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Working for motorcyclists – FEMA in a nutshell

What does FEMA do for European motoryclists on a daily basis? FEMA’s Dolf Willigers describes some of today’s issues.

What FEMA stands for
FEMA is the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Federations. This means that we represent our members, and in fact all European motorcyclists, on a European level.

From left to right: Wim Taal (FEMA), Matthew Baldwin (the European Commission’s Deputy Director-General for Mobility and Transport and European coordinator for road safety and sustainable mobility) and Dolf Willigers (FEMA).

We have contacts with members of the European Parliament, other organizations that work in Brussels and Geneva (in the UN ECE) like FIM Europe, FIA (that represents the mobility clubs in most European and African countries), ACEM (the European motorcycle industry association), ETSC (the European Transport Safety Council) et cetera. But most of all we have contacts with the European Commission. This we do formally in writing and by giving our views through the public ‘have your say’-pages of the European Commission, by attending the meetings of the advisory boards like the Motorcycle Working Group (MCWG), Motor Vehicle Working Group (MVWG), Driving Licence Committee, the Connected, Coordinated and Automated Mobility Single Platform (CCAM SP) meetings, workshops, conferences et cetera. Also, by informal contacts with officials from the European Commission on all levels.

Our members
Our members are riders’ rights organizations from all over Europe, not only from the European Union, but also in Norway, Switzerland and the UK (although they are still in the EU). They are very different in size and organizational structure (some have only direct members, others are federations of clubs, others are a combination). Also, the culture differs very much, just as riders differ much.

Driving licences
Our concerns are widespread and differ much. It ranges from infrastructure to driving licences. At the moment we are preparing the revision of the 3rd Driving Licence Directive, that was implemented in 2013. As you may know, part of this is the staged entry with three times either trainings or tests. In most countries it is a combination of training and testing. We still think that this was introduced too soon and without any scientific background. Although we understand that it might not be a very good idea to ride a very powerful bike without experience and some kind of staged entrance is understandable, the way it is regulated now causes a too high threshold and costs the rider too much money. Also, the focus on low speed skills instead on the so-called higher skills (the ability to recognize and avoid dangerous situations) is something that we think must change.

Protective clothing
A well trained and conscious rider wears appropriate protective clothing, gloves, boots and helmet. We advocate good standards, that are usable in all circumstances. Motorcycle clothing that protects very well but causes overheating in a southern climate is not usable. We advocate clothing and helmets that provide a good protection and is wearable in warmer climates. Manufacturers and legislators need to find the right balance. Still, although we advocate good riding gear and good standards, we are against laws that make the wear of protective clothing mandatory. This is because the present protective clothing is not always suited for all circumstances and at the same time protective enough. To force people to wear safe but hot and heavy trousers and vests in the city with low speeds on a hot day may cause more danger than the protection is worth.

Another thing that we are always dealing with is the infrastructure. Our roads are designed and maintained with cars in mind, not with one-track vehicles like motorcycles. We have no protective cage around us, and we cannot afford to crash into trees, lampposts and other obstacles. But road restraint systems, guard rails, can also be very dangerous for motorcyclists, especially when they are not fitted with a motorcycle protection system or fitted too close to the lanes. Aside from the design of the road, maintenance is something that is more important for motorcycles than for cars, because motorcycles are balancing vehicles with just two wheels. Road surfaces that are slippery because of wear of have potholes are dangerous for motorcyclists.

Environment and energy
Next is the environment and energy transition. We are very much aware that there are problems, both with the climate change and with the quality of the air in the cities. We also know that fossil fuels play a role in this. Therefor we advocate cleaner engines for motorcycles, schemes that give a financial support to motorcyclists when they have older and less environmentally friendly motorcycles demolished and replaced by new, cleaner motorcycles. We also support the development and sales of electric motorcycles, especially in the cities. However, we are also very much aware that many owners of older motorcycles are not in the position to buy a new one, and we are also aware that most motorcycles ride just a limited distance. The replacement of these motorcycles with new ones would perhaps cause a bigger burden to the environment than continued use of an older motorcycle. The energy transition will have an enormous impact on motorcycling as we know it. We don’t think a simple ban on the sale of new motorcycles with an internal combustion engine is the answer. FEMA says electric motorcycles and motorcycles with an internal combustion engine can exist side-by-side.

Automated cars
A thing that worries many motorcyclists are the developments around the co-called self-driving or automated cars. They feel that with the transition to automated cars, there will be no place on the road anymore for motorcycles. First, we feel that the road to (fully) automated cars on all public roads will be a very long one. Next, the problems already exist. Many cars are fitted with ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) that warn the drivers or even fulfil driving tasks like keeping distance to other vehicles, keeping the car in the lane, et cetera. These systems do not only have to see and react to other cars, but also to motorcycles. It has been proved that these systems do not always work properly. We are working on better systems that react properly to motorcycles and we are also looking into the future and participate in working groups that advice the European Commission to make certain that motorcycles are not forgotten. We will not accept that motorcycles are banned from the roads because automated cars cannot handle motorcycles.

Here to stay
Motorcycles are becoming more fuel economic and cleaner. Compared with cars, that tend to use more fuel with the trend to heavier and higher models and that use more space to drive and park, especially in the cities, motorcycles are becoming much more economic and less pollutant compared to cars than they already are. Therefor we see a bright future for motorcycles and other powered two-wheelers. Also, especially but not only in the cities, we will see a growth in electric motorcycles that have even less emissions. Of course, there is the discussion of how the electricity is made and how the batteries are produced, but in the cities they emit fewer toxic gasses than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. Finally, we will solve the challenges to make motorcycles fit in a traffic that consists of highly automated vehicles. So yes, motorcycles are here to stay.

Written by Dolf Willigers
Photography by Wim Taal

This article is subject to FEMA’s copyright

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