[00:00:00] Announcer: The following research is part of the National Institute for Congestion Reduction funded by the United States Department of Transportation through the University Transportation Center program. Learn more at www.nicr.usf.edu.
[00:00:26] Wayne Garcia: Welcome to Out of My Lane, a podcast of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida in Tampa. I'm Wayne Garcia, your host. Today we're with Dr. Fred Mannering and Dr. Chanyoung Lee, who have partnered on multiple research endeavors at CUTR. Dr. Mannering is the executive director of CUTR, and he's a USF College of Engineering professor of civil and environmental engineering.
[00:00:55] Wayne Garcia: Dr. Lee is the director of the Motorcycle Injury Prevention Program at CUTR. And so therefore, we're going to talk about motorcycle injury prevention today, or motorcycle safety. And it's a really interesting topic because the statistics about injuries in crashes to motorcyclists is certainly well out of line with the number of motorcyclists who are out there on the road, so something clearly is going on.
[00:01:23] Wayne Garcia: So thank you, gentlemen for joining.
[00:01:26] Chanyoung Lee: Thank you.
[00:01:27] Fred Mannering: Its pleasure to be here.
[00:01:28] Wayne Garcia: Good. So one of the things we do on the show is we start off asking our guests about their daily commute to work, although there's no more typical daily commute to work in the post pandemic era, if we're even in that, and Dr. Mannering has been on an episode and told us, but we're really interested in Dr. Lee. Tell us about your commute.
[00:01:46] Chanyoung Lee: My commute. I live across the downtown, so I think I consider myself the reverse commute. So I'm coming to the USF from the downtown in the morning. But as much as I want to be able to work with other people, I hate driving. But as we all know, we don't have that much of great options other than just driving. And then also, I need to drop my daughter at the school, which dominate my morning.
[00:02:12] Wayne Garcia: All right. I know your commute well, because I live in South Tampa and I take the same route. It's always nice to be going the other way from all the traffic. You don't always have that choice in life, but,
[00:02:22] Chanyoung Lee: and then when you see the other people are in stuck into traffic, that's more even better.
[00:02:27] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. And, and inspiration for you all to do for what you do in trying to reduce congestion out there on the roads. We do want to talk about motorcycle safety. And I know Fred, you're a motorcycle rider, correct?
[00:02:42] Fred Mannering: Yes.
[00:02:43] Wayne Garcia: And Chanyoung do you have a motorcycle?
[00:02:45] Chanyoung Lee: I do have an endorsement from the government, not from my wife. Okay. So let me say it that way.
[00:02:52] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. I think that's a really good place to start because I think there's a lot of people… parental pressure, spousal pressure. So let's talk about the motorcycle because it's a unique form of transportation that has all of this... as much as cars have created our culture, there's a whole set of subcultures around motorcycles.
[00:03:16] Wayne Garcia: What is the role of the motorcycle in America today in terms of the transportation mix? In terms of our culture?
[00:03:22] Chanyoung Lee: I think I can start by saying the motorcycle is a symbol of freedom. That's how being marketed and also how it has been perceived in this country. It's a mode of transportation uncertainty, but especially in the United States, it's a symbol of the freedom the men get into the two wheels and in the open road, the feeling of like environment, the smells of the street. That's like how you define the motorcycles.
[00:03:48] Chanyoung Lee: And of course it moves the people from location A to the B. So it is a transportation, but as I mentioned before, motorcycle in the United States about the 3% of registered vehicles. There's a little bit of difference between the, like among the different states, but I would say compared to the car, it's just such a small segment
[00:04:07] Wayne Garcia: And yet motorcycle crashes are not 3% of all the crashes.
[00:04:12] Chanyoung Lee: Yes, unfortunately, we see still like Florida that you can ride 12 months that will have above like 16, 17% of annual traffic fatalities. And nationwide they were cons, including the state. Like you can only ride six months like Wisconsin, so it will be like down to 13 to the 15%, but still it's pretty high compared to considering the 3% of registered motor vehicles. And then the other factor is there are people riding a motorcycle more than 10,000 miles per year. But most of the riders, they don't ride that much of a distance. So, considering a VMP is even more serious number like that, 15 to 17% of annual fatalities
[00:04:53] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. Fred, do you have any near misses?
