WASHINGTON, DC – As cities around the nation continue to experience increases in commute times, accidents, and fatalities, we are seeing more policymakers turn to technology as a potential solution. Over the next thirty years, America’s population is projected to grow by 70 million people. What that does to congestion alone has many in Washington considering the potential impacts of a fully integrated transportation infrastructure to solve transportation problems and improve public transit in the long run. One sect of the population not immediately thought of, but is undoubtedly effected is motorcyclists.
In December 2015, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation launched the Smart City Challenge—a national competition to implement bold, data-driven ideas that demonstrate the use of advanced data and intelligent transportation systems technologies. Almost 80 cities responded and drafted plans detailing holistic visions as to how technology can help city residents get from place to place more easily and with less traffic. The prize for the best blueprint went to Columbus, OH who won a $40-million-dollar grant from the Department of Transportation. However, absent from Ohio’s plans was anything addressing motorcyclists. In reviewing the seven finalist cities for the initiative, it appears that none of these addressed motorcyclists and their role on the road. Bicyclists and mass transit including busses, shuttles and trolleys, self-driving cars, and new traffic-related applications for smartphones were all included in potential city plans and yet none of the finalists considered motorcycles in their campaigns.
Interestingly, across the pond in Europe, at the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress that took place in France last year, the European motorcycle industry took a major step towards connecting technology and motorcyclists when three major motorcycle manufacturers announced the launch of a Connected Motorcycle Consortium (CMC), to further the development of Cooperative-Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) applications in motorized two-wheelers. Representatives from BMW Motorrad, Honda, and Yamaha all participated in Europe’s new consortium believing it would accelerate the development of connected motorcycles and scooters helping to address traffic and safety in years to come.
Though in the U.S. there are individual programs and initiatives addressing technology and motorcycles, there are few and far between and are typically found at universities. It’s unclear to what degree U.S. domestic motorcycle manufacturers are involved with these projects. Nor is it clear whether the U.S. Department of Transportation intends to prioritize or even view motorcyclists as a player in achieving a fully integrated transportation infrastructure. With motorcycle ridership increasing (growing from 3,826,373 in 1997 to 8,404,687 in 2013), it’s a community that cannot, and should not, be ignored.