestion and reducing emissions.

The charity surveyed over 2,000 motorists, with just one-in-five (22 per cent) of respondents stating that motorcycles improve air quality, although motorcycles actually produce less than half the emissions of cars, or even less in some cases.*

Meanwhile, less than half (42 per cent) of those surveyed recognised that motorcycles help reduce traffic congestion. This shows that the majority were unaware of the potential positive impact - if there was just a 10 per cent shift to motorcycles, congestion would drop by 40 per cent* and heightened emissions from stop-start traffic would reduce.

IAM RoadSmart recently launched a campaign recognising the importance of motorcycles, bringing attention to the critical role motorcycles could play in addressing concerns around air quality. This is especially important in the short term, during the crucial transition period as fossil-fuelled vehicles are phased out.

Despite the potential benefits of motorcycling, the UK government’s response to addressing traffic and improving air quality has so far overlooked motorcycles, and has instead focused on policies such as prioritisation of ‘active travel’, such as cycling and walking, investment in public transport and implementation of Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ).

Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commented:

“Frustratingly, motorcycles have quite simply been ignored in the government’s plans to alleviate the impacts of increased traffic congestion. Our survey also reveals that large portions of the public are similarly unconvinced about the extent to which swapping four wheels for two could help tackle this critical issue, highlighting the need for more information to be shared about the benefits of biking.

“IAM RoadSmart strongly believes that motorcycles represent a huge opportunity in combatting poor air quality and congested roads. Indeed, their smaller size means that motorcyclists can safely filter through traffic, while smaller engines mean they produce less harmful emissions.”

The issue was raised on 21 June at the Motorcycle Sector Ministerial Round Table, staged by the Department for Transport (DfT). Craig Carey-Clinch, Executive Director at The National Motorcycle Council, attended the event and joined the charity’s calls for change: “We stand with IAM RoadSmart in calling for government to recognise the untapped opportunity motorcycles represent in reaching decarbonisation targets.

“It was great to see that the DfT were very much in listening-mode at the recent motorcycling forum, and despite a range of issues being discussed at the meeting, the speakers were largely in agreement on one thing – the need for recognition of riders’ concerns and focus around a technology neutral approach. With IAM RoadSmart's support, I am hopeful that we will make progress and achieve a decarbonisation policy that does not damage motorcycling in the UK.”

To learn more about IAM RoadSmart’s motorcycling campaign, recognising them as vulnerable road users visit here.

*NMC (National Motorcyclists Council) and MCIA, Motorcycling and the Future of Transport Parliamentary Briefing, Feb 2023.

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