Selina Lavender, the Motorcycle Action Group’s national chairman, gives an update on the group’s activities.
While politicians may’ve been off on their holidays to distant and exotic climes, the Motorcycle Action Group never rests. We’ve been unrelentingly active throughout the summer; even more than we were in the spring. MAG is now so involved at a vast number of levels locally, nationally and internationally that it’s translating itself into a persistent influx of opportunities to get biking issues on the agenda. To use a Lembit (Öpik) phrase, ‘it’s a happy problem’, but it does keep us very, very busy.
We’ve a whole load of groups and individuals making the riders’ voice heard and promoting the benefits of two-wheeled, motorised transport. Some of the action is centred on London, but don’t be fooled! I can assure you that in the longer term, what happens there has a nasty habit of spreading elsewhere. We need to defeat bad proposals each time they turn up so they don’t say ‘well, you didn’t complain when it happened in London – why are you complaining now?’
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Let’s get specific. We’re very keen for all agencies to work with an ‘evidence-based approach’. We rather wish that the Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan, would look at the facts before he introduces a new Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) charge. Anyone who thinks about it for more than ten seconds can see that including mopeds, motorcycles and scooters in the same band as cars and small vans makes no sense at all. Transport for London’s (TfL) own studies show that the amount of pollutants expelled into the London air from powered two-wheelers is negligible – according to their own figures, it rounds down to 0% of emissions. I don’t need a chemistry degree to understand that zero isn’t very much. Our lobby team has stressed that our contribution to London’s dirty air must be minuscule if the authority’s own figures say so. If the Mayor is serious about reducing pollution then he wouldn’t be discouraging riders from riding in the capital. This is an ongoing wrangle and if you want to keep up with all the latest developments on this, sign up for Network (our monthly report on what’s going on), or follow us on Facebook. Many of the consultations open and close pretty quickly and we’ll keep you up to date on what they are and how you can put your point of view too. And the emissions issue is typical of what we’re dealing with – week in, week out.
On the upside, we’re having very positive dealings with Highways England, where MAG’s been in regular attendance – mainly at their Manchester HQ – for well over a year now. We are starting to see the results; the agenda that they’ve been evolving shows sensible suggestions percolating through in a number of ways. MAG, the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD) and the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) were all at the most recent meeting in August of a group that is all about ‘infrastructure’, meaning the roads and all the stuff which goes with them. Highways England has listened as we’ve highlighted some very specific matters which you, as riders, have brought to us. These include poor road surfaces, potentially lethal manhole covers and the apparently infinite ability of authorities to install so many instructions on metal placards that you might as well be reading the Highway Code while riding!
Highways England also said they’d investigate our concerns over ‘light segregation’. That means those lumps of plastic or rubber that are bolted to the road surface in a bid to segregate cyclists from motorised traffic. MAG has explained the dangers of these as a trip hazard and we look forward to seeing what they think of them.
The worst news at present is on motorcycle crime. It’s topping the agenda because of a bunch of thugs who have nothing to do with biking, but have committed crimes against bikers and on bikes. MAG has a team of volunteers engaging at national level with those agencies that have the responsibility to deal with this. We will continue to beat the drum that the rider is the victim when their machine is stolen. There are a number of different options to keep your pride and joy safe when it’s parked, but the brazen attitude of muggers to attack people in broad daylight – dismounting them from their machines to steal them for further crime – is something we need to get to grips with big time and right now. We’ll keep you posted.
One of the best bits of news this month comes from Scotland. The new Firth of Forth road bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, has just opened as I write this. The crossing is a motorway, and you may recall that MAG had a significant win when it asked that learner riders and riders of small machines be allowed to continue using the original Forth Road Bridge crossing, saving them a massive detour of around 60 miles return, thanks to Steve Wykes and his campaigning efforts. This is a permanent and excellent success, and credit to the Scottish Government for a case study in listening and acting accordingly. There is still a raft of consultations coming out that have the potential to affect us as riders so we are doing our best to send in considered responses to as many consultations as we can and we encourage you to do the same. The Scotland result shows it’s worth making those inputs.
Between writing this and my next article MAG has its Annual Group Conference, this year being held in Cambridgeshire. It’s a members-only event where the membership not only sees all of that which has happened since the last conference, but also has a chance to ask questions face-to-face. All of MAG’s political team will be present, plus the majority of the directors and national committee. We’ve got a lot to celebrate, and a lot to plan for the year ahead. It’s a very busy time so please do get involved if you’re a member and if you’re NOT, then join us. Your rights are our mission.
Until next time, ride free.
To join call the office (01926 844 064), visit our website (www.mag-uk.org – click on ‘join MAG’) or sign up at a local meeting or MAG stand. Find meetings close to you, or events, by visiting our website and Facebook pages.