Why We Crash

Published by Liane Langlois on

Winter reading, plus an Art Gallery surprise!

by R. Bruce Thomas

In the off season, one thing I like to do is plan rides and trips for the upcoming summer riding. This keeps me thinking about riding and gets me excited and ready to ride once the roads clear up. Another thing I like to do to keep myself in the motorcycle mindset is to read motorcycle books and crash reports. This latter item may seem a little odd but, paraphrasing philosopher George Santayana, I firmly believe that “Those who don't know why we crash, are bound to keep doing it.”

It is with that in mind that I read crash reports.

In 2001 I got a new boss who just happened to also be a motorcyclist. Over the first winter that we worked together we talked a lot about bikes and riding and Ted introduced me to something called Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures Volume 1: Technical Report. That's a mouthful and is why the 1981 US Dept of Transportation sponsored report, whose prime researcher/author was Harry H. Hurt, Jr, is colloquially known as The Hurt Report. That is a much easier name to remember, plus it seems eerily appropriate for an investigation into motorcycle crashes.

knowing why we crash could help avoid one

The Hurt Report researchers visited the scenes of 900 motorcycle accidents in Los Angeles in 1976 and 1977 as well as collecting 3,600 police reports of other accidents in the same area and time period. The report, which can be found online, is 435 pages and contains data and charts and graphs. If you want to know the most common area of impact, you can find it. The same goes for the types of injuries and which motorcycle brands were most commonly involved in accidents.

At the time, always-on headlights on motorcycles were just coming into vogue and the report delves into the effectiveness of lighting and visibility. Helmet use in preventing/reducing injuries is examined as is proper body protective gear. I belief in All The Gear All The Time from personal experience, but The Hurt Report really drives home the benefits.

The Hurt Report is the grandaddy of investigative motorcycle reports and yet it is still relevant and the most comprehensive. December 1997 saw the publication of the Case-Control Study of Motorcycle Crashes by the Monash University Accident Research Centre in association with the Federal Office of Road Safety in Australia which examined 222 crashes between November 1995 and January 1997. The Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study (MAIDS) featured analysis of 921 motorcycle and moped accidents in five European countries in 1999-2000. Oklahoma University attempted to do a similar study starting in 2009 but their sample size (1/3 of Hurt and MAIDS) was ultimately deemed too small to provide new insights.

dropping your bike would not show up on most motorcycle crash reports but was found to be the most common crash by one study

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation teamed up with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for a different kind of study called Factors that Increase and Decrease Motorcyclist Crash Risk. Rather than studying accident scenes and reports, they installed a Data Acquisition System that captured GPS data, acceleration data, brake lever force, video from five onboard cameras, plus more. One hundred sport, cruiser, and touring riders from Florida, Virginia, California, and Arizona were monitored from 2 months to 2 years as they cumulatively rode 589,019 km. The report is interesting as it is based on actual instrumentation data and not trying to rebuild scenarios from observed data. Interestingly, the top reason for the observed crashes (17/30) was simply low-speed dropped bikes (starting, stopping, parking lots...). None of the other studies would have had a chance to capture these incidents.

Notably, there is no Canadian study into motorcycle crashes. Data on the Stats Canada site showed a National Annual Average of 1480 deaths and serious injuries to motorcyclists from 2003 to 2010. If those were 1480 separate incidents it would mean studying every motorcycle collision in the entire country for three years to get a sample size similar to Hurt. Don't hold your breath.

Anyhow, there you have plenty of things to read.

Now, let's sit back and relax and watch and learn as we move on with some lighter material.

150 years of The Motorcycle as a book/catalog from an exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery

In December's News item – Kicking (Virtual) Tires - I suggested online museum visits to help pass the time and make up for the lack of a January Motorcycle Show. Little did I know that my son had found this wonderful book for me along with lots of related videos. The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire was an exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane Australia from November 28, 2020 to April 26, 2021. On display were motorcycles from A-Z; from the first motorcycle, the 1871 Perreaux Steam Velocipede, to the electric motorcycles of the 2020's. The book is a wonderful reference piece and documents all the bikes that were on display. I really wish I could have been in Australia to have visited this in person.

Anyhow, here's a bunch of links from short teasers to hour-long discussions.

By the time you watch all of these our own riding season should be almost here.





Queensland Art Gallery Virtual Tours

21 videos from 1-4 min long


The Queensland Art Gallery also put on some discussions that are all around an hour.

Design+Evolution/ The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire


Art & The Motorcycle/ The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire


The Motorcycle/ Rebel in Pop Culture


The History of the Leather Jacket/ The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire


Kim Krebs: Why I Ride/ The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire 


Vehicle for Change/ The Motorcycle


Girls to the Front/ The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire


The Motorcycle/ Storytelling Night


These are some third party videos regarding the exhibit.

4min walkthrough of the exhibit


Playlist from The Twistgrip Tales - 15 videos from 1-20 min long


The Motorcycle - Brisbane's exceptional exhibition at QAGOMA

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