UK’s transport minister ‘acknowledges’ there’s still plenty to learn about motorcycles

A man on a scooter waiting for a traffic light at the intersection of downtown, rear view

In a meeting with the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC), the Transport Minister, Richard Holden MP, said that he is ‘open to developing better policies for motorcycling as part of the Department for Transport’s approach to overall transport matters and the future of transport.’

Mr Holden, who was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport on 28 October 2022, is said to have acknowledged that ‘there was much he needed to learn about motorcycling’ and ‘agreed that further work on rider licensing, safety and various areas of regulation is needed.’

In the discussion, prominent executives from the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF), IAM Roadsmart, and the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) highlighted the benefits of motorcycles to society and transportation.

The delegation highlighted the value of powered two-wheelers for practical purposes including commuting, in addition to the significant recreational and organised sports contributions that motorcycling makes to the UK and the £7 billion it generates for the economy. The motorcycle sports sector is worth a further £1 billion.

Discussions on the advantages of motorbikes as a crucial step in the decarbonization process included the need to avoid using a “one size fits all” approach when phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles in favour of a multi-technological strategy.

NMC Executive Director Craig Carey-Clinch said: “This was a very positive ministerial meeting and Mr Holden was clear about what he does and doesn’t know about motorcycling, and was keen to know more. His strong support for motorcycles in bus lanes was very welcome, as was his open mind about many of the issues that the NMC raised. NMC members were able to raise individual issues and received a positive reception to these.”

During the discussion, Mr Holden was requested to give DfT representatives the resources and authority necessary to further the work of the recently established government Motorcycle Strategy Group so that it may formulate strategic plans for motorcycles in general transportation policy.

But although Mr Holden is reported to have seemed open to developing motorcycling as a transport option, it’s said that ‘it was very clear that the long-standing view that motorcycling is a safety problem to be solved and not a transport opportunity to be supported is still firmly embedded in some parts of the DfT’.

Although on a more positive note, the Council is currently involved in a number of policy processes with the DfT in addition to safety, and the Council is gradually working to create a much better government policy environment, NMC members argue that this viewpoint continues to act against motorcycle safety.

Key to this will be the development of a new motorcycling strategy and the NMC says it ‘welcomes the Minister’s support for the work of the Motorcycle Strategy Group’ and ‘looks forward to working with officials on a range of matters relating to this’.

The BMF’s presentation to the government

The BMF concentrated on the lack of consideration for motorcycles in broader transportation plans, the necessity of developing “smart” road and vehicle technology, as well as automated systems, and the significance of taking motorbikes into account in both R&D and in actual use.

The BMF also brought up the subject of motorbike taxes.

IAM Roadsmart’s presentation to the government

IAM RoadSmart raised PPE research and development, removed the VAT from safer equipment to make it more affordable, and provided funding for specific items.

Discussions included the need for better riding skills, particularly in the gig economy, and assistance for post-test training.

IAM Roadsmart also brought up the issue of potholes and the need for a long-term financing strategy to clear the backlog of road maintenance.

Additionally, the necessity of allowing motorbikes into bus lanes everywhere was brought up, and Mr. Holden firmly agreed. How that can be achieved, particularly by local authorities will be explored further.

The IAM also outlined its forthcoming initiatives and Mr Holden agreed to support these.

The TRF’s presentation to the government

The TRF concentrated on green road issues, demonstrating how travelling on unsealed highways is not only a leisure pursuit, but also an important component of “more active travel” because of the advantages it has for one’s physical and mental well-being.

The TRF brought up the issue of the confusing patchwork of regulations and the necessity to adopt more sensible Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) to prevent the need for court proceedings to settle issues.

Noting that last year’s DFT consultation on Traffic Regulation Orders has yet to result in announcements, the TRF requested that further dialogue takes place with the DfT on TROs before further decisions are made.

The NMC’s presentation to the government

The NMC raised the issue of licensing reform – the need for positive changes to Compulsory Basic Training that were announced by the Government in 2018, but never implemented – plus the need to consider wider licensing policy. This was taken on board, and there was consensus in the meeting about the need to take positive steps on CBT regulation.

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