Memorandum by Motorcycle Action Group
UK (IT 48)
A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT:
BETTER FOR EVERYONE
The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), which represents
over 45,000 UK motorcyclists, welcomes the publication of the
Government's plans for an integrated transport policy and particularly
welcomes the recognition that the emphasis on transport planning
must finally move away from blind acceptance of ever increasing
car use. The UK Government is now committed to developing an integrated
and sustainable transport policy based on reducing car use and
encouraging alternative forms of transport. The main alternatives
under consideration are public transport, cycling and walking.
MAG supports the encouragement of these alternatives. The role
of motorcycling has also been considered for the first time.
The motorcycle remains a largely misunderstood
mode of transport, for far too long shrouded in clouds of misconception
about both the nature of the machines themselves and the nature
of the people who ride them. The reality is that motorcycles have
long since evolved beyond the noisy, smelly and dirty transport
of yesterday. Modern motorcycles are clean, quiet, well designed
and come in a variety of different styles. They are used by people
from all walks of life, either for leisure, or as an alternative
to the car for commuting purposes. Sales of commuter motorcycles
are on the increase, demonstrating the frustration people feel
about traffic congestion and the lack of availability, or unreliability
of public transport. The motorcycle fulfils the role of a convenient
and environmentally friendly private transport alternative that
can make a contribution towards helping to solve Britain's transport
All too often the positive role that motorcycling
plays is overlooked unless the motorcycle industry, or motorcycle
users and their organisations lobby planners or councillors. Fully
integrated transport planning must take proper account of all
the available alternatives not just those which may be in vogue.
However, many planners seem unwilling to accept the advantages
Transport planning must be objective led. A
fully integrated plan should consider all the alternatives. Unfortunately,
in the past a large element of subjectivity has been allowed to
intrude on the thinking behind transport plans, resulting in motorcycles
being ignored. When this is queried, conjectural evidence is generally
offered to justify the lack of consideration for motorcycle use.
The White Paper has finally broken this trend.
Facilities for motorcyclists are available only
on a sporadic basis and usually only after lobbying by motorcycle
interest groups. A number of towns and cities do now have a modicum
of secure parking facilities and a handful of motorcycles in bus
lanes schemes have been implemented, but the lack of a national
motorcycling strategy means that the full value of positive motorcycling
schemes have yet to be appreciated.
Resistance to motorcycle schemes from certain
quarters is often based on ignorance or prejudice concerning the
role of the motorcycle. It has been found that objections can
be generally resolved after dialogue between concerned parties.
Many peopleespecially those who live
in rural areaswill always require personal powered transport.
Motorcycles are ideally placed to be part of an integrated transport
strategy, providing an ideal transport solution for many who live
too far from work to cycle in a reasonable time frame and who
have little or no access to the current, poorly funded, public
transport arrangements. They provide the viable alternative that
many will need if they are to make the successful transition away
from motor car use.
MAG welcomes the proposals for motorcycling
contained within the White Paper. The recognition of motorcycling
as an alternative mode is long overdue and particularly welcome.
MAG also welcomes the recognition that effective specific motorcycle
policies are best discussed as part of an advisory group process.
The proposed advisory group can provide a forum for analysing
the role of motorcycling and the consideration of issues such
as motorcycle safety, environmental impact and infrastructure
Motorcycle safety is of particular concern to
MAG. The motorcycle accident record has seen steady improvement
in recent years (though 1997 saw unwelcome increases for certain
classes of motorcycle in rural areas) MAG recognises that the
motorcycle community has a large role to play in encouraging improvements
to motorcycling's road safety record, but submits that the majority
of accidents, particularly in urban areas, are still caused by
other road users (Booth, IMC, 1989). MAG welcomes the Government's
White Paper commitment to improve car driving standards.
Motorcycle safety will feature prominently in
the proposed advisory group process. MAG looks forward to the
discussion of options that can have a positive and sustainable
impact on motorcycle safetyoptions that can be supported
and promoted by the motorcycle community. The proposal of unprovenor
even in some cases dangerousmotorcycle "safety"
measures has often been a feature of previous debates. MAG feels
that the White Paper process must, for the first time, allow a
full, evidentially based and inclusive discussion about the best
way to target motorcycle safety.
Regarding environmental impact, it has been
suggested that although small motorcycles produce fewer emissions
and use less fuel, the advantages for large motorcycles are less
clear-cut. MAG submits that cars stuck in heavy traffic produce
zero miles to the gallon and produce high levels of pollutants.
Compared to this, even a large motorcycle with a comparable fuel
consumption to a car can continue to make progress even in the
heaviest of traffic while making a far lower contribution to pollution
It is also argued that it would be undesirable
for people to switch from public transport to motorcycles. This
situation is only likely to occur if public transport to motorcycles.
This situation is only likely to occur if public transport arrangements
remain at their current, inadequate, expensive and unsafe levels.
In any case, if the phenomena does occur, it is surely more desirable
that people switch to a commuter motorcycle than add yet more
cars to Britain's congested roads.
Transport policy must recognise that cycles
and public transport, although vital components of an integrated
transport policy, can only provide part of the solution. Far too
often they are regarded as the "great panacea" when
in fact they are often simply too impractical as a mode of transport
for many journeys. There will always be a need for private powered
transport for certain journeys and motorcycles can provide a viable,
environmentally friendly and convenient alternative to the car.
MAG welcomes the fact that this has finally been recognised by
The White Paper goes into some depth about new
pricing mechanisms. The advantages of motorcycle use present a
clear case for exemption from charges for using road space. This
argument is further supported once the need to reduce car use
is considered. Drivers will need incentives to switch to other
vehicle modes. Once road pricing schemes have been established
concessions for motorcycle use will provide such encouragement.
A strong argument therefore exists for the abolition
of VED for certain classes of motorcycle. Motorcycles and bicycles
should be exempt from all purchases, possession and use taxes
in line with the opinion of the European Parliament (document
Local authorities should be encouraged to waive
parking charges for motorcycles as a further incentive to encourage
commuter motorcycling. At the same time, a levy in the form of
an urban "parking tax" should focus on car drivers and
the moneys raised used to fund road infrastructure repairs.
Helmets and other equipment worn for safety
reasons should be subject to a zero rate of VAT.
MAG looks forward to the new integrated transport
policy and the establishment of the Advisory Group for Motorcycles.
MAG feels that the White Paper represents a positive step forward
and remains willing to contribute to the integrated transport