American-V The Big Debate

Update on the Big Debate

21st October 2012

We have updated this original article we reported on as it was published in American-V magazine.

The update, the subsequent published text in later issues of American-V magazine, includes a right to reply from the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG UK) to the original article, a reply to that response from American-V editor Andy Hornsby and finally our own right to reply to the debate.

These rights to replies are reproduced below in full, as text and as pdfs for download.

There is a lot of reading which sets out the passion that is involved in motorcycling and riders rights. In any debate, there is no “right or wrong”, there are opinions and everybody has a right to their own, preferably without falling into the trap of getting personal.

Most important, is that if any organisation and we include Right To Ride in this, is reporting on issues and campaigning in the public domain, then everybody should expect their positions to be challenged where necessary and to be debated!

Leave your comments over at Right To Ride EUClick Here

American-V The Big Debate

9th February 2012

At Right To Ride we love a reasoned debate especially one that revolves around facts and doesn’t descend into an diatribe or a rant (although reasoned rants are OK!).

This is something that is hard to find especially regarding the issues surrounding the European Commission’s proposal and subsequent amendments to the – Approval and market surveillance of two – or three-wheel vehicles and quadricycles currently being discussed in the European Parliament.

However like a shining light “The Big Debate” written by American-V Editor, Andy Hornsby and published in the latest issue of the magazine, has brightened our lives.

The Big Debate is “an invitation to look at the debate and take your own informed position, definitely, because this stuff needs to be debated by as many intelligent, rational people as possible”.

Andy also goes through the side issue of Hi-Viz from France and Ireland, which as we have previously pointed out, has nothing to do with the EU proposal.

As Andy says, “Now, before you reach for the pen loaded with green ink, or polonium, I’d advise you to ask, debate, challenge and, importantly, listen and think!” adding, “And please, whatever you do, don’t start an e-petition on DirectGov – not even a perfectly phrased, concise, single point petition – because you’ll show how few people actually care: if you can’t guarantee 50,000 signatures, don’t bother.”

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American-V The Big Debate

I know that I’m going to regret this but hey, we’ll have a letters page next issue and it’s got to be less time consuming than a recent Facebook debate.

I’d best get something out of the way very quickly. I’m not political. I’m not, because I’m not well-informed enough about the political issues that are being bandied about by lobby groups.

Yes, I am aware that all I’ve got to do is to read the literature put out by any one of a number of riders’ rights organisations but all I will then understand is the interpretation applied by someone with an agenda, and unless I know what their agenda is, I don’t trust their interpretation.

And if I can’t follow the logic, I trust it even less.

And I don’t think I’m unusual in that.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t have opinions or a position, but I don’t feel the need to inflict it on others. Even this, which looks like it’s going to burst into a rant, isn’t.

A call to arms, maybe.

An invitation to look at the debate and take your own informed position, definitely, because this stuff needs to be debated by as many intelligent, rational people as possible.

Moreover, we need to make sure we know what the debates are about, because they can get lost once people start to get agitated.

The main reason for this is an e-petition on DirectGov to “urge the British Government to put pressure on the European Commission to discipline any member state that imposes clothing standards on motorcycle riders”.

There was some heartfelt comments about mandatory clothing not being the solution to poor driving standard, which is hard to disagree with, but I didn’t get that far at the first reading:

I got stuck at the prospect of the European Commission being asked to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign nation and got no further.

The background to this is the French government passing into law a requirement for motorcyclists to wear dayglo jackets – or at least that is the perception – which formed part of a raft of proposals before the French parliament, which included a ban on motorcycles over seven years old from urban areas for environmental reasons, and – I discovered from an ex-pat rider on Facebook, to introduce a number plate that will be massive … which turned out to still be smaller than the current UK requirement.

And the new legal requirement in France, to be law in January 2014? Basically, 150cm² of retro-reflective material – the stuff that reflects when you shine a torch on it. It sounds massive, but how much is that, actually? My smartphone is 64mmx122mm, which is 78.08cm², so two smartphone sized patches or an armband.

This is being cited as a barrier to the free movement of riders in Europe, but in reality it’s no more inconvenient than riding on the wrong side of the road.