[00:04:56] Fred Mannering: Oh yeah. Wow. I mean, you know, over the years, you know, I also race motorcycles. I've had crashes on the track, very high speeds. But I've had a, let's see, one accident and just one accident on the street, but a lot of near misses. But one of, one of the interesting things about motorcycling, I mean, it is inherently more dangerous, but it also attracts the most dangerous people in society.
[00:05:20] Chanyoung Lee: Right.
[00:05:21] Wayne Garcia: So, so there is some operator...
[00:05:23] Fred Mannering: yeah.
[00:05:23] Wayne Garcia: component to these?
[00:05:24] Fred Mannering: Right? There's a selectivity, you know, because the people that are the highest risk takers are probably attracted the most to motorcycling. So that I think, pumps up the numbers even more than you would expect just by having a vulnerable road vehicle.
[00:05:38] Wayne Garcia: So, what do we know that 17% of all crashes in involved motorcycles? So, what do we know about motorcycle crashes in, in general? Is it generally the fault of the motorcyclist? Is it the, the motorist? You know, we see a lot of these campaigns where they're telling people, "Watch out for the motorcyclists" and all of this, and, and make it sound like it's sort of, maybe the fault is not the motorcyclist.
[00:06:00] Wayne Garcia: So, what do we know? Motorcycle crashes. As Fred said, it's an inherently more dangerous vehicle.
[00:06:06] Chanyoung Lee: Yes, because if we look at the cars first, then over the time we got a, uh, airbag. We have seat belt and then we have side airbags. And it's a tremendous improvement from like the 1980s and 1990s. And it's like anecdotally, people say it's hard to kill yourself in a car these days, but for the motorcycles, we don't have airbags. We don't have a seat belt, and we only have a 19 state with the universal helmet law. So basically, at the time, collision or time of crash that most of the time the rider will be ejected and there'll be minimum protection that provided by the motorcycle itself. So, we do see that there's 70% of fatalities from more for the younger groups that are riding a sports bike, but also, we can ignore that there is like big portion of aging riders that riding a motorcycle became a number one hobby for retired Baby Boomer. So, when you ride a motorcycle in sixties, that you are remembering yourself riding a motorcycle in college that basically your body is not going to be same as your collage time.
[00:07:13] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. Your reaction time. Reflexes all that.
[00:07:15] Fred Mannering: I think the, uh, saying is your mind writes checks your body can't cash.
[00:07:20] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. Right. But that's part of the appeal of it is the recapturing of your use. Yeah. And, and also, you know, enough of life has gone by that you're willing maybe to take those risks that you weren't willing to take when you were younger or perhaps you don't have the people in your life who are telling you not to take those risks.
[00:07:40] Fred Mannering: Right, right. And there's also. From the driver's perspective, driver of cars, there is a visibility problem with motorcycles and one of the most common motorcycle accidents has a car turning left in front of a motorcycle. And that's, you know, my one street accident was exactly that case, and the guy said he saw the car behind me but did not see me at all. And it was like a, you're almost invisible out there. There is one other point I should mention with motorcycle safety. My crashes on the track when I have full body armor and everything. I had a crash in Las Vegas at like 90 miles an hour and ... I mean, I was up and going in the next race. I mean, it's amazing the body protection. I mean, I had to take some Advil the next day. I'm not going to lie, but the body protection you can get if you're wearing a full armor outfit. But that's impractical for regular motorcycles riding on a street. It's amazing technology that is in motorcycle racing.
[00:08:40] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. So are motorcycles an important part of the transportation mix, not just in that people are not going to give them up. It's not like we can ban motorcycles tomorrow and say that they're just inherently dangerous and we shouldn't have them. What role are they playing? Is it an affordability role? You talked about the whole freedom and the mystique of the motorcycle, you know, the motorcycle club, the whole history of the sort of this romantic, dangerous sort of feel and look, but there are many people all the way from like just above scooters at the lowest level motorcycles, up to even bigger ones where it's also an affordability issue, especially in this day and age with gas prices. So how does it fit into the multimodal mix?
