Road Safety News

New THINK! motorcycle campaign aims to make drivers ‘think’

Monday 21st July 2014

A new THINK! radio campaign has been launched to encourage drivers to take longer to look for motorcyclists, on the back of figures which show that 30 bikers are killed or injured every day at junctions.

Launching today (21 July), the ‘Didn’t See’ campaign will run for four weeks on national radio with the aim of reducing the number of motorcyclist and driver collisions on our roads.

THINK! research shows that drivers believe the majority of motorcycle crashes happen because of bikers breaking the speed limit. However, the statistics show that around half of motorcyclist collisions in which a rider is killed or seriously hurt occur at junctions, with drivers failing to look properly being the most common cause.

Robert Goodwill, road safety minister, said: “Every day more than 30 motorcycle riders die or are injured in accidents at road junctions. Often, though not always, this is because a driver has pulled out in front of a rider.

“More than two people lose their lives every week in this way and this is something we are determined to change. If all drivers and riders took a bit more care at junctions we could bring this figure down significantly.”

Motorcyclist Priscila Currie is supporting the campaign after a collision in central London changed her life.

Ms Currie said: “My accident happened because a car pulled out in front of me. I wasn’t riding fast, only at 30 mph, but the accident had a profound impact on my life – physically and mentally.

“I was hospitalised for 12 days with severe fractures and underwent 18 months of physiotherapy. It took more than three years for me to find the confidence to get back on a bike and I now live with pain every day, which has affected my mobility.

“People make mistakes but drivers should remember that mistakes can cost lives. Behind the motorcycle helmet is a person. We have families, friends, careers and a life, just like other road users, so I would urge drivers to please take longer, especially at junctions, to look out for motorcyclists.”

THINK! will also be launching a new campaign this summer to encourage motorcyclists to undertake further training and to ride defensively to help improve their safety on the roads.


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Have you not thought that what I stated was the more correct version of events. A car driver, seeing a motorcyclist veering all over the road would to my mind be foolish to even think about driving out and may even consider reversing away back from the mouth of the junction so as not to get hit. The results would be the same - less incidents at junctions.

Breaking from one's background is nothing new. I was doing it after training with the then RAC/ACU, a voluntary training group. My volunteer instructor always said if you are riding in a straight line you are more likely to be hit, but if you weave then a moving target is a lot harder to hit. I suppose that, just like fashion, other things come back round again.
bob craven

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That's exactly right Bob!
Increasing speed is perhaps not a good idea and even though it would technically be right it is not a recommended strategy. The alternative strategy which is to modify the movement vector so that there is more x motion than z motion of the oncoming motorcycle apparent to the waiting driver is exactly the correct one to adopt. The number of lives saved around the world by riders adopting this strategy must now run into the hundreds or even the thousands since it was developed.

I personally don't much care whether or not somebody thinks I'm drunk or deranged when I'm using the strategy so long as they see me and don't pull out! If you would like to learn more Bob then you can download the (rather old) paper on the subject from

There has been a lot of work done since this was published particularly in the area of brain and perception theory, but the overall premise is still very sound.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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So there we have it, a motorcyclist should ride as fast as he can towards an object that could drive out directly in front of him and swerve all over the road in order to break its form against its background. appearing drunk or definitely not in control which should be a warning to the driver of any car not to pull out with such a dangerous, out of control lunatic, looming or not looming, as the case may be towards them at a very fast speed.
bob craven Lancs

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Sorry Rod, but the assumption in the report is that by observing a physical phenomenon you can change its properties. This is true in sub-atomic physics, but is untrue in the Newtonian world in which we all live.

Looming is the property of an object which will double in size with each halving of the distance between it and an observer. The research paper gives the proof for this and says the faster something is going the faster it gets bigger so that is not in doubt. What is in doubt is the fact that the rate of looming (how quickly it gets bigger) can change depending on what the observer is going to do next. What the brain does have to decide however is whether what is being seen is a small object that is close-to or a similarly shaped big object that is far away. This is an astoundingly difficult cognitive task as illustrated in this educational video

This task is actually done by evaluating how an object moves relative to its background when the observer moves. Simple trigonometry shows that with a close, small object a small self-movement would result in significant relative movement in the observed object which will reduce with increasing distance from the observer. There comes a point however when an observed object no longer moves against its background no matter how much self-movement is made. If this point co-incides with the looming rate falling below the movement detection threshold then the brain considers the object to be distant as well as not moving and generally ignores it. This is the primary cause of SMIDSY accidents where a car pulls out in front of a bike.

The cure for the smidsy accident is for the bike to either go faster so its looming exceeds the movement detection threshold or for it to move laterally as it approaches the observer so that it pops out from the background.

