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Bad News…Good News…Ish!

June 3, 2010


Dumfries, Scotland – The bad news? Once again motorcycling and motorcyclists have been dissed out by a journalist working for a UK national newspaper.

Paul Routledge, a Daily Mirror columnist, obviously had a bad hair day over the UK’s Spring Bank Holiday weekend, either that or the frustration of being stuck in his car in a traffic jam, while motorcyclists safely filtered past, has finally got to him.

Routledge’s scribblings on motorcyclists were as follows:-

“Far too many bikers are middle-aged (and older) men pretending they are cool kids.”

“It would be pathetic if it weren’t so lethal – not just for themselves but for the public. Why don’t they just grow up and realise that the roar of a 600cc bike is the whisper of death?”

“Posters on lampposts urge motorists to “Think Bike!””

“Bikers would be better advised: “Think about other people, instead of your immature obsession with speed.””

Paul I think the BRR blog ‘How Others See Us’ more than amply covers my view of you and some of your fellow journalists. The really ‘pathetic’ thing is that you don’t realise that 45% of crashes involving motorcyclists and scooter riders are not the riders fault but caused by car drivers, err like you, who think that the ‘Think Bike’ signs are there for a bit of a laugh or a smart arse comment. Hey why don’t you cover some real news like state piracy in the Mediterranean, or would that step on a few toes at the Mirror.

The Good News..ish!

Turns out the folk who form ‘Riders are Voters’ viz the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) and the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI) etc etc have trotted down to the Department of Transport (DfT) for a ‘high level’ meeting with senior civil servants. Congratulations folks, was the minister there though??

Some interesting stuff floating around about said meeting from various press releases and ‘background’ info available to BBR. Let’s throw a little informed light on things.

Nich Brown, MAG General Secretary is quoted as saying: “The presence of more senior civil servants than we would normally have been greeted by demonstrates how serious the minister is that his staff should reverse some of the worst failings of past administrations.”

Ok fine Nich but what are the “failings of past administrations”. The new EU test for sure, but Nich didn’t you work for the industry during the EU negotiations on the test and didn’t the industry then support the new test on safety grounds. What about the National Motorcycle Strategy, introduced by the Labour government, considered to be the best in Europe, surely not a failing? Come to that there’s the Institute Highway Engineers Motorcycling Guidelines guidance to provide a better road environment for motorcycle and scooter riders, part funded by the DfT. Hardly a failing. Praise where praise is due and less “member speak” please.

So what action is roads minister, Mike Penning MP, planning on the test? Apparently Penning has already witnessed a test and what he saw did not amuse him. Improvements are promised, but without a derogation on the speed issue Pennings hands are tied. So expect some piecemeal improvements or treat this as a test of the minister’s commitment to do something. If he gets us a derogation he’s got commitment. Meantime MCI wait in the wings hoping that the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) will be privatised.

On bus lanes and parking it’s the same old same old. Promises of improved guidance for local authorities but no mandatory legislation requiring the opening of bus lanes to motorcycles and scooters or the implementation of minimum parking standards.

Pennings not keen on European wide power limits or compulsory personal protective equipment. Problem is if an EU Directive on either or both is approved he will have to implement it, get a derogations or pay the EU fines. The UK record on fighting motorcycle related Directives is poor. Then there’s the EU Parliament wheeling and dealing. Without a united and strong voice in Brussels on these two issues I’ve a feeling it will be simple be a replay of the last Driving Licence Directive. Question is have we got a voice and would Penning support it.

Oh dear the good news is not very positive. I hope, really hope, I’m wrong but I’ve this bad feeling that once again motorcycling is going to be the Cinderella of transport modes, always the bridesmaid but never the bride.

Will it ever end?

© Back Roads Rider 2010

5 Comments leave one →
  1. dave permalink
    June 4, 2010 8:35 am

    It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and criticise the works of others. Withouth MAG, BMF et al motorcycling in the UK would have got a much worse deal from the last two EU directives and indeed from the last administration than it did, which is a disturbing thought. It’s very difficult to fight your corner against people that don’t have any real accountability and aren’t interested in your way of thinking. The IHiE guidelines and the NMS were a good half step forward but as long as they are only guidelines or suggested good practice then they are free to be ignored. Politicians aren’t the ones making the policy, it’s the civil servants advising them that we need to deal with.