[00:09:25] Chanyoung Lee: So, motorcycle itself is a very interesting in, in a way because it's 3% of population, but it does have very well-developed subgroup cultures. So, you have the people riding a 50 C scooters, and in many state the scooter is over 50 cc, it would be considered the motorcycle. So, if you're riding in a 75-cc scooter, that's the motorcycle, and then you have a 1 25, 2 50 riding like a standard. Then it goes to the, like a small post bike where somewhere between 600 cc, 200 ccs, the 1000 ccs, and then you have a big bike Indian. You have fully dressed party like a road king. It's where above the size of compact car and price wise the same. So, you have such a big spectrum of motorcycles. So, it's such, it's hard to define like where the motorcycle fitting in the culture of the United States. Because about 50% people riding a motorcycle they use for their commute, but another 50% is more of a recreational purpose. And, and then like so that it is more like their weekend vehicle.
[00:10:28] Wayne Garcia: So, they're out weekend warrioring and hitting the back country roads. That biker bar that's out on 41 in the middle of nowhere that I always used to drive past and see lineup of bikes. The bikes are out there on our roads. Our roads generally are designed maybe entirely for automobiles. What does that mean for motorcycle riders in terms of their safety? Is there any aspect of the roads that are motorcycle friendly.
[00:10:58] Chanyoung Lee: I guess we are getting into the very dangerous territory in terms of talking about, because, uh, I used to say to people, motorcycle is not a design vehicle because when we design the road that there is a different guideline from the AASHTO Green book and MUTCD.
[00:11:13] Chanyoung Lee: But if you look at those manuals and books, there's no word motorcycles. So, which means like when we design the roadway, we're not necessarily focused on or more of, I mean, I want to say more, we can be more inclusive on the motorcycle, but like many things we designed is based on standard cars and SUVs and like trucks not necessary for motorcycles.
[00:11:38] Fred Mannering: That's a good point because motorcycles accelerate, decelerate. Everything is much better than a car. But still, there are some safety features. I know a couple years back they were putting in median barriers that, that had the chains between the, I guess it's um, It's not chains, it's uh, cable.
[00:11:56] Wayne Garcia: A cable, yeah. Like a wire cable, basically.
[00:11:59] Chanyoung Lee: Motorcycle rider cord teased CUTR.
[00:12:01] Fred Mannering: Right? Yeah. There, there's that. And then also when you hit the poles. Yeah. You know, you have this concentrated force, so it's something that was great for cars, but just a disaster for motorcyclists.
[00:12:12] Wayne Garcia: Right. Actually, I know you've done research on motorcycle crashes, especially on rural two-lane highways. What did you study and what did you find?
[00:12:20] Chanyoung Lee: In Florida we don't have that many curves. Yeah, so when there's curves that it becomes the destination for motorcycle riders in Florida. Yeah, so we found a couple of locations that has a pretty good history of the motorcycle crashes. So, we actually try to see what the potential counter major can be to reduce the motorcycle crash in that particular location.
[00:12:40] Chanyoung Lee: So, the DOT, the Department of Transportation, installed so-called the dynamic speed feedback signs you see when you drive a car. Breaking and saying, "You're too fast," or you're slowing in your speed. So many times, we installed those, and it was very effective for cars and with the same line of idea in that particular location, DOT installed that system when over the time we have doubt whether it's working for motorcycles too. But during this study, what we found interesting is that that device itself is often time the cars, which has a much bigger facade. When you have signs for the motorcycle risk, it does not capture the motorcycle as effectively as should be. Because of the small facade side of the motorcycle, so that when it comes to the motorcycle at the curve that the blinking sign doesn't work until it gets very close to the signs, it almost becomes a visual distraction. So that's what we found, that when it is a difficult problem, that you will not be able to adjust the sensor to be more effective for motorcycle, then you'll start to pick up the cars on the other lanes. It's just the difficult issue to tackle.
