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Bicycle vs. Motorcycle Safety

Bicycle vs. Motorcycle Safety

Both motorcycles and bicycles have the potential to produce fatalities in case of an accident. Riding these two-wheelers is more or less the same experience and similar safety measures are required on the road. It is safer to ride in a car with the protection of the car’s body, so extra precautions have to be taken to keep cyclists and riders safe on the road as they do not have a protective cover.

It is a raging debate on which is safer to ride, between motorcycles and bicycles. The jury is still out on that one. While that is happening, it is paramount that everyone getting on the road on their two wheels aims for maximum safety. Lives have been lost from bicycle accidents, lives have been lost from motorcycle accidents, that is not in contention.

Motorcycle accidents are twice as likely as bicycles to result in fatalities. Both have high rates of recorded extensive injuries. It is not possible to pin down which of the two is safer to ride because it all depends on several factors, preference, skill, and expertise riding location, sport, leisure or commute, terrain and not to forget the most important, how well serviced you keep your ride.

Difference in riding a motorcycle and a bicycle.

Bicycles are much lighter than motorcycles and are much easier to negotiate difficult turns in than motorcycles are. Remember, motorcycles run on an engine, while bicycles are fully controlled by cyclists. Motorcycles can pick up really fast speeds powered by the different sized engines. Power to both lies mostly in the rear wheels despite being powered from different quarters.

If you need to ride a motorcycle, experienced riders recommend that you start by learning to ride a bicycle. Motorcycles accelerate fast and this could be a whole life-changing moment, either for the worse or the better. Rules and principles of riding both are quite similar only that a motorcycle will require more attention to detail and way better judgment on your end.

Motorcycle Fatality Statistics in the USA.

Motorcycle Driver Fatalities (MDF)
Motorcycle Million Mile
Motorcycle Driver Fatalities per 100 Million Miles

Cyclist Fatality Statistics in the USA

Cyclist Fatalities Per Year

Motorcycle & Cyclist Fatalities Comparison Table (5 Year Progression).

Highest recorded cyclist fatalities over a ten year period
Decreased cyclist fatalities but increased motorcycle deaths from the year before.
Both motorcycle and cyclist fatalities increased considerably.
Recorded deaths increased for both but on a higher margin for motorcyclists.
Motorcyclist fatalities remain almost 6 times more than bicycle fatalities.

Staying safe on both motorcycles and bicycles.

Being out on the road in either of these means being more vulnerable than car drivers. Both cyclists and riders have to observe high levels of basic safety as long as they are out on the road.

  • Wear protective clothing.

This has to be the cardinal rule in riding. Cyclists wear less protective cover than riders do because there is a lot of body movements when cycling hence heavy leather suits are not suitable. Every time you get on your motorcycle or bicycle, you must wear a helmet. Riding goggles must also be worn by both to ensure the glare of sunlight does not impair your sight of incoming traffic. Knee and shin guards, elbow guards, neon jackets for visibility as well as gloves for a better grip must be worn.

Accidents are not always caused by the rider’s reckless driving but also by other reckless road users. In this case, you must protect yourself in anticipation of these moments. Being well protected will reduce the magnitude of your injuries and even better, save your life. If carrying a passenger in both cases, ensure they are also dressed in protective clothing.

  • Follow Traffic Rules.

This can never be treated as an option. In whatever part of the world one is riding, cycling or driving from. Depending on what state you are riding from, find out if there are any special provisions and requirements for bikers and cyclists before going on the road. If there are riding sidewalks, bike lanes and special off-street lanes for cyclists in your area, ensure you stay safe on these always. If you are cycling into mainstream cycling, ensure you move with the traffic and not against it. If a bicycle has provision to carry a passenger or a basket to carry light packages, do not overload and ensure you stick to the recommended load.

Motorcycles do not have the luxury of special roads and lanes and have to move with other vehicles on the road, in mainstream traffic. This means bikers have to take more caution on the road. They have higher responsibilities in staying visible to other drivers to minimize risks. Over speeding and weaving in and out of traffic are among the leading causes of accidents for motorcycles.

  • Stay Sober.

Cyclists and bikers alike must not drink and ride. Alcohol impairs judgment, slows down your reflexes and may cause you to doze off on your seat. Being on two wheels requires maximum concentration and alertness. Riding while drunk does not only put you at risk but also other road users.

  • Avoid riding in extreme weather conditions.

Excessive rain, fog, snow and especially at night in areas you are not very familiar with, is not a wise move. Whether cycling or biking, you will be putting yourself in a dangerous spot. You could ram into stationary vehicles, walls, potholes pedestrians and end up in a heap on slippery roads. Bikers are stereotyped as reckless and irresponsible road users who seem to think they are indestructible on the roads. They must not live up to it and should stay clear of the road in extreme weather conditions.

  • Train and Retrain.

Whether you are going out on your bicycle or motorcycle, you must always aim to sharpen your riding skills. Cliché has it that practice makes perfect. Whereas you need formal training and licensing to ride your motorcycle, there are no laws regulating cyclists. Check-in your area for the local Motorcycle Safety Foundation for available courses and training as you progress.

Continuous training for both riders and bikers helps in sharpening their skills, learning new maneuvers, and building their strength and confidence at the wheels. Both must learn to drive defensively and remember that they should not depend on other driers to be safe on the road.

Joining local cycling and riders groups is a great step towards perfecting riding skills. Find out if there are groups in your area and join the movement.

  • Maintain acceptable and safe speeds.

Owning a motorcycle that is capable of cruising at high speed does not mean you have to ride at maximum speed. Both cyclists and bikers must assess the current state of the roads before doing high speeds. High speeds in crowded streets are simply courting catastrophe. High speeds in poor weather conditions, terrible roads, and heavy traffic are reckless and will end up in disaster, most probably for the rider.

  • Keep your bicycle or motorcycle well serviced.

Whichever of the two you choose to keep, you have to learn how to do basic safety checks before you mount and ride. After every ride, you must do a safety check to ensure everything is intact. Checking your brakes, for cyclists, are most important, then your chain and wheels. Ensure tires are inflated and spokes well in place. For motorcycles, check the brakes, clutch, throttle lever, lights, and leaks of any oils or fluids and take the bike for professional service every few months.

In conclusion?

Motorcycles and bicycles are extremely similar and it is difficult to conclude that one is safer than the other. Preference, passion, and dedication to riding one or the other are what drives one to own and ride. Riders must remind themselves every time they get on their wheels that they have no protective cover and they must protect themselves at all costs.

Besides having all these safety measures in place, ensure you are in a proper emotional state of mind to get on the road. A clear mind is the first recipe for great riding or cycling experience.

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Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change'.



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