15 July 2011
Mandatory vehicle insurance moan
Rob Fisher

I am a fair weather motorcyclist. I tend to tax my bike for 6 months of the year. For the other 6 months I have to declare SORN—statutory off road notification. This is onerous enough. And if we get some freakish good weather in November it takes considerable effort to get it taxed and then SORNed again. Since tax refunds are only given for whole months, if the good weather only lasts a week I lose.

To add insult to injury, there is a new rule that you must have insurance unless your vehicle is declared SORN, even if you are not using it on the road. It so happens that my insurance expires tomorrow but I have no plans to use the bike for a few weeks. I don’t want to pay for insurance I don’t need, and if I do SORN the bike in the middle of the month I won’t get the full refund. Perhaps more importantly, I don’t have time to research insurance quotes and I don’t have time to visit the Post Office for SORNing and re-taxing.

Politicians and bureaucrats do not consider the full costs of their interference in people’s lives.

21 November 2010
A few rather ancient transport links
Brian Micklethwait

Some while back I started accumulating links to interesting transport things, concerning events during the recent spell of Transport Blog outage, by googling “transport” and ignoring everything boring, which is a hell of a lot.  (Mostly politicians moaning about how they aren’t being allowed or should be allowed to waste public money on transport crap of various sorts.)

But then I got ill and forgot about this.  Today, just to clear my decks, I give you this file of links.  There aren’t actually that many, but for what they are worth, click and enjoy:

Inside the world’s biggest private jet.

Is Google the most significant transport enterprise of twenty first century?

Passengers break out of train.

Germany gets across the channel.  It’s taken seventy years for the big arrows at the beginning of Dad’s Army to get here, but now they are about to.

The mobile web is bigger than transport.

Video of train spotter failing to spot the train.  It’s behind you.

Buy more salt.  I.e. for the roads this winter.

And finally, what with Michael’s recent writings here on the subject, a couple of motorcycle links: Motorcycles - miracle or menace?, and The tireless motorcycle museum curator.  Tireless.  Get it?  Oh never mind.

See also this excellent Vietnam motorbike picture.

Patrick: please feel free to re-edit the categorisations below.

LATER:  I also agree with the commenter who reckons that this bit of road building video is BRILJANT!!!

23 June 2009
Motorcycles in bus lanes
Rob Fisher

Motorcycles are now allowed in certain bus lanes in London.  This is safer for bikes because often the alternative to using the empty bus lane is to filter close to oncoming traffic.  Unfortunately it is quite hard to tell which bus lanes you are allowed to use, because the signs telling you are small and hard to see.  And there are people waiting to catch you out if you stray into the wrong bus lane, as I found out to my cost.

07 May 2009
Biking freedom will end any day now
Rob Fisher

This month’s Bike magazine celebrates the best of Britain with 39 ways to enjoy motorcycling in Britain.  #03 points out that in Britain we have fewer regulations on things like engine power and after-market exhausts.  #37 starts with, “Because we can still get away with it.  Britain is not a police state.  A smart rider with his wits about him can still make his own decision on speed and risk taking.”

But for how long?  In his column in the same issue, Rupert Paul laments that “they hate us again.”

The EU is talking again about a 100bhp limit for bikes, and manufacturers are terrified at the prospect of other compulsory ‘safety’ laws.  The UK government wants to reduce the speed limit on 400,000 miles of country roads to 50mph, using average speed cameras.  A Hayabusa rider gets six months for doing 122mph.  Derbyshire council installs hidden roadside motorcycle detectors that identify bikes, track their movements and calculate their average speed.  There are parking charges for bikes in London—and every other city before long.

He complains that it’s very easy for box-ticking civil servants and politicians trying to get re-elected to To Something About motorcycle death tolls and recognises that reducing death tolls at any cost can interfere with liberty.  Riding a bike,

...involves judicious speeding.  And yes, if you get nicked, you should usually get fined and points.  But it’s not the mindless, suicidal rush into oblivion that the road-safety lobby imagine.  It’s a moment-to-moment excersise in judgement and responsibility.  Because if anything goes wrong, we cop it.  We gladly accept that risk in exchange for not having to sit in a steel box like everybody else.  And the resulting freedom is a source of meaning, satisfaction and happiness.

I’m worried that it’s days are numbered.  I should get out on my bike and enjoy it while I can.

15 February 2009
New motorcycle test really coming real soon now
Rob Fisher

I wrote about the new motorcycle test back in July when it was due to start in September.  Now, according to Ride magazine it’s due to start in April.  The delay is because there weren’t enough test centres to do the new off-road part of the test in which riders ride around cones.  There still aren’t enough in urban areas, so DSA have split the test into two, so you have to ride to a centre out of town and possibly far away to do the off-road test.  As Ride magazine says:

If it wasn’t so annoying, we’d be able to enjoy the irony of people having to ride long distances on the road in order to reach on off-road test centre and ride around some cones.

