MAG has developed a strange and unnerving ability to look all grown up and democratic at times – for example, when we held our Annual Group Conference (AGC), which this year took place in Manea on the Cambridge/Norfolk border. Before we started, most of the conversation seemed to be about the funny way the roads undulate in this neck of the woods. It’s due to subsidence, but at least you can travel at more than seven miles an hour on them, which puts us streets ahead of London!
Anyway, we had a great day, which started with an entertaining presentation from Lembit Öpik (director of communications and public affairs) and Dr Leon Mannings (transport policy advisor). This dynamic duo reminded us of our many achievements and official engagements during the past 18 months. It’s easy to forget the victories, like access to the old Forth Road Bridge for learner riders (a 100% MAG success), and the stuff we’ve been doing in the North West with MPs, the South West on driving and dialling, and the various committees and groups we’ve been invited to join as a direct result of our efforts to reach out beyond our own organisation.
As well as the formal proceedings of the day, which included a board and finance report, our awards recognised some of the many people who have supported MAG. This included Mark Wilsmore of the Ace Cafe for his dedication to promoting motorcycling. We also launched a Young Member award – this went to Jack Walker who, at just 18, has not only worked at many a rally due to his family involvement, but also assisted Lembit with some really important work to see how green motorcycles really are compared to cars (answer: VERY green). Jack has created a ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis that compares a number of different vehicles, and we’re already using his excellent research to support our campaign to secure parity of respect with other road users.
The other big news is that Leon announced he’s moving on from his role in MAG. This was actually a rather emotional moment at the AGC, and we’re sad to see him go. Nobody knows more about the technical side of motorcycle policy in the UK, and he’s added loads of value to our campaigns. Thanks for everything, Leon, and don’t be a stranger. The board are drawing up a profile of the type of person we’d ideally like to replace him and continue the great work – we’ll be making our needs known publicly soon, so if you would like an opportunity to work for MAG and believe you have the skills keep a watch on Network – our activists’ newsletter.
And now for something completely different: a call for your help. Highways England, who MAG have been working with for more than a year now to ensure riders are considered on the country’s major road networks, want your views. They’re carrying out a survey of information systems for riders displayed at motorway service stations. If you’ve seen posters or electronic display boards featuring information for motorcyclists please send details of where you saw it to StrategicSafetyTeam@highwaysengland.co.uk, with the title ‘Services Info.’
As for other consultations – and they’re happening all the time – the most significant submission MAG has made since my last update was on the London Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Yes, this is That London… again, but these people have a habit of exporting their ‘ideals’ and bringing them to a city or town near you. The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has a vision which comes very much out of a green utopian fairytale – a vision of a city where everyone can live happily side by side as long as they don’t wish to own a personal mode of transport that includes a combustion engine. It’s all very well wanting to move to electric-only vehicles, but the realists among us know that the technology and infrastructure just isn’t there yet, and it certainly isn’t affordable for the vast majority of us. Leon spent a long time ensuring the MAG submission is thorough and calls on the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Val Shawcross, to make good on their previous promises to consider riders fairly in future transport plans for the capital.
Doc Mannings’ other parting gift was MAG’s Pathways to Progress document. He updated it to include Wheels2Work (W2W) – a scheme aimed at providing small mopeds, scooters and motorcycles to people unable to access work via public transport. Could I ask you to engage on a local level with your council on this? You can get an up-to-date copy from MAG HQ, and it’s free. We’ve proved it works when bikers address these issues at a local level, and we’ve already had massive success with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the West Midlands.
Finally, don’t despair as the nights draw in. Make a note in your diary of next year’s usual MAG events: Into the Valley (4-6th May), the Farmyard Party (15-17th June), and the Yorkshire Pudding (3-5th August), and also ‘The Daft Way Up MAG fundraiser’ – look for it on Facebook. Manny from Leeds MAG is organising a sponsored ride on small-capacity ‘inappropriate bikes’ from Lands End to John O’Groats, leaving Lands End on 1st April. If you can’t join in (I’m hoping to and currently looking for a bike) then do sponsor one of the riders. It’s ridiculous – because we can’t be grown up all the time.