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Proceedings of BMF Regional Meetings in January 2021

The British Motorcyclists Federation held a weekend of Regional meetings by Zoom on January 9-10 2021. Many topics were discussed, so here is a record of the proceedings from the various meetings.

All of the meetings opened with Management Team (MT) introductions:
Jim Freeman (JF) – BMF Chair
Sheonagh Ravensdale (SR) – Communications Director
Anna Zee (AZ) – Political and Technical Services Director
Tom Duncan (TD) – Admin Director
Peter Laidlaw (PL) – Director of Member Services
Howard Anderson (HA) – Finance Director
Helen Hancock (HH) – BMF Administrator

SR: I am the newly appointed Director of Communications. I have been riding bikes for all my adult life and my particular passion is touring the world by bike. I am a member of the Women’s International Motorcycle Association (WIMA), where I was International President for many years. I joined the Management Team in November 2020 with an aim of improving communications between the MT and members. We want to get to know you better and for you to know us better too. We can then all work together more effectively to protect our rights on motorcycles while having some fun along the way!

JF: For the last five years, I have been chairman. Fundamentally, my role is to keep everyone pointing in the right direction, consolidate the rest of the MT and try to focus on the most problematic areas at any one particular moment.

TD: I am Scotland’s Regional Chair. I have been on the MT/part of the admin team for a long time – I actually can’t remember when I wasn’t involved! Personally, I enjoy travelling, advanced riding and bike maintenance.

HA: I am Northern Ireland’s Regional Chair and also Director of Finance. I have been riding bikes since I was 12. I am a technical steward, my son Shaun is a road racer – in fact, you’ll find I’m involved in anything to do with motorcycling here in Northern Ireland! My role on the MT is to make sure we get the best use of every pound that comes our way.

PL: I have been riding bikes ever since I was able! I have been Director of Member Services for many years. Memberships are the main source of income for running the BMF. My main role is to ensure that that continues and even increases. I am always looking for different ways to increase funds by various schemes and partnerships.

AZ: I have been Political and Technical Services Director for many years and I am also currently doing some of the lobbying work for the BMF. I have been riding for well over four decades.

2020 Achievements

The formation of the Coalition of Motorcycle Organisations (CoMorg)
JF: One of the big problems in this country is that we have had no unified voice to talk to the government as motorcyclists for many years. A long time ago, the BMF was that voice but, over the years, there has been a fragmentation of interest – the Vintage Motorcycle Club (VMCC), the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF), the Auto Cycle Union (ACU) etc. To civil servants in the Department of Transport (DfT), you are one of a number of organisations – they want to know ‘who do you represent and what are your issues’. We are all aware of the classic choice of the BMF or the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) for political lobbying in the UK, and it has become apparent over the years that this has become more and more fragmented.

This last year, triggered by the pandemic, the response was to assemble a platform of like-minded bike organisations to speak with one voice. CoMorg have been putting out advice as best as we can about the pandemic and riding bikes.

Due to the success of CoMorg, it has been decided that this will now evolve into the National Motorcyclists Council – NMC – working on a launch hopefully in February. We are financially committed to the NMC, along with the TRF, the ACU and IAM RoadSmart. The VMCC are likely to join. The NMC will be in cooperation and under the leadership of Craig Carey-Clinch. Craig worked for the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) with his company, Rowan Associates, providing political engagement and also public relations. We feel this is a strategically major development and a really ‘good’ outcome from 2020.

The BMF’s commitment to the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA)
AZ: We are currently members of FEMA and there are currently 22 member organisations. They seem to be holding their own but membership has dropped slightly, which is not unexpected.

Current lobbying work in the EU and for the last three years is to build relationships with the sporting body Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme – FIM (the ACU are members of FIM). It has been agreed that there will be joint position papers while lobbying in Brussels (i.e. type approval, road safety, road infrastructure etc). For the moment, we believe that, as we have now left the EU and have no MEP in the European Parliament, it is good practice to remain within FEMA.

The motorcycle world is divided into three areas – Asia, Europe and the USA – and to think that the UK will be treated separately is probably not going to happen. The motorcycling industry will treat the UK as part of Europe because the UK market is not big enough for any manufacturer to treat it as a separate entity. So, when it comes to regulations on lighting, brakes or noise, regulations will come from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – UNECE– and that is how it will stay. If we want to have any say on what happens to the EU market, we need to remain a member of FEMA.

A couple of current FEMA issues:

PPE – trying to unify access across the world.

