What the BMF has done for us
After 60 years of fighting for motorcyclists’ rights – and counting! – it’s time to look back at what the BMF has achieved for bikers. BMF Motorcycle Rider editor Jeremy Pick writes
Since July 1960, the BMF has been the unified voice of motorcycling in the UK, fighting to protect motorcyclists’ rights and interests at the governmental level through specialist lobbyists and a UK-wide network of committed volunteers.
As one of the largest rider groups in the world, the BMF is committed to protecting, advising and educating all motorcyclists from the beginner to the experienced – and the need for effective lobbying is now as great as or greater than it ever was. But there is more to the BMF than that.
The landscape for motorcycles in 1960 was very different. Motorcyclists accounted for 20% of all traffic in the UK, British bikes ruled the roads, speed limits were practically non-existent and there were no helmet laws. However, even at that time, there was concern that motorcyclists were unfairly maligned, sidelined and misrepresented when it came to legislation and public opinion – and you can read more about that here.
Fast forward 60 years and the BMF has become a hugely respected and powerful lobbying group, sitting on many government advisory groups and working in Europe to represent the interests of British motorcyclists. The BMF is also a fantastic community. Made up of individual members and motorcycle clubs, it provides support, advice and excellent events throughout the UK.
So what have been the successes of the BMF in representing the country’s motorcyclists and what risks have been challenged or averted by its lobbying efforts?
A feeling that motorcyclists are not being properly represented and a growing public opinion of motorcyclists as ‘leather-jacketed hooligans’ with little or no redeeming social value leads to motorcycle club representatives agreeing upon the aims and objectives of a new rider interest group. The Federation of National One Make Motorcycle Clubs (FNOMCC) is born.
The FNOMCC lobbies against proposals for passenger insurance and works with the government on the introduction of legislation restricting learner riders to 250cc motorcycles.
The main concerns are the proposed compulsory wearing of motorcycle helmets and the production of an action plan to promote riding at ‘reasonable speeds’.
The club reaches out to non-members via the Federation of Riders (FOR) and membership quickly rises to 10,000.
The FNOMCC is renamed to become British Motorcyclists Federation in the face of twin threats: growing public and media opposition to motorcyclists and the decline of the British motorcycle industry.
In a critical year for motorcyclists’ rights, the BMF is fighting the introduction of an outright ban on motorcycles and the raising of the minimum motorcycle age to 17. The background? Motorcycle registrations are in freefall as cars grow in popularity, the 70mph speed limit is introduced and public opinion against motorcyclists hit an all-time low.
Main lobbying efforts are aimed at the high cost of compulsory passenger insurance as well as turning around the public’s negative opinion of motorcyclists. By this time, the BMF has become a well-organised group with an admirable reputation – as it is today.
The BMF campaigns against the restriction of 16-year-olds to 50cc mopeds. Sadly, and despite presenting a petition of 23,800 signatures to Downing Street, it is to no avail.
The BMF works tirelessly to negotiate better insurance premiums for motorcyclists.
Against a background of rising motorcycle registrations, the BMF becomes a force to be reckoned with, consulting with the government on safety measures including random breath testing and the points system for licence endorsements.
This year saw the BMF working to counter discrimination against motorcyclists, rising insurance premium costs and promoting training for young riders, resulting in the launch of the BMF Rider Training Scheme.
The BMF Rider Training Scheme, now a registered charity, trains its 10,000th rider.
With the role of motorcycles changing from practical transport to leisure activity, the BMF in turn expands its activity. We successfully campaign for test candidates to be able to take their test on a vehicle of up to 125cc as well as ensuring that riders over 21 can get direct access to a motorcycle of any capacity after their test.
The BMF successfully opposes European Type Approval regulations, meaning it remains legal for owners to be able to modify their motorcycles.
The BMF opposes the notorious ‘100bhp proposal’ – a proposed continent-wide ban on motorcycles over 100bhp.
A review of the ‘100bhp proposal’ results in victory when, after intense BMF lobbying, it is finally agreed that there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that engine size is a major factor in motorcycle accidents. The proposal is dropped.
2000s and onwards
As the millennium turns, the BMF successfully ensures the repeal of the two-year limit of the provisional motorcycle licence, opposes the ban on tinted visors, lobbies for motorcycle use in bus lanes, lobbies against proposed bans in national parks and closures of green lanes, and launches the ‘Kill Spills’ anti-diesel spillage campaign. We also fight hard to improve access to motorcycle tests and to ensure the best deals for riders over new European Type Approval rules.
Today, the work of the BMF on behalf of motorcyclists’ rights continues unabated. To improve lobbying efforts, the BMF has joined forces with the Motorcycle Action Group, the Vintage Motorcycle Club, the Trail Riders Fellowship, IAM RoadSmart, the Auto Cycle Union, the Triumph Owners’ Motorcycle Club and Biker Down UK to form the Coalition of Motorcycling Organisations. Already, the group has commissioned and presented to the government a White Paper calling for recognition of the positive effect motorcycles can have on the whole of the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
The lobbying efforts of the BMF are stronger, more focused and more effective than ever. The BMF has more than 6,000 full members and tens of thousands more affiliated members via 222 affiliated motorcycle clubs, giving it a powerful voice at all levels of government in the UK, as well as in Europe as part the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations. In addition, the BMF has expanded its range of member services including insurance and training as well as providing support and advice to affiliated clubs and organising excellent events throughout the UK.
“The role of the BMF is more important than ever as motorcycling faces new challenges, from the effects of the current pandemic, to local government efforts to sideline motorcyclists, road conditions, licensing restrictions and much more,” says BMF Chairman Jim Freeman.
“The efforts of the BMF have never been needed more, and having a strong membership base and a dedicated group of volunteer Regional Reps is essential for our activities to continue for the next 60 years and beyond.
“For anyone who questions the dangers facing motorcycling today or asks ‘What has the BMF done for us?’, then we have a substantial history of success in representing motorcyclists’ issues – and we intend to continue that for the next 60 years.”
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 edition of BMF Motorcycle Rider.
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