The fact that children dealing with cars, and adults dealing with motorbikes, suffer similar perceptual failures would be a much better research thread than this one.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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One could not equally say any such thing, as drivers are lawfully bound to stop at pedestrian crossings – and they do – especially outside schools at closing time. It is then that traffic is held up by pupils without consideration for their actions. Of course, cars are inclined to follow one another along a highway – it’s where they are meant to be, unless it is expected they drive along pavements or across fields for amusement.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Or one could equally say:-
"Motorists driving along roads, have an inbuilt instinct to follow my leader. Hence the continuous crocodile of cars holding up pedestrians with little or no regard to consideration for others."

Would it be too much to ask for a little less "car-centric" view when commenting.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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The ‘Think’ campaign should really be aimed at everyone – including pedestrians. Seeing a vehicle approaching is the responsibility of the observer. But translating what is seen is compartmentalised into degrees of threat (even discrimination) – can it hurt me, or not.

Seeing a vehicle approaching should have the same core reaction whether an articulated lorry, car, motorcycle or bicycle – flesh and blood approaching – take care!

Pedestrians crossing roads – and especially school children on crossings, have an inbuilt instinct to follow my leader. Hence the continuous crocodile of pupils holding up traffic with little or no regard to consideration for others.

Road safety starts with education not compulsion.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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What they are saying is that the higher the speed then the further the vehicle has to be away from the observer for them to have enough time to get across the road. This in turn lowers the angle of the object and hence decreases the ability to judge the speed because its looming is reduced.

What is counter-intuitive is the idea that whilst faster vehicle have higher looming and ought to be easier to spot and judge their speed, the fact that the threshold of distance whereby it would be safe to cross the road is larger means that the speed reduces the looming rather than increases it.

So yes, faster vehicles may be easier to judge, but only if they are so close that their speed does not leave you enough time to cross the road.

Hence the Catch 22 is:-
I can judge the speed of faster vehicles easier, but only if they are so close that they could kill me when I try to cross the road.

For those same faster vehicles not to kill me they have to be further away and I cannot tell how fast they are going.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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My concerns about the report stem from the statement in the abstract that says "for a given pedestrian crossing time, vehicles traveling faster loom less than slower vehicles". On reading the paper it appears that the authors have made an assumption with their equation 3 that just doesn't make sense. Even they state that the finding is counterintuitive, but the explanation they give is very weak and just doesn't match any real-world situation. The fundamental problem with their assumption is that a child has an accurate prediction of the amount of time it will take them to reach a target position when they are currently not moving. It is this that gives me the greatest cause for concern. Perhaps somebody else on this forum might want to take a look at the report and check out the assumption.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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First you make the allegation that "I do not know what I am talking about" and the basis is your anecdote about "waving fluffy toys in front of babies".

This is followed by an oblique criticism of the referenced report with talk of "glaring errors and experimental methodology" without providing any evidence for such criticism.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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I have always been in favour of more training for motorcyclists as I do not believe that those undertaken training at present,including the Advanced Rider are sufficiently defensive enough.

It's like being at a fair and there are dodgem cars. The excitement is to hit the other cars and in some instances to avoid being hit but again to hit others. On the other hand if all this activity is at one end of the facility then one can enjoy more stress free driving by being at the other end.

As a biker I always make or attempt to make space my objective not speed. What is far away can't hurt me. It's only when they get closer do I take further defensive action.
bob craven Lancs

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It’s not that motorists have to think for motorcyclists, it’s that motorists can do much damage by not thinking about motorcycles and how their smaller frontal ‘image’ can be easily missed. As road users we all have a responsibility to other road users. It is equally true that motorcyclists need to be aware of the reduced visibility of drivers due to glass and window pillars obscuring their smaller ‘image’.

As a despatch rider for more than twenty years, mostly in Central London but nationally too, I can understand the thought that riders ride “aggressively”. I can assure you that aggressiveness has been displayed to me frequently by some (a minority) of drivers also (oddly enough by drivers of large 4x4’s), and that when riding many riders are simply making progress through the many gaps that appear in traffic, and from personal experience when driving a car, bikes do appear quite quickly and suddenly from behind. It must be considered that a rider also has a considerably better view, and has immediate visual connections with his or hers width extremities, making it easier to judge when filtering. Aggressiveness only leads to mistakes – and ‘incidents’. Never drive angry. Never get impatient.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Well if aircraft have problems spotting each other at junctions it's quite easy to see why 30 bikers a day are killed or injured on our roads. My understanding is that evolution has not caught up with revolution and nowadays the hairy mammoths are riding motorbikes.
Gareth, Surrey.