Inexplicably, it only affects riders of motorcycles larger than 125cc, which seems peculiar in a country where 14-year olds are allowed to ride mopeds, and must surely be a more vulnerable group: that was either not fought properly at a local level, or else was presented to a government who were determined to pass it into law: I don’t know, but then I don’t know the French system.

But I do know that if the entire UK population demonstrated against it, it would not have made one iota of difference to the French government.

And rightly so.

There is a second debate going on in Ireland for full-sleeve day-glo jackets for riders and pillions, which we are frequently told has been passed.

It hasn’t: the Irish RSA (Road Safety Authority) has stated that they intend to consult before considering legislation.

The one thing that we do know is that the EU are not debating hi-viz – the French and the Irish governments wouldn’t be wasting money even debating their own standards if it were being proposed centrally. And our own DfT is on record as saying “The Government has no plans to make Hi Viz/Day Glo jackets/vests and protective clothing for motorcyclists compulsory.” and, “there are no plans to change our laws simply because another member state chooses to do so.”

Don’t get me wrong: I empathise with French riders, but this is a French national issue.

If we want to get all ‘United Europe’ about it, the trick is surely to freely share expertise and research, enabling national interest groups to fight national legislation, not make sure that all EU motorcyclists are treated equally, whether in Athens or Edinburgh.

Even the most staunch European will recognise that even if a centralised Federal Europe emerged from greater cooperation between member states, you’ve only got to look at America to see that it doesn’t mean one law for all: and they’ve got a relatively young culture and a common language.

Where next?


Engines sealed from air-box to rear wheel.

Seriously? It would be terrifying if it were true – and it might well be on the table – but the way it’s shaping up it will be limited to motorcycles that are already subject to restrictions, which have already been defined: learner-legal bikes for example, to prevent people like our younger selves from taking the restrictions out, or making it bigger.

There is a clear statement from Wim van der Camp, Dutch MEP and rider, who is overseeing the measures currently being debated, saying that “The national inspection authorities will be in charge of controlling modifications.”

We are told that there are calls to resubmit a motorcycle if any “substantial” modifications are made to a “competent authority”, but define substantial? Define competent authority?

We’re told Stage One will be outlawed, but is that ‘substantial’? What about a 103-inch big bore on a 96-inch bike or even a 1200 conversion to an 883 Sportster: the bigger bikes already exist so does that qualify as substantial?

That definition alone would tie them up for years, and could be argued infinitely.

They are referring to mods to make a bike go faster, but define faster? Is it top speed or acceleration? Surely mid-range improves safety?

And there’s a new bogeyman in town: a test to put choppers through a slalom and a U-turn test, also referred to as anti-tamper for cycle parts.

Guess what? It has nothing whatsoever to do with one-off choppers, and it has very little to do with builders, unless they are building significant numbers of the same model of chopper.

There must surely be some foundation?

A concern was expressed that mass produced choppers (100+), available to an average rider, must be safe for them to ride.

If passed it would have been an addendum to existing EUWVTA tests because member states already have their own systems like MSVA to deal with one-off builds and small run production bikes, and there is no intention of changing that.

It is true that the ABS case seems to have been lost, with only an addendum so that it is possible to switch it off if the manufacturer chooses, but something else comes out of that as you start to talk to people: all ABS wasn’t created equal.

ABS is still evolving, with ever faster controllers and ever more sophisticated environmental measurements being accounted for – things like lean angle, pitch and yaw – but while it is possible to account for a bike leaning in a corner, and allow for that in the way the system responds, it will never offer the same benefits as in a car.

It can’t. Systems are being developed that will prevent rear wheel lift under heavy braking, and which can be set up for different environments, but as clever as they get, they are limited by the laws of physics.

Harley explain in the notes to read before riding your motorcycle: “Harley-Davidson’s Anti-Lock Brake System assists the rider in maintaining control when braking in a straight-line emergency situation. ABS operates independently on front and rear brakes to keep the wheels rolling and prevent uncontrolled wheel lock-ups either on dry pavement or on slick surfaces such as gravel, leaves or when riding in wet conditions.”