Sound – Some road closures in Europe due to noise pollution from lots of motorcycles on the same roads at the same time. One of the biggest issues here, because we have had many issues that came up after the first lockdown. Motorcycle noise is something as a community that we all need to address and take responsibility for.

New partnership – Thorneycroft Solicitors
PL: We are always on the lookout for partnerships and collaborations for sponsorship and member benefits. We currently have BMF Insurance, administered by Bikesure, which is a good source of income and a good member benefit. I met Thorneycroft at the bike show in Manchester and was immediately impressed by their core values. They are actively involved in the motorcycle world, including sponsorship and support of young riders, teams and clubs. They actively promote road safety and have strong links with Upright Derbyshire and IAM RoadSmart. One of their sponsored riders is BSB rider Christian Iddon [there was a video message from Christian at this point].

With Thorneycroft, we have revamped and resurrected the BMF Legal Line, which has a dedicated phone number for members. Thorneycroft will give legal advice for a whole portfolio of services for you and your business, not just for motorcycle injury claims. There is a handy app, ‘Motorcycle Assist’, that is designed specifically for motorcyclists as an efficient way to record any details that may be needed at the time of an accident such as scene photos, GPS location etc.

Our relationship with Thorneycroft has opened another contact that we are currently in negotiations with to provide BMF Recovery – a breakdown and recovery service. More information will hopefully be announced soon.

Motorcycle Rider
SR: We felt that, over the years, Motorcycle Rider was becoming more corporate and less interesting. So, we have moved away from the outside organisation and have taken it back under our control. We have recruited a new editor and a new designer, both of whom are passionate bikers as well as experts in their field. Our new editor, Peter Henshaw, used to edit Motorcycle Sport & Leisure and now does their travel section as well as editing for another club magazine. Our new designer, Louise Hillier, is keen to get started on an exciting new-look Motorcycle Rider. We really want it to be a community magazine based on what you want to see; a much livelier magazine. We will be sourcing articles of interest to our wide range of members – those of us who have been riding for decades but, also, crucially we need articles of interest for younger members and potential new members.

This is where you come in! We really want your articles, your photos, anything to do with biking and your experiences with bikes in your own neck of the woods, nationally or abroad. The new edition will be out in March 2021, so please get scribbling and send photos to us.

Q & A

Each region asked many varied questions, and these are covered below:

Q: Steve Mills (NI Chief Instructor for BMF Blue Riband Advanced Rider Award)
When students approach insurance companies for any discounts for advanced rider qualifications, they sometimes find that the BMF Blue Riband is not listed alongside RoSPA or IAM. Why? How can we get this added to the list?

Also, Blood Bikes require an advanced rider qualification, and sometimes the Blue Riband is accepted but sometimes it is not. Can the BMF get this award to be recognised by the National Association of Blood Bikes (NABB)?

I have, for the last three years, been actively engaging with the NABB to add the Blue Riband to the list of approved qualifications. This is an ongoing, slow process. As you know, the Blue Riband has to be taken every three years and is a full and comprehensive syllabus, very similar to the RoSPA Award. I am also contacting many insurance companies, brokers etc to ask them to put the Blue Riband onto the lists. It does seem to be a never-ending project!

The DVSA acknowledges that the Blue Riband is an approved advanced rider award.

Q: Martin Slowley
Martin offered his recently formed service that uses 3D laser technology to scan helmets and would like to form a relationship regarding a member benefit.

A: (PL)
Thank you – we will contact Martin directly and discuss this.

JF: Is there anything locally that you want to raise? Email us directly. We need eyes on the ground to help us.

HA: Wire barriers. The BMF have looked at it in the past. It is an ongoing process, and MAG are currently looking at it too.

JF: In Oxford, they had a road strategy plan that omitted motorcyclists. We only found out about that from a member in the area who highlighted that to us. We were then able to take action. We cannot cover every area – there is only one Anna! – so we rely on you to be our antenna, our radar.

Q: Mandy Johnson and Kona MacPhee
Both raised a problem in their areas with loose chippings, especially in banks on the bends.

A: (AZ)
There are standards set by the Road Surface Treatment Association (RSTA). You can contact the local authority and ask if the contractor is a member of the RSTA and, if not, why not. A previous employee of the BMF, Graeme Hay, who was our main lobbyist and is a Highways Engineer, made a video on YouTube. [This can be found here]

Q: Andy Appleby (GWOCGB)
What are the latest COVID-19 guidelines? Can we ride? Is it a legitimate purpose? In previous lockdowns, we have been able to ride for relaxation.

