Government Relations Diary
Graeme Hay tells us what he’s been up to…
This is a sample of the matters that I have been looking at during the summer. It is not everything that I have been doing, but I hope that it will give you an indication of the diverse nature of matters that affect motorcycling in the UK and my efforts to become involved in the places where we can have the greatest influence, rather than the biggest arguments in the wrong places.
30 June-11 July
For my summer riding holiday this year I decided to join some good friends on a tour of central and eastern France, southern Switzerland and the Tyrol. The supposed destination was the excellent BMW Mottorad event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It’s a great weekend and this was my third visit. The BMW club run excellent tours to this show and I would recommend it to riders of any make of machine. Anyway, after calling at the battlefields around Verdun it was time to get back to work…
I met with our new Vehicle regulations expert Mr Ted Foremen in Bourton-on-the-water to see if we can work together. Ted and I got on almost immediately and his knowledge and understanding of Type Approval is vast. Ted will be looking at so much of the vehicle regulations, for all types of vehicle on behalf of the BMF: with all that’s coming in semi-driverless and driverless vehicles, as well as lorry cab visibility testing, we are going to need Ted! He agreed to write a piece for Rider to keep us all posted.
TfL launched the ‘Share the Road’ campaign. Great message because we do share the road – some just need reminding of that fact from time to time. I was surprised and a little disappointed to see that a featured ‘row’ was between a cyclist and a motorcyclist – why couldn’t it have been a cyclist and a pedestrian or taxi driver? Much more likely in my view.
TfL have prepared a huge design guide for cycle lanes in, on and adjacent to the roads. We were asked to review and respond, along with many other groups. This one took a couple of days to read, understand and then draft our response. I was unconvinced by the road lane widths on some of the roads – less than 9m wide using what the guide calls ‘light separation’. The guide offers some very narrow road widths, which do not conform to some other highways design guidance. I cross referred these other existing documents, objected to the strange ‘armadillo’ devices, which are a hazard to everyone on the road, and submitted my first consultation. Phew.
A great meeting with Steve Kenward of the MCIA and a couple of colleagues. It was great to see Chris Hodder again – we speak regularly and he continues to assist and support the BMF in many ways: great guy. Steve outlined the direction of the industry and I think it is pretty exciting. The industry is raising awareness of motorcycles, electric and petrol as a modern solution to personal mobility. We are all concerned about the reduction in new riders coming through the wall of deterrence that the 3DLD has created – something will have to be done…
We had a great day at the Calne bike show. I love this event, not just because it is in Wiltshire, but because it brings so much trade and interest into the town centre. This is just so good for raising awareness of the importance to the economy and fun that motorcycling brings. I help to organise a similar event in Salisbury each April and that works well, too. The BMF team, including Ian Hammond and Jim Peel-Cross, were on the stand and signing up new members. We were right next to the Honda Owners Club stand and I was able to meet Andy Young and Graham Seymour. I enjoyed meeting my many friends from the local MAG groups and discussing roundabouts and other things.
I had arranged to meet with a senior Cabinet Member of Wiltshire council to gain an understanding of the council’s position on Byway 12, next to Stonehenge. I have been working with TRF and LARA colleagues on the rumour that the byway may be closed. Closure, it turns out, is not what is proposed. This was preparation for a meeting with English Heritage, who operate the monument.
Funeral for a friend – a friend who was not only a keen rider, but a coordinator for London SERV. The hearse and cars arrived with a 14 SERV bike escort. Sad and awesome all at the same time.
Northern Ireland office has put a motorcycle safety report out for consultation. I usually work closely with Anna Zee on consultation documents, but on this one we benefitted from the extensive background understanding of Howard Anderson. In close liaison with officers in the department we have recommended the formation of a Northern Ireland motorcycle safety partnership to report to the road safety group. There is excellent data from police records and this will enable learning from collisions on issues such as vehicle cab design, vehicle lighting, rider training and driver training, as well as road maintenance and layouts.
Meeting with English Heritage and Chairman of LARA, along with Dave Tilbury, to discuss the intentions of English Heritage on Byway 12. It seems that the only concerns that EH has is the unlawful activities of a small number of the ‘usual suspects’ in causing damage to facilities and threatening EH staff. The normal, lawful and mostly occasional use of Byway 12 by drivers and riders of motor powered vehicles is not of any concern at this stage. In any case, any move to alter the status of byway 12 would be in contravention of the findings of the previous public enquiry. Arranged to meet with TRF in a couple of days to provide this update.