23 December 2008
Chief police officers don’t like motorbikes
Rob Fisher

Back in November the Telegraph ran a story about the ACPO submitting evidence to the Transport Select Committee in which it suggested banning motorcycles from certain areas called “protection zones”, whatever they might be.  Here are the ACPO’s words from page Ev242 of the report (the 297th page according to my PDF reader):

7.3 There is a need for radical thinking in respect of motorcycles, including consideration of engine capability and the creation of protection zones where all motorcycles other than those specifically permitted, would be prohibited.

7.4 Production machines are readily available for use on our roads with top speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. Motorcycles are seen in the UK to be, in the majority of instances, vehicles of choice rather than necessity and one might consider if our congested roads are any longer fit for purpose for these motorised toys.

Such scorn for motorbikes!  The Telegraph says it’s not true that bikes that can go faster than 200mph are available.  Manufacturers do limit bikes to 186mph although it’s possible some 8-year-old Suzuki Hayabusas might be available, if not quite “readily”.

Devil’s Kitchen, to whom a hat tip for this link, thinks this is the thin end of a sinister wedge, with the ultimate aim of banning motorcycles completely.  It does indeed have similar smell to the anti-tobacco movement.  Start with restricting motorcycles from certain areas and you can easily expand those areas.  I wonder where the protection zones the ACPO has in mind might be.  Possibly they are thinking of A-roads on sunny Sunday afternoons which is when a lot of accidents happen.  The “motorised toys” rhetoric certainly indicates this.

Hopefully it will come to nothing.  Motorcyclists are quite good at organising themselves into large groups and hopefully that will make politicians think twice.  But this is worth keeping an eye on.

As an aside, I recently took my motorised toy to Norway and made a video about it.

01 July 2008
New Motorcycle Test
Rob Fisher

The new motorcycle test starts on 29th September.  It’s a result of EU regulations.  Many test centres will close because parts of the test need to be done in a special off-road area.  This is mainly because the emergency stop now has to be done at 50km/h.  That’s thirty-two miles per hour.  Oh dear.

The DSA was on the radio quoting scary statistics and saying that the new test will make riding safer.  I am not convinced that a 2mph faster emergency stop and riding around some cones makes it safer.  I think motorcycle safety is largely about attitude.  Reading chapter 1 of Roadcraft, which is all about mental attitude, would do considerably more to improve safety.

An even better idea would be to let insurance companies administer tests.  They have to pay the costs of accidents, so they have the best incentive to stop them.  A range of tests could be offered, each yielding a different insurance premium.

18 July 2007
Third driving licence directive
Rob Fisher

This isn’t new news, but I don’t think it has been mentioned here before, and all kinds of things seem to go on at the EU without anyone asking for them or anyone knowing about them.

In the March 2007 issue of Bike Magazine (unfortunately not online), Rupert Paul writes:

What were you doing on December 13?  Working?  Shopping?  Cooking the dinner?  In Strasbourg on that particular Wednesday, the European Union was up to something more far-reaching:  achieving its 15-year dream of wrecking motorcycling.

This is a difficult subject for freedom-loving motorcyclists.  The EU is so stultifyingly boring that 98% of you have already turned the page.

According to a press release from March 2006 it looks as if the third directive on driving licences will be in effect by the end of 2012.  It consists of many changes intended to “harmonise” driving licences, but just so no right thinking MEP can object, lumped in are proposals to “improve road safety”.

Currently you can ride a 125CC bike at age 17, keep it for two years and then start riding a full sized bike.  Or at 21 you can take a direct access test and ride a full sized bike straight away.  The new rules increase the minimum age for a 125 to 18, add a second test to progress to a full sized bike, and increase the minimum age for direct access to 24.

Motorcycling advocacy organisation FEMA is not amused.  Rupert Paul continues:

Fewer riders means fewer customers, and harder times for manufacturers and dealers—which means higher prices for bikes, clothing, insurance, servicing, you name it.

Worse still, it’s an interference in our lives nobody asked for.  I mean, has anyone ever taken you aside and said: “Christ, Jack—I’m out of my mind with worry about the lack of harmonisation of European driving tests.”

The directive also contains provisions for changes to the weights of trailers that can be towed on various types of licence, increased licence renewal frequency, more communication between national authorities and various changes to HGV licences that I don’t understand.  Then there is this curious statement:  “Member States are allowed, if they so wish, to insert a microchip in the licence.”  Given that it is unlikely that any previous directive prevented them, I wonder why this is mentioned at all.