Perceptual Rider Information for Maximising Expertise/Enjoyment (PRIMEs)

Dedicated road markings designed as ‘Perceptual Counter-Measures’ (PCMs) have been shown to influence road user behaviour. These are typically road markings that dictate a desired behaviour by altering how a driver might perceive and process risk factors in the environment around them (Gardener, Tate, Mackie, Stedmon, and Southey-Jones, 2017; Mulvihill, Candappa, and Corben, 2008).

From the motorcyclist’s perspective, PCMs have been shown to influence rider behaviour in relation to speed, position, and braking to reinforce better rider behaviour (Hirsch, Moore, Stedmon, Mackie, and Scott, 2017; Hirsch, Scott, Mackie, Stedmon and Moore, 2018).

For a detailed review of research findings for PCMs, please refer to Stedmon, McKenzie, Langham, McKechnie, Perry and Wilson (2021).

With the current research, a new approach was taken by developing a tool for motorcyclists through the design of ‘Perceptual Rider Information to Maximise Expertise and Enjoyment’ (PRIMEs).

The underlying philosophy of PRIMEs is to develop solutions that are cost effective to install and maintain. PRIMEs can be installed on existing roads quickly and efficiently or incorporated into road upgrade schemes.

PRIMEs provide a platform of innovative tools for motorcyclists with different riding styles. Motorcyclists are then able to adopt these tools and adapt their behaviour on approach to a potential hazard therefore optimising their expertise and enjoyment (and also their safety on the road).

Of particular importance to this research programme was the safe navigation of bends. For this to occur, motorcyclists have to make sure that:

  • speed – is suitable for the conditions
  • position – is optimised for entering and travelling through the bend
  • braking – is minimised whilst travelling around the bend

The PRIME road marking design investigated in this research comprised a series of three ‘gateway’ markings positioned on the approach to a bend. The intention was that the PRIME road marking would encourage motorcyclists to ride ‘through the gap’ and use the gateways as a cue to adjust their riding prior to the bend.

Depending on whether a motorcyclist was approaching a left-hand or right-hand bend the PRIME road markings were positioned to the right-hand or the left-hand side of their lane respectively to support a better road position and view on approach to the bend and through the bend itself. This road positioning technique is common in advanced riding courses and the police rider’s handbook (Mares, Coyne and MacDonald, 2020).

With a series of three PRIME gateway markings, there was potential for riders to adjust their braking point according to the motorcycle they were riding, their own riding style, or perhaps even due to weather and other environmental effects (i.e. in poor weather they might brake one marker back from their usual point).

The PRIME road marking used in this research was designed to potentially influence speed, position, and braking on approach to a bend (Figure 1).

PRIME road marking (left) and PRIME road sign (right). The road sign shows a motorcycle icon, with an arrow pointing through the PRIME gateway design.
Figure 1: PRIMEs ‘gateway’ design PRIME road marking (left) and PRIME road sign (right)

The PRIME road marking and road sign designs underwent a range of design specification and user acceptance activities prior to being installed at the trial sites. In order to assess user acceptance of the PRIMEs concept and initial designs, 200 rider and 200 driver interviews were conducted (Stedmon, 2020a). Result from the motorcyclists indicated that 93% felt that the road marking was a good idea; 96% felt that PRIMEs were useful concept; and 90% felt they would use them in the future. Of the 200 car drivers, 91% felt that the road marking was a good idea; 95% felt that PRIMEs were useful concept; and 70% would felt they would use them in the future.

Following on from this, a PRIMEs workshop was conducted in Glasgow with a range of participants from local IAM-Roadsmart groups and a Council Traffic Officer. The discussions at the workshop centred around reservations about being told what position to take on the road, the need for changing the line taken on a bend due to debris and other temporary factors and taking the thinking away from motorcyclists. However, these were mainly advanced riders who may not benefit as much from the PRIMEs as less experienced or untrained riders. With this in mind the participants felt that PRIMEs could work well on technically difficult bends.

An underlying aspect of implementing PRIMEs is that they should not conflict with the needs of other road users. During the workshop this was not seen as a big issue for car drivers and many of the participants felt that drivers would generally ignore the road markings. A range of design options were considered such as installing more than three on tighter bends so that the number of road markings might help inform riders of bend severity and shortening the markings to give more scope to ride around them if needed.

From this work, an on-line survey was developed and conducted to confirm design specifications for the PRIME road marking (Stedmon, 2020b). The results from 200 participants indicated that 82% of participants preferred the ‘gateway’ design. A range of design factors such as colour, spacing, road surface grip, signage, direction arrows and number of markings were surveyed. The options of white road markings and three gateways were rated the highest and taken forward for the road trials of PRIMEs.