Are motorcycles safer than bicycles?

Motorcycles and bicycles are both popular modes of transportation that allow the rider exposure to the outdoors and freedom of movement. However, they differ greatly in terms of safety. So which one is safer?

Are motorcycles more dangerous than bicycles? Yes, motorcycles are generally considered more dangerous than bicycles due to the higher speeds, less stability, and lack of protection for the rider. According to research, motorcyclists are about 38 times more likely to die in accidents per mile traveled than people driving other types of vehicles.

Do motorcycle riders get into more accidents than bicycle riders? Yes, data shows that motorcycle riders get into more accidents per mile traveled compared to bicycle riders. The fatality rate per mile traveled is higher for motorcycles than bicycles. This is likely due to the higher speeds and instability of motorcycles.

Are fatality rates higher for motorcycles or bicycles? Fatality rates are significantly higher for motorcycles compared to bicycles. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, motorcyclists are about 27 times more likely to die in a crash per mile traveled than passenger car occupants. Bicyclists have much lower fatality rates.

What are the main safety concerns with motorcycles versus bicycles? The main safety concerns with motorcycles are high speeds, lack of stability, lack of protection in crashes, and difficulty seeing motorcycles on the road. For bicycles, major concerns are lack of protection and visibility to other vehicles. But the much lower speeds make crashes less lethal.

Motorcycle Safety Statistics

Let’s take a deeper look at some key statistics on motorcycle safety:

Motorcycle fatalities per vehicle miles traveled:

  • Motorcycles: 212.57 deaths per 100 million miles
  • Passenger cars: 7.66 deaths per 100 million miles

Percentage of fatal crashes by vehicle type:

  • Motorcycles: 14%
  • Passenger cars: 42%
  • Light trucks: 41%

Motorcyclist fatalities in accidents with other vehicles:

  • 75% the other vehicle was turning left
  • 42% the motorcyclist was going straight

These statistics illustrate that motorcycles have a much higher rate of fatal accidents per mile traveled compared to other vehicles. Other vehicles turning left and the motorcycle going straight is a very common fatal crash scenario.

Why Motorcycles Are Less Safe Than Cars

There are several key reasons why motorcycles are more dangerous than cars:

  • Motorcycles provide less protection – with no exterior covering, the motorcycle rider is fully exposed.
  • Motorcycles are less stable – two wheels instead of four makes them more likely to tip over.
  • Motorcycles have higher performance – their power-to-weight ratio allows faster acceleration.
  • Motorcycles are less visible – their narrow profiles can be hard to see.
  • Motorcyclist errors are less forgiving – loss of control is more likely to result in injury.

Due to these characteristics, motorcycle riders are much more vulnerable to death or injury in any crash situation. Even a minor accident can be fatal compared to the protection of a car’s crumble zones and airbags.

Bicycle Safety Statistics

Now let’s examine some key statistics related to bicycle safety:

Bicyclist fatalities per 100 million miles traveled:

  • Bicycles: 8 deaths

Percentage of traffic fatalities that are bicyclists:

  • 2%

Bicyclist fatalities by collision type:

  • 29% – Motorist overtaking bicyclist
  • 11% – Motorist turning left while bicyclist going straight
  • 8% – Bicyclist struck from behind

These statistics show that bicycling has a much lower fatality rate per mile traveled compared to motorcycling. However, there are still hazards with the most common accidents happening when motorists fail to notice and yield to bicyclists.

Why Bicycles Are Safer Than Motorcycles

Some key reasons why bicycles are safer than motorcycles:

  • Bicycles travel at much lower speeds, limiting impact forces in crashes.
  • Bicyclists are less likely to have severe head injuries due to slower speeds.
  • Bicycle riders are better protected through natural mobility and use of helmets.
  • Bicycles have more stability than motorcycles.
  • Bicycles are maneuverable allowing defensive avoidance.

Although bicyclists lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, their slower speed and maneuverability make accidents less likely to cause serious injury or death. However, riders should still use proper safety gear and defensive riding techniques.

Comparative Risk Analysis

To directly compare the risks of motorcycling versus bicycling, let’s look at fatality rates per hour of exposure:

Mode of Transport Fatalities per 100 million hours
Motorcycle Riding 212.57
Bicycle Riding 8

This data shows an incredibly large difference in risk. Motorcyclists are over 26 times more likely to die per hour of riding compared to bicyclists.

Some other key comparisons:

  • 78% of motorcyclist deaths involve impact with another vehicle, compared to 23% for bicyclist deaths.
  • For motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes, 61% did not have a valid motorcycle license. Only 1% of fatally injured bicyclists did not have a driver’s license.
  • Alcohol impairment is involved in 34% of motorcyclist deaths vs. 13% for bicyclist deaths.

These statistics demonstrate the dramatically higher risks associated with motorcycling compared to bicycling. Riding a motorcycle requires significantly more skill, training, and responsible riding habits.

Safety Recommendations

Based on this analysis of comparative risks, what are some recommendations for improving motorcycle and bicycle safety?

Motorcycle Safety Tips

  • Wear full protective gear – helmet, jackets, boots, gloves.
  • Take motorcycle training courses and get fully licensed.
  • Ride defensively and cautiously.
  • Be highly visible with reflective gear and keeping headlights on.
  • Avoid riding impaired.
  • Perform regular maintenance checks on the motorcycle.

Following these motorcycle safety tips can help reduce the risks. But ultimately, motorcycling will remain a more dangerous activity than driving a car or riding a bicycle.

Bicycle Safety Recommendations

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet.
  • Install and use bike lights and reflectors to be visible.
  • Obey all traffic laws and be predictable to drivers.
  • Ride defensively – scan ahead for hazards.
  • Use hand signals when turning or stopping.
  • Consider a rear-view mirror for increased visibility.

Practicing bicycle safety helps reduce the risks. But motorists also need to be aware of bicyclists through scanning carefully and providing ample space when passing.


In conclusion, analysis of fatality statistics and risk factors demonstrates that motorcycles are clearly less safe than bicycles. Motorcycles have a significantly higher rate of fatalities per mile traveled and per hour of riding time. Contributing factors include the lack of protection, high speeds, instability, and low visibility of motorcycles compared to bikes.

However, both motorcyclists and bicyclists can take steps to improve safety. For motorcyclists, proper training, licensed riding, and protective gear are critical. Bicyclists should also wear helmets and follow traffic laws. Ultimately, riding a motorcycle requires assuming a dramatically higher level of risk than riding a bicycle. Both forms of transport allow freedom and enjoyment of the outdoors, but motorcycling comes with far greater hazards.

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