It goes on to say “While an advantage in emergency braking, ABS is not a substitute for safe riding. The safest way to stop a motorcycle is upright with both wheels straight.”

You can perhaps understand how a car-driving committee member can think that ABS for motorcycles is a good idea – because they know that it is a useful safety feature in cars – but that it has passed through into law demonstrates a failure to explain the case with regard to bikes.

The stated goal for ABS is laudable: to reduce road deaths by 20% over ten years, but it will fail.

It’s as likely to have the opposite effect by raising the safety threshold, because some riders will use everything at their disposal to get that extra edge.

Safety measure? Nah, performance enhancement!

Now, before you reaching for the pen loaded with green ink, or polonium, I’d advise you to ask, debate, challenge and, importantly, listen and think!

And please, whatever you do, don’t start an e-petition on DirectGov – not even a perfectly phrased, concise, single point petition – because you’ll show how few people actually care: if you can’t guarantee 50,000 signatures, don’t bother.

If you’re angry enough, join a riders rights group and make your voice heard: within it and beyond:

You should find a natural home from this lot, crudely pigeonholed:

MAG: uncompromising idealists

BMF: pragmatic grown-ups

Right To Ride: rational and informative

FEMA: European federation of national groups

Find out what they stand for by talking to someone at the top: the more radical the organisation, the wider the range of interpretations are applied to core principles, campaigns and press releases as you pass down the food chain, in a bizarre game of chinese whispers that can undermine the credibility of the whole lot, despite their best intentions.

And remember Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tale of Matilda: shouting ‘Fire!’ to grab attention when there isn’t one, just means fewer will listen to you when the flames are licking round your ankles.

And don’t trust anyone with an agenda: it saves time later.

/Andy – American-V

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Right to Reply: MAG

Your editorial in which you lambast MAG for scaremongering warrants a response and MAG is most grateful for the opportunity to reply.

There is no total right and wrong here but there is a great deal of semantic play which has led to confusion.

What often seems apparent not only from your article but from much of the negative comment on line is that statements MAG made in the past, and which were relevant at the time, are taken in the present and used to demonstrate inaccuracies. The interesting thing about politics and campaigning, is that it is dynamic, so it changes continually as negotiations are underway.

If for example, I look at the Am V article, the underlying premise is that facts should be ascertained before rushing to print/speak, and yet Am V chose not to contact MAG to verify anything.

The e-petition to which you refer was driven by a particularly obsessive individual and regular correspondent of Right to Ride (R to R) who felt MAG needed an on-line petition.

He refused to acknowledge that there was no immediate threat of compulsory dayglo in the UK and that it was an EU and other member state issue. There is evidence of much communication to that end, but he was adamant MAG should launch a petition.

We also explained that hosting something on a UK governmental site would be of limited value but we did it anyway albeit with reservation. It was one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’t situations. He was not, however, the individual who did eventually launch the one in question.

Am V says that ‘one thing we know is that the EU are not debating hi-viz’.

If this is a reference to a debate in the Euro Parliament in Strasbourg then yes, that’s correct. It ignores however the report that the EU Parliamentary Committee for Transport and Tourism wrote for the EU Commission and publicised July 17th 2011 which recommended the Commission introduced compulsory carrying of ‘warning jackets’ for all vehicle occupants, the wearing of hi viz by cyclists and pedestrians after dark and innumerable other initiatives. Campaigning has reduced the severity of this threat, but it has not gone away. As you can see, one could say that the EU is debating hi-viz, and the debate itself has so far lessened the original request that Parliament made to the Commission.

I’m sure you know that the legislative system in Europe is not as the UK and as such it is the Commission which acts as originator of legislation.

Further into the article Am V mentions sealing power trains and acknowledges that it is on the table and says things are shaping up differently.

This is exactly because of the campaign work, as I reiterate, this is dynamic.

Am V is quite incorrect however when they state it ‘will be limited to bikes already subject to restrictions’. As we’ve said many times, anti-tampering (AT) is currently in existence for bikes up to 125cc, though the type of AT measures will be changing. Initially the AT proposal was for all bikes and the reasoning was twofold : Emissions control and functional safety.

