MAG’s political team look back on a year of campaign work. The agenda for 2022 has of course been dominated by the slow march towards an enforced battery electric solution to the 0.001% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions emanating from the tailpipes of motorcycles in the UK. But that is by no means the only area of interest that MAG has been working on. From forced electrification to self-driving vehicles, road safety to motorcycle theft, there has been plenty to keep us busy in a year marked by political turmoil.
MAG use the term Ban for brevity. This refers to proposals to end the sales of new non-zero tailpipe emission vehicles. This is in effect the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles. The date for this policy to apply to cars and vans has already been set as 2030 following a consultation about setting the date as ‘2040 or earlier’. MAG responded to oppose the policy for cars and vans despite the fact that motorcycles were not mentioned. The fact that motorcycles were not included in this consultation was questionable for many reasons. Technically it left riders and manufacturers uncertain of their fate, though MAG was clear that motorcycles would be sucked into this policy to end all internal combustion engine vehicles.
Following delays, the consultation for motorcycles (or to be technically accurate L-category vehicles) was finally published on 14th July 2022. Despite all efforts by MAG to dissuade the Government from this course the proposals when they finally came were for a date of 2035 ‘or earlier’ for larger motorcycles and 2030 ‘or earlier’ for up to 125cc bikes. The inclusion of the 125cc machines in the 2030 slot even caught the motorcycle industry by surprise as they had argued that offering an earlier date for 50cc mopeds would help secure a 2040 or later date for larger machines. The Government had done the usual ‘all take and no give’ version of negotiation with the industry lobby.
MAG has remained firm in its position that the ban is fundamentally wrong and we will not, therefore, negotiate on dates. Had others been as firm maybe we would have seen a better result.
MAG responded formally to the consultation on 20th September. The response was uncompromising, and it was certainly not an end to our lobbying on this issue.
In October a report, written by the Centre for Business and Economic Research (CEBR), co-funded by MAG was published. This report used the Government’s own economic modelling methodology and clearly showed that the economic impact of the ICE phase out will be five times higher than any economic benefits. This policy will cost the average household £14,700. The CEBR report was then used in MAG’s response to the Government’s call for evidence on the wider Net Zero policy which is the parent of the ICE ban policy.
The Government did promise formal roundtable meetings to discuss the impacts of the ICE ban, but these were delayed and then cancelled. Similarly, there is no indication as yet on when the Government will publish its response to the consultation responses.
Believing that the outcome of policy decisions in the area of environmentalism are based purely on logic or science is naive. MAG is fully aware of the political games involved in the process, and are not afraid to get involved in that game in the name of protecting motorcycling. Operation Earthquake is the campaign announced by MAG Chair Neil Liversidge at MAG’s 2022 Annual General Conference. The aim of the campaign is quite simple – to make politicians realise that there are a large number of voters that will not support the election of politicians who support the ICE ban. We are not in the business of upsetting ordinary people by gluing ourselves to the M25 but we will go out of our way to inconvenience politicians supporting this policy. This will be a major, peaceful, letter writing campaign that will leave any politician searching for votes in no doubt how to lose them. If they want to get their hands on the levers of power they will need to start representing the views and interests of those that have the power to put them within reach of those levers. This cannot be viewed as a partisan issue as all the mainstream parties subscribe to the same Net Zero policy. When it comes to environmental policy we may as well be living in a single party state. Check out the Operation Earthquake website for information on how you can get involved in this campaign.
Coin Flip Policy? – Bus Lanes
The first of 2022’s three reports published directly by MAG came in April 2022. The Bus Lane Stocktake was the first ever comprehensive compilation of data on motorcycle access in bus lanes carried out in the UK. The fact that Freedom of Information requests to every transport authority in the country is the only way to find an answer to a basic question is disappointing. Given that every bus lane is subject to a Traffic Regulation Order that has to be drawn up by legal teams and registered with the Department for Transport, you could be forgiven for expecting there would be a national database holding this information. But no, it takes months of work and collation of hundreds of confused FOI responses to work out that there are 584 miles of with-flow bus lanes operational in the UK. 76% of local transport authorities have with-flow bus lanes. 56 LTAs allow access to some or all of them. 48% (281 miles) of with-flow bus lanes allow motorcycle access.
Armed with this new data we campaigned for the Department for Transport to accept the logic that a generic national policy on motorcycle access would be logical. Or, if not, at least to change its guidance to say that access should be the default position unless specific issues are identified. Sadly, the DfT applied as much ownership to the problem as usual, hiding behind the devolution of decision-making argument. We are therefore left to continue the fight one bus lane at a time. Only another three decades to go till we have a consistent policy then.
Motorcycle Theft in Perspective.