[00:13:54] Wayne Garcia: How much of the issue is also just behavioral, and that's a hard piece to get to.
[00:13:59] Chanyoung Lee: Well, a hundred percent can be behavior. You should like just to press said you're on the,
[00:14:04] Wayne Garcia: You're driving the bike.
[00:14:05] Chanyoung Lee: Yeah. Yeah. The people on the bike are different from people not on the bike for sure.
[00:14:09] Fred Mannering: Yeah. And I should mention turning a motorcycle is not an easy task because it's counterintuitive. I don't know if we wanted to get into some of the details, but to turn a motorcycle to the left, you actually have to turn the wheels to the right and then it, you lean into the curb and there have been studies that have shown riders get into panic situations, they actually turn right into the object they're trying to miss. And that, that whole, it's called counter steering and people say, "Oh, that's not a thing, that doesn't make...," If you go out on your bicycle, you can even say, oh yeah, you do it instinctively. But the problem, and that's what makes curves particularly dangerous, just getting the right speed and then remembering all these counterintuitive things.
[00:14:51] Chanyoung Lee: That's a good point. And I like to add something to that is braking. Unlike a car, motorcycle has a two brakes front brake and rear brake. And the front brake is you have to use your right hand. And then for the breaking you have to use your foot. But people, even people who are riding a motorcycle, most of the time, they're driving their car, too. So, when they get into panic situations, first in instant reaction is they all step on the brake. Which is the rear brake has much less power. The front brake has about 70% of breaking power, so you should apply the boss brake at the same time without lacking the front brake. That's quite a skill that you need to work on to polish it.
[00:15:33] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. Or, or else you're over the hand wars
[00:15:35] Fred Mannering: Well, there, there is that fear. I can tell you in racing, most racers don't use the back break at all. It's just you use it because if you're at that speed, you should have near a hundred percent in the breaking force on the front. Many studies have shown that people overuse the back break a lot. And it, again, it depends on the motorcycle too. If you're doing a Harley, the back break is more important. If you're doing a sport bike, the back break is basically useless and you can tell, if you look at the size of the discs on the motorcycle, that sort of tells you what the optimal break force distribution should be.
[00:16:07] Fred Mannering: If you look at a sport bike, it has really big discs on the front and the back just has a small disc because of the weight transfer, the front. But again, as was pointed out, mastering that, that distribution, that break force distribution comes with a lot of experience. Now, there have been anti-lock brakes and I have not ridden a bike with anti-lock brakes, but I think that might help to some extent to get a better stopping distance for motorcycles.
[00:16:33] Chanyoung Lee: Sure. There is a study came off from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. They're showing the benefit of the ABS but again, that it comes to the sort of eagle fight over can do better than the technology, but it's, it is a very beneficial product for the average Joe Rider who are not riding every day or maybe riding, uh, once in a week, having a motorcycle with ABS who will save them one day. For sure.
[00:17:01] Wayne Garcia: When you were talking about the motorcyclist, also, defaulting back to how to drive a car, because we were all trained how to drive a car. We had to go to, we had to go to class. My place, it was the head football coach, was the driver's ed coach too. And you know, we learned how to drive a car in high school, but there's not the same thing for motorcycles. Our motorcyclists woefully, undereducated under-prepared, and, you know, just have to sort of learn their own way and hope they don't get into trouble until they sort of master the bike.
[00:17:31] Chanyoung Lee: Well, I don't want to say they're undereducated, but I, I want to say that the riding a motorcycle is a perishable skill. So, you need to keep up like you've been riding for 30 years. It's funny that like whenever you get into the conversation with motorcycles, they always say, "I've been riding 20 years, I've been riding 30 years." They basically like set up that their position of the hierarchy to start the conversation. But in fact, their friends always say, "Okay, you own the motorcycle for 30 years, but not, you rode a motorcycle for 30 years." So, like many times is the, as I said, is the recreational vehicle. So, it's not necessary they commute on the motorcycle every day. It is important for them to be able to keep up the, their riding skills like Fred just mentioned about like, racing. So, you cannot compare like how much of the effort they're putting into the, the per the breaking skills people who are racing.
