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No Muscles in Brussels….

March 6, 2010


Bristol, England – This week the renowned motorcycle journalist Kevin Ash criticised the UK’s rider’s rights groups for being soft and pandering to the Government.

Twenty percent of the UK’s regulatory legislation is being decided in Brussels. With the European Commission considering motorcycle power limits of 100bhp and the mandatory fitting of primary safety devices the need for strong rider representation has never been greater.

The following despatch, from the BRR Brussels correspondent, appears to confirm Kevin Ash’s worst fears.

We riders complain about our lot and tend to blame bad roads, car drivers, cyclists, police, speed cameras, councils, government departments, civil servants and sometimes even ourselves. Do we do this because we see that motorcycling is no longer the simple pleasure of getting on a bike and riding on our favourite roads and byways?

It seems that legislation deliberately aims to restrict and discourage motorcycling in favour of cars, public transport and cycling. How did it happen that one of the greatest inventions giving mankind the most cost-effective freedom of movement has become the most vilified form of personal transport? Why have we as a sector of society allowed this vilification? Is it because our individualism and “freedom” has meant that we really don’t care what others think? 

Or is it because we think that those organisations that claim to represent us are up to the job and we need not worry. Those of us who take an interest in our purported representative organisations seem to have tunnel vision that “our” motorcycle organisation in our respective countries and in Brussels is the sum of all wisdom – but is it?  If you are a believer, then you will think that the greatest defence of our national organisations is strength in numbers and our representatives will protect our rights.

Over the last few years legislation has progressively created more and more restrictions for motorcycling. Testing has become a series of hurdles that have no logic other than to discourage young people from getting a licence.  New legislation from Brussels will make it even more unpalatable to obtain a licence because of  the bureaucracy involved  – starting with a moped licence, and progressively moving to an A2 licence then an A1 licence and then an A licence (which will require either testing or training between each category).

Yet the greatest resistance to the protests of rider organisations was not from the EU Commission, but from the (then) General Secretary of our representatives in Brussels, who wanted to compromise with the Commission and industry by supporting stepped access and a minimum age of 24 for the A licence category. 

Riders from around the world were represented at the UNECE in Geneva until our representatives in Brussels voted to give that hard-earned right away. Framework regulations and European funded projects, aim to introduce more gadgets and more restrictions to protect us from ourselves, but in Brussels, the employees paid to work on behalf of European “users of PTWs”, lack the technical knowledge, experience and wherewithal to speak in our name.

What happened?  Are the people volunteering to protect us burnt out?  Have they become too old and too complacent?  Has the riders’ rights movement become a religion, with fundamentalists who decry anybody who dares protest?  Is it because those paid by the organisations are not up to the job? 

On examination, we could surmise that many of these employees are either too inexperienced or simply too interested in promoting their own careers and wait to be head hunted to go to a better job.  We could surmise that the close relationship with industry compromises the independence of our representatives and as a result, our best interests.  We could also surmise that many of us who once cared are now to war-weary to bother.

When the organisations that represent us agreed years ago, to walk in the corridors of power to get our message through to politicians, we all believed that this was a good thing because it meant that our voice would be heard.  But have our representatives now become part of the problem?

Democracy is an interesting word – it implies that we, as a community elect our representatives to speak for us, but who of us actually vote to give these people the right to speak in our name?  In a democracy, there are no presidents for life, or chairmen voted in by default, because nobody else wants the job. If the election of the representatives of these organisations is down to a hand full of members at any given Annual General Conference, can they really call themselves the “representatives” of riders? 

Gone are the days when life was simple, when we cherished our freedom to ride and membership of our preferred organisation was our badge of honour; when our defenders stood up with pride and were counted as magnificent men and women of courage and dare. 

Now our representatives appear to be no more than a dynasty of tired old actors, fighting amongst themselves with all the intrigue of a soap opera.  While ratings plummet and we head towards the series finale, our fate seems to be left in the hands of Blake Carrington and Alexis wannabes.

The believers may think that these comments play into the hands of newspaper hacks who want nothing more than to discredit everybody and everything – all with the objective of increasing their weekly sales and pay bonuses.  So would it be better to keep quiet and if we did, would the current state of affairs change for the better? 

As we read the travelogues of our faded heroes, we might ponder on the following statistics: Fifty thousand fewer riders took their test in Great Britain in the last eight months of 2009 than in the same period in 2008 and whatever way you try to spin the numbers, less is not more.

Time for a re think then, perhaps time for the appointment of a European Motorcycle Champion to look after our interests at ‘point of sale’.

Will the Jean-Claude Van Damme, a Muscles from Brussels for European biking, please step forward. We need you!

© Back Roads Rider 2010

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2010 8:41 am

    How is it that you are not granted all your rights as an adult?
    I mean… you are supposed to vote but not to ride?? The progressive access to the A category is discriminating from the start, since as a 18 yo in most countries you can drive a modified 500 bhp q7 with no restrictions…

  2. Tin Tin permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:48 pm



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