IAM RoadSmart CEO optimistic about future of motorcycle safety, despite lack of government progress

Posted on 16/08/23 |

A statement from IAM RoadSmart CEO, Antony Kildare:

Year after year, I take no pleasure in reading Department for Transport (DfT) data to find that motorcyclists account for a disproportionate number of collisions and casualties. Tragically, motorcyclists make up 1-in-5 (20 per cent) of deaths on UK roads, despite representing just 1-3 per cent of vehicle registrations. 

And so, as the UK’s leading road safety charity, in June, IAM RoadSmart embarked on a campaign alongside seven industry bodies, with a mission to lobby parliament to refocus on motorcyclist safety and prevent the disproportionate risks that riders face every day on UK roads. 

We called on government to:

  • help improve riding skills, and to foster a culture of safety and employee wellbeing for people who ride for work,
  • make safety equipment more accessible, by taking VAT off life-saving PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), such as air jackets, similar to what has already been done with helmets,
  • recognise the role motorcycles can play as a key step towards decarbonisation, and to not apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to different road users for phasing out fossil-fuelled vehicles

I anticipate that it will be a long and hard road in our journey for change, and this is reflected in the government’s attitude towards motorcycle policy.

Indeed, the gig economy, which heavily relies on those who carry out deliveries on motorcycles, remains insufficiently regulated. Riders have not been afforded the same protection as those in traditional employment in regards to suitable rest periods, risk assessments and access to PPE - leaving them at risk on Britain’s busy shared streets. 

Our calls to remove VAT from air jackets have been met with a disappointing response from the government, as seen in a recent statement. “We want motorcyclists on UK roads to be safe, which is why we have zero-rated VAT for helmets, and promote THINK!’s motorcycling strategy to raise awareness about the steps drivers and motorcyclists can both do to prevent crashes.”  This is putting responsibility on road users, without looking at how we can help make safety advancements accessible to as many people as possible. 

IAM RoadSmart Motorcyclist Stats 2023

And finally, regarding the issue of decarbonisation, the government continues with its policy to phase out all fossil fuel vehicles in stages from 2030, which, despite being an important strategy, fails to recognise the role motorcycles could play in reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality. Indeed, over a year after the DfT consulted on phasing out new non-zero emissions motorcycles, it has yet to make an announcement on this issue.

Notwithstanding this, crucially, I am now as optimistic as ever that policy can finally be reformed. Indeed, we have now joined forces with road safety and motorcycling bodies from the private and charity sector to make our voices heard, together. Working side by side, we will also demonstrate to government just how big this issue is to our community, and we will work to drive long overdue change to recognise motorcyclists as vulnerable road users.

We are prepared for the long and hard journey ahead, and together, I am convinced that we can finally get the recognition that we deserve. 

Antony Kildare, CEO, IAM RoadSmart

IAM RoadSmart’s campaign partners agree that not enough is being done by government to reduce motorcycle collision and casualties on Britain’s roads, but also join Mr Kildare in his optimism that change can be inspired:

Craig Carey-Clinch, Executive Director at the National Motorcyclists Council, said:

"The IAM RoadSmart campaign has shone a spotlight on key areas of safety and transport policy which are long overdue proper attention. It is clear that the motorcycle sector needs recognition and support from government, via a new motorcycling strategy, if we are to see sustained casualty reductions and this important mode of transport taking its rightful place in UK transport and social policies. 

"Given the increased levels of government engagement in recent months, I also share Antony’s optimism. But it is also clear that engagement will need to turn into positive action from government so that motorcycling is properly supported and riders become less vulnerable. The National Motorcyclists Council (NMC) will continue to work alongside IAM RoadSmart to achieve our shared goals in these areas." 

Craig Mills, Operations Director at North Coast 500, said:

"Motorcyclists across the UK form a passionate community that contribute positively to our roads and tourism industry. The North Coast 500 (NC500) recognises the importance of motorcycle safety, not only for riders and other road users, but also for the communities they explore. 

"We wholeheartedly support IAM RoadSmart's campaign to enhance motorcyclist safety awareness. By focusing on improving riding skills, accessibility to safety equipment, and recognising the role of motorcycles in sustainable transportation, we can create safer roads for all. Through collaboration and determination, we can pave the way for a safer future for motorcycling in the UK."

Peter Riley, Managing Director at Helite UK, said:

"As the UK’s largest distributor of air jackets, we have received dozens of testimonials from riders who tell us that they would not be alive today if they had not been wearing an air jacket. Unfortunately, just 4 per cent of motorcyclists own an air jacket – meaning many more lives could be saved. With cost being one of the main reasons why they are not more widely adopted, we share IAM RoadSmart’s view that VAT should be removed from air jackets, which will make them financially accessible to more motorcyclists."

James Beddows, Managing Director at RideTo, said:

"The safety and welfare of riders has not received the attention and care that it deserves from government. However, IAM RoadSmart’s campaign has enabled eminent organisations from across the motorcycle industry to join forces and ensure that our voices are finally heard loud and clear."

A BikeTrac spokesperson, said:

“For too long the Department for Transport has overlooked the issue of motorcycle safety, which is why we have continued to see riders disproportionately represented in collisions and casualties on UK roads. But in spite of the government continuing to neglect the safety of riders, we join IAM RoadSmart in its optimism that change can finally be achieved.”  

For more information about IAM RoadSmart's campaign to recognise riders as vulnerable road users, visit here.

Campaign infographics can be accessed here.

Sign our petition 

We call on the Government to scrap VAT on life-saving air vests which are currently subject to a 20% VAT rate. Other lifesaving equipment, like helmets, are either zero or lower-rated. Sign the petition here.

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