Europe: Small Signs – Big Trouble

Norway and “Minutes of a Motorcycle Addict” report on on the campaign.

Would you accept to be having to pre-pay gas at the petrol station before filling up just because you ride a bike?

Or that you cannot ride your motorcycle on a particular road even if it is open for all other means of transport?

Earlier this year, fellow riders in the area of Newtownwards in Northern Ireland met a hand written sign at their local gas station saying, “All bikes […] must be pre-paid in store”. Riders should get off their bike, go inside the store, pre-pay the expected amount of gas before going out again and fill up their bike.

This rule applied to riders only. Not car drivers. Not bus chauffeurs. Not lorry drivers. Not tractor drivers or lawn mowers. Riders only.

It’s just a small sign in a small place in Northern Ireland.

But what does that small sign really say?

It actually says that riders in general are not trustworthy.

It says that because you chose to ride you cannot be trusted to pay after you have filled up your bike.

If you drove in by your car, the situation would be quite different. Then you would be trustworthy and may fill up your car before paying.

But as long as you ride your bike ? Well, sorry mate.

It goes without saying that our fellow riders in Northern Ireland reacted promptly.

The new rider’s rights association Write to Ride – Right to Ride picked up the axe on behalf of all the riders and joined forces with local clubs.

The local riders wrote to the gas station company in question, telling them that they were disgusted by this discriminatory practice and would take their custom elsewhere. Also when they needed to fill up their car. And so would their friends and relatives.

The sign came down quickly, accompanied by an appropriate apology from the company owning the store.

This is just a small story about a big problem, namely discrimination of riders as a group.

There are forces – people – out there who wants to ban motorcycles from public roads. These people are powerful too, because they are not only managing stores in Newtownwards in N.I. They are even sitting in offices in the EU system in Brussels or elsewhere.

They sit in a road safety council somewhere in Europe, hatching plans for making new rules and regulations to restrict one or several groups of road users.

They sit in national road administrations, thinking of how to get rid of those who fail to comply with their utopian view on road safety.

They tend to go for banning as their method of choice – all for “the greater good”, naturally. Behind them stands an all-powerful car manufacturer lobby.

Small signs like the one in N.I, or larger signs like banning of motorcycles along stretches of road that is open to other road users (primarily cars), are real threats to us as a riding community wherever we live. It’s worrying, because to many of us this is also a threat to our way of life.

For us, bikes are more than means of transport. For us, loss of our bikes would make our lives much, much poorer.

That is why we need to fight this kind of discrimination. Every time a new measure favouring one or only a few transport vehicles – mainly cars – are introduced, riders must stand up and protest.

The rule is that all public roads are open to all legal means of transport. Including bikes. And we must not let anyone try to impose any regulation saying otherwise.

That is why we riders all over Europe must give our support even to the small campaign in N.I. Next time we may be in need of support in our own backyard. Or we may all have to rally in Brussles because our rights may be in peril.

So whatever you do, support your national riders’ right organisation.

Oh, and with regard to trustworthiness: I know where it is to be found.

Hans Petter.

Minutes of a Motorcycle Addict
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