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Motorcycle used to inspect road hazards

TMR bike inspect road hazards
TMR road inspection motorcycle

VicRoads has rejected the use of a special motorcycle to inspect for motorcycle-specific road hazards, preferring to use specially trained inspectors.

Last month Coroner Paresa Spanos found that a bump that caused the death of rider Mark Rodgers and pillion Jodi Walsham may not have been detected by VicRoads because it scans roads in a four-wheeled vehicle, not on a motorcycle.

inspect road hazards
Mark and Jodi

However, the Coroner did not recommend VicRoads inspect roads with a motorcycle as Queensland’s Transport and Main Roads (TMR) has been doing for several years.

Instead, the Coroner accepted a VicRoads plan to train inspectors to be aware of vulnerable riders and promote its hotline to report road hazards.

Motorcycle to inspect roads

Queensland uses a specially equipped motorcycle to scan for specific road hazards such as the 15cm mid-lane bump that caused the double-fatal on the Great Alpine Rd, Ensay, in 2015.

“Road defects identified during regular inspections are recorded, prioritised and fixed under routine maintenance work programs,” a TMR spokesperson says.

TMR uses an instrumented motorcycle for assessments of motorcycle routes and specific safety audits. These assessments are selected based on the history of motorcycle crashes as well as feedback from motorcyclists to identify opportunities to improve the road and roadside infrastructure.

“The motorcycle is equipped with sensors and gyroscopes to measure force, wheel speeds, and suspension movement. GPS is also used to track location, speed and time along the ride, so data sets can be synchronised.

“The motorcycle also includes two cameras (front and rear) and two microphones. Commentary from the rider is used to further determine any unsafe road characteristics.

“The rider is generally experienced and has local knowledge of the road. If weather permits, rides are undertaken in both dry and wet conditions.”

TMR bike inspect road hazards
TMR road inspection motorcycle

Bike for loan

TMR says their instrumented motorcycle is available for use by other governments and road agencies to inspect roads.

It has previously been loaned and used for audits in New South Wales and South Australia.

However, VicRoads has not accepted the offer.

We asked whether they considered their own specialist motorcycle for the job of scanning for road hazards.

They replied:

VicRoads has recently worked with Victoria Police solo riders with instrumented motorcycles to collect data on popular motorcycle routes.  Some of the surveillance officers being trained are motorcycle riders and VicRoads will consider how motorcycles can be used more during safety audits and inspections.  The road hazard training program will focus on hazards for motorcyclists, such as small potholes and bumps, especially at tight bends. The training courses are expected to be completed mid-year.”

Transport for NSW tested TMR’s specialised motorcycle on roads in Northern NSW but has no plans to buy one of their own.

The NSW Centre for Road Safety conducted motorcyclist-specific road safety audits on four popular motorcyclist routes in 2018 — Gwydir Highway, Bruxner Highway, Waterfall Way and Grafton-Ebor Road — to develop a program of future works including 22km of underrun barriers in the next financial year.

Safety audits

Meanwhile, TMR is working with university researchers to better understand how motorcycle safety audits of roads can be improved.

“TMR will consider the findings from the Victorian Coroner in relation to the fatal crash that occurred in March 2015 at Great Alpine Road, Ensay,” the TMR spokesperson says.

He encouraged all road users, including motorcyclists, to report unsafe road conditions.

Report road hazards

Pothole roadworks road hazards inspect
Dangerous road conditions are no laughing matter for riders

You can report hazards on local roads to the relevant local council.

If the hazard is on a state road, report it to the state authorities:

If you believe the hazard is lifer threatening such as a washed-out bridge, you can ring 000.