[00:18:19] Fred Mannering: And that's a, you know, good point. If you look at northern states, there are noticeable spikes in motorcycle crashes. Like in April, you know, March and April, where these people haven't ridden a motorcycle for the three or four months, they get out. It takes time.
[00:18:33] Wayne Garcia: The first off, yeah. First off, I'm going to get out there and go, right?
[00:18:37] Fred Mannering: Sure. And you know, as mentioned, it is a perishable skill, your whole skill set on motorcycle. You know, deteriorate over time. So, they have to constantly be refreshed.
[00:18:45] Wayne Garcia: In this day and age, so behaviorally, the way the roads are built, the way all of the aspects of it, how dangerous is it? Is my wife, right? I guess I'm asking is it an unacceptably dangerous thing, obviously I think it is to some degree. Otherwise, you guys wouldn't be working on increasing the safety of it.
[00:19:05] Chanyoung Lee: I mean, I would say riding a motorcycle maybe, or for surely dangerous than joining a book club for sure. But you know, like, you also need to understand there are many people, including Fred, been riding it and enjoying a motor, a motorcycle for like extended time. It's not necessarily, oh, you get in a motorcycle, you're in trouble. But then there are things that you need to do. You need to wear protective gears, and then you need to be able to practice as needed and then also regularly. And then you also need to be very conservative when you choose to ride a motorcycle. Like you don't ride a like in a certain condition and you don't ride when you're especially intoxicated. So, there are things I could, the same as driving a car. And it's like something to be pointed out. It is a vehicle that has poor injury outcome. When you get into the crash on motorcycle, you have more of a change of G-force that you need to be absorbed by the rider itself. That's just something that you need to keep in mind.
[00:20:06] Fred Mannering: I should give you my own experience. My parents would not let me near a motorcycle. So, it wasn't until I was in my early thirties that I started riding and then just like went crazy. I got a racing license and everything, but I still kept the racing license from my wife. She thought, she thought it was, she thought I was going to the track, watching the races when I was actually in the races, and it came to light. She took me out to Father's Day and my name was in the program and I was sort of busted, but it's... and I, I remember going to the motorcycle, you know, when I was buying one of the motorcycles, I was saying, "Oh, you know, my wife is really against this." And he had, I'm sure they hear this all the time. You say, "Well, if she loves you, she'll get over it." So still, you know, they have all of these little techniques.
[00:20:52] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. Of disarming that piece of the equation.
[00:20:56] Fred Mannering: But it is a big thing, you know, because a lot of your family members try to keep you off the guards that they are inherently dangerous, I think. They may have... It depends on the rider, obviously, and people haven't probably fear motorcycles more than they should, but I'm not going to lie. I mean it is a dangerous...
[00:21:13] Wayne Garcia: Yeah, no, it's, yeah. Y'all have been studying this and looking at it and, and doing various different safety programs. What needs to be done, what have you been looking at? What have you found? What can we do? To take some of that edge off, at least?
[00:21:27] Chanyoung Lee: I think certainly we have some homework to do to improve the motorcycle safety. Over the time, we are looking at just motorcycles as a whole, but like as we talked about, there is a different segment that requires some different attention and different intervention to help them to make a better choice. And we also need to work with drivers for them to be able to see motorcycles better. I mean, many studies have shown that it's not your eye to see, it's your brain to see. So, when you have a competing interest of seeing different things, we will not be able to remember it. So, like we see, like we think we saw, but it doesn't get registered into your brain so that basically you will not act on the scene. We will need the more, um, understanding and then incorporate into the, some of the policies.
[00:22:12] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. One of the things I think about when I think about sort of the future of cars and the future of this transit and all of that kind of thing is government regulation, obviously now we have to wear seat belts, we have to do certain things. Now we have cars with driver assists and all of these other developments, and as you said, motorcycles be because they really reach a, an audience that values freedom and freedom from those regulations, I almost feel like government takes sort of a caveat, you ride a motorcycle that's on you, but do you see the future of motorcycles sort of becoming inherently more safe, having ABS or requiring those kind of things, or is it always going to be for just that 3% of the population?
