Motorcycle hustings

On Saturday night, I participated in a lively and informative hustings — with candidates from five different parties — organised by the Motorcycle Action Group’s Yorkshire region. Labour’s Members of the European Parliament have always had good links with MAG and, we like to think, an understanding of their concerns, ever since one of our MEPs, Roger Barton, an enthusiastic biker, developed a close relationship already a decade ago. The tradition has lived on, even after Roger’s departure from the European Parliament.

MAG have some concerns about European and national regulations affecting them, but equally about the still too-high levels of fatalities and injuries among bikers. Worryingly, casualty rates have not declined in the way that they have for other transport modes.

Regulation is, of course, not the only answer — and bad regulations can be the wrong answer. Other things are equally or more important: better training and testing (not least of car and lorry drivers, instilling better awareness and respect of bikers); better road design (avoiding “killer kerbs”) and surfacing; tougher penalties for those who drive without a licence or uninsured; and much else besides.

But regulations can sometimes help. Take the new rules on the design of lorries, agreed by the European Parliament just last month, which will oblige manufacturers across Europe to improve the sight-lines of lorry drivers and change the shape of their cabins. This could be of significant benefit to bikers.

The other question is at what level to regulate, if regulations are indeed needed. For some things, it makes sense — and cuts costs — to have common rules for the common market. This means manufacturers don’t have to work to meet multiple different standards for each country. In other areas, there is absolutely no need for international rules. In still other cases, Europe-wide rules could usefully set a minimum standard, while allowing individual countries to set higher standards if they so wish.

Who decides this? For European legislation, it is a myth that “Brussels bureaucrats” decide. The European Commission only puts forward ideas and proposals; for them to be adopted, elected politicians must debate, amend and approve them. In fact, a double-check is needed, in that rules must be approved both by national ministers from elected governments in the EU Council, and also by directly-elected MEPs in the European Parliament. If you hear a politician blaming something on bureaucrats, that is a politician not doing his job!

And that’s why it’s right of MAG to engage so closely with politicians and candidates in this European election. MAG will always get a sympathetic hearing from Labour!

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  1. Hi Richard, motorcycling is an amazing experience. I gave it up because of an increasing sense of mortality, car drivers seem to have no concept of how easy it is to maim or kill a motorcyclist. Cars have crumple zones, air bags etc. Bikers have flesh, bone and blood.
    I have always believed that car drivers should first have to attain a motorbike licence before gaining a car licence. It might give them some fundamental road sense. Some hopes; but it is a sensible road safety option.
    best wishes for your campaign,
    regards Tony

    • I agree with Tony’s comments. Riding a motorcycle gives you a far greater awareness of road conditions, surrounding traffic, surface grip, anticipation of other actions etc (because you have to, it’s a survival instinct). I am absolutely adamant that it makes you a better and safer car driver as a result. Maybe not a full test (given the exhorbitant expense of passing a bike test these days – that is another issue!!!), but a mandatory CBT pass would be a start. A utopian idea, but you could guarantee a raise in driving driving standards, and lower motorcycle accident stats. It may even encourage more on motorcycles permanently, all good for the environment (and it is proven that the more bikes there are on the roads, the less accidents there are, as people fully expect to see bikes, so look for them properly, so less of the SMIDSY (sorry mate I didn’t see you) type accidents).

      Food for thought

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