PTW event: experts talking ‘twaddle’ about ABS on small bikes

10.42 | 1 April 2021 |


There was a significant difference of opinion during a recent discussion about compulsory ABS on small PTWs, held as part of Road Safety GB’s online PTW event.

Panellists in the PTW Riders Question Time session were asked whether they supported the extension of compulsory ABS to the A1 125cc category in the UK (45mins 30secs into the session).

The question was put by John Chatterton Ross, head of safety for powered two wheelers at the Safer Roads Foundation – but none of the four panellists supported the idea.

Karen Cole, from the MCIA, felt that “current systems are adequate from a functionality and safety perspective”, adding that she was unaware of any research showing road safety benefits resulting from making ABS compulsory on small bikes.

Road safety consultant Iain Temperton said “technology comes at a cost and increases complexity”, thereby making small bikes – which have traditionally been seen as an inexpensive form of transport – more expensive to buy and maintain.

Karen Cole and Iain Temperton both made the case for an “appropriate level of technology”, in terms of balancing benefit and risk. 

MAG spokesperson Colin Brown said he had driven cars and bikes with ABS installed, but had never had a situation where it had been deployed. If you drive or ride safely, you don’t need ABS, he argued, adding that ABS may have unintended side effects in terms of encouraging riders to take risks.

Dr Cris Burgess from Exeter University picked up on the risk-taking issue, pointing to studies comparing the use of ABS and airbags in cars, which show increased risk taking because a driver knows when ABS has been deployed and thus feels safer.

Responding to these answers, John Chatterton Ross said he was “incredibly disappointed with the responses”, adding that the panellists clearly “need educating on this topic” – before going on to dismiss the “twaddle” about ABS costing too much money, as “absolute rubbish”.

Speaking from the audience, David Davies from PACTS likened the discussion to ‘the old debate about seat belts and risk compensation’.

The PTW Riders event was organised by Road Safety GB and ran online from 8-26 March. In all it comprised 20 sessions – a mix of pre-recorded presentations, podcasts, a live workshop and the Question Time session.

To date, the event website has received more than 5,000 visits from road safety practitioners and others with an interest in PTW rider safety.

All the content was aired free-to-view and is now available on the event website catch up service, where it will remain for the foreseeable future.

The discussion about ABS can be found 45mins 30secs into the Question Time session.



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