[00:22:56] Chanyoung Lee: So, for European countries, the ABS is mandated or the manufactured in European country ABS mandated long time ago, but well we don't have that. So, like come to the motorcycle safety. The United States takes a little different starting line because we are the only developed the country without a universal helmet law. So that's the something that people arguing all the time. But I would say like when you ride a motorcycle and wearing helmet is good decision is something that you should consider doing it. I'm not talking, I mean I don't want to get into the, whether we need the helmet law or not, but as a rider, as a like researcher who look at this subject for long time, I see the significant benefit of wearing a helmet at the time of collision, but you cannot. You cannot tell whether I'm going to going to crash today or not. So, it's better to be prepared. Yeah.
[00:23:47] Fred Mannering: To me, well, I was first licensed in Washington State. It was a requirement to be helmeted, but I cannot imagine riding without a helmet. And the crashes I've had, obviously the ones on the racetrack, the helmet was just... but even the one in the street, I mean it's, if I didn't have a helmet on. Yeah, no, that. The fact that the US does not have a universal helmet is just astonishing. Can't understand. You know, we have universal seat belts. But anyway, you
[00:24:13] Wayne Garcia: don't see people saying, I'm going to opt out of seat belts and the, the airbag thing.
[00:24:17] Fred Mannering: Right, right.
[00:24:18] Wayne Garcia: Because, uh, America. I mean this has like, the big advice is with great freedom comes great personal responsibility. You have to, if you are a motorcyclist, if you choose to drive a motorcycle either for your commute or for recreation, there's a lot of work training, understanding, and safety you want to consider. You really do not just get out there and go, "Ah, I, I rode a bike when I was a kid, so how hard can this be?"
[00:24:44] Chanyoung Lee: There's like a saying among the motorcycle in community, say, "Oh, it’s my time to go. It's my time to go," but you know, like we as a state, like we lost about 500 people on a motorcycle crash last year, I guess you 550. But think about the family members and daughters and sons who left behind. It's very sad to see. They told people that it is the worst way to kill yourself. If you have a stage four cancer, you still have three months to tell and say goodbye to your family members. But it like you went out on a motorcycle in the morning and then you don't come home. That's, to me that's such a bad way, such a, like tragic to the, the family members.
[00:25:25] Wayne Garcia: So, what's next in terms of research, Dr. Lee?
[00:25:28] Chanyoung Lee: One of the interesting projects we started is, uh, over the time there were many questions about the motorcycle VMT, the vehicle miles traveled. We didn't know how many miles. I mean, we kind of knew, but we didn't know for sure that how many miles are being ridden by the riders in the state. So, we are working on a project that how we can improve to the methodology to measure those VMT for motorcycles. So hopefully we will be able to tell people that, how many miles been ridden by the people in Florida every year.
[00:25:58] Wayne Garcia: Thank you so much. This has been a topic I've been really looking forward to doing this season on, uh, Out of My Lane because just the whole mystique of, of motorcycles and I think, and, and it's not just boys versus girls. I, I follow a bunch of people on Instagram and one of them is a baker of, of semi-famous baker, and she just got a bike and everyone's weighing in, "Oh my gosh, you're going to die." And, and so it just fascinates me how auto centric we are and need to be to some degree. The discussion over motorcycles obviously will be ongoing, as will your research.
[00:26:34] Wayne Garcia: Dr. Mannering. Dr. Lee, thank you so much for coming and out there in our audience, thanks for listening to Out of My Lane podcast from the Center for Urban Transportation Research at USF Tampa. We will see you the next episode. Bye-bye.
[00:26:53] Announcer: The National Institute for Congestion Reduction, NICR, is a transportation research center focused on innovative congestion strategies. The center is composed of researchers from the University of South Florida. The University of California, Berkeley, Texas A & M University, and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and funded by the United States Department of Transportation. For more information, please visit www.nicr.usf.edu.