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  • The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters:

    Exploring usage patterns and safety outcomes

    Ross Alexander Blackman

    Bachelor of Social Science (Hons)

    A thesis submitted as fulfilment for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland

    School of Psychology and Counselling

    Queensland University of Technology


  • The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters i


    Moped; scooter; motorcycle; powered two-wheeler; motorised two-

    wheeler; road safety; rider licence; vulnerable road user; mode choice;


  • The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters ii

  • The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters iii


    Increased use of powered two-wheelers (PTWs) often underlies increases in

    the number of reported crashes, promoting research into PTW safety. PTW riders

    are overrepresented in crash and injury statistics relative to exposure and, as such, are

    considered vulnerable road users. PTW use has increased substantially over the last

    decade in many developed countries. One such country is Australia, where moped

    and scooter use has increased at a faster rate than motorcycle use in recent years.

    Increased moped use is particularly evident in the State of Queensland which is one

    of four Australian jurisdictions where moped riding is permitted for car licence

    holders and a motorcycle licence is not required.

    A moped is commonly a small motor scooter and is limited to a maximum

    design speed of 50 km/h and a maximum engine cylinder capacity of 50 cubic

    centimetres. Scooters exceeding either of these specifications are classed as

    motorcycles in all Australian jurisdictions.

    While an extensive body of knowledge exists on motorcycle safety, some of

    which is relevant to moped and scooter safety, the latter PTW types have received

    comparatively little focused research attention. Much of the research on moped

    safety to date has been conducted in Europe where they have been popular since the

    mid 20 th

    century, while some studies have also been conducted in the United States.

    This research is of limited relevance to Australia due to socio-cultural, economic,

    regulatory and environmental differences. Moreover, while some studies have

    compared motorcycles to mopeds in terms of safety, no research to date has

    specifically examined the differences and similarities between mopeds and larger

    scooters, or between larger scooters and motorcycles.

    To address the need for a better understanding of moped and scooter use and

    safety, the current program of research involved three complementary studies

    designed to achieve the following aims: (1) develop better knowledge and

    understanding of moped and scooter usage trends and patterns; and (2) determine the

    factors leading to differences in moped, scooter and motorcycle safety.

    Study 1 involved six-monthly observations of PTW types in inner city

    parking areas of Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane, to monitor and quantify the

    types of PTW in use over a two year period. Study 2 involved an analysis of

    Queensland PTW crash and registration data, primarily comparing the police-

  • The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters iv

    reported crash involvement of mopeds, scooters and motorcycles over a five year

    period (N = 7,347). Study 3 employed both qualitative and quantitative methods to

    examine moped and scooter usage in two components: (a) four focus group

    discussions with Brisbane-based Queensland moped and scooter riders (N = 23); and

    (b) a state-wide survey of Queensland moped and scooter riders (N = 192).

    Study 1 found that of the PTW types parked in inner city Brisbane over the

    study period (N = 2,642), more than one third (36.1%) were mopeds or larger

    scooters. The number of PTWs observed increased at each six-monthly phase, but

    there were no significant changes in the proportions of PTW types observed across

    study phases. There were no significant differences in the proportions or numbers of

    PTW type observed by season.

    Study 2 revealed some important differences between mopeds, scooters and

    motorcycles in terms of safety and usage through analysis of crash and registration

    data. All Queensland PTW registrations doubled between 2001 and 2009, but there

    was an almost fifteen-fold increase in moped registrations. Mopeds subsequently

    increased as a proportion of Queensland registered PTWs from 1.2 percent to 8.8

    percent over this nine year period. Moped and scooter crashes increased at a faster

    rate than motorcycle crashes over the five year study period from July 2003 to June

    2008, reflecting their relatively greater increased usage. Crash rates per 10,000

    registrations for the study period were only slightly higher for mopeds (133.4) than

    for motorcycles and scooters combined (124.8), but estimated crash rates per million

    vehicle kilometres travelled were higher for mopeds (6.3) than motorcycles and

    scooters (1.7). While the number of crashes increased for each PTW type over the

    study period, the rate of crashes per 10,000 registrations declined by 40 percent for

    mopeds compared with 22 percent for motorcycles and scooters combined.

    Moped and scooter crashes were generally less severe than motorcycle

    crashes and this was related to the particular crash characteristics of the PTW types

    rather than to the PTW types themselves. Compared to motorcycle and moped

    crashes, scooter crashes were less likely to be single vehicle crashes, to involve a

    speeding or impaired rider, to involve poor road conditions, or to be attributed to

    rider error. Scooter and moped crashes were more likely than motorcycle crashes to

    occur on weekdays, in lower speed zones and at intersections. Scooter riders were

    older on average (39) than moped (32) and motorcycle (35) riders, while moped

    riders were more likely to be female (36%) than scooter (22%) or motorcycle riders

  • The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters v

    (7%). The licence characteristics of scooter and motorcycle riders were similar, with

    moped riders more likely to be licensed outside of Queensland and less likely to hold

    a full or open licence. The PTW type could not be identified in 15 percent of all

    cases, indicating a need for more complete recording of vehicle details in the

    registration data.

    The focus groups in Study 3a and the survey in Study 3b suggested that

    moped and scooter riders are a heterogeneous population in terms of demographic

    characteristics, riding experience, and knowledge and attitudes regarding safety and

    risk. The self-reported crash involvement of Study 3b respondents suggests that

    most moped and scooter crashes result in no injury or minor injury and are not

    reported to police. Study 3 provided some explanation for differences observed in

    Study 2 between mopeds and scooters in terms of crash involvement. On the whole,

    scooter riders were older, more experienced, more likely to have undertaken rider

    training and to value rider training programs. Scooter riders were also more likely to

    use protective clothing and to seek out safety-related information.

    This research has some important practical implications regarding moped and

    scooter use and safety. While mopeds and scooters are generally similar in terms of

    usage, and their usage has increased, scooter riders appear to be safer than moped

    riders due to some combination of superior skills and safer riding behaviour. It is

    reasonable to expect that mopeds and scooters will remain popular in Queensland in

    future and that their usage may further increase, along with that of motorcycles.

    Future policy and planning should consider potential options for encouraging moped

    riders to acquire better riding skills and greater safety awareness. While rider

    training and licensing appears an obvious potential countermeasure, the effectiveness

    of rider training has not been established and other options should also be strongly

    considered. Such options might include rider education and safety promotion, while

    interventions could also target other road users and urban infrastructure.

    Future research is warranted in regard to moped and scooter safety,

    particularly where the use of those PTWs has increased substantially from low levels.

    Research could address areas such as rider training and licensing (including program

    evaluations), the need for more detailed and reliable data (particularly crash and

    exposure data), protective clothing use, risks associated with lane splitting and

    filtering, and tourist use of mopeds. Some of this research would likely be relevant

    to motorcycle use and safety, as well as that of mopeds and scooters.

  • The increased popularity of mopeds and motor