The NZTA has been looking at what they call motorcycle ‘black spots’—sections of roads that have a disproportionately high number of bike crashes, injuries and fatalities. Improving motorcycle safety is one of the top five priorities in Safer Journeys, New Zealand’s Road Safety Strategy 2010 – 2020, and MSAC is collaborating with NZTA to help brings a “bike’s-eye view of the road” to this work.
The Victoria Motorcycle Advisory Council (VMAC), the inspiration for establishing MSAC, has also been closely involved in the project. Their motorcycle black spot improvement programme has been credited with a 35% reduction in casualties for all road users on those routes.
The work in New Zealand is currently focussed on the loop connecting Paeroa, Waihi, Whangamata, Hikuwai and Kopu, around the Coromandel. This 130km stretch of road is very popular with motorcyclists, but unfortunately it has seen 23 riders seriously injured and seven killed in the last decade. Nearly all the serious crashes have happened on just 36km of the loop.
What we’re doing
The Southern Coromandel Loop project involves a number of initiatives designed to:
- help keep motorcycles on the road
- make the roadsides more forgiving for motorcyclists if they do come off
- improve access for emergency help
The road works involve a number of initiatives that work together to make the Southern Coromandel Loop safer for riding:
- drain improvements to remove steep drop-offs
- bridge end protection
- road surface improvements
- visibility improvements (cutting back banks)
- signage and road markings
- helicopter landing areas.
The MSL fund is financing a portion of this work, specifically:
Studying the Road
To get an accurate “bike’s eye view of the road”, we studied the route using motorcycles kitted with video cameras. The “instrumented” bikes can read the road from the unique perspective of a motorcyclist. This exercise provided the information for local and international experts to scrutinise the route, identify safety issues unique to motorcyclists, and recommend suitable interventions.MSAC has recommended to ACC that they allocate levy funds to contribute to a number of road improvements specific to motorcycle safety on this route. The motorcycle safety levy will contribute to roughly 25% of these improvements, with NZTA funding the balance.
The levy contribution covers:
Reducing gravel Migration
Loose gravel on the road is a serious hazard for motorcyclists, so it is planned to seal back gravel driveways and intersecting roads, so the amount of gravel migrating onto the road is minimised.
Increasing painted edgelines from 100mm to 200mm in width
This road marking treatment is being used already on high-risk sections of state highways throughout the country, to give better visual clues to riders. We are aware of the importance of using road marking paint that is not a hazard for motorcycles. The edgeline painting was completed in March 2014.
Trialling different perception countermeasures in tight-corner locations:
We will be trialling the effectiveness of:
- Installing edge marker posts at a closer spacing within low radius curves.
- Painting 300mm long, 500mm wide white or yellow transverse markings at 3.5m intervals on the approach to curves. Non-slip road paint to be specified.
- Active chevron signage
Potential for other popular riding roads
If improvements to this route prove successful at reducing crashes, there will be the opportunity to adopt them for other popular riding routes. This work is in partnership with NZTA, and is connected to the Safer Journeys for Motorcycling on New Zealand Roads guide.
What are perceptive countermeasures, and how do they work?
Perceptual countermeasures (PCM) is the technical name for an innovative, site-specific approach to improving road safety. It’s an unlikely marriage of human factors and road engineering where road markings and signage can successfully influence safer driver and rider behaviour. Essentially it’s about helping riders to read the road, both consciously and unconsciously, by changing how the road looks (and is perceived).
The careful placement of road markings and signs gives riders the perception of a heightened degree of risk and their instinctive response is to slow down and take safer lines.
Perceptual countermeasures come in all shapes and sizes from ‘dragon’s teeth’ road markings to railway track-like road markings to create an illusion of travelling faster than in reality. Bringing in the edgelines of the road is another tactic to give the perception of a narrowing and therefore riskier road.
Hamish Mackie, a human factors specialist who works with the Southern Coromandel Demonstration project team, explains the concept.
“The New Zealand trial of curve perceptual countermeasures for motorcyclists will build on work by our counterparts in the State of Victoria” says Hamish.
We want to alert riders by emphasising the geometry of the curve ahead to hopefully slow them down and take a safer line through the curve. By perceptually narrowing the road using road markings, it has a slowing effect on traffic. It has been trialled for general traffic in other parts of the countryHamish Mackie
“For motorcyclists in particular, certain road markings and concentrated edge marker posts can assist good lane positioning. The curve ‘vanishing point’ is crucial and needs to be emphasised at the point where motorcyclists need to be preparing for the curve.”
Don’t existing road signs and markings already inform drivers about things to look out for on the road ahead encouraging them to slow down? What is so different about perceptual countermeasures?
“They work alongside traditional road safety signs and markings, they don’t replace them. They are simply visual cues relevant to that particular stretch of road”, says Hamish.
Although the specifics of the countermeasures planned for ‘high risk corners’ on the Southern Coromandel loop road are yet to be finalised, the effect these have on rider speed and lane position will be closely monitored and analysed.
“We are excited at the opportunity to add to the work the Australians have done in the area of motorcycle safety, as well as previous PCM work in New Zealand. What we learn can then hopefully be applied to other motorcycling routes throughout the country."