A: (TD)
The latest COVID-19 guidelines were issued by CoMorg to all clubs and as a general press release. We are not advocating riding unless for legitimate reasons as listed on the government website. CoMorg have not, unlike in previous lockdowns, been able to get the government to acknowledge the mental health benefits and the option to ride for exercise. We shouldn’t be looking for ways around the rules, but we should all be working to improve the public image of motorcycling.

Q: Janet – Crew MCC/WIMA/Motorbike Women
Due to the current lockdown, training centres are closed and expired CBTs cannot be renewed or full tests taken. Is it possible for the BMF to lobby the government to extend these, similar to how MOTs were extended? This is removing the only form of transport for a lot of riders.

A: (AZ)
I will follow that up with the authorities. During previous lockdowns, key workers could do training and CBTs but we are unsure this time.

Q: Dave Barton (BMF R9 rep) advised that there was a Facebook group – Volunteer Riders UK – that were looking for riders to distribute PPE and essential supplies. This was strictly monitored and accredited by the government.

A: (HA)
There is a similar organisation in Northern Ireland.

I believe Bike Shed were doing something similar.

Q: Stuart Dykes
The Bears and Bikes event that was due to held in Scotland in 2020. Are there any plans to do this in 2021?

A: (HH)
Unfortunately not – we have no plans for 2021. The only event is in Lincolnshire in August, which was postponed from 2020 and has sold its maximum tickets to be able to run a socially distanced event. However, this will be reassessed in summer and those tickets will be refunded if it is not to go ahead. The National Road Rally, the joint event that the BMF runs with the ACU, was able to go ahead in 2020 as a fully COVID-19-compliant and socially distanced event. There are plans for this to go ahead in July 2021, in a similar capacity as 2020, if restrictions allow. We, the BMF, are tentatively looking at 2022 for events…

Q: Janet
Will there be any concessions on the club affiliation fees due to COVID-19?

A: (HH/PL)
If any club is having difficulty with paying the affiliation fees, please email and we can discuss the options. We totally understand the effects of the pandemic on finances. We too are struggling, and we will look at each individual situation and hopefully find a suitable outcome. We appreciate all our members’ support during this challenging time.

Q: Tim Kirker– member of the Vincent Owners Club and BMF Councillor
Has the pandemic had an effect on the BMF’s finances? What effect will moving to the current magazine publishers away from Archant Dialogue have?

A: (JF)
There has been some effect due to COVID-19. However, the effect of less activity and working from home has in fact reduced outgoings. We have made decisions to reduce office workspace and we will continue to work from home. Yes, moving from Archant Dialogue to our current in-house printing will have a positive impact on our funds. Sheonagh has made great inroads with this new set-up.

Income hasn’t been affected too much yet. All members and clubs have been very loyal. We really appreciate the support from everyone.

Q: Have you looked into COVID-19 grants?

A: (JF)
Yes, we have looked into those schemes. We took advantage of the Furlough Scheme during the summer for our part-time membership secretary. We do not seem to fit the criteria for grants.

Q: Vaughan Davey – 4 Riders Club
UNECE? Who are they? What do they do?

A: (AZ)
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – a collection of people who agree on regulations for vehicles. UNECE working party 29 are the most active in Geneva.

Q: Brian Forde – All or Nothing Scooter Club
The new lobby person – Craig Carey-Clinch – what’s his previous pedigree?

A: (AZ)
Craig as Rowan Associates used to do all the lobbying for the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA). The current Chief Executive, Tony Campbell, now does the majority himself with the communications officer, but Craig is still a consultant. This freed up some time to allow him to work for the NMC. He knows people in Westminster, he knows how to reach the civil servants in Whitehall. He does have a long history of work with the government.

Q: Brian
What you don’t see from the BMF but you do see with MAG is asking members to write directly to their MPs.

A: (AZ)
Trevor Magner used to hold a registry of letter writers and ask people to do it, but there was very little take-up. Is that something you would like to see from the BMF?

Yes, the one unified voice, all saying the same message.

It can depend on the circumstances. Sometimes sending the same letter from different people doesn’t necessarily go down too well in government, but it can be helpful in other occasions.

Thanks for raising this. It can be an area that we look further into pursuing.

Anne Jackson-Shields (WIMA):
Agrees with Brian, feels it would involve an average motorcyclist and encourage them to be more active.

Q: Roz Tarry
Will the new magazine have professionally written articles as well as member-submitted articles?

A: (SR)
Yes, it will.