Arguments with politicians and more importantly within the Council of Ministers have managed to reduce that threat to now only include bikes under 47bhp. There are currently no laws restricting bikes to 47bhp. What there are, are future licencing categories for riders (as will be introduced with the 3rd EU Driving Licence Directive) and there is some desire to harmonise this with the construction of machines.

The new A2 category of bike will fall into this, but will not apply to those on restricted licences, merely the machine, which means those with a full licence who choose to ride a lower powered machine will not be permitted to make any modifications to it, which is something with no justification. MAG does not believe that any category of bike should be sacrificed to this legislation when the Commission continues to fail to provide any evidence to justify its policy.

Perhaps most revealing though, is that this development, which happened in early June 2012 with another redraft of article 18, completely undermined the argument the Commission have been using for justification to date (emissions and safety) and at the same time, the new paragraph 5 shifted all the onus onto manufacturers and away from riders.

This somewhat undermines the next part of the Am V article, which uses a very old quote from Mr Van de Camp about national testing/inspection authorities. A third of EU countries do not have an inspection system, so that would be irrelevant and the quote is old because over a year ago, there was a different discussion ongoing about policing the Regulation at ground level, to which this refers. No doubt you’ll have realised how it is easy to create confusion when you pick and choose ‘facts’ over time.

The new para 5 of article 18 now removes the issue of policing through inspectorates, as the onus is on manufacturers at creation stage to utilise best engineering practise to minimise tampering/ modification possibilities.

What has happened in the last two weeks, at time of writing (July 25) is that the Commission has launched its proposal for an EU wide equivalent of an MoT for bikes and have stated that one reason is an attempt to ensure rider compliance with construction standards. You may have seen that Right to Ride dispute that too.

Am V go on to discuss the semantics surrounding the word ‘substantial’ which is no longer of relevance as this is something that was used in the version of article 18 as proposed by IMCO, the Internal and Market and Consumer Protection Committee of Parliament who have been examining this regulation and which is headed by Mr Van de Camp. Every element of this version of art 18 has now been thrown out and wouldn’t be entertained by the national governments, an argument led by the UK and in no small part because of the almost weekly contact MAG has with the DfT.

The fact that the UK Government support almost all of our calls for change is very gratifying and we are achieving much. Some who wish to rob MAG of any shred of gratitude for work done may consider the support we have from MEPs, the questions they have asked in the European Parliament, the questions asked in the UK Parliament, the findings of the EU Ombudsman etc etc. all of this shows that we are in fact not alone and that much of what we are doing is very relevant.

Those utterly determined to separate all MAG’s efforts from evolution on the political landscape as if they are unrelated may never be persuaded but we have faith in Am V’s editorial objectivity to recognise such connection which is why we have written this.

Latest developments are that the UK will be able to keep its SVA system for one off builds and small manufacturers. This is another success which has been achieved through negotiation, but which was to be lost had the original proposal gone through. Should we be penalised for campaign successes?

Ironically however, the Am V article then says the ABS case has been lost, with only an addendum added so that manufacturers can fit a switch.

This is quite incorrect. An addendum is exactly what we are calling for and will continue to call for, even though RTR believe this foolish. We believe, that unless we can get it in writing, there is no guarantee a switch will be permissible. The UK Gov are with us on this and we hope to achieve it, but it has not been achieved yet.

Further down the article Am V reiterate this error by saying ‘that it has passed through into law..’ this has not happened. The Regulation is currently tabled for Plenary vote on 25th Oct 2012, but there is no guarantee this will happen either. There is no absolute agreement within Council, so things could yet head for what is called a second reading. As stated, everything is dynamic and the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.

All the more surprising then that Am V encourages readers to ‘listen and think’, it is unfortunate you didn’t take your own advice and notice the number of attacks MAG has suffered from RTR without a single public retaliation. We feel it more important to get on with the job of lobbying those who matter than engaging in time-wasting spats over semantics with the two individuals on RTR who will use any forum they can in their feverish attempt to undermine us.

The latest of these is a completely unfounded attack on an MP which frankly makes them look fantastical.