Good to hear and support the presentation by Pau Turner of MAG to the British Parking Association. This is a diverse group with a very well managed structure: they are very supportive and keen to work with rider groups to develop safe, secure parking. The legwork still needs to be done with your own local authorities, but this group can and do assist. The government seem to be going down an odd path on this – ideas like an automatic 25 per cent discount to everyone who appeals a parking fine…no prizes for guessing what’s going to happen there. Where will the army of officers come from to process all of these appeals?
Great to be in Bedford at the local Motorcycle Matters group meeting. Chaired by Graham Seymour of HOC we covered a wide range of matters, including the much discussed roundabout, which is pretty much history now, locally. More interestingly it was good to have the chance to talk about the annual motorcycle events in Bedfordshire with Graham, the police, fire & rescue and local authority officers. There are some sound ideas forming in this group for running something like the Calne show – I asked to be kept involved.
I am doing my best to get Tom Gardner and Nick Elliott into the most influential circles in Glasgow city council: it’s not proving all that easy and Glasgow city see the subject in a different light to the Edinburgh view. There is always a way. More on this later…
Consultation to be returned on ‘smart motorways’. These are the parts of the network where you are permitted to drive on the hard shoulder at designated times, experience variable speed limits and do other seemingly strange things. The technology that is being brought to bear on this is incredible and it looks like the UK is really leading the world. I am still nervous about driver behaviour in a vehicle breakdown situation without a hard shoulder.
I am really concerned about these ‘light separation’ devices, known as ‘armadillos’. My concern is that they are being placed on lane lines, but that they are below the plane of sight of all road users. I think that they are a trip hazard for pedestrians crossing the road and a major risk to anyone on two wheels. I contacted the DfT because they are, in my view, a traffic sign, like a cat’s eye, road line or any other traffic device and they do not appear in the traffic signs manual (TSRGD). Anything to be used on the road, as a sign or similar, that is not in this document requires the Secretary of State approval. The DfT were prompt to respond that these are not, in the department’s view, a sign, but a kerb. This being the case each local authority is responsible for deciding what to do. I am developing another approach to this matter, which will be more persuasive and directed at the local authorities that use these things. If you think that I am going over the top in my concern and that no one will ever bump into them, take a look at the ‘mad cycle lanes of Manchester’. There is a lot of very strange stuff on there, so be careful not to upset yourself, but look out for the video of Liverpool street, Salford. Also, the ones in Camden keep getting damaged, so it is obvious that people are in collision with them. More on this…
Really good to meet with Steve Baker MP. Steve is lead on the Parliamentary All Party group on Motorcycling. We discussed many aspects and much around the future. As with the MCIA meeting – I believe that the future of motorcycling is bright and becoming brighter if we can get this wretched rider training issue sorted out.
Meeting with council officers and my pals from Salisbury to present and agree our event plan for the April 2015 Salisbury motorcycle show in the new market square. This reflects the learning from the 2014 event, which was the first to take place right in the heart of the city. Numbers were double the previous venue and the local business buried the event in praise. Dozens of families came to see the bikes and we were there. Next year will be even better. I love local shows.
Outstanding news from Edinburgh. The joint efforts of Ken Glendinning of Region 1 BMF and Steve Wykes of Edinburgh MAG have resulted in an 18-month trial, with a review at nine months, of full bus lane access for motorcycles. My cup overfloweth…it has been arranged that Tom Gardner and Nick Elliott are attending a meeting with ITS in Glasgow, with informal discussions with senior officers after the presentation. You go guys!
Returning the consultation on yet another part of the Deregulation bill. Should local authorities be able to move to the already available system of issuing licences to utility companies for opening the road, without the permission of the Home Secretary? I called a few local authorities to gain views on the benefits to motorcyclists and couldn’t find anyone who could see any difference either way. I am learning that while some consultations are critical and some are interesting, there are a few that need to just go by.
Meeting with John Chatterton-Ross of the FIM to go over our many areas of common ground and learn a good deal more about the view from the FIM. Again, a man with a strong BMF background in a place of influence.
Consultation on the live trials of semi and fully self-driving cars. Are you worried by this prospect? The MT and I are very concerned. This is a huge area and the government are consulting here on what areas of existing road traffic legislation may need to be altered to permit the future use of these vehicles on our roads. There were 20 questions, for which Ted Foreman, Anna Zee and I prepared responses. This was shared, of course, with the rest of the MT before submission. You can view the questions and our considered and cautious response on the website.