My career as a courier didn’t last long and all my best stories are borrowed. But I still love riding in town, and get more thrills playing in traffic than I ever do on a track-day. As part of a generation who grew up believing the streets of London really were paved with motorcycling gold, I’d love to have been part of it. Fast, frantic and mischievous motorcyclists, tearing up towns on inappropriate machinery in a wide-eyed, rarely-legal game of chicken. Motorcycles in cities are the business and one day society will realise.
Imagine what would happen if forward-thinking local councils put motorcycling closer to the top of their personal transport policy. As riders we are all aware of the benefits of traveling on two wheels and we are equally aware that society’s paranoia about the safety issues are largely unfounded – especially when you consider that motorcycle accidents are more often a car accident that happens to involve a motorcycle.
I’ve had a couple of conversations recently that suggest things might be about to change. Two local authorities coming at being positive about biking from different angles, but which will hopefully have the same result. One of them – Northamptonshire – is trying to promote motorcycling among the next generation because of an awareness of what will happen to its local economy if the road network gets any more clogged. The central location of Northamptonshire has made it ideal for a network of enormous warehouses supplying all manner of equally enormous retailers. To maintain an advantage Northants needs to keep its traffic flowing and councillors there understand how motorcycles can form part of this solution after reading a study from the Motorcycle Industry Association that described how swapping 10 per cent of cars for powered two wheelers can reduce congestion by 40 per cent.
Northamptonshire council is working with the motorcycle industry to bring education and awareness of two wheelers into the community to challenge the stereotypes of bikes being fast, antisocial and dangerous.
Eighty miles south in London, things are even more interesting. Our capital’s authorities have long understood that without motorcycling London would quickly seize up. Even though they don’t actively promote it, Transport for London (TfL) understands that biking is only going to get more popular as London gets busier. So, they are introducing a collection of initiatives to make motorcycling in London safer. In addition to the established BikeSafe and ScooterSafe, TFL is introducing a one-to-one training course for London riders, teaching safer urban motorcycling, for free. An instructor comes to your house and you spend half a day riding together, learning how to manage urban riding safely.
Think about that for a moment – it’s an astonishing idea and one that deserves all the possible plaudits we can throw at it. In addition, TFL is also introducing a post-CBT training course for those who want to ride a small bike without the intention of taking the full test, but want to ride it better and more safely.
And there’s more. TfL is also going to run a specialist course for delivery riders, teaching them how to ride a motorcycle safely in traffic with a delivery box on the back. And there’s also an e-learning course for pre-CBT riders to help with hazard awareness and motorcycling principles.
None of this will be cheap (although presumably the money saved from not dealing with accidents and not having riders clogging up A&E departments will more than make up for it) but TFL see the benefits in pro-actively managing London motorcyclists’ safety. The new initiatives are due to be rolled out later this year. Watch this space and the TFL website for details and encourage your London mates to get stuck in.
It’s not often that anyone says ‘thank you’ to officialdom, so can we be the first to say it to TfL…