Agendas? ‘Listen and think’ comes to mind.

As your article concludes, ‘Find out what they stand for by talking to someone at the top’. It’s such a shame Am V didn’t do that before passing judgement on MAG. And it’s a shame people use FB in a similar manner for such negative reasons when it really could be a source for good activism.

The motorcycle community is really not very big, so spending time arguing internally on wordplay and issues designed only to score personal points is really counter-productive when there is a bigger battle. It’s why you don’t see retaliatory attacks coming from MAG on either BMF or RTR.

MAG seeks a healthy relationship with the media and we would very much value the help of American V in combating the threats motorcycling faces. Can we please move in that direction?

Largely written by Paddy Tyson MAG’s Campaigns Manager with contribution from MAG President Ian Mutch

With profuse apologies, there’s another wall of words in the form of a response overleaf:

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The Big Debate 2

Dear Ian and Paddy,

Thank you for taking the time to write and state your position, which I am delighted to reprint verbatim, as offered.

That is where the delight begins and ends though.

As lobbyists I would expect you to be able to read and understand plain English, and I am disappointed that you chose to mislead readers with the use of emotive language in an opening statement that misrepresents the editorial that you are responding to … which I reprinted alongside.

According to the OED, to lambast is to ‘criticize harshly’. I made one reference to MAG, and that was at the end of the editorial as a potential lobbying group to join, for those who wanted to become more politically involved. And as for ‘scaremongering’: where did you read that, or even infer it?

You want lambasting? You might want to get your helmet, but it’s not compulsory.

I chose not to talk to you because I was not specifically referring to MAG, but for the record you will recall, Ian, that we had an exchange of correspondence on the 10th January, in response to a MAG press release of the same date promoting the e-petition 26931 that started all this.

When I explained that I could not, in all conscience sign it, your exact words were “Blessedly others don’t think like you, it’s been up for about a day now go and see how many have signed it so far”.

My reaction was to offer you, Ian, the chance to put MAG’s case forward: I started at 200 words, you said you’d need 1000 words and I agreed.

I reminded you, Ian, on the 16th Jan in another exchange of emails, saying “BTW, have you got those 1000 words on MAG’s position? Running a small piece on Harley factory engine mods and thought anti-tamper might sit well next to it, but I need it to be absolutely clear in terms of whether anti-tamper as it is being presented applies to all bikes or just those that are already restricted by law, which is my understanding of it. If I am wrong, let me know but give me chapter and verse: and I’m not talking about daft proposals that will get kicked into the long grass”.

Your response was “I need to run this by Nich as the anti tamper thing is in flux I think”.

I heard no more.

Back at the petition: who phrased it? From your response, not the person in whose name it was submitted, but why would any MAG officer sanction this petition if they had such reservations? Why would they pander to your “Particularly obsessive individual” if they had any reservations about its merit, value or validity? And if you can’t convince one of your supporters of a sensible course of action, what chance have you got with professional advocates?

Do either of you genuinely believe that MAG has a right to demand that the British government applies pressure to the EU to apply sanctions to a second sovereign European government? Isn’t that precisely what MAG is fighting against, in terms of the EU and other European governments having any influence on the situation in the UK?

And as for the assertion that the driving force behind the petition “refused to acknowledge that there was no immediate threat of compulsory dayglo in the UK and that it was an EU and other member state issue”, your comment, Ian, on the 10th Jan was “Of all the people who might end up in charge of a magazine for the great freedom machine – why you? It’s almost worth hoping we lose just so you’ll have to wear this shite”.

In this response, you acknowledge that Strasbourg is not debating hi-viz, but then use the submission of a unnamed report dated 17th July 2011 that “recommended the carrying of hi-viz for all vehicle occupants, and wearing by cyclists and pedestrians after dark and innumerable other initiatives”.

I assume there’s no specific mention of motorcyclists or you would have mentioned it.

Of course there’s a report – there will always be reports – but as I have repeatedly suggested in correspondence with Ian, MAG needs to be submitting its own reports, demonstrating why an increasing reliance on hi-viz is flawed, rather than responding to every submission, the overwhelming majority of which will never see the statute books.

