MAG Protest rides - 25th September
Mr Ash sir,
I generally regard your writings on the subject of motorcycles with the reverence accorded to the Gospels, but I'm afraid this week you've got it all wrong!
I'm referring to your piece in this week's MCN about Sunday's MAG protests. It's NOT against the UK Government, or the single issue of compulsory ABS. It's against the EU and their intent to introduce a raft of restrictive directives which will seriously limit our freedom of choice as motorcyclists, and without effective research or impact analysis to back up what they're doing. You're correct in that the UK government have stated they've no current plans to implement such measures, but if they get into an EU directive they'll have no choice, and our civil servants in their usual style will 'gold plate' everything to make the effect far worse than intended.
Witness the recent changes to the bike test, all done with good intent, but the effect has been less new riders passing their test last year than for many decades. If this carries on, you for one will soon be out of work, because there'll be no bikes or biking left to write about!
1) Switch-able ABS on large bikes is fine, but making it compulsory on ALL bikes over 125cc introduces unnecessary cost and complexity. Definitely a bad thing on off-roaders, or any bike which goes off tarmac. Remember that as on cars, the brakes may be working fine, but if the ABS warning light is on it's an immediate MOT fail.
2) Anti-tampering rules - these will prevent riders choosing to fit any component not recommended by the bike manufacturer, ie no after-market cans or air filters, severely restricted tyre choice, etc. The logical extension to this will be the banning of home maintenance, favouring qualified and registered (at a cost!) professional mechanics.
3) Compulsory emissions monitoring - electronic systems which monitor all aspects of a bike's performance, and limiting them to a low-power limp-home mode if any 'issues' are detected.
4) Random road-side inspections - targetted at motorcyclists to check none of the above rules are being broken.
5) Banning of bikes (and other vehicles) over 7 years old from city centres - on spurious environmental grounds. (proposed in France)
6) Compulsory full-sleeve dayglo clothing for both riders and pillions (proposed in France and Eire). This puts the blame squarely on the victim for all SMIDSY crashes.
These are just the items I can remember off the top whist typing this, there may be some others. See the MAG website and facebook sites for full details, e.g
So basically Mr Ash we're trying to preserve biker's freedom of choice for us, and your job for you. Several MPs and MEPs will be supporting, please come and join one of our rides on Sunday!
respectfully yours, etc,
(PS - My current bike has non-switchable ABS and an always-on headlight. I even wear a day-glo sam browne on occasions; but I'm more than willing to fight to preserve everyone else's right to choose otherwise!)
Thanks for the info and points well-made.
I'm implacably opposed to the proliferation of dayglo and may even stir my sticks on this occasion, if only to defend the rights of the Amish community.
I'm sure you'll get more feedback now your thread is 'out there'. NB you need to post a new thread twice to hit the 'Recent Comments' column.
We don't disagree as much as you think. My column in MCN confirmed that your points about anti-tampering, ABS and others are indeed on the agenda and worthy of protest. My objection is the way MAG have approached this by implying a host of other things are likely to become law in the UK when they're not. The compulsory day-glo for example is not on the European agenda, that is very specific to France and Ireland and there is nothing in the pipeline for EU-wide compulsion, nor is the UK government going to do this independently. Yet to read what MAG says you'd think we're on the brink of it.
As for the banning of bikes over seven years old, there are two things wrong with the way this has been presented, again as I pointed out in the MCN column. One, this is not an anti-bike measure as it's being portrayed, it's nonsensical green political correctness and covers all vehicles over a certain age, including, cars, buses and lorries. Two, it's specific to France, and as with the day-glo legislation, is not something the EU as a whole is looking at. The UK government is actively against this and again, there's no danger at all of it being implemented here.
While I'm extremely cynical about most aspects of the EC, it doesn't automatically try and impose legislation introduced by individual countries, indeed the EU has asked the French to withdraw its long-standing 100bhp limit on new bikes rather than making all other countries adopt them, and this might well happen with the day-glo issue too. The ban on old vehicles could be an issue too as its restricts the free movement of people around Europe.