The second report coming out of MAG this year was the Motorcycle Theft in Perspective Report in June. Building on previous work to collate data on reported motorcycle thefts by police force area, we opted for a more comparative approach this time. The aim was to highlight why theft of a minority of registered vehicles (motorcycles make up only 3% of all registered vehicles in the UK) is a problem that the police should care about. We repeatedly hear the police say that they concentrate on car and van thefts due to the sheer volume of them. We all know that motorcycles are easier to steal than cars and vans, but the results of our analysis surprised even us. What the analysis showed was that motorcyclists were the victims of over 25% of all motor vehicle thefts in the UK in 2021. That is a staggering statistic and one which we believe has finally got the message through.
The report was published just before the National Vehicle Crime Conference and MAG’s Director of Campaigns and Political Engagement was able to directly ask the Policing Minister for a response to the new evidence. This does appear to have opened the eyes of all involved, and we now have some positive action at a national level. The National Police Chiefs Council’s OPAL unit has carried out what is called a “problem profile” for motorcycle theft and there is work going into national guidance for police forces to deal with bike theft. It is early days yet, but MAG has high hopes for some positive news stories in the area of motorcycle theft in 2023.
Mod 1, Mod 2, A2, A1, Direct Access, CBT, does it seem like the process of obtaining a motorcycle licence is a little more complex and costlier than say getting a licence to drive a car? We think so. MAG’s third report, published in November took a deep dive into the statistics of motorcycle licences and road casualty figures. The conclusion of the analysis seems pretty clear. The licencing system is suppressing the number of qualified riders and placing young riders in particular at a much higher risk of suffering the ultimate price.
There is an almost complete lack of data on unqualified riders currently riding on CBT certificates. We simply do not know the numbers so cannot be certain of the causal link, but the fact that young drivers account for 18.30% of all driver KSIs while young riders account for 28.55% of all motorcycle KSIs does make a good case for some serious investigation and a rethink of the approach to motorcycle licences.
This report does again seems to be showing initial signs that we have cut through on this important topic. We received a ministerial response within a couple of weeks of the report’s publication saying that this will be a point of focus for a newly forming Motorcycle Strategy Group being set up by the DVSA. MAG will be at the table pushing for positive outcomes.
Self-driving us off the roads.
Hearing stories of autopiloting Teslas killing two US motorcyclists within a month whilst also hearing plans announced by our own Government to start trialling self-driving vehicles on UK motorways in the next year certainly focusses attention. MAG responded to the Government consultation on safety standards for self-driving vehicles, but also took the opportunity to point out that as the only vulnerable road user group that will be sharing road space with these trial vehicles, motorcyclists should be given a very special seat at the table when discussing this subject. The proposal put forward by all the learned thinkers is that self-driving cars should meet the standard of a safe and competent human driver. Apart from being entirely subjective as a measurement do we accept this proposal? No.
Questions of liability and insurance when things go wrong need to be considered. If the vehicle is driving itself will it be the software programmers or the vehicle manufacturers who are liable for the safe and competent SMIDSY? Will the average motorcycle insurance policy cover the legal costs of going up against Elon Musk’s lawyers?
MAG is pushing hard to ensure that we are given a strong role in guiding the process of this leap into the unknown.
Local Transport Policy and Fake News
MAG began the year celebrating the positive change in attitude towards motorcycling in Oxfordshire’s local transport policy. From a staring point where the local authority was quoting misinformation about motorcycling we had managed to turn them around to the point where they accepted in their transport policy that motorcycles are a mode of transport that require separate consideration and should be encouraged as a more sustainable choice than the single occupancy car trip. We celebrated a win with motorcycles being given exemption from proposals to install six traffic filters in the city. These traffic filters are nothing more than bus gates, but unusually the council actually proposed from the outset that motorcycles would be exempt from their restrictions.
A great win for MAG and all motorcyclists.
Vigilance cannot be underestimated, however, as Cambridgeshire started spouting similar misinformation about motorcycles when the Greater Cambridge Partnership started proposing a Sustainable Travel Zone where motorcycles would be charged the same rate as cars to enter. MAG led the charge on highlighting the issue to a wide audience, securing meetings with officers and submitting a detailed consultation response which totally destroyed all the justification claims made for the motorcycle charges. We are now waiting to see the outcome of this process and hope we have done enough to achieve a similar result to the other centre of academic excellence.
Underlying all this, however, there is a worrying trend of misinformation and fake news being spread amongst professional policy makers when it comes to motorcycles. MAG is working on a new long-term and funded project with the University of Nottingham looking into the policy making process with a view to developing training for policy makers that will cut out the space for misinformation and lies about the transport mode.
2023 and beyond
This has been a whirlwind review of some of the work MAG has done for you over the last twelve months. All the subjects we have discussed here and more have been covered in depth in the Open Road, MAG’s members’ magazine. 2023 is shaping up to be a pivotal one for the future of motorcycling in the UK. There are many unfinished battles and issues lurking in the undergrowth which are likely to reappear over the next twelve months. We will not make any predictions other than to say that you can expect to see MAG at the centre of every debate, argument or piece of progress for motorcycling in the UK.
If you are not already a member, please do join up and support the work we do to defend and promote your right to ride.