Let’s deal with out of date information next.

As of today – 28 July 2012 – the MAG-run site has a document posted called “The Latest News on Anti-Tampering”. It is not dated. Not on the site and not within the document itself, either at the top or beneath your signature, Paddy, as its author.

When was this “Latest News” new?

When was the MEP meeting that is referenced in the second paragraph? It doesn’t say.

Was it a meeting with an MEP or a group of MEPs, and who? It doesn’t say.

What was discussed? Doesn’t say.

Was that meeting minuted? If so, they haven’t been published.

Without that, it is just unattributed waffle.

From dates referenced in the document, we can infer it was penned between 15th May and 6th June, and probably in 2012, but it needs a date!

That is the most up to date piece of news on that site, except the posters and meeting point info for the June Demo, which is still being referred to in the future tense on both and the main You are supposed to be a lobby group: your whole purpose is to inform and represent your members.

Yes, it is a very dynamic situation, which is why I choose to keep abreast of developments using sites that are updated frequently, by people who present the raw information with an executive summary, rather than interpreting it for me.

Based on this correspondence alone, I don’t trust your ability to interpret plain English or follow a train of thought, and have very little faith in your ability to summarise European legalese.

I admit that I got ABS wrong: I’m delighted to say it isn’t a done deal – Right to Ride spotted my error, hot off the press – and I’ve got everything crossed, hoping that someone can present a report at the right level explaining how ABS on bikes works very differently to the systems used in cars and consequently doesn’t represent the same safety improvement; or else challenges the motives of a former nursery school teacher who as an MEP happens to represent the constituency where Bosch make ABS systems.

I’m not going to engage in debate about specific proposals that are being proffered and withdrawn because there are much bigger things to consider here, but I am fascinated by your A2 motorcycle concept, and especially the unattributed “some desire” to harmonise bike and license: is that lead by the industry or legislature?

You do realise that it would naturally happen without legislation, don’t you? A massive single market – the EU – will demand a bike suitable for A2 license holders, and the only difference to current practice is that it won’t be based on a bike that is otherwise available in an unrestricted form.

Your “A2” bikes will replace things like the ER-5, CB500 and MZ Skorpion, and will be known to be sub‑47hp, if that’s what is finally ratified, so will be stopped and checked less often. What’s the problem? Manufacturers will still make other bikes that aren’t restricted, assuming a demand exists.

MAG would be better served by sorting out its communications, starting with a publicly stated policy on e-petitions: clever instruments of distraction, designed to allow people to vent their spleen, and having done so get on with their lives. Think back to what happened with the road pricing petition which sailed through the 50,000 figure with ease, only to be casually dismissed.

I challenge MAG to establish a real time comms strategy which can be controlled centrally, so that a qualified current position can be relayed to regional reps and beyond in its original phrasing, giving every on-line member – and potential member – the same information.

Be transparent!

You rightly identify Facebook as a poor tool for that job – the core message can easily get lost in a lively discussion – so might I suggest a blog with clearly dated, attributable threads and only moderated comments, and a full audit trail.

You owe it to your membership to show them what you are doing for their money: be accountable.

Transcribe minuted meetings and statements, and reprint written reports, which will build into a history of MAG’s campaigning and successes that you can refer to, because it really isn’t enough to say “we did that” without being able to show your workings.

That would help you to substantiate your claim that MAG was instrumental in preserving MSVA, which as far as I understood wasn’t under threat.

Regarding Right to Ride, as a regular visitor to their site I have seen their press releases: not as attacks on MAG but as qualified statements, linked to the original documents, with an executive summary. And I haven’t interpreted a lack of a response from MAG as your not retaliating: if you don’t challenge it, the inference must be that it is correct, and that is how I have interpreted it.

I am concerned and confused in equal measure by your accusation regarding the “unfounded attack on an MP” by Right to Ride. I originally interpreted this as being a reference to MEP Bill Newton Dunn, who had been on the receiving end of an aggressive lobbying campaign, including some “threatening his life”, but that was reported on the BMF site.