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Why only motorcyclists who should consider post test training?
Ian, Gloucestershire

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Thanks for pointing out the research from Wann, Poulter & Purcell. I have used studies from Wann many times in the past and have found his work to be most excellent. I was a bit surprised then when the glaring errors in their assumptions and experimental methodology just leapt off the page.

Sadly these errors have produced a set of figures that just don't make sense, but once you look at the data and allow for the errors then everything falls back into place. The tragedy is that these incorrect results will be seized on by certain lobby groups to further their agendas to the detriment of really understanding the problem.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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Apologies a correction if I may! That should be "looming" and ""Kawasaki". The latter are, of course, from Japan and not Poland.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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I was talking about the injuries to pedestrians by motorbikes. The decision about the correct limit for arterial roads is a separate one than setting the default for the urban and residential area. It should take into account a number of factors and in many places major roads are being considered for 20mph limits as per DfT guidance.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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My comments were with regard to pedestrians who "fail to see" approaching motorbikes rather than drivers. In such cases the risk seems to be heavily weighted towards the pedestrian rather than the biker.

Whilst you may be correct in identifying that the retina cells are the first to be developed, you are not taking into account the later development of the cognitive skills to process that information in the brain. Work done on "looming" has proven that these skills are not fully developed in many children until their teens and also drop off in later life. The child may well detect the movement of the "fluffy bunny" but has not yet learnt to discriminate between that and an 1100cc Kawasaki approaching at 35mph.

For a academic and independent refrerence then see

Or our Press Release at
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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Rod you are also wrong with the presumption that at 20 mph there will be less incidents involving motorcycles, particularly those that occur at junctions.

The reason is simple. Most Local Authorities are showing a willingness for the main roads to remain with the 30 or 40 mph that they are now and that side streets, ie residential streets, be slowed to 20 mph.

This being the case traffic on the main road will be doing exactly the same as it was before the implementation of the 20 mph limit on the side roads and traffic on the side roads, slowed by the imposition of the 20 mph limit will still stop, or not, as the case may be, and pull out to collide with oncoming traffic just as it did before because they will be accelerating, just as before.

Most serious injuries to motorcyclists involved in incidents do not occur in urban areas tho they bear the brunt of having the majority in a ratio of urban 70% to rural 30%. Because of the slower speeds involved in urban areas the degree of injuries are mitigated by this fact. That is not to say that they do not have consequences of course.
bob craven Lancs

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Sorry Rod, but you have no idea what you're talking about.

As I was the first person to make the connection between looming and its role in motorcycle accidents at junctions I think I can speak with some expertise on this matter. It is the lack of looming cues during the early part of the accident process that causes the problem as this lack fools the brain into percieving the bike as not moving when in fact it is. It is only later in the process when the rate of expansion exceeds the movement detection threshold that the driver suddenly 'sees' the bike and slams on the brakes. As these types of accidents typically happen to bikes being ridden at or below the prevailing speed limit suggests that the speed of travel is not critical in this type of accident.

As for the statement about the very young and the elderly you are utterly wrong. The light sensitive cells in the retina that detect looming cues (fast edge movement) are the very first to be developed in the juvenile eye and the very last to be lost in the age deteriorating eye. This is because these cells are the ones that developed the earliest in our evolutionary journey from pond life to sentient being. All parents know this to be true because they instinctively shake the fluffy toy in front of their new-born's face rather than just holding it in one place.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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The problem is that from my experience of driving in London, motorcyclists are increasingly irresponsible and come at motorists from every angle and very aggressively.
How about a "motorcyclists - THINK!" campaign. Why should car drivers have to think for motorcyclists as well?
Martyn London

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The problems with estimating the speed of an oncoming motorcycle from the way it "looms" are well documented. This applies to pedestrians as well as drivers. And for the young with undeveloped looming recognition and the elderly with failing looming recognition it is even more of a problem.

And whilst in collision with a car it is often the biker who is injured or killed, for pedestrians the result is more likely death, especially if the motorcycle is being accelerated away from a junction or congestion point. It should remind us all that the prevailing speed both reduces the time for recognition, becomes the deciding factor in the speed of events and the severity of their consequences.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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There wasn't much research needed to discover that most motorcyclists are injured or killed at junctions, it's been a well known fact for generations which has generated the acronym 'SMIDSY' - Sorry Mate I Didn't See You.

The think campaign is good, though some consider it as being aimed at motorcyclists, which in a way it is of course - but not solely.

Ms. Currie was hospitalised for 12 days. I was in for three months - and similarly from an incident within 30mph limit. But back on the bike, crutches and all - asap!

Riding defensively is key to greater safety, but there are incidents that occur where nothing can stop them save staying at home. It takes 'two to tango', but not every partner is willing or wanting - or responsible for that matter.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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