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Signs of the Times……

April 5, 2010


But Officer I missed the sign!

Stamford, England -The Plain English Campaign says there are too many “pointless” road signs on UK roads.

Unfortunately for motorcyclists the good folk at the Plain English Campaign (PEC) are not referring to the round signs with red edges whose centre contains numerals, i.e. speed limits, but signs which contain “too much information about nothing”. The UK Highways Agency (HA) has a peculiar habit of sticking up meaningless road signs. The 33 signs which simple say “Highways Agency” planted alongside the M6 and A66 being prime examples of the “did we need to know that” syndrome.

We are constantly told by the police and road safety organisations to focus on driving and riding and not be distracted by ice, gps, mobiles or eat or drink when driving so I’m all for supporting both PEC and the Campaign to Protect Rural England who want road side clutter reduced or removed altogether. Let’s face it one less road sign is one less for a biker to hit, probably while swerving to avoid some idiot in a car!

Doom and gloom in the “industry” this week as the Government announced its intentions on motorcycle training and testing following its consultation on the implementation of the Third Driving Licence Directive (3DLD).

In this case it appears that the well know civil service gag, on what a consultation is, rings unhappily true viz:-

The Department has already decided what it’s going to do. The document will contain one policy dressed up to look like several options, to give the impression that the Department is open to suggestions. It will also have a few ridiculous ideas, so officials can claim to be “thinking outside the box”.

I could write at length on the abject failure of the industry, the riders groups and the UK Government to head off this legislation and give UK biking “a chance” but there is little point, the horse has well and truly bolted on this one and the stable door, well perhaps we had better first find the stable!

Not only have we reached an apparent hiatus with the Second Driving Licence Directive test procedures, ok we may get some very slight changes on safety grounds, but the UK approach to the 3DLD, the requirement for novice riders to take tests at every stage of the ‘Progressive Access’ route to a licence for large bikes, is simple another boot in the groin of biking. If you started with a moped this could mean four tests to get the A, big bike licence at 24 years old. It also appears that the A2 (up to 35Kw) licence will be age related, at 19 years old. Arguable all this will mean that people simple won’t bother or go for Direct Access to large machines at 24 years old.

The real lost opportunity is with the mopeds. With the rise of e-bikes there was the prospect of introducing young people to the advantages of two-wheel low emission transport at the age of fourteen, the 3DLD allows this. However, the Government has decided that the age for access to mopeds with a design speed of 45 km/h (28 mph) and 25 km/h (15.5 mph) will remain at 16 years. However a new domestic licence category for light mopeds up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph) will be introduced. So we will have two moped categories!

Other European countries allow young responsible people access to light mopeds and transport independence. The British stuff them into 4×4’s for a polluting school run, or even allow them to use a mode where, according to UK Royal Mail, ”the rider is exposed to greater risk than other vehicle users”. Yes it’s the bicycle with no obligatory training or helmet needed.

So exactly where is that line between Government policy and road safety drawn?

© Back Roads Rider 2010

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