So I ran it past Right to Ride who suggested it referred to their response to an article in the Washington Post, where MP Steve Baker references impending motorcycle legislation in a call for a referendum on EU membership.

I looked that up, and the original article plus their response and a qualified report were all clearly laid out, to help inform the debate.

The Right to Ride report mentions that MAG and Steve Baker have declared mutual support, and I wonder whether you consider this to be an attack?

And why the reluctance to mention Steve Baker by name? He’s hardly Nick Griffin.

BTW, have you conducted an internal enquiry to see if MAG lobbying is implicated in Bill Newton Dunn’s case, and taken the appropriate action?

And if not, why not? It is the right thing to do. And while you’re there, look into allegations that the email campaign is littered with false assumptions, misinterpretations and misleading statements, and see if MAG needs a new way to get a consistent and accurate message out.

I take no pleasure in any of this, and it may surprise you to learn that I am keen to see MAG survive, not least because a lot of good work is done at the grass roots level by unpaid volunteers who genuinely make a difference, but I have dwindling faith in the leadership.

I would be delighted to work with MAG in helping combat the threats that motorcycling faces, but right now there is a credibility gap that can only be resolved by a reformed executive.

Andy Hornsby – American-V

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The Big Debate: Right to Reply – Right to Ride

Having given MAG, a right of reply to the original “Big Debate” editorial, it’s only fair that we afford Right to Ride the opportunity to respond to comments in that response, to clarify their position.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to reprint the original every time, because now that the debate is rolling, it hopefully will gain its own momentum, and more importantly get people talking about the issues that this raises.

The comments accredited to MAG UK President Ian Mutch and Campaign Manager, Paddy Tyson regarding Right To Ride, in response to the article “The Big Debate” in American-V, were a surprise because it is not true that we have tried to undermine MAG UK.

Not only do their actions break an agreement we had with the MAG Chairman to refrain from criticizing each other publicly, but because they have chosen not to honour this agreement, we have reflected on where we go from here and what is in the best interests of Right To Ride and of our 1000+ supporters.

For the record, we set up Right To Ride in order to report what is happening in Europe and here locally in Northern Ireland, to use our knowledge and experience as lobbyists for the benefit of motorcycling.

Our opinions may differ from others including Ian and Paddy, but we have the right to express them, hopefully to get people thinking and to stimulate debate. If anybody looks at our websites, there is nothing in our articles that aims to undermine any organisation. However, we recognise there will always be unintended consequences.

With regards to the proposal for European-wide introduction of road worthiness testing for motorcycles and scooters, we don’t understand what Ian and Paddy are insinuating.

We reported on the Commission’s proposal on RWT and stated that there will be no change to the frequency of MoT for motorcyclists in this country, and from what we have read the focus of this proposal is on cars.

Although we believe that the present MoT is valid and worthwhile in Northern Ireland (and to a large degree in the rest of the UK), we wrote that we support the right to protest of riders from other EU countries in Brussels in September. We will continue to report the progress of this proposal, as with our report “Testing Times” on 20th August, 2012 on our website (

While we appreciate that headlines warning of a Super MoT and/or the end of motorcycling as we know it are appealing, as we saw with the ‘anti-tampering’ proposal – which took three years of discussions – it’s a proposal!

With regards to their comment “Ironically however, the Am V article then says the ABS case has been lost, with only an addendum added so that manufacturers can fit a switch. This is quite incorrect. An addendum is exactly what we are calling for and will continue to call for, even though RTR believe this foolish”.

This switch wasn’t under discussion until the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations’ (FEMA) General Secretary raised it at a meeting with the Commission.

Whatever views the Commission held about a switch, it was not their decision to make because this technical aspect falls under UNECE regulation 78. ACEM (The Motorcycle Industry in Europe) pointed out that the ABS switch is permitted by EU legislation, and in the absence of text in the proposal explicitly prohibiting a switch, it wasn’t an issue. It is our understanding that the ‘compromise’ call for a switch by FEMA (and MAG) signalled to the IMCO (Internal Market and Consumer Protection) Committee and the Commission that riders’ organisations in Europe were prepared to accept mandatory ABS: in other words FEMA (and MAG) screwed up, because they didn’t understand the technical details.

