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Industry Navel Gazing? No Way….But!

July 10, 2010

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Leek, England – A new report reveals that UK Motorcycling plc is open for business, but it’s not all good news on the road to biking nirvana.

Even with a hot cup of cocoa it may not be your choice of bedtime reading but the recently published Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI) report The Economic Significance of the UK Motorcycle Industry’ is none the less an interesting read, even for those amongst us who are not industry geeks

At this point I could bore you with the reports minutiae but I won’t. It is good enough to say that with an annual worth of £5.9 billion the UK motorcycle industry is more than paying its way and making a significant, and badly needed, contribution to the UK economy

However it’s in the political theatre that the report wavers, moving away from the positives to borderline introspection. Suggesting that the UK motorcycle industry would, ‘benefit from greater support from national, regional and local government, particularly in terms of encouraging and promoting motorcycle use as part of holistic transport strategies’, is surprising considering that we are ten years on from MCI first engaged a political lobbyist and five years on from the publication of the National Motorcycle Strategy. We may well be facing politicians and a civil service who consider that on safety grounds motorcycling to be an ‘unsupportable transport mode’ but then don’t organisations hire public relations companies and political lobbyists, usual at great expense, to change attitudes and policies.

Then of course there are our old friends the 2nd and 3rd Driving Licence Directives DLD’s. The report states that: ‘industry representatives are concerned that these changes (referring to testing) could have an adverse impact on the number of new motorcyclists by increasing costs for the learner and reducing the number of test sites, which has affected availability and access‘. Well hang on a mo these same ‘industry representatives’ were attending EU Commission, Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme and Association des Constructeurs Europeens de Motocycles meetings and seemed, if not happy, compliant with the Directives. Even on at least one occasion, as alleged to BRR, suggesting that the DLD’s would actually increase sales.

Moving on to negative perceptions of motorcycling the report comments: ‘demand for motorcycling may be affected by the negative perceptions of some, and adverse publicity painting motorcycling as noisy, unsafe and harmful to the environment’. Surly if you promote motorcycles with a claimed 180 crank horse power and capable of over 185mph for use on public highways it’s a bit bizarre to expect people not to have negative perceptions. Particularly when they are passed by some idiot road testing his R1 to the max.  It’s a bit like arms dealers flogging guns to nefarious states and expecting the weapons not to used. Like wise with illegal exhaust systems this time its perceptions sacrificed for a quick profit.

It could be argued that the continuing publicity relating to motorcycle safety, including advances in things like ABS, are in fact self-defeating. Simple adding to the perception of those outside the motorcycling community that the ‘things’ must have been unsafe to start with if all this work is needed make them safe. Maybe its time for the industry and the road safety interests to considered making motorcycling as safe as necessary and not as safe as possible.

I started with a positive so I’ll end on one or three. I simply cannot disagree with the reports position on the positives of motorcycle and scooter ownership:-

Low cost transport – Motorcycles are typically cheaper to purchase, run, maintain and repair than cars and therefore offer a relatively low cost transport solution, particularly for commuters and during a period of recession.

 Carbon savings – Motorcycles produce lower carbon emissions than cars, presenting opportunities to promote motorcycling as a way of reducing carbon emissions.

 Convenience – Road congestion is increasing and motorcycles offer a convenient form of transport that can alleviate congestion impacts for riders (and especially commuters). Motorcycles are also easier to park, saving time and money.

Perceptual vigilance. In short, we watch out for what matters most to us. So let us make motorcycle matter, in a positive way, to everyone.

© Back Roads Rider 2010


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