As I also say in the column, some of the other issues though could well be imposed even though the UK government is against them as you also point out, and these are worthy of protest. My issue with what MAG has done is they haven't presented a balanced view - in the column I've gone through each of their main bullet points as presented on their website - and many people will be going out and protesting against a false picture of what might and might not happen. If the biking groups start resorting to propaganda then we're shooting ourselves in the collective foot because we can no longer accuse anti-biking politicians of doing the same. And as I say in MCN, it could backfire if people are asked why they're protesting, and they say compulsory day-glo or banning of old bikes in cities, to which politicians would rightly respond that there's no danger of these happening anyway. Then it will look a bit silly.
It's very important that people are presented with a balanced and accurate view of what is likely to happen and what isn't, and MAG hasn't given them that. So that's what I wanted to do, I've not come out against the protest at all, I've just said make sure you know what you're protesting about.
The point you make about the bike test if anything reinforces what I said about individual countries doing their own thing. The same rules apply to other EU countries but they've been implemented in very different ways. The last government used them as an excuse to try and build a small number of test supercentres and scrap more than 200 perfectly good local ones. It insisted on all off-road testing where it wasn't needed, it combined the swerve and brake test where other countries haven't, and the reason test numbers have fallen dramatically is nothing to do with the EU but the disastrously incompetent way it was introduced by the UK alone. Fortunately the current government is unwinding it after an enquiry and next year the test will become a lot more reasonable again, and we will get many more test centres again. This is specifically a UK problem though, not an EU one, much as we like to blame them for most things (and they are responsible for an awful lot of dreadful legislation).
Perhaps the impending worsening of the european financial crisis will give them all something else to worry about instead.
And leave us all alone!!
We can live in hope.
Finally a voice of reason! thank you Kevin for writing what Trev and I have been trying to explain - with little success - to bikers here in Northern Ireland.
With regards to the Hi Viz issue, We contacted the local government just to be sure and were told - "there are no plans nor are there any inklings of plans to introduce Hi Visibility clothing for motorcyclists in Northern Ireland".
But the view is any potential legislation in the Republic may influence the government here and then it may spread across the waters to GB...one day.... so just in case, we should protest.
We've had local motorcycle businesses phoning us, terrified that they will be put out of business because of what is being posted on the various forums.
As you state, yes people should protest - but do it for the right reasons.
I thought I'd answer this separately as you're not the first to say things on these lines, which could be read as very patronising. I understand you're trying to preserve our freedom of choice and I applaud it, but please don't suggest or imply that because I am questioning some aspects of the way this is being done (and that's all I'm doing) it means I am therefore indifferent to or against the aims.
I have written extensively and repeatedly over many years in MCN, The Daily Telegraph and elsewhere against all kinds of anti-motorcycling legislation and attitudes as I am passionate about bikes and our freedom to enjoy them in our many individual ways, and I see this being eroded through a variety of paths.
I just happen to believe more can be achieved with an approach which is more balanced, reasoned and informed than MAG's in this instance... well, MAG is informed, I think there's an element of scaremongering here in order to bolster the protest, and I don't agree with that. But if we differ on the method, let's not forget (or suggest otherwise) that we are trying to achieve the same thing.
Kevin is correct here in my opinion. We're surrounded by spin; organisations indulging in it can only weaken their case and their credibility. Anyone crying wolf best be sure it doesn't turn out, under scrutiny, to be a chihuahua.
IMO as long as we continue to be persecuted as a group, regardless of whther it's MEPs, MPs or just officious local councillors, then we as bikers should try to support each other. At least we're then showing the powers that be that we should be listened to.
I turned up to the M40 Warwick Services(N) start point and joined the ride from there to M42 Hopwood Services. There appeared to be reasonable sized gathering of about a couple of hundred bikes. Although it seemed to start out well planned and organised the group seemed to get quite stretched out into a large number of smaller pockets of riders. This may have happened due to riders being overly courteous to other vehicles entering and leaving the motorway. I didn't see any dangerous activity from any bikers I rode with. However I saw a number of cars travelling ridiculously close to each other, making lane changes without checking properly (I only know cos' the bike had make a course and speed change in front of me) and some plonker in a Micra who came down the M40/M42 interchange dived lane 2 and seemed to be wanting a race (pretending his steering wheel was a set of reigns).