Our position was then and is now, that ABS should remain a voluntary option, which we wrote about in an article entitled “What the Hell” back in October 2010.

A further comment in the response from Ian and his colleague appears to refer to Right To Ride’s article of 17th July 2012 entitled “Washington Post” about an MP (Steve Baker). The Washington Post article states “Proposed new pan-European rules would forbid motorcycle owners from doctoring bikes themselves, outraging tens of thousands of British bikers and becoming the latest symbol here of continental authority run amok”. According to “The Washington Post”, “Baker is also the wrong biker to mess with.”

We wrote “As Chairman of the Associate Parliamentary Motorcycle Group he (Baker) has been briefed on the regulation and is therefore fully aware that there is nothing within the proposal that would forbid motorcycle owners from ‘doctoring’ their bikes.”

We concluded that the article had been written on the premise of a lie. The link to MAG UK is made by Steve Baker, which we reported on.

We have also reported on the EU Type Approval proposal including positions from rider organisations and the motorcycle press. While Ian was riding around Brussels on November 22nd 2011 as part of the Motorcycle News demo, we were in a meeting, also in Brussels, discussing issues with the Commission representative responsible for the proposal, who clarified that there was no intention of banning ‘positive modifications’.

From our perspective, here lies the confusion: anti tampering = illegal modifications NOT legal/positive modifications.

On June 22nd 2012, one of our sources in the IMCO Committee informed us that “The Parliament has agreed to Council’s position on not mandating ABS on scooters (50 to 125cc), it has also agreed with the Council on limiting the anti-tampering provisions to lesser powered motorcycles only and making them manufacturer obligations only, so categories L3eA2 (Medium performance motorcycle) and L3eA3 (High performance motorcycle) are entirely excluded from the anti-tampering measures.

The Parliament has also agreed to not having detailed EU rules on Individual Approval in this Regulation, with this left to national rules”.

On July 17th 2012, we published “EU Regulations – Almost There” in which we confirmed the above statement. One of our sources in the IMCO Committee had sent us this information and we were also informed that the DfT was fully aware of this development in the negotiations, which appears to contradict the comment “… in no small part because of the almost weekly contact MAG has with the DfT …”.

If it is true that ‘MAG’ is in ‘almost’ weekly contact with the DfT, then ‘MAG’ would have had to know about this latest development, which as mentioned above, excludes categories L3e A2/A3 from the ‘anti-tampering’ measures, which we understood was central to MAG UK’s campaign.

Finally, our thanks to Ian and Paddy for giving us the opportunity to present this clarification of our position.

Trevor Baird & Elaine Hardy: Right To Ride.

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I left a couple of questions hanging at the end of my response to MAG’s reply last issue and was pleased to get an immediate response to one of them from Nich Brown, MAG’s General Secretary.

With regard to the accusation of lobbyists’ emails “threatening his life” made by Liberal Democrat MEP for East Midlands, Bill Newton Dunn, Nich had a meeting with him and was reassured to hear that such things were not unusual; and in qualifying that with Bill Newton Dunn I received the following response on the 14th August 2012:

“Yes, I had a coffee with Nick Brown and he seemed very pleasant. There have been no other threats since then, merely abuse. In public life you have to learn to take abuse – it is part and parcel of democracy, and so could even be called healthy. But if there were to be a more specific threat in future, then the police would certainly be informed.”

I am pleased to be able to set the record straight and to report that MAG did take the accusation seriously, but I failed to get the point across to Nich that it was in MAG’s interests to issue a clarification to that effect – although he did acknowledge a need to improve communications. I have since found an undated release believed to be from July 2012, from Paddy Tyson, MAG Campaign Manager, stating:

“… (Bill Newton Dunn) has written of MAG members issuing death threats, yet when we offered to help him press charges, he said ‘don’t worry, I’m used to it’ and failed to provide specifics. MAG will not condone threatening behaviour and it won’t help any lobby case …”

I firmly believe that this stuff needs to be put in the public domain because the internet has a long memory, and if such statements go unchallenged, it’s difficult to later say they were unfounded. /Andy – American-V


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