  2. Duckula permalink
    June 4, 2010 8:43 am

    Well, you have to give a fella a gold star for trying (that’s a little paper sticky thing – not the bike).

    Got to agree with you about the past failings bit – but that’s really past failings of the riders’ organisations – not the government.

    When a select minority were bashing on the doors in Europe, they were being stabbed in the back by the very same people who are now promoting themselves as the saviours of motorcycling.

    When will they learn? Politicians will tell people what they want to hear – until you piss them off.

    Look at the No to bike parking tax demo – Poor Boris was caught up in the traffic grid-lock caused by the weekly biker protest about parking charges. He challenged a biker, and threatened to end the bus-lane trial, or at least by implication stop the trial becoming a permanent feature.

    So between those who want jobs in this government’s transport department, those who by nature are more inclined to wring hands and write long whiny diatribes, while others use their members’ website for their own personal twitter (ing) – it would seem – all considered – we’re f*cked.

  3. Europa permalink
    June 5, 2010 1:30 am

    Dave! A worse deal from the last two EU directives?

    I assume you mean the driving licence directives.

    If so then you are off course, the directives bad as they are did not change much from the proposed text by the European Commission until they were passed by the European Parliament and transposed into EU law.

    Only when they reached England did they get worse and nothing done by MAG or the BMF from then to the present for the 2nd Directive and now the proposed introduction of the 3rd, from the recent DfT consultation, has lessened the gold plating of the directives by the DfT.

    In fact I thought I would never say this but the 3rd Directive as set down by the EU doesn’t look that bad compared with what the DfT has rehashed and B@astardised in their proposals……..

    MAG certainly done its best when the 3rd Directive was going through the EU but where was the support when a petition with “only” 5,000 signatures was handed to the Transport Committee in Brussels and a couple of hundred turned up in Brussels to demonstrate.

    Where was the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations and its 20 odd national organisations – sitting in a room debating whether their President should support the UK organisations by attending the demo.

    The IHIE Guidelines while they may only be guidelines or suggested good practice and are free to be ignored they can also be pushed to be accepted by road authorities which I know is the case.

    Its not politicians – government – civil servants who are the problem – its ourselves and those organisations – and their representatives who are the problem.

    There’s a far bigger picture out there and a smaller solution, get back to basics concentrate on the issues.

    Stop flailing about on the internet – Facebook – Twitter – poor “corporate” websites that have cost their members a small fortune – like a poor mans public relationship company on how good motorcycles are or haven’t we done well.

  4. Leonidis permalink
    June 5, 2010 11:15 am

    Just a thought – on the whole issue of representation. If you look on the motorcycle organisation websites – well the two here. You would think that thousands upon thousands are members.

    That’s not quite true – or rather their membership is far less than they would have us believe. BMF says 80,000, MAG says 50,000. But what they don’t do is break down that into individual members and clubs (consider that the main reason the clubs join is for the cheap public liability insurance). So let’s say that the individual membership is around 15% of the total declared – I reckon that would be nearer the truth.

    If you go around the forums, you’ll often find comments like “who gave them the right to speak in my name” etc.

    The whole issue is this – in the UK there are around 1.5 million motorcyclists (including scooters and mopeds).

    There is nothing wrong with these organisations representing their members – but if they say they represent all riders in this country – instead of the real percentage which is less than 1% of individual riders – then surely – others – whether individually or as a group – have the right to an opinion which does not agree with the mainstream/old guard organisations?

    One percent of any group of people does not give anybody the right to state that they represent all users. They are entitled to their opinions – which may not be mine.

    If they say they represent all riders in this country – which seems to be the case “Our objective is to safeguard the rights of motorcyclists” or “to represent, protect and defend the interests of riders”, then they must accept criticism when they get it wrong and frankly, I would much prefer to see the wording – changed from “the rights of motorcyclists” and “the interests of riders” to the rights and interests of their own members.

    Not me thank you, believe me, I can look after myself and I don’t want these organisations talking in my name – I did not give them that right.


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