Alfred Taylor:
Please could you impress on the new designer not to put light grey type on a pale background?

The RNIB have a list of approved fonts and colours.

Roz Tarry:
Rider had far too much white space too.

Yes, thank you for your comments. We will be aware and we will make sure our magazine is easier to read.

Q: Mitch Elliott – Regional Rep for Lincolnshire
Can we offer travel advice? Can this be done through Thorneycroft?

A: (PL)
I will discuss with Thorneycroft and flag this up to ensure they cover it properly as part of the helpline. I will ask them to write an article for the next issue of the magazine.

Currently working on travel changes in Europe, hope to release something in the near future.

Q: Mitch
Will we have a presence at the up-coming Adventure Bike Rider Festival?

A: (PL)
Hopefully – restrictions dependent, of course.

Q: Mike Hughes
I’d like to bring up the subject of advanced rider qualification and the BMF Blue Riband Scheme. There is a lot of talk about IAM and RoSPA.

A: (PL)
Yes, we do have a DVSA-approved and recognised award, which is now available throughout the UK. We will continue to promote this in 2021.

Q: John Nelson – TOMCC
Our club magazine is quarterly and many of our affiliated clubs have magazines. Rarely do we see any BMF press releases, articles or anything in them. We need to reconnect with clubs and their magazine editors to ensure this is done.

A: (HH)
We do send out press releases directly to our club contacts to those email addresses that we have been given. This is something that Sheonagh and I will be working on to try to make sure these are getting through to the correct contact. We are also hoping to get all clubs to send us a copy of their club magazines.

Q: Anne Jackson-Shields
As an interested affiliate member, how do I sign up to receive these newsletters and press releases?

A: (HH)
At the moment, these emails only go out to full members and to the main club contact. It is up to the clubs to then pass the information on to their members. In the future, we are looking at the possibility of having an email list of interested people to receive our eNewsletters. As a full individual member, these will come directly to you. Remember that to convert from an affiliated member to a full member, there is a £5 discount code that will be provided by your club.

Q: Jacqueline Bickerstaff – Daventry Motorcycle Festival
What is the plan or repercussion of changing our magazine provider on the website as I believe they also maintain that?

A: (SR)
We are in big discussions on that at the moment, as Archant Dialogue maintained the website, managed our social media and also produced the magazine. This is ongoing and will take some sorting out for the best way forward for us.

Q: John Broad
Powered Two-Wheelers (PTW) – we should be concerned over the blurring of the definition. Local councils are keen on walking and cycling, but often don’t include motorcycles in their local transport plans. They talk about motorbikes as ‘Harley-Davidsons’ and seem to have little or no knowledge of the different types and engine sizes. They use the term Pedalecs to cover a pedal cycle with an engine and put those in with bicycles, blurring the definition between a motorcycle or a cycle with a motor. Certainly, we need to help with the clarification. I want councils to open up their horizons to include motorcycles in the thought process when doing their planning.

A: (AZ)
Quite right! There is a big issue with definitions. Electric bicycles need to be 250w and no more than 15mph (and no licence of rider or of the machine), but how do you tell that it’s not more powerful? Anything above is classed as a motorcycle and 50cc mopeds are classed the same as electric bikes. In the Netherlands, they allow mopeds in cycle lanes. FEMA classify them as light electric vehicles – none require any form of licencing of either machine or rider, don’t pay road tax and riders don’t have to wear any form of protective clothing either. In road safety meetings, we emphasise that they do not put the injury stats into same category as motorcycles – it blurs the line even more. Motorcyclists have had training and have a licence to ride.

It is hoped that the NMC could make a difference – being one voice, with one aim. The Department for Transport (DfT) has a minister responsible for motorcycling, which is currently only recognised as part of the vulnerable road user group. What we need is someone at the top level that recognises motorcycling as a legitimate form of transport which is properly catered for and considered. If it is considered at top level, there is a better chance of local councils doing something.

Q: Steve B
Do you know who our motorcycle-friendly MPs are?

A: (AZ)
We know some of them…

Q: Mark
Does the BMF have a specific strategy for supporting younger riders, especially with the high cost of insurance and training? As a member of a one-make club, we appreciate that it is important to involve younger riders and families.

A: (PL)
We try through various soft partners, such as Bikesure and First Bike (a magazine given to all newly qualified riders). So, in some areas, we are getting through to ‘youth’ but want ideas of how else to get into the young riders’ world. We are often approached at events and shows by parents wanting advice for starting up.

