Women and motorcycle licenses

Since February 2019, women all over the world are taking part in WRWR, Women Riders World Relay, to highlight the special needs for female riders to producers of motorcycles and clothes. We see more women on motorcycles on the roads but is the actual number and share of the owners really growing? The answer is actually NO in many countries! One main reason is the complicated drivers license system in EU/EES. The demands that was introduced 2013 seem to disfavour women all over Europe. This article describes the situation in Sweden and parts of Europe. The drivers license was discussed when WRWR had breakfast at the office of SMC, the Swedish Motorcyclist Association in Sweden. Equality in the transport system is one important goal for the Swedish government. However, this is not the case when it comes to the motorcycle licenses.

SMC has collected statistics of the numbers and share of women who have passed the motorcycle licenses since 2000. The numbers have dropped since 2003 with 25 percent and the share of women who’ve passed the test has gone down from 21,3 to 11,2!  One reason is probably that it is more difficult for women to pass the riding test. 

Source: Drivers license statistics 2000-2018 The Swedish Transport Administration. Download exce-file with all data. 

Beside collecting data and facts, SMC has done two web surveys (2013 and 2017) to find out the logic behind the statistics. Both surveys showed that women spend more time and resources in training before the riding test. Almost 100 % goes to a traffic school and take more lessons compared to the men. The women also ride more kilometers on their own bikes with a private coach following. The main part of the education is spent in a closed area in order to train the manouver part of the license (manouvers in slow speed and high speed).  Women are older (38 years) than men (34 years) when they take the A test. But, neither more extensive training nor age are advantages when it comes to women who try to pass the riding test for motorcycles in Sweden. 

After years of lobbying the minister of infrastructure, Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd, asked the research institue VTI to investigate this 2013. The report proved what SMC had pointed out. Both the test configuration for slow speed and the demand of test vehicles are disadvantages for women who in general are shorter than men. The report resulted in several measures: a change of the manouver test in slow speed, the gender perspective was considered with all rider examiners, traffic schools and other stakeholders. 

Unfortunately this is not enough. The difference between the approval rate for women and men is growing. New demands in the European drivers license directive has banned many bikes below 50 kW and 175 kg to be used in the test from 2019. This change will probably make the differences even bigger. The new demand on test vehicles in EU/EES countries for A motorcycle are:a motorcycle without sidecar, more than 600 cm3, weight above 175 kilos and an engine power of at least 50 kW. 

Source: Approval rate women and men at A license 2000-2018 The Swedish Transport Administration. Download the excelfile with all statistics here. 

Are women less safe riders?
Swedish data shows that female riders are involved in less motorcycle accidents and they are also underrepresented in the fataly figures.  More women actually die in motorcycle accidents as a passenger than as a rider. Thus, there is no link between the higher failure rate in the riding test and a high risk for accidents. 

The driving license directive will be revised in the future and SMC want to bring in the gender perspective in the decision process. 


The WRWR guardians leaving SMC and Borlänge Friday 10th May 2019. 

Facts about SMC
SMC is an organization for motorcyclists with about 70 000 members, 9000 are women. SMC works with all issues of concern for riders: safety, training, information, advocay, tourism, consumer issues and international cooperation. SMC offers activities for female riders, like advanced training and technical courses. There are several member clubs with female members. 


SMC invited all guardians to a breakfast at the office in Borlänge Friday 10th May. There have never been so many motorcycles parked outside! All photos: Joachim Sjöström

About 25 guardians came to SMC office


Only smiles and happy faces before the ride to Örebro, two members of the SMC staff joined the tour.


All kind of bikes were taking part in WRWR when they passed our office. 

Everyone was interested when the license test was discussed at SMC.


Maria Nordqvist, SMC, was awarded the "Equality star of the year" 2016 for her work to highlight the differences in approval rates for A motorcycles  between male and female motorcyclists in Sweden.  

"I wanted to ignite a global sisterhood of inspirational women to promote courage, adventure, unity and passion for biking from all corners of the world and do something that’s never been done before to this scale. My aim is to WOW the industry into realizing the global market for women in Motorsports and to inspire women world wide.

Women Riders World Relay – Hayley Bell, Founder -UK