Australian road safety consultancy Safe System Solutions Pty Ltd has also audited several thousand kilometres of road in Tasmania, Victoria, New Zealand and Western Australia. (See a list of audited roads at the end of this article.)
Here is a video they produced about auditing the Lake Leake Road in Tasmania, which is a great motorcycling route but also a hot spot for serious motorcycle crashes.
We recently spoke with Safe System Solutions Research and Evaluations Lead and motorcyclist Dr Tana Tan while he was in Queensland to audit a popular motorcycling road.
He says auditing roads is one part of their three-point strategy to improve motorcycle safety.
The others are: training engineers, road designers and road maintenance crews on what constitutes a safe road for riders through their Making Roads Motorcycle Friendly and Road Maintenance for Motorcycle Safety Courses and their consulting, research and evaluation services for motorcycle safety.
“Our motorcycle road safety audit reports are provided to our clients, generally councils and government departments. It’s then up to the councils and government departments to follow up on our findings,” he says.
Dr Tan says they use various motorcycles to assess roads.
“In Tassie, we mainly use adventure bikes, but I prefer a road bike with firm suspension that picks up the irregularities in the road,” he says.
The bike is fitted with a camera, accelerometer and data collector.
Here is a list of hazards that auditors look for:
Uneven surfaces especially on corner entry and exit that can destabilise suspension during braking and acceleration.
Removal of roadside hazards such as trees and signs, especially on the exit of a corner. Signs can be repositioned behind barriers or replaced with safer flexible signage that bends on impact. “It is more expensive to install but in the long-run it is cheaper as the signs pop back up and don’t necessarily have to be repaired or replaced after a crash”, Tana says.
Road edges with a “bleed” of the road surface over the edge gravel from melting tar and wear.
Intrusion of gravel from side roads. This is fixed by surfacing about 100m of gravel on the side road.
Road markings should be non-slippery paint or products such as OmniGrip to prevent loss of traction.
Appropriate speed limits. Tana says speed is often seen by people as an “easy fix”, but it relies on community and government support, which can be difficult to obtain because of other drivers such as the “economic imperative” of timely transport.
Edge lines are important to give riders cues about diminishing or increasing radius. On tightening corners the edge lines seem to converge and the opposite on corners that open up.
One of the most contentious issues with riders is barriers, especially the use of wire rope barriers (WRBs) which some riders describe as “people slicers”.
Tana says that steel W-beam barriers on bends, especially on popular motorcycling roads, should have a lower rub rail to protect riders from impact with the upright posts.
He says they have no issue with wire rope barriers on straights as riders don’t tend to fall asleep as much as drivers.