Although the National Motorcyclists Council was only launched in March this year Progress on its member motorcycling organisations common campaigning issues has proved positive and in some cases rapid.
The NMC brings together the UK motorcycling organisations that are involved with Lobbying and a key common strand between the groups was the need to campaign for a fully inclusive motorcycling strategy from Government, that includes biking in the Government’s transport plans in a positive way alongside other non car modes of transport. The Government through seeking the early involvement of the NMC in several policy processes, has clearly welcomed the inception of the NMC and the way it brings together a wide ‘constituency’ of motorcycling user organisations which has a common voice on shared issues of concern. Both government officials and parliamentarians attended the NMC’s launch. initial meetings with the DfT have led to positive engagement with the central campaign objective of a new motorcycling strategy and communications with officials at the DfT and DVSA since then have involved discussion about the shape and form of this. It is absolutely essential that motorcycling is taken from the silo marked ‘safety problem’ and that biking issues are engaged across Government. Discussions have also been timely, as the Government is currently looking at post-pandemic transport and safety policy.
One positive sign of this came at a recent DVSA round table on motorcycle safety. Government departments are now required to decide how they will individually contribute towards the achievement of wider goals such as ‘Levelling Up’, ‘Strengthening the Union’ and Technology and Innovation’, plus other areas. This discussion has moved into the safety ‘space’, and talks about safety soon moved into areas related to how motorcycling itself can contribute to wider government aims. This is positive, as it breaks down the walls of the ‘safety silo’ that motorcycling has been stuck in for so many years. Though we do have some way to go before this early work turns into positive public policy. The Council has now submitted key themes and actions which we are calling to be included in a new motorcycling strategy. These are based on the NMC launch document 'Public Policy Area Detail' which can be downloaded from the NMC website.
While on the subject of safety, the NMC has been represented at an international motorcycle safety workshop which is being hosted by the International Transport Forum and the OECD. Vision Zero is of course a major topic internationally, but it was interesting to note that some delegates are querying whether the ‘language’ of Vision Zero (the drive towards the end of deaths and serious injuries in all road collisions) is reaching the right audiences on motorcycle safety. It was also noted, that like the UK, many countries are seeing progress towards road casualty reduction slowing. This does suggest that traditional approaches to motorcycle safety may have achieved as much as they can and that the messages promoting Vision Zero need evolving.
Which is why the NMC have adopted the ‘Welcoming Roads’ message as a way of refreshing the narrative around Vision Zero. It opens a debate that is long overdue and the NMC both welcomes and supports this. The Welcoming Roads message was introduced in a recent NMC submission to the DfT on safety policy and we look forward to developing the policies that will underpin this more positive message. NMC members have for some time felt that Vision Zero is too focussed on offering disproportionately high road safety support to favoured modes of transport such as walking and cycling, while one of the most vulnerable modes of transport, motorcycling, is largely left out in the cold. The concept of ‘Welcoming Roads’ challenges this through seeking a fair approach to Vision Zero which does not discriminate between how people choose to use the roads. Welcoming Roads is also is a message and set of policies that can be adapted for different areas such as local transport policy, green roads policy and so on.
The ITF/OECD workshop has revealed that several countries are seeing a ‘plateauing’ of safety progress, where casualty numbers have reduced to a certain point and not gone any further. The DfT have also mentioned this as an issue. This provides further evidence that not only the language around safety needs to evolve, but that motorcycling needs to be part of core transport policies, so that investment can be unlocked to support motorcycling and reduce rider vulnerability.
Parliamentary engagement is also gearing up. The aims and objectives of the Council were presented at a recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Motorcycle Group, which was attended by NMC members. This was well received and the APMG have agreed to support a number of activities in Parliament on behalf of the NMC and its members. This will include holding a debate, tabling Parliamentary Questions and other parliamentary activities.
An interesting landmark event was the NMC hustings for London mayoral candidates. Organised at short notice, this bought together the major political parties for a public debate on motorcycling in London and offered the opportunity for London based motorcyclists to ask questions. Candidates and their representatives engaged positively in what was a lively debate, despite the polls pointing clearly to the eventual result. A notable absence from the hustings was Mr Khan himself.
Several policy areas have opened up, with requests for the NMC to act in various areas. One of these relates to EU border issues and motorcycle tourism, particularly when it comes to motorcycles being transported by third parties, such as via a touring company, freighting business, or when one person takes their friends’ bikes across the Channel in a van, which does happen quite a lot. Issues such as this deepens the NMC’s political ‘penetration’ in different government departments and engagement by the Cabinet Office borders policy group has been positive, underlining the NMC’s growing authority on public policy issues.
The Council is currently working on several new policy papers and positions, particularly on motorcycle licensing, active travel and modal shift – plus in other areas such as policy towards unsurfaced highways (green roads). Early work is now being underpinned by a burgeoning programme of work aimed at turning policy ‘asks’ into policy reality which will benefit motorcycling.
Motorcycling organisations have worked together effectively in the past and this produced positive results, such as work on early versions of the motorcycle licence directive and the original government motorcycle strategy of 2005. But the creation of a modern NMC, which for the first time brings together motorcycling organisations in a fully constituted way, has sent out a powerful message about the potential that unity can have when it comes to government relations on matters of common concern.
With the summer almost behind us and the autumn season of politics commences, the NMC has a busy agenda ahead. But also an exciting agenda, as the NMC pushes to get motorcycling onto the political map.