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Who is Looking After Your Interests – Do You Care??

August 23, 2009
Are your interests in safe hands??

Are your interests in safe hands??

Kings Lynn, England – Facts are stubborn things we cannot avoid the truth, even when it is not what we want to hear. Hold that thought and then consider the following.

I’ve passed this way before in my scribbling relating to the back roads of British motorcycle politics, but the question of who exactly is claiming to represent British bikers is one that, to say the least, gives me huge concern as I ride the highways and byways of this septic, sorry sceptred isle.

Let’s look at the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA). The organisation representing the motorcycle industry in the UK. A number of scurrilous rumours are currently circulating that MCIA could go bust through lack of member support.

Moving on! MCIA has this ‘thing’ about UK motorcycling speaking with ‘one voice’ and lets all guess who’s its going to be folks. Deep in those dark corridors of Westminster MCIA is moving ahead with its plans to merge the National Motorcycle Council, that’s the body that oversees the UK’s National Motorcycle Strategy with the Parliamentary All Party Group for Motorcycling, that’s the Group for UK Members of Parliament who like a jolly boys outing on bikes. No sorry that should read; are concerned with developing national overarching polices for motorcyclists.

In MCIA speak “a single new body, a Parliamentary Advisory Council for Motorcycling, will provide a strong and authoritative focus for lobbying on issues of common concern to the motorcycle world”. MCIA also say that “each organisation within the motorcycle community may have a different overall mission for their members, we all agree on the main policies that will be required for us to achieve collective and individual goals”. Well actually no. All MCIA is doing is peddling watered down UK Government restrictive policies, particularly on road safety issues, to gullible user groups. I don’t think MCIA’s members would be happy if a Parliamentary Advisory Council for Motorcycling supported European Union moves for a Directive on vehicle pricing. That’s the one that would reduce the cost of motorcycles and scooters in the UK by about 20%. That noise I just heard must have been the door slamming shut after ‘collective goals’ left the room.

Meanwhile over in British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) and Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) land its all about membership numbers, creditability and survival. It’s a good job that the definition of ‘representation’ does not include comment on the numbers represented as both organisations would fall foul of the trade descriptions act. Bearing in mind that there are reckoned to be 1.2 million active UK motorcycle and scooter users and that in the past the BMF and MAG have claimed a joint total membership of 170,000 both organisations have plenty of scope to recruit members. They need to as information passed to me indicating the alleged real numbers shows the BMF membership including both individual and affiliate members at 67,000 and MAGs, on the same basis at 36,000 a total of 103,000.  Passing over the obvious inaccuracies here this means that just over a million UK bikers are not bothered about government representation and only 8.5% are.

So a future scenario could see a ‘one voice’ Quasi Autonomous None Governmental Organisation (QANGO) style group researching, producing, and implementing policies and legislation for UK motorcycle and scooter riders, in other countries British Parliamentarians would call this a dictatorship. A cynical take on the make up of this QANGO would see MCIA taking the lead, acting as the secretariat etc, whist quietly peddling all the usual industry self interest stuff relating to sales and profits. We may even find ourselves with a ‘Motorcycle Champion’ to lead and further the interests of the group, no doubt a suitable candidate for this post could be found amongst the ex MCIA PR contractors. Both the BMF and MAG would be round the table with little choice, voice and credibility and accepting the industry lead. In MAGs case, considering the allegedly musical chairs approach they have to recruitment with the industry, no credibility at all.

Outlook bleak then? Well no, hope lies with the better than 90% of bikers who have no affiliation to the current user groups. From their ranks have sprung short life campaigns like KillSpills and Westminster No to Bike Parking Fees, no doubt there will be others who will have the activist’s enthusiasm, skills and commitment to identify and issue and do something about it.

We have come full circle as the BMF started with 13 men, an issue, an idea and a commitment to action.

Perhaps Die Glückliche Zeit the Happy Time of motorcycle political activism will return.

© Back Roads Rider 2009

3 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    August 25, 2009 7:05 pm

    Motorcycles are the solution to reduce road congestion and air pollution, so it is about time to realise that their use should be encouraged and promoted. But a small number of local authorities, such as Westminster City Council, don’t seem (or in fact refuse) to understand this and see motorcyclists as cash cows by stealth taxing them for parking. And this is in exchange of very basic and over-crowded parking bays, with no security devices, as originally promised. BMF, MAG etc are indeed backing up the No To Bike Parking Tax campaign.

  2. August 26, 2009 5:29 pm

    An excellent post, informative to.

    I am afraid it does seem to come down to doing things for ourselves as certainly MAG had just about thrown in the towel with regards bike parking tax.

    The MCIA are just weird, and feel they have no need to respond or represent the interests of motorcyclists.

    But the biggest problem we all face in the UK is that we don’t think we can change anything, we can and we don’t need to be part of an official group. The difference from when MAG and the BMF first started is that we now have the Internet to get ourselves organised.

    Westminster City Council have seen nothing like the amount of opposition that ordinary bikers have created, we are certainly not giving them a smooth ride.

  3. January 23, 2010 9:44 am

    I don’t know who you are but I really enjoyed reading this. You obviously know your way around. Die Glückliche Zeit remains part of a bygone era and with the “London Mafia” running the show, not only in the UK but beyond, the future of biking looks bleak.

    All the best

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