‘Sorry mate I didn’t see you.’ Every rider’s heard it. But what about ‘Sorry motorcyclists, we refuse to see you.’ That’s a new one. In the last few years there have been too many councils and regulators looking to modernise transport policy to minimise emissions and congestion. And in almost every case the starting point for these consultations is a position of eyes closed and fingers in ears about the benefits of motorcycling based on flawed, out-of-date or just plain ignorant views and data on motorcycling.
Maybe it’s a reflection that riding is now seen a middle-aged weekend lee-zure pursuit rather than a viable alternative to wasting your life in a queue. We stopped being part of the family transport arrangements and the current generation of power-brokers simply have no reference points for motorcycling aside from Sons of Anarchy and Long Way Down.
Thankfully, many of these half-baked regulations are amended once the rider’s rights groups like MAG, the NMC or local riders get involved, but the starting point is always that motorcycles are dangerous, dirty and should be removed from transport policy wherever possible.
I’m guessing that the irony is missed as these council meetings run late into the night, someone calls out for a takeaway and thanks the hard-working scooter rider who delivers it in minutes. Tony Campbell, boss of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) talks of how Government said to him ‘Fix your accident stats and then we’ll talk about motorcycles in transport policy.’ Depressingly, having done a lot to reduce accident stats from all areas of motorcycling, the Government and local councils still fail to acknowledge motorcycles as anything other than a nuisance.
Transport for London offer free 1:1 rider training with one of the most respected training companies for post-CBT riders to help them be more confident and safer riders. But you’ll struggle to see it promoted anywhere because TFL also choose to not promote motorcycling any form.
Maybe we need a series on Netflix called ‘Marketing Executives of Bromley’ that follows the exploits of a group of middle-aged ordinary Honda NC750 riders commuting efficiently, delivering toys and easter eggs to under-privileged children and laughing over a latte while discussing mid-70s mpg and not having sat in a queue since 1993.
Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), fresh from contesting ill-informed prejudice in Oxford and Cambridge are currently engaged along with the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC), Save London Motorcycling (SLM) and others fighting the latest example of bias against riders from Hackney Borough Council in London. Hackney proposed new parking charges for motorcycles based on two-wheelers allegedly putting out the same emissions as four wheelers. When SLM pointed out that the data used in this decision was based on a Swiss study from the late 1990s that pre-dates Euro-1 motorcycle regulations (bikes are currently on Euro-5), the council acknowledged this but decided to ignore it and go ahead anyway. Deaf as well as blind (and ignorant) apparently.
The proposals will levy a charge of up to £6 per hour on all motorcycle parking bays, with a four-hour maximum stay. That’s £50 a day with a bonus run out after four hours to find an alternative bay for the afternoon. Resident permits will cost £850 per annum (£2.30 a day) and £1,800 for business permits (£7.20 a day assuming you work 250 days a year).
What happens when neighbouring boroughs follow suit? As a working rider, making regular stops you could need permits in a dozen different councils, which becomes very expensive very quickly. Electric bikes are not exempt from the charges which scuppers any argument about this being a green initiative. It’s not green, it’s not about fixing congestion – the reason for this ruling appears to be simply about cash and seemingly discouraging the use of motorcycles.
Hackney’s evidence is based on a 20-year-old study from Switzerland, which compared Euro 3 cars with pre-Euro standard motorcycles (pre 1999) up to 10 years older than the cars at the time of the study. The current Euro 5 standards have reduced NOx emissions (the key measure for air pollution) by over 90% compared to pre-Euro standard levels. Co2 (the measure for global warming) levels have dropped by more than 40% for bikes under 125cc – the most common commuter type. And that’s before considering that bikes have a smaller Co2 footprint than most other vehicles due to not sitting in queues and using half their fuel to get a ton or more of SUV moving from rest only to stop again in another 20 yards.
Unlike the ULEZ (Ultra-Low-Emissions-Zone) charge which can be avoided by running a vehicle recognised as compliant with clean-air regulations, the fact that zero-emission vehicles will also be required to pay the parking charge suggests there is more to this decision than clean air and congestion.
Campaigning riders presented a petition to Hackney Council on November 23rd and councillors agreed to refer the parking charges decision back to The Cabinet. But they voted down a motion to include up-to-date data about modern motorcycle emissions and the importance of motorcycling for traffic flow, mobility and access to work. Without that, The Cabinet is unlikely to change its mind.
Save London Motorcycling commented: “This seems an abdication of Hackney’s responsibility to consider all relevant evidence when making decisions, and for policies to be proportionate, rational and fair. We consider the decision to be invalid and it must be looked at again.”
The NMC’s Craig Carey-Clinch said: “NMC members are strongly concerned that if Hackney imposes these charges, it could open the floodgates to disproportionate parking charges elsewhere in London and across the UK.”
BikeSocial obviously supports the campaign and are currently trying to think up some suitable ways of alerting Hackney Council to the benefits motorcycles can bring. We’d welcome your suggestions too for how to peacefully but effectively demonstrate the value of motorcycles in inner-city areas.
Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org Free BikeSocial T-shirt to the best ones.