Australian motorcycle road safety will be a little poorer with the retirement of 50+-year scholar and transport consultant Dr Marcus R. Wigan.
The Emeritus Professor of Transport and Information Systems Edinburgh Napier University says it is time to hang up his mortar board.
Over the past half century Dr Wigan, aged 78, has produced many interesting papers on a range of subjects including transport and, in particular, motorcycling.
One of his enduring themes is the need for more comprehensive and qualitative crash data.
He says governments and big business often exploit poor data, resulting in poor decisions.
Dr Wigan has consulted to many governments and businesses and says his papers have been cited many decades after publication.
His papers have helped formulate policies on several motorcycle issues such as front number plates, parking, lane filtering, rationalising helmet standards and road hazards.
One of the most famous reports on motorcycling is the Leuven Project study into a particularly congested route in Belgium.
It found that when 10% of car drivers swapped to motorcycles – congestion was reduced for all road users by 40%. When 25% of car drivers swapped – congestion was eliminated altogether.
That report also cited Dr Wigan’s research.
Dr Wigan: safety mindset
His motorcycle safety mindset was probably forged in the 1960s while at Oxford University in the UK where he had his first and last exchange with a traffic cop after riding his Norton way too fast.
“I was roaring up the white line on Folly Bridge Road, helmet-less and in rowing gear, at 60mph in a 30mph zone (in the UK) when I was flagged down and instead of having a book-sized set of infringements thrown at me, I was asked: ‘Why?’
“I said: ‘Because I have eight other people in the Hertford College first VIII waiting anxiously for me.’ He explained very carefully how stupid I had been and why and let me go.
“I have NEVER forgotten this and it has guided me in my riding ever since.”
As he departs for those winding roads into the hills, Dr Wigan says these are the challenges facing motorcycling:
Being recognised in the spectrum of sub-car mobility. This places motorcycles as transport in context instead of as a safety problem; and
Getting high-quality credible research that supports my first point!
Potted riding history
Dr Wigan once held an FIM International Racing Licence, but began his riding career in 1956 with a Lambretta scooter in the UK while studying at Oxford.
He bought a 1946 Norton ES2 single ex sidecar in 1962 for 8 quid and sold it for 8 quid.
In 1964 he bought his first new motorcycle … a Vespa Sportique 150cc that he took on his “first honeymoon”.
Over the years there has been a host of other motorcycles, including race bikes and a stint of racing.