Drivers and motorcyclists in London are being urged to “watch out for each other” after figures showed a surge in uptake of motorbikes and mopeds. Transport for London (TfL) and the police have issued the warning amid rising motorbike ownership and a considerable number of road fatalities.

According to TfL, provisional data for 2020 shows 31 people in London were killed in collisions involving power two-wheel (PTW) vehicles, such as motorcycles, mopeds or scooters. Of those collisions, 12 were believed to involve no other vehicles. One pedestrian and one cyclist were also killed in London in collisions involving PTW vehicles, while more than 730 riders were seriously injured.

Those figures make PTW vehicle riders the most vulnerable road users on the capital’s streets, yet TfL says their use has soared during the pandemic. The organisation, which is in charge of London’s main transport infrastructure, says uptake of PTW vehicles has grown as a result of increased demand for home deliveries during the coronavirus crisis.

Police stand guard at roadblock as moped rides by

Data from the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) suggests registrations for low-powered scooters in London increased by almost a third (31%) between 2019 and 2020. And although PTW vehicles make just one percent of the journeys on London’s streets, the statistics show they represent more than a quarter (26 percent) of deaths and serious injuries. The vast majority of victims are men, with young men under 29 representing almost half of those deaths and serious injuries.

As a result, TfL and the police have launched a driver awareness campaign designed to make the capital’s roads safer. As part of that, TfL is working with rider representative groups, road safety organisations, delivery and courier companies to look at innovations for improving rider safety, and it is adding motorcycle awareness content to its young driver safety programme.

Big Ben at sunset with blurry bus in motion in London

“Young men are tragically losing their lives in avoidable motorcycle collisions, which all too often also injure or kill people walking,” said Lilli Matson, TfL’s chief safety, health and environment officer. “We've seen a significant rise in motorcycle deliveries over the last year and this cannot come at the expense of safety.

“This is why we're working closely with delivery, courier and servicing companies to address safety and protect the lives of riders and everyone else on London's streets. I hope our motorcycle safety work will help raise awareness amongst all road users that we all need to watch out for each other when travelling around the city.”

Meanwhile Lembit Öpik, the former leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and now director of communications and public affairs at the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), said the campaign had the support of bikers.

“MAG fully supports this important work on safety for motorcyle riders and their training initiative, namely the Safer Drive Stay Alive course,” he said. “Given the casualty statistics, it's timely and hugely relevant. In an imperfect world, everyone makes mistakes, and teaching rather than preaching is a wise way to cut casualties by promoting behaviours that reduce collisions. The Motorcycle Action Group works with TfL as we reach out to delivery and other riders to nurture mindful motorcycling and observant car driving.”