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Volunteer Anna Zee: ‘Why I give up some of my riding so you don’t have to’.

Over the last twenty years I have received a pretty extensive education in road safety matters and a good deal of technical and legislative education to do with motorcycling issues. Most of it while engaged in full-time employment in a completely unrelated area.

I never intended to become a road safety expert but if I am more than halfway there it is because if you represent motorcyclists it is necessary to engage with a whole spectrum of road safety bodies. It is unfortunately the case that as a representative of motorcyclists one does encounter people who can only think of motorcycles as dangerous and noisy.

With respect to noise the simple solution is to enforce the existing law so let’s put that to one side for the moment. With respect to motorcycles being dangerous it occurs to me that I’ve never said ‘if it’s so dangerous why do you think I do it?’ Nor has anyone ever asked me ‘it’s so dangerous, why do you do it?’.

Of course the answer to that is ‘Because it’s fun!!’

All the local/road/transport authorities and road safety bodies treat transport as a utility, which of course it is. For many motorcyclists it’s not only useful it’s something to enjoy. We’re not the only road users who enjoy using their preferred form of transport; some enjoy walking and cycling, some car drivers enjoy driving a car, though I have my doubts about how many of those who have to use it truly enjoy public transport. Particularly in London. But the point is that none of the organisations that plan, build and maintain our roads, approve vehicle standards etc. have any obligation to take our enjoyment into account. It feels like you’re not supposed to enjoy using a vehicle.

The funny thing is that I don’t think there can ever have been a time when there hasn’t been someone enjoying use of a vehicle just because it was fun. Not just to go somewhere but just to enjoy the performance of the journey, though I expect there were also those indulging in some anti-social behaviour. The Romans had their chariot races in the Colosseum but wouldn’t you like to bet the local yobbos of the day were racing their carts on the local roads to the public danger? On the other hand there would have been some who were just quietly enjoying finding out the right way to get that horse and carriage round that bend without slowing down.

So no, I hold no brief for those people doing donuts in the local supermarket carpark at 1 in the morning, howling through quiet villages like banshees or pulling stoppies in front of HGVs, but I’m blowed if I can see why I shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy a nice run out on my bike, preferably with bendy bits, besides doing the commuting run.

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if I could believe that all those involved in taking care of our road systems were really trying to make proper provision for motorcyclists. Or if I thought all of them appreciated the benefits of having motorcycles in the traffic mix, like reducing congestion. There are some rays of hope, with, for example, National Highways running their Motorcycle Working Group and the Strategic Focus Group headed up by the DVSA; their efforts are appreciated and not all the road safety experts simply want to remove motorcycles altogether. On the other hand there is no proper consideration of motorcycling in overall transport policy; there appears to be an attitude in some quarters that if they ignore us we just might go away.

A prime example is the National Networks National Planning Policy, which provides guidance on planning major transport projects. The draft of a new version, recently the subject of a consultation, makes reference to three forms of what is currently known as active travel, it even mentions horse riding, but completely fails to include motorcycling. It is a disgrace that a perfectly legitimate form of transport receives no mention at all. I’d really rather be out riding my bike but this sort of thing is one of the reasons I spend time representing riders in as many forums as possible.

So when you’re out enjoying a run on the bike perhaps you could remember to spare a thought for those of us who are trying to ensure you can go on doing so. We can’t always succeed but we keep trying, working with our members and like-minded organisations to impress upon Ministers and officials the need to integrate motorcycling fully into transport policy. Our idea is that all road users should work together to improve training and road safety for all. And have a bit of fun too!

Anna Zee – BMF Political Technical Services Director

Top image courtesy of Anna Zee/National Motorcyclists Council (NMC)

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