Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Motorcycle Action Group UK (IT 48)



  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 problems.

  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 of motorcycles.

  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 people—especially those who live in rural areas—will 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 improvement.


  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 safety—options that can be supported and promoted by the motorcycle community. The proposal of unproven—or even in some cases dangerous—motorcycle "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 levels.

  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 Government.


  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 A3-0150/92).

  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 policy process.


September 1998

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