This Sunday bikers from around Devon and Cornwall will descend on a Plymouth car park for an event which is all about motorcycling. Motorbike dealers, charities and police bikers will be on hand at the free and family-friendly event to give out advice on riding techniques, tips to keep thieves at bay and what kit riders should consider investing in. The event has been organised by police motorcyclists who are experts in their field and as passionate about their machines as anyone.
The rural nature of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and the fact that parts of our force area are poorly served by public transport, means motorcycles are hugely popular here. They provide an affordable and efficient way for people to get around, are better for the environment than cars, they’re free to park and cause little congestion.
In the summer months our twisting roads and stunning scenery mean bikers are drawn here, providing a much-needed annual boost to the local economy. Whether it’s organising fundraisers for good causes or running a service like the Devon Freewheelers charity, which delivers important medical supplies at no cost to the taxpayer, the motorcycling community makes a significant contribution to our society.
Unfortunately bikers - along with cyclists, horse riders, young and elderly drivers – are classified as vulnerable road users, meaning they are more likely than most to be involved in incidents where they or someone else is seriously injured or killed.
This summer saw more tragic incidents involving motorcyclists, with several riders killed on our roads. And the figures make for grim reading. Devon and Cornwall Police figures show that in the last full year for which data is available, 2017/18, 24 bikers were killed, more than double the number in the previous 12 months.
Regrettably this growing trend is one we can see across all road user groups. Figures for 2017 indicate that there were more fatalities and serious injuries in the force area than there were in 2016, when there were 52 fatalities and 772 serious injuries; that in turn was an increase on 2015, when the figures were 44 and 652 respectively.
Statistics show rural roads are particularly dangerous. Although most collisions take place in urban areas, 59% of fatalities take place on country roads and the number of people killed on these lanes is 10 times higher than on motorways.
Behind each of these tragic incidents lies a story of bereavement and pain - that’s why my team has been working with the force to develop a road safety strategy which will give us a clear direction and an evidence-based plan to tackle this problem. It’s based on the premise that life and health should not be compromised by our need to travel and no level of death or serious injury is acceptable on our roads.
We’ve got a long way to go but in the next few months I want to seriously ramp up our efforts to reduce the number of road users who are killed and seriously injured. Enforcement of the law will play a critical part in this and progress is already being made by the likes of the Devon and Cornwall Police No Excuse team.
The rise in money paid by householders in your council tax of £1 a month for a band D property enabled the force to invest in a number of areas. One was in the recruitment of more officers, which in turn freed up resources for this team, who should be feared by those who think it’s OK to put other people’s lives at risk by driving with bald tyres or unroadworthy vehicles. They also play a key part in educating road users about simple safety measures. If you’re a Twitter user and like seeing law breakers dealt with their account @DC_NoExcuse is well worth a follow.
It’s heartening too to see officers engaging with bikers at events like the one this weekend in a way that doesn’t seek to preach but to engage, educate and inform. But reducing the number of road users killed or seriously injured will not be done by the police alone, it will take a concerted effort by road safety trainers, schools, parents, charities and council planners.
There’s work to be done on the national stage too. I hold the road safety brief for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and will continue to lobby for our roads to be made safer. I look forward to working with the Department for transport on its emerging road safety action plan.
Ultimately though, all this work will be a waste of time unless it changes driver and rider behaviour. This is where we all have a part to play by taking simple steps to make sure we, and our loved ones, are better and more cautious drivers.
The Motorcycle Safety Event takes place on Sunday, September 30, at Milehouse Park and Ride car park, Outland Road, Plymouth, PL2 3OA, between 10am and 3pm. There will be 80 motorcycle chains to give away, road safety advice and refreshments. There is no charge for entry and children are welcome.