There's some pics on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/nowayhosey of the assembly point.
Finally someone who has actually looked into what's actually proposed rather than MAG's shrill bleating.
I'm all for standing up for what you think is right but like Kev I looked into the facts and a lot of MAG's arguments don't hold water as he's pointed out.Not only that I've heard a lot of people repeating other "facts" that have sprung up on the internet,for example the "fact" that we'll all have to have our registration number written across the back and front of those reflective jackets.3 different people have told me that one.Plymouth's local MAG rep has been on Facebook stating that all bikes will "be illegal" after the 5th of October,I don't know where he got that and given the replies others get who are even mildly critical I've got no intentions of asking.
As for what is ,as opposed to what MAG say is,being considered,well what's wrong with ABS? It's a safety feature and already fitted to more and more bikes as standard and the IAM have actually welcomed the proposals.Anti-tampering? I've seen some horrific "modifications" to people's bikes that have been outright dangerous,I was speaking to someone spouting off about how it making his bike illegal while a mechanic was adjusting his fake Renthals so they didn't cut his steering lock in half by bashing against his fairing.I've seen exhaust systems fixed to swingarms,wiring twisted together and covered in insulation tape,huggers held on with cable ties,you name it.
Local MAG bods were shouting that they had the support of "a prominent EUMP",they did but what it seemed most missed when his letter of support was shown on FB was that he's a UKIP EUMP and of course he's all for anything that's anti-EU,in fact he was actively encouraging "mass demonstrations",he would wouldn't he?
I've seen tales of today's demos and many have been a mess.If you're trying to get a point across you need to be able to do just that.A group of bikes turning up looking around for someone to take the lead or tell them what to do or even what they're doing there isn't a demonstration,it's a group of bikes turning up at the same place.Some of the "demos" I've heard about degenerated very quickly into bikers just causing a bloody nuisance and hacking off other road users.
I've always believed in standing up for yourself,it's cost me more than one job over the years,but like Kev I actually did a bit of research and that and my lack of any faith in the local MAG lot to organise anything other than the proverbial piss up in a brewery,which they could have done a lot better,meant I gave it a miss today.Apart from anything else they're misleading people and causing concern over things that just aren't an issue right now.
I agree, it's far more effective to be united. But it's also more effective to know what the real threats are, I don't think we do ourselves any favours by blowing up some of the threats out of proportion, that dilutes the what we're doing rather than strengthening it. The claim by MAG for example that we're threatened by a ban on older bikes in cities is wildly far from the truth, this proposed ban is entirely a green and not anti-bike agenda, it affects all types of vehicles, it's solely French, it's something the EU would be wholly unable to impose across Europe even if it wanted to (and it doesn't) and there's no way the UK government would consider such a thing. Yet this 'threat' is being used to stoke up bike riders' feelings against the authorities - it's wrong that MAG should be doing this, and it's this which I've been trying to highlight.
As you can see here, other people are frustrated by this too, it's not just me having a rant, and it's doubly frustrating as hidden among the unlikely stuff are some real threats which we should indeed be protesting about.
MAG told the local paper after the event that their demo was "to support our brothers in France",belatedly having their error pointed out I suspect as France wasn't mentioned in all the fuss over the upcoming demos.Trouble is they're still getting it wrong and claiming that the French only want to exclude *bikes* over 7 years old and that that's plainly discriminatory.It's also plainly incorrect.
All they've done is kicked off a debate on the local rag's website with non-bikers complaining about the behaviour and attitudes of some of those on Sunday's demo and also the disruption they caused.They were also forced to apologise for the antics of some of the riders on the day who decided to block all of the road.
