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Election 24 | Here’s how we get motorcycling on the agenda

BikeSocial Publisher since January 2017.





“Thankfully, the average age of motorcyclists is getting older and older so, if we wait long enough, the motorcycle problem will solve itself.”

I can’t remember who said it now, but I remember the quote waking me up from a post-lunch power nap at some conference on biking last year.

The quote was passed-on third-hand by the speaker from a conversation he’d had with someone so there is a chance that it never quite happened that way, but the point was for me, that the view is something that I can see many people in power holding. Why bother taking notice of motorcycling because,

  1. They are a noisy, dangerous nuisance

  2. Our average age is such we’ll largely disappear in the next decade anyway.

Election years are different though. Politicians pretend to listen to us, speak in carefully chosen non-committal platitudes that sort-of, almost promise to consider the needs of motorcyclists until the microphones point the other way.

Motorcycling and cycling groups take opposite approaches to lobbying Government. The bicycle lobbyists are loud, aggressive, and relentlessly pushy because they have health, numbers and child safety on their side. Motorcyclist groups are so desperate to win the argument that they allow themselves to be walked all over. Or, like MAG, they flit manically between sensible, data-driven and rational to comedically hung-up and angry on an issue that most riders find difficult to support.

The two sets of lobbyists mirror the two political ideologies. Motorcycling is like the Left – optimistically desperate to win the argument because they see an increase in motorcycling as good for everyone and can’t understand the opposition to it. Where the cyclists are like the Right – shameless in their attacks while all evidence of their own bad behaviour.

This year though the election might be different.

On the surface it looks similar to other polls. The National Motorcyclists’ Council – a group representing different areas of motorcycling has put out a manifesto highlighting seven key points to help bring motorcycling into the public debate on transport, reducing congestion and improving air quality.

You can read our story on the detail here  but the gist of it is that motorcycles are more environmentally friendly emitting less toxins for a shorter period of time. They don’t cause potholes or emit excess CO2 and NOx to get two tons of obese SUV moving for five feet before coming to a halt, needing ten minutes to travel half a mile. And motorcycles don’t cause those queues in the first place.

The NMC is asking riders to sign a pledge to show their support for motorcycling on a website motorcycling  that will give them the clout to lobby prospective candidates on our behalf.

At the same time, the MCIA - who used to be known as The Motorcycle Industry Association, but now just use the initials and the words ‘powered light vehicle’ (PLV) instead of ‘motorcycle’ because politicians won’t talk to them if they say ‘motorcycle’ - has also launched a five-point manifesto in the form of a Powered Light Vehicle Pledge that prospective candidates will be asked to sign making commitments to consider PLVs in transport policy.

All of which sounds very much like the traditional approach outlined above where rider lobby groups politely ask if we might be allowed to present the argument while the cycling lobby goes full-Trump psychopathic Shimano chainsaw massacre.

But this time we might just have a secret weapon.

For one thing, motorcycling as we know and love it is under genuine threat right now. The forthcoming ban on petrol-engined bikes is real and motorcycles are not like cars. Riders (and seemingly, the manufacturers too) are passionate about petrol and not remotely interested in electric. And they are angry.

The chances of your favourite manufacturer replacing all their current models with electric equivalents by 2035 is…zero. And if your dealer has no new bikes to sell, they’ll struggle to keep a fully-equipped workshop running to service your fossil-fuelled antiquity.

The second thing that’s different in this election is that those riders starting to get angry about the ban on ICE bikes are old enough to be semi-retired or actually retired, meaning they (we) have the time to get grumpy and involved.

That’s a big difference from every other election I remember and represents a genuine opportunity for us to put some pressure on candidates to get motorcycling on the agenda.

The MCIA calculates that there are on average, 5400 riders in each constituency and 5400 people who are more-than-likely to have time on their hands represents a sizeable chunk of grumpy people to bother their would-be MPs. Seats are won and lost on far smaller numbers than that.

And, as we already established, the arguments are sound, there’s a good chance in this election that Labour might win, and Labour candidates are more likely to go for something that seems like ‘the best argument’ because they are naïve enough to believe that’s how politics works.

Whatever your personal politics, this could be a chance to get motorcycling on the agenda by filling out the MCIA pledges and supporting the NMC campaign.

How you actually vote doesn’t matter, but getting biking on the agenda in this moment is the first step to saving it from a gentle decline into history.

So, get out there, get grumpy and bother all of the candidates in your constituency. Let’s see if we can make biking so flipping mainstream that even the MCIA can start using the word ‘Motorcycle’ again.

If you’d like to chat about this article or anything else biking related, join us and thousands of other riders at the Bennetts BikeSocial Facebook page.

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