MAG’s primary mission is to protect and promote the interests of motorcyclists in the UK. We have many tireless volunteers that organise social and fund-raising events, as well as volunteers and paid employees that deliver the goods of lobbying on behalf of riders.
This is a brief review of some of MAG’s lobbying activity during 2023, our 50th anniversary year.
Licence to ride
As 2022 ended, MAG was deep into campaigning for a review of the motorcycle licencing regime. We published detailed analysis of the effects of the current regime. Ministers promised the formation of a Motorcycle Strategic Focus Group headed by the DVSA to discuss licencing and other issues.
As with most things focus groups can be a way to delay actually doing something, but at least it was an acknowledgement that a conversation is needed. Sadly, after a couple of meetings of the group we were told that the focus group work would be suspended as DVSA staff were all being sent to deal with a backlog in car licence tests. This couldn’t be more ironic really; the government was showing a higher priority in getting more people licenced to drive cars than discussing why the licencing system for a more environmentally friendly transport mode was posing a barrier to getting people out of their cars.
Early Christmas for anti-motorcycle policymakers
In October 2023 the MCIA launched a campaign for licence reform tied to their PLV Action Plan. Positioning their campaign as “A Licence for Net Zero” is asking for trouble. The PLV Action Plan is about transitioning to an electric-only future for motorcycles, which we oppose. The campaign is tied to the Net Zero agenda that seeks to reduce the numbers of people using private motorised transport. Little wonder then that the Government reacted by calling a Ministerial roundtable to discuss the MCIA proposals – they must have thought Christmas had come early!
But MAG is deeply concerned that any proposals coming forward are likely to further restrict access to motorcycling, or create a two-tier system that desperately tries to increase uptake of electric motorcycles whilst discouraging ICE motorcycle use. All other efforts to persuade us that electric motorcycles work for everyone are failing, so why wouldn’t the Government look for more excuses to dissuade us from buying ICE bikes?
The Ministerial meeting was postponed following yet another Cabinet reshuffle, but it is clear that 2024 will include a large effort to get the right outcome for motorcycling when it comes to the licence regime.
Plans for Cambridge’s Sustainable Travel Zone resulted in a surreal pyrrhic victory for motorcycling thanks to MAG’s efforts. Despite plans to charge motorcycles the same rate as cars to enter this new incarnation of a congestion charging zone, MAG’s efforts succeeded in winning a complete exemption for motorcycles. This was a clear victory for motorcyclists – another triumph to rank alongside the exemption for motorcycles in every clean air zone outside of London. But in ensuing weeks the victory party was made slightly academic as news broke that the entire STZ scheme would be scrapped.
There will be further schemes brought forward in Cambridge, and MAG will be on the case. But we did create a precedent for motorcycle exemption in sustainable travel zones: or at the very least confirmation of the precedent for exempting motorcycles from congestion charging zones.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan pushed for further expansion of his ULEZ scheme. The basis of charging for motorcycles has remained unchanged but, due to MAG’s previous work to get the best possible deal for riders, very few motorcycles are unable to prove compliance and thus exemption from the charge. Despite this we’ll continue to oppose the scheme as long as there are any charges for any motorcycles.
MAG also assisted other campaign groups opposing the expansion, but despite all efforts the expansion out to the whole of Greater London went ahead in August. The Mayor’s stubbornness was almost certainly the key factor in the single by-election win for the Tory party and, no doubt, in the “Plan for Drivers” announced during conference season.
Parking motorcycles has always been something riders have done in a make-the-best-of-a-bad-situation way. Riders are often left to find places to tuck their bikes as sufficient formal parking bays are seldom provided. Car parks get that name for a reason.
This status quo has largely meant that parking has not been another cost for riders – helping to maintain the economic benefits of owning a bike. However, the London skirmishes that began with Westminster’s hotly contested introduction of motorcycle parking charges a few years ago have extended to a growing campaign across the capital of unreasonable and unjustifiable charging schemes. London MAG have been valiantly fighting with Islington and Hackney to name but two.
We focused on the parlous state of workplace motorcycle parking for Ride To Work Day. Producing an employer’s guide with a clear focus on the need for security, we have also been combining work on getting better facilities with our campaigning to reduce motorcycle theft.
Once again, we are seeing a lack of engagement from policy makers for a transport solution that offers benefits. Caught as an innocent bystander in the war on cars, motorcycles are being unnecessarily penalised for doing their bit to reduce congestion and emissions.
Sometimes, as in the recent case of Whitby Train Station, overt discrimination raises its head. In these cases, the riding community does come together – we were able to rapidly reverse the ban of motorcycle parking at that site, but sadly the insidious ratcheting of discriminatory charges gets less reaction and thus less success.
MAG has plans to work with the British Parking Association in the New Year, but this also needs a long hard look at why policy makers cannot accept the evidence in front of them. The evidence proves they should at least stop attacking, if not start encouraging, our favoured transport choice.
Fighting Motorcycle Theft
The fight against motorcycle theft has been a major campaign area for the whole of 2023 and will continue to be in 2024. Our research has shown the grossly disproportionate impact suffered by motorcyclists. Motorcycles are 11 times more likely to be stolen than cars and constitute 25% of all reported vehicle theft in the UK despite being a mere 3% of all registered vehicles. The Government’s response to this research was that they would do something if it gets any worse. This is not good enough.
