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E-Bike……Glum!!

February 28, 2010

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Great Yarmouth, England – Another step on Britain’s road to a carbon zero utopia as the Government announces a grant scheme to buy electric vehicles.

This week the UK’s Department for Transport announced that “pioneering motorists” will be eligible for a new Plug-In Car Grant to buy electric vehicles and other ultra-low-carbon cars. The grant will pay for 25 percent of the cost of a plug-in vehicle, with a cap of £5,000.  It will be available throughout the UK starting in January 2011, when the first wave of plug-in vehicles is expected to hit the streets.

The Government will also establish a £30 million fund for a system of electric vehicle charging points, called Plugged-In Places, in car parks, supermarkets, retail centres and on the street. Over 11,000 stations will be installed in the next three years in London, Milton Keynes and the northeast of England. It is expected that the location of more charging points will be announced later this year. The total Government spend on the Plug-In Car Grant and Plugged-In Places will be in the order of £260 million.

It is acknowledged among the forward thinkers in the UK motorcycle and scooter industry that electric motorcycles and scooters (e-bikes) are, in the medium term, a growth area for sales. Thus it is somewhat surprising that e-bikes are not included in the Plug-In Grant scheme. It appears that motorcycle dealers and their customers have now been snubbed twice by Government i.e. no access to the vehicle scrappage scheme and now no access to an electric vehicle purchase scheme. Is this deliberate I wonder? Perhaps we will get some good news on this issue in the upcoming Government Budget. I don’t think I’ll be betting on it through!

News from the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has not enlivened the week for the UK motorcycle training organisations. Fifty thousand fewer riders took their test in the last eight months of 2009 than in the same period in 2008. Eighty-one thousand riders took the test in the last eight months of 2008, in 2009 the figure was just 31,000, a fall of 62%. The number of riders achieving a test pass is also worrying, in the last eight months of 2008 the figure was 53,000. In 2009 the number was 22,000, a fall of 58%.  

There are number of reasons for this dramatic fall in test candidates. There was a surge in test candidates prior to the introduction of the ‘new’ riding test in April 2009. We are in the grips of the worst economic recession for 60 years, thus the cost of training and testing is a major factor and the test is harder to pass.

It’s not necessarily all doom and gloom. The numbers actually achieving a pass under the new test regime is pretty consistent. Riders interviewed by BRR who have achieved pass considered the test challenging but achievable. Those who had failed the old test but passed the new felt ‘more able and confident’. Indeed riders we spoke to who had taken the new test three to four months previously and had some experience of ‘real’ world riding felt the test better reflected what they faced on the road everyday. BRR’s interviews are completely unscientific, we presume that the DSA and the industry are carrying out suitable surveys and research to establish the effectiveness, or not, of the current test.

Still one spin-off of the new bike test has been a rare mention of motorcycling during Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK Parliament. Quizzed by Conservative MP Anne Main, she asked about the issue of motorcycle testing, PM Gordon Brown responded with, “It is important that we have a strong motorcycling industry in this country”.  Subsequent infighting between the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI) and UK’s largest motorcycle weekly paper Motorcycle News (MCN) as to who actually got the question down has been nothing if not entertaining. MCI claiming its ‘diligent’ lobbying on their part and MCN claiming that it came via Anne Main’s husband, Andy, raising the issue with her after reading about it in MCN.

Considering the European Motorcycle Industry spent eighteen months busting a gut to get the new test sorted on safety grounds, with MCI accompanying on violin, it’s a bit odd that MCI are now busting the same gut to get it changed. Could it be that when something hits the industries pocket it’s a national catastrophe, but when it hits the riders it’s an ‘unavoidable price increase’.

A new motorcycle safety campaign hits UK TV and cinema screens in the next few days. A pleasant move away from the usual ‘you bike you die’ stuff this one encourages drivers to see motorcyclists as individuals. It’s based on research which suggests drivers are more likely to notice us bikers if they know motorcyclists personally.

The  campaign ad will depict  riders with neon signs on their backs showing their name along with messages such as “shy retiring type” or “new dad”, a voiceover asks drivers to look out for motorcyclists next time they’re on the road.

So any ‘fit’ female drivers out there please note. All us bikers here at BRR are soft-hearted warm teddy bear types who just love a hug!

© Back Roads Rider 2010

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather Brooke permalink
    February 28, 2010 10:05 am

    “Riders interviewed by BRR who have achieved pass considered the test challenging but achievable.”

    Well they would wouldn’t they?

    • backroadsrider permalink
      February 28, 2010 11:32 am

      Yes! As I said completely unscientific! Just an opinion.

  2. backroadsrider permalink
    March 1, 2010 3:11 pm

    From Susan Finn

    Just read your article E Bike Glum, thank you for putting this down, I cannot understand why the e bike industry is not joining me in jumping up and down about electric bikes being excluded from the benefits awarded to four wheel electric vehicles.

    Electric bikes solve not only the pollution problem but also address our cities biggest headache – congestion. Why should only purchasers of four wheel electric vehicles being rewarded for the environmentally beneficial decisions?

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