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A New Dawn for Biking??

May 21, 2010


Ripon, England – Public services should serve the public – meeting their needs, responding to what they want, answering directly to them.

Remember that statement as it is one fundamental principles upon which the UK Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government is based, that and ‘we will’. More questions than answers at the moment as to where out ‘new government’ will take motorcyclists in the next five years, but even at this early stage there are some points worth considering.

First the blindingly obvious. VAT is likely to rise from is current 17.5 % to 20%. As most things bike carry VAT that means a hike in price of 2.5% and of course around a 3pence per litre increase in petrol prices. Dave ‘the boy’ Cameron in the run up to the election offered us the ‘fair fuel stabiliser’, when oil prices rise, fuel duty will fall and vice versa. So instead of the unpredictable situation we’ve got now, battered by the oil markets, with this plan prices at the pump would be more consistent. However in recent days it’s become clear that the ‘real world’ realisation of this concept will be pilot schemes in rural areas, like the Shetland Islands. These will attempt to match the price of petrol in urban areas with the much higher cost of fuel on Britain’s rural ‘edges’.

On policing. The elected chief constables pledge has already turned into the ‘directly elected individual’ pledge. Informed sources believe that this means that the chairman and possible the members of the local police authorities, the body charged with securing efficient and effective policing of a police constabulary, will  become elected. This could see an end to the self selecting police authorities loaded with do gooders, golf club buddies and masons. People who may not have an open mind on biking you might say. We may yet see a better approach to roads policing bike wise.

Local Authorities.  An undertaking to create directly elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities is a move that can only benefit bikers. Remember that use of London’s bus lanes was denied to motorcycle and scooter users until London Mayor, Boris Johnson, overturned the naysayers. Judging that the up side of the safety case was more beneficial to users than the downside. Mayors cut through prejudice and prevarication.

Implementing the Sustainable Communities Act will also be a plus for us. This will let citizens know how taxpayers’ money is spent in their area and thus allow greater say over how it is spent. Instead of thousands of pounds spent on un used or under used cycling facilities we will be able to apply informed pressure to get secure parking and the like. The days of local authorities hiding behind balance sheets and unanswered freedom of information act applications will be over.

Road Safety. Stopping central government funding for new fixed speed cameras and switch to more effective ways of making our roads safer. A two-edged sword as the mobile system swill still be deployed. In a recession, when monies tight, safety cameras are an easy option road safety wise as they actually generate income. Road safety campaigns are a black hole moneywise.

We still await the appointment of our own government minister or champion. Will we actually get on this time around? Mean time it’s Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, who has been appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport with responsibilities for road safety. It’s this post that ‘traditionally’ looks after motorcycling, so no change there then! Penning, an ex grenadier guard, has little experience of road safety issues so will almost certainly accept the civil service recommendations on where to take policies and actions. As motorcycling is number two on the current Department of Transport (DfT) ‘hit list’ of road safety issues expect, for the time being at least, more of the same.

The appointment of Norman Baker, MP for Lewes, as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport is interesting. Lib Dem ‘Stormin’ Norman is a real greenie and his appointment has been reported as ‘like putting the head of the organic farming Soil Association in charge of agriculture’. Norman doesn’t like cars going everywhere by train, bicycle and foot. Not an obvious candidate for supporting motorcycle or scooter use but with a well presented fact based case who knows. We are, after all, an alternative to the car.

How long will the coalition last? How long is a piece of string?  Still it’s going to fun while it does!!

As for BRR’s choice of ministerial biking babe. Theresa Villiers is definitely our pillion ‘hot chick’ with Theresa May as the runner-up for the more ‘mature’ shoe loving rider.

© Back Roads Rider 2010

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