Throughout the year we focused on holding Police and Crime Commissioners to account by giving riders a platform to make their views known directly to these politicians. We have held six Fight Motorcycle Theft Meetings over the last year covering Kent, Hertfordshire, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Humberside and West Yorkshire Police Force areas. We have more in the pipeline for 2024.
These do lead to tangible results, and we have seen, for example, funds for secure parking facilities in Kent and the formation of a motorcycle theft focus group in Hull. There is much more work to be done, but we have noticed that the dial is beginning to move. The issue is being recognised and discussed, not least due to the new data we are uncovering that shows there is a disproportionate impact on road casualty figures too. We have a long way to go, but we are not tiring and will stay the course.
Resurface Our Roads
£8.4b of funding for roads maintenance is not a bad result for this year’s Resurface Our Roads campaign. It may be churlish to suggest that the downfall of the full HS2 program is entirely down to MAG, but we can legitimately claim to have helped ensure that some of the funds released were directed to repairing the roads. Unfortunately, £8.4b is short of the £14b that is estimated to be needed, so there remains work to be done.
We launched Resurface Our Roads in the summer, calling for increased funding, best practice and a review of the risk assessment model and its consideration of the needs of riders. We worked with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Better Roads and helped broaden the story on why this investment is so important. As motorcyclists, we are again disproportionately affected by bad road surfaces. And the statistics show that we are more impacted than cyclists. With bad road surfaces resulting in an average of 74 killed and seriously injured motorcyclists per year, we have more reason to shout about the state of the roads than any other group of road users. This is not an inconvenience: it is a significant risk to life and limb.
We continue to work on the risk assessment question. In our opinion, risk assessors who do not ride cannot fully appreciate the dangers we face as riders. We must first provide evidence that this impacts on outcomes for riders. We believe we can do this. And then we plan to ensure the system is changed to work in our favour.
Plan for Drivers
The Government’s Plan for Drivers, announced in the second half of the year, falls short of providing a unified Plan for Motorcyclists, but there are elements that can help. The key item was the announcement of a revision of DfT guidelines on bus lanes and the promise of a consultation on default access for motorcycles in bus lanes.
This is certainly a start, but MAG is campaigning for the consultation scope to be broadened to cover bus gates, traffic filters and advanced stop lines. With 48% of bus lanes already allowing access it is time for a default policy across the entire UK. One devolved administration (Northern Ireland) already has a blanket policy in favour. How many more trials do we need to run, wasting tax payers’ money, to prove what is already proven?
On bus gates and traffic filters we won a significant precedent in Oxford. Motorcycles were made exempt from their proposed traffic filters simply because they realised they were trying to manage car movements – and motorcycles are not cars.
Similarly, research has already proven in one trial years ago, that motorcycle access to ASL’s can work, so it’s time to stop ignoring evidence and start delivering for motorcyclists.
The big one: No complacency on the ICE ban
Early in 2023 there was mounting evidence of resistance to UK style electric-only policy from some EU members. Post Brexit, the UK is no longer tied directly to EU policy, but our Government seems increasingly keen to out-EU the EU when it comes to “leading in the fight against Climate Change”. Despite actions that led to the EU accepting a window of opportunity for alternative fuels in ICE vehicles, MAG has been keen to point out the lack of movement in this direction by the UK Government. Despite Sunak’s announcement that rolling back to 2035 for cars and vans was aligning our policy with EU policy, the Government has steadfastly refused to match the position on alternative fuels.
MAG Chair Neil Liversidge met DfT Minister for Transport Decarbonisation, Jesse Norman, in March as the developments in Europe were unfolding, but there was no sign of a softening from the UK perspective. In June we attended a Ministerial Roundtable Meeting with the Minister in June, along with the MCIA and representatives from all the major motorcycle manufacturers. We were still greeted by a minister asking if a year or two delay would make a difference. Many manufacturers pointed to their plans to develop alternative technologies, but the Government stuck to its electric-only mantra. This led a number of manufacturers to state openly to the Minister that there is potential for them to withdraw from the UK market.
Since that meeting there has been yet another Cabinet reshuffle and we are still awaiting the final decision on the ICE ban policy for motorcycles. The fight is far from over.
There is always a temptation to be complacent, to hear what they want you to hear, swallow the spin and stick your head in the sand. Too many are doing just that. MAG will not do any of those things. MAG will continue making this the top campaign priority and seeking any allies willing to join the fight. We are facing the death of motorcycling in the UK if this policy is not defeated.
Join for 2024
If you have never been a MAG member, have let your membership lapse, or are thinking you need to save some money by not renewing this year, we would love you to join, rejoin or stay with us.
If, like us, you are passionate about motorcycling, want to see motorcycling continue in the future, and want to preserve all that you love about it, we hope it will be an easy choice to make.
MAG’s strength is in numbers. The riding community can demonstrate strength when it unites – we proved that in Whitby. But Whitby was small in comparison with the fight we face to save the future of UK motorcycling.
If you want to say you played your part to defend motorcycling, please… join MAG today.