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MP’s Testy on Motorcycle Test

October 19, 2009
Bikers on a Protest Ride - Are their interests really being protected?

Bikers on a Protest Ride - Are their interests really being protected?

Southampton, England – I must apologise my intention was to leave the issues surrounding the ‘new’ UK motorcycle test alone for a period. Future comment being allied to the publication of a report on the issue by the UK Parliament, House of Commons Transport Committee.

You may therefore ask why I return to the subject. Last Wednesday the Transport Committee took oral evidence, written evidence already having been submitted, on the motorcycle test and problems related to it. A colleague of mine was present and was extremely concerned over the lack lustre approach taken by the individuals representing both the UK motorcycle industry and the rider lobby groups. Having viewed the ‘tape’ of the session I’d concur with her view.

No doubt the industry and rider groups submitted written evidence, undertook off the record briefing and corridor chats, and hopefully ‘suggested’ possible question topics to ‘friendly Members of Parliament (MP’s) who people the Committee. But considering the importance of this issue, we need to new motorcycle and scooter riders to keep biking and scootering alive and well not to mention having a prospering motorcycle ‘industry’, the face to face performance of these ‘reps’ was pants.

In consideration of the fact that these people are being paid to do a job of representation I will name them. For the Motor Cycle Industry Trainers Association (MCITA), Steve Manning, for the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) Craig Cary-Clinch (Public Policy Advisor) and Karen Cooke (Director of Safety), for the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) Chris Hodder (Government Relations Executive), for the Motorcycle Action Group, Nich Brown (General Secretary).

So what was said? Here’s an opinion on it.  Bear in mind that we need a test that is firm but fair and produces riders who are confident and safe. Well MCITA blamed the test for the major fall in test candidates, ignoring the fact that MCIA campaigned throughout 2007/08 on a ticket of take your test now before the new hard one arrives thus simple using up the pool of rider test candidates. MCIA whinged on the ‘swerving and braking manoeuvre’ and the fact that the test had been divided in to two modules. Funny they were supportive of both those ideas at the outset. The BMF said well next to nothing. MAG made mention of its members, well as they all have licences do they care and then seemed to put forward the premise that as all crashes involving bikers are someone else’s  fault we don’t need to ‘swerve and brake anyway.

Considering the four individuals had 50 minutes answer MP’s questions and make their case little was said on the main issues i.e., safety of candidates and travel distance to test centres, nor was the opportunity taken to get over positive messages on biking and scootering. Indeed as MCIA meet with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) once a month its surprising more progress on test candidate safety has not been made.

Biking didn’t come out of this at all well. In fact the later evidence from Robert Gifford of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) did a better job for biker safety than the biking reps did. Gifford, in the past noted for his anti bike stance, was well briefed and offered a comparison of the difficulty of the UK test with other EU countries, we are in the middle ground of difficulty. He answered questions that left ‘our’ representatives stumped. Including the fact that out of 9000 tests completed there have been 33 accidents, about 0.4%.

As for the Paul Clark MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Driving Standards Agency. The Minister responsible for the Bike test issue. Well all I can say is perhaps he’s preoccupied with the MP’s expenses thing, cos he sure was poorly briefed on the test issue.

And why, apparently, has no recent test candidate been asked to voice an opinion on the test to the Transport Committee. The obvious and common sense thing to do.

What we want on the ‘new’ motorcycle test issue.

An independent examination by the UK Health and Safety Executive on safety issues relating to the test manoeuvres. Not as is the case it being looked at by the DSA’s Health and Safety Team. If problems are found they must be addressed.

Introduction of a more flexible criteria relating to the test and weather conditions. If a rider thinks it’s dangerous it probably is.

Commissioning of test centres that have been delayed allowing candidates a reasonable round trip journey distance to take the test.

Assurances from the ‘trainers’ that candidates are reaching a standard allowing them to feel confident about achieving a pass in module one of the test. Reading between the lines it looks like candidates are taking the test before they are ready.

We need to get this right; the 3rd Driving Licence Directive will soon be here. With new test categories, a new test bike and the introduction of minimum hours training.

All good fun.

© Back Roads Rider 2009

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 2:34 pm

    I suggest you take another look at the tape of the evidence session.

    The evidence I gave on behalf of MAG was that the most common form of accident involving a motorcycle is around a junction, normally precipitated by a car pulling out from the junction, so on that basis testing a rider’s ability to avoid that kind of situation is not a bad idea.

    This is in direct opposition to your report that MAG believes “all crashes involving bikers are someone else’s fault we don’t need to ‘swerve and brake anyway”.

