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British bikers demand a greater role for motorcycles

The British Motorcycle Action Group demands a role for motorcycles in transport plans after the Coronavirus lockdown ends. So far the United Kingdom’s government focusses on walking and cycling and ignores the many advantages motorcycles can bring. Colin Brown explains MAG UK’s demands.

The United Kingdom has been severely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The country was put in lockdown from 23rd March, but the Government is now gradually easing restrictions. This easing of the lockdown is signalling a slow return to normality and a consequent increase in road traffic. Social distancing rules and warnings for the public to avoid public transport wherever possible is inevitably causing concerns over how the commuting public will get back to work. If all displaced public transport commuters choose the car, the roads network in the UK simply won’t cope.

The UK government is taking a predictable approach – assuming that elevated levels of walking and cycling during the lockdown (the only two forms of exercise that were allowed outdoors) will continue as people return to work. Despite warnings that the average commute in the United Kingdom is a far greater distance than cycling and walking can realistically allow, there is huge funding being made available to local authorities to install ‘temporary’ measures to encourage more walking and cycling. These temporary measures include substantial re-allocation of road space from motorised vehicles to cyclists and pedestrians. Things like temporary cycle lanes, and ‘bicycle and bus only’ routes are springing up all over the country.

FEMA member MAG UK have voiced concerns for many years that segregated cycle lanes which result in reduced lane width for filtering motorcyclists are leading to increased casualty statistics for motorcyclists. The sudden increase in the removal of road space from motorcyclists is almost certainly, in the view of MAG UK, behind unconfirmed reports of significant increases in motorcycle collisions in the first few months of 2020. The Government is being very reticent about publishing transport data for motorcycling. MAG UK have had to ask parliamentary questions via friendly members of parliament in an attempt to get motorcycling statistics published. This is despite the Government publishing daily statistics for the usage of all other transport modes during the lockdown.

‘The motorcycle is being written out of the transport mix and MAG will not stand quietly by while that happens’

MAG UK have launched an assertive campaign demanding three simple policies that they say will place no extra financial burden on the Government, but will improve the lot of those who choose motorcycling as a socially distanced mode of transport. The demands target the UK Governments Transport Restart Strategy and the associated funding.

The demands are:

  • That all government messaging should list motorcycles as an alternative transport choice – currently motorcycles do not get a mention. When explaining that the Government wanted the public to avoid public transport, Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked displaced commuters to consider driving by car, walking or cycling. There was no mention at all of motorcycles and scooters, despite the Transport Secretary’s admission that “motorcycles are an enormously important way of getting around”.
  • That motorcycles are permitted access to all new combined bicycle and bus routes. UK policy on motorcycle access to bus routes is currently in the hands of local authorities. This results in a patchwork of different approaches to motorcycle access, a source of great frustration and concern to UK riders. MAG’s demand is that the default position for all new ‘temporary’ lanes should be to allow motorcycle access.
  • That all new bicycle parking facilities should be dual use facilities provided with access for both cyclists and motorcyclists. Motorcycle theft is a major issue in the UK, but secure rails to chain motorcycles to are few and far between. By contrast bicycle rails to accommodate their security are liberally supplied, but usually in locations that motorcycles are not legally allowed to access.
Grant Shapps

MAG UK Chair, Selina Lavender, wrote formally to Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, to lay out the logical and reasonable demands. A week later there has been no response, not so much as an acknowledgement of the letter. MAG UK are therefore calling on all UK riders to write to their member of parliament calling on them to support the three demands. Politicians in the UK are not going to be able to ignore the demands any longer.

Needless to say, the majority of the ‘temporary’ measures will become permanent once the virus has become a distant memory. MAG UK’s approach is therefore not just raging against temporary inconvenience, but rather an attempt to secure a future for motorcycling in the UK.

‘We will defend our right to ride, because we have a passion for our motorcycles’

There is a real danger, whether by design or simple neglect, that the benefits of motorcycling will be lost forever in the UK if we allow the current blinkered and narrow minded approach to continue. Little by little the motorcycle is being written out of the transport mix, and policy awareness. MAG will not stand quietly by while that happens. We will defend our right to ride, because we have a passion for our motorcycles; and because we have a passion for helping to create an environment with a truly inclusive, broad, flexible and sustainable set of transport choices in this country.

Written by Colin Brown (MAG UK’s Director of Campaigns and Political Engagement)

This article is subject to FEMA’s copyright