We are actively looking for more ways to create links with younger riders. We do have connections with Phoenix Motorcycle Training who, along with supplying training for our Blue Riband Advanced Rider Award, do a full range of training from CBT. We are trying to expand our reach over different social media platforms and online presence.

Jill (Essex Advanced Motorcyclists Group):
We tried a young rider launch, including social media and radio advertising, but there was no interest in training – even though it was free.

I find one-to-one engagement makes a difference. I deliver bikes for a dealership and he speaks to all young riders he sees. Perhaps if the BMF had a small business card-sized promotional information handout, they would be easy for members to keep in their wallets, pockets etc. and hand out when someone shows an interest. They can take away and look anything up at their leisure – no pressure.

We do give out all sorts of flyers, leaflets, magazines etc. We never go for the ‘hard sell’ and allow time to reflect. Always available to all members, just ask. Good idea regarding a smaller card…

Q: Phil
What involvement does the BMF have at local council level?

A: (AZ)
Local councils are best approached by local people. What we need is more people to establish a relationship with their council and bring matters up with them for us – i.e. be a local rep. We can support, but there’s only one of me so I can’t be everywhere! Local people really do make the difference.

John Broad:
I am interested in helping out at the local level. I recently got involved by looking at the local transport plan, which was open for consultation. They are not always easy to find. We need local people to keep checking local council websites and make sure motorcycles are included. If not, contact the BMF.

Following on from both Phil and John, we rely on people acting as our local-level information sources. If you find anything that you feel is not right, please contact us and we can investigate further.

Everyone who is motorcycle-minded, we can all work together to improve things at all levels. We will represent you, if you tell us what is going on.

Q: Keith Freak
Will there be a digital version of the magazine?

A: (SR)
Yes, there hopefully will be a digital version.

Q: Caz – WIMA
What are the different types of membership? Why would an affiliated club member want to become a full member?

A: (PL)
Individual members support us directly financially, they have a copy of Motorcycle Rider magazine, direct contact and communications with us. Clubs have communications sent to one source and have a limited number of magazines. So an individual is better informed, they also support us directly and they have full voting rights. If an affiliate member converts to a full member, there is a £5 reduction in the initial membership fee. I will provide a document to show the different types of memberships.

Q: Peter Davidson – part of Facebook group Bikers Rights Alliance Group (BRAG)
As a group, we campaign against issues such as maintenance, mud on the road, poor workmanship etc. As a BMF member, I would like to get some help and advice from Anna. Is there anything we can do to highlight these issues to other bikers in other areas regarding the issues of mud on the road, surface dressing etc. via the magazine?

A: (AZ)
It is something that we are involved with. As previously discussed, the RSTA set the standards and you can take it up with the relevant local council.

This is a very long and drawn-out process.

Yes, it is. If we bring in Graeme Hay as a previous lobbyist for the BMF, he has also made a video on surface dressing.

There are strict rules. Surface dressing is done from May to September. Due to previous work, the surplus has reduced from 5% to 3%. The sweeping times have also improved, to the same day as laid and five days rather than 10. The RSTA is the responsible body. I suggest that AZ, PD and GH get together to discuss the way forward.

Roger Stone, regional rep for South Wiltshire:
The BMF have a Rural Roads flyer which highlights the dangers of mud on the road etc. This is available from the BMF Office. These were taken to Young Farmers rallies and country shows by local reps.

Q: Marc Whitmarsh – committee member of the National Road Rally (NRR)
We’re keen to promote the NRR and wondered, as the chair for the WIMA was on the call, can we hope to see some WIMA members enter the rally?

A: (HH)
The NRR is a joint venture between the ACU and BMF and yes, I am sure I can persuade some entries from the WIMA. We will continue to actively promote the NRR which, hopefully, will be going ahead in July as a COVID-19-safe and socially distanced event that we will promote online and in the magazine.

Q: Ian Hammond – BMF rep for the Isle of Wight
Will the NMC be the first point of contact with the government?

A: (JF)
The current group, CoMorg, is morphing into a more permanent coalition that is the NMC – this will be the first point of contact for the government. Instead of just reacting, we want to become more proactive. The NMC will go to the government and say “this is what we want”. Nothing to stop the individual organisations doing their own lobbying, but it is felt that a more targeted approach would assist the overall programme.

Q: Marc Whitmarsh
Can BMF Insurance look at providing a six-wheel policy like Carol Nash? If this could be done, it may encourage more to go to Bikesure and therefore more members.

A: (PL)
I will speak with the insurers.

Passed as a true representation of the meetings by the BMF Management Team – February 2021