    MAG members generally do have licences, they know what it was like to be a voice rider, what it is like to ride today and yes they do care about the next generation of riders.

    If you’d like to talk with me directly about this, or the other issues you have with MAG, I’d be happy to oblige. I’ll be in London for the NTBPT committee and other meetings if that’s convenient.


    • backroadsrider permalink
      October 22, 2009 3:53 pm

      Always delighted to feature views and opinions that differ from my own.

      Above all it’s about free speech, debate and enlightenment.

      The ‘tape’ of the UK House of Commons Transport Committee oral evidence session on the motorcycle test is available here…..

      It is good to rub and polish your mind against that of others.

  2. Chris Hodder permalink
    October 24, 2009 12:00 am

    Clearly you didn’t get a copy of the BMF’s submission to the TSC which pretty much said everything we wanted to say. The purpose of the TSC is for MPs to ask supplementary questions, not for us to have a rant. We have to be careful what we say as when you go on the record with comments, you have to be able to back them up – this is clearly a concept you are not used to, hiding behind anonymity as you do. Robert Gifford will be caught out on many of the comments he made (as will Rosemary Thew and Paul Clark), particularly in light of the properly researched written evidence which all the lobby groups have submitted.

    Next time, I suggest you do wait until the report is published as you may find that most of your comments have been addressed – or perhaps the ‘duty’ you feel to your readers to provide them with instant, ill-informed and anonymous comment is too strong?

  3. Waldorf (of Waldorf & Statler) permalink
    January 28, 2010 7:46 pm

    The wonderful thing about blogs is that the chances on anybody reading them is dependent on the fame of the blogger or fear of being mentioned in the blog. So in the tiny, tiny world of riders’ rights, there isn’t much “out there”. I like this blog, because it’s clever and the blogger calls a spade a spade – no rants, just raising the stakes and bringing to book the usual suspects.

    I watched the select committee video and from what I could see, the only person that made any sense was the one and only – fearless brigadier aka CCC, the rest were just dressing – and pretty watered down dressing at that.

    How do our representatives of motorcyclists measure in the big bad world of anti-biking legislation. From what I can see, the last time MAG did anything of value was the fight against the 3rd European Driving Licence Directive.

    The latest venture of MAG and the BMF is Riders are Voters. I recall somebody I knew said “If you sup with the devil, use a long spoon”. So MAG, BMF and MCIA are all putting forward a united front to convince a bunch of politicians that motorcyclists (all 1.5 million of us) count when it comes to the elections. Will they succeed? Who knows? and guess the truth is – who cares?

    But how does this alliance sit with the proposals of the industry to introduce wide range anti-tampering measures – such that the only thing that the members of these organisations will be able to do is apply their respective organisations’ stickers on their bikes?

    How do they (BMF/MAG) manage to sit at the table and discuss the niceties of motorcycling for all, knowing that their partner (MCIA) are by their very existence, out to make a nice profit for the companies that this organisation represents. Maybe because they don’t mention “difficult” stuff.

    So that leaves us with our mother organisation in Brussels (FEMA) – what are they doing to fend off the bad legislators? The latest attempt to promote and protect motorcyclists in Europe appears to have ended up in an almighty stitch up – for UK bikers anyway.

    FEMA’s response to the proposals for framework regulations that are looming on the horizen is ““Singular Re-inspection after modification of safety-critical parts.” (If you are really, really, really interested, their position is up on the FEMA website – but you’ll have to search for it).

    The problem is that they haven’t explained what they mean by a safety-critical part. For the EU Commission, all parts of the power train are safety critical and that raises a number of questions – especially for countries that have MOT. Does it mean that everytime I modify the power train I’ll have to take it to somebody for inspection?? and still have to do an MOT each year? Didn’t they get advice from somebody who knows about technical stuff? It would appear not.

    In the good ole days, we had fighters who lived for their bikes, we were lucky in Brussels, because we had Simon. Now it’s all down hill – musical chairs with the industry. Who dares to challenge is treated with contempt and arrogance.

    So what do we do? Do we join the club and become part of the so-called democratic process? Or – as in the real world, do we vote with our feet? Interesting times. Maybe if we told our “representatives” that it’s time they pulled their heads in and listen carefully.

    Maybe it’s time they started “being busy”. The message from the big bad world is that we haven’t got a clue what they’re doing – we don’t know – and maybe that’s why their memberships are in freefall or as somebody on this blog pointed out, why pay them when we’ve got facebook?

    It’s not personal, it’s an opinion.

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