All in all while they seem to think that the numbers involved make their demo a success they've also annoyed a lot of people previously pro-bike or certainly not anti-bike and shot themselves in the foot with incorrect information shooting their credibility down in flames.
More MUG than MAG it seems.
I agree with KA about getting the details right, however there were bigger, as well as more subtle, things to be gained from what MAG did. If they had tried to explain the minutiae of the the EU legislative process it would have bored people into inactivity. If you want to mobilise a great number of folk out of their natural apathy and on to the road (on their weekend off) then you have to keep the message simple and dramatic. I think the accusation of scaremongering is overstated.
It doesn't really matter that some of the supposedly 'proposed' measures were only intended for France or Ireland, or that some had little chance of getting on the EU statute books. Ideas like these germinate in the minds of legislators and they need to be challenged at the earliest opportunity. Politicians are tarts for popularity and react to strong demonstrations for or against things. If they get no reaction then they assume they are right and bad legislation gets passed. Loopy ideas from one country tend to be adopted by other countries in the EU if they are not robustly challenged.
There were probably 40,000 bikes on the demo and that sends a powerful message to all concerned; it says we're watching, we're not to be ignored. It says if you think you can get away with making bad laws then you're wrong because we're going to draw attention to it. Unpopularity is infectious and politicians avoid it strenuously.
I doubt any one person (even of Kevin's prominence in motorcycling) or any other organisation other than Mag could have achieved what they did last Sunday. It was flawed, for sure, but it was effective and we all need to build on it by taking up the issues raised and explaining our point of view. And not by whingeing about limits on our 'freedom' but by calmly explaining why most of these proposals are bad ideas for everyone, not just bikers.
While I respect your opinion and agree with some of what you say oldlongdog locally the demo had a fairly negative impact on the local population.Firstly it wasn't widely publicised beforehand and members of the public just found themselves behind hundreds of bikes that were blocking their way for no reason they knew of.While Mag did ask protestors to maintain discipline and not completely disrupt the roads enough didn't listen to cause a major nuisance for a lot of people,many of whom complained to the police,the County Council and various local media outlets.They should have been more responsible,communicated better...and of course got their facts right.
The Britsh Government have specifically stated that they have no plans to copy either French initiative,in fact they're totally opposed to the "Green" vehicle ban so the argument about "creeping legislation" falls flat.
There are plenty of valid reasons to demonstrate,the state of the roads in this country,ridiculous fuel prices e.t.c. and I'd go any demo where the reason was stated correctly with facts to back it up,it was properly organised and as you rightly say,local media and the public were made fully aware beforehand of why.where and how long.Proper Marshalling would be good as well,no good getting hundreds of people out on bikes in one big mass then saying "not our fault" when people taking part cause problems.
Dave8204 - I must say that I agree with everything in that last post.
I have been reading this thread with interest as I am kind of caught in a dilemma over it. I am 100% in the camp of us motorcyclists doing all that we can to protect our rights and I shall fight for those rights with every last ounce of will. Living in Czech republic there is, I am sad to say, a general culture of apathy and more or less absolutely no group doing much of anything to stand up and be counted. It is thus with a hint of jealousy that I look at groups like the BMF and MAG as they do actually do something. On the flip side though I am absolutely entrenched in the camp that believes that if you are going to make a noise about something and start trying to convince the public and the politicians then you need to be 125% sure that you are on good, solid reliable ground. There is absolutely zero point in trying to tackle the authorities with even a whiff of hyperbole or a chink in your armour that can be exploited. The legislators are masters at that and will be merciless in taking down your whole argument, if they see even a smidgin of a gap in your case.
I personally feel that mass road based protests never particularly achieve anything and as has been pointed out they generally just piss off local people, who will remember the negative for a long time, the wider public will either not have bothered in the least or will forget about it in a matter of minutes and the politicians will never have taken any notice at all as they will have been no where near it. The net result is thus negative.
It is imperative that the good work of action groups be capitalised on but they should not lose sight of what it is that they are trying to achieve and against whom. By building a case based, even in part, on half truths is a fine way to lose credibility and arms those we need to be challenging.
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