New road markings trialled across the west of Scotland have demonstrated their success in improving the riding behaviour of motorcyclists taking left hand bends.
The markings, called Perceptual Rider Information for Maximising Expertise and Enjoyment (PRIMEs), are designed to help riders make better decisions when approaching bends.
Grounded in the latest academic theory on human factors and applied psychology, also known as ‘nudge psychology’, PRIMEs consist of new and innovative “gateway” road markings and an associated information signage. They are intended to provide a tool for motorcyclists, ‘priming’ them to adapt their riding on approach to a bend.
Twenty-two trial sites were created on roads covering 750 square miles across the West of Scotland. Research was undertaken over three years in what is believed to be the most in-depth investigation of motorcycle rider behaviour anywhere in the world to date. Video footage of over 32,000 motorcycles using the markings was manually assessed and the results are clear. After PRIME road markings are installed, project partners have seen:
- A significant reduction in speed.
- A significant improvement in road position both on the approach and apex of the bend.
- A significant improvement in braking behaviour.
Additionally, since the start of the trials there have been no motorcycle injury collisions at any of the previously identified accident cluster sites where PRIME markings have been deployed.
The transformative approach was enabled by the Road Safety Trust, who provided research funding of over £215,000 to Transport Scotland as the project managers to test the experimental approach. Professor Alex Stedmon, a globally recognised expert in rider behaviour and psychology, led the research and ensured academic rigour throughout – also producing peer-reviewed journal papers reporting the findings. BEAR Scotland provided their expertise by offering engineering solutions to deliver the test sites, markings and signage across Scotland.
This work not only added to the evidence base of the academic theory underpinning the road markings – but offers a blueprint, which has been tested and proven in Scotland, that has potentially global implications. It’s a low cost intervention which significantly improves road safety for riders when used in the right road conditions.
The next step will be the production of a guidance pack for roads authorities in Scotland on how they can implement PRIMEs locally. This low cost intervention will be of interest to roads authorities worldwide, particularly where their road environments share a similarity to those commonly found across the west of Scotland.
Scottish Government Minister for Transport, Fiona Hyslop MSP, said: “The evidence on the impact of Project PRIME is astounding. This is a real triumph for road safety, demonstrating what happens when latest academic theory is supported by real world application – all made possible thanks to Scottish engineering and a strong partnership approach.
“We wanted to pursue this trial because our strong belief is that one death on our roads is one too many. Motorcyclists are consistently over represented in road casualty statistics despite comprising a relatively low proportion of road users – and the issues around left-hand bends for riders are well known. The Road Safety Trust share our vision for road safety – and I’m grateful for their support and funding to help test the innovative approaches. BEAR Scotland also went above and beyond to overcome engineering barriers and make this study possible.
“What sets this approach apart is that it is grounded in theories of applied psychology and human factors. Those approaches were then proven successful under real-world conditions, in what we believe is the largest study of rider behaviour ever undertaken. That is a tremendous achievement – with much of it made possible by Professor Alex Stedmon and his team working with Transport Scotland officials to produce rigorous and peer-reviewed work.
“Scotland is working with partners to have the best road safety performance in the world by 2030 and an ambitious long term goal where no one is seriously injured or killed on our roads by 2050. Project PRIME has responded through innovative engineering – and has proven that this is an approach that could be used globally under similar road conditions.”
Professor Alex Stedmon, said: “Project PRIME is the first time this kind of research has been done to look at dedicated road markings for motorcyclists.
“It’s been a great opportunity to use applied psychology principles in the real world to support behaviour change for a specific group of vulnerable road users which underpins the Safe System approach to road safety and supports Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2030.
“Between 2020 and 2022 I spent many weekends up in the Highlands collecting data and interviewing riders. Having analysed the data in depth it is great to see that PRIMEs influence rider behaviour in such positive ways.
“As a keen motorcyclist myself, I know how important it is to approach demanding bends safely and PRIMEs help riders adjust their speed, position and braking.
“The work would not have been possible without the support of the Road Safety Trust and commitment from Transport Scotland, BEAR Scotland and Open Road Simulation. It’s been a complex project to deliver and each partner has had a key role in the overall management, research and analyses and road engineering works respectively.
“Throughout Project PRIME we have taken a user-centred approach to develop a safety solution that riders will accept and use. It’s very much for motorcyclists and by motorcyclists!”
Chief Executive of The Road Safety Trust, Sonya Hurt, said: “We are very pleased to have been able to support the PRIME project, which represents a new and innovative approach to motorcycle casualty reduction.
“With data from tens of thousands of motorcyclists, the results show that PRIMEs have a significant positive effect on rider behaviour.
“The PRIME project aligns with the Safe System approach, which represents an ambitious safety performance level and current best practice safety culture in road safety. PRIME addresses three of the five Safe System foundations – safe speeds, safe road use, and safe roads and roadsides.
“It is very pleasing to know that a road safety innovation piloted in Scotland, with funding provided by The Road Safety Trust, could play an important role in helping to keep riders safe – and reducing collisions and casualties – across the globe.”
Ian Stewart from BEAR Scotland, said: “I am proud that BEAR Scotland’s role as a key partner in the ongoing innovative Motorcycle PRIME Trials has contributed to this innovative, potentially life-saving motorcycle safety project.
“BEAR Scotland Road Safety Engineers have been involved with this real-world research project from its conception and their expertise enabled it to be carried out on Scottish roads. We supported the project by delivering the initial feasibility report, identifying potential trial sites, and developing and installing new road signs and road markings.
“This work has the potential to be a low cost, highly beneficial road safety improvement scheme that will help reduce motorcycle accidents on our roads for years to come. It is anticipated that the trials will be expanded further in the next few years and potentially be rolled out across the wider trunk road network and local road network in Scotland.”