Helmets Off – Pump To Shop!


Back in 2009 when we started up Right To Ride, our first involvement in riders issues was in relation to discriminatory signs at a petrol station in Newtownards regarding motorcycle helmets. These signs were later removed after some letter writing by the riders concerned in the area.

The signs had said that all bikes and petrol cans being filled up had to be prepaid in store.

Since then there is an issue that keeps cropping up which is the removal of helmets in petrol stations, either before the petrol pump is turned on or the helmet to be removed before entering the garage shop.

Other issues with wearing helmets are those riders who have been asked to remove them or leave supermarkets as they dander around the likes of Tescos filling their shopping basket with necessary messages – if you’re not from Northern Ireland you will not understand about going down the shop to get your messages!

Without being as flippant as we have been recently to comments on the Right To Ride website on the “Helmets Off”  page there are a couple of issues.

One is that if there are signs up explaining that helmets need to be removed, generally there is no issue, apart from a few “thran” riders, see the mention of walking/shopping in a supermarket. Many of the comments we get are from GB (Great Britain – England – Scotland and Wales) and usually include reference to supposed discrimination and head coverings and yes religion, as if we don’t have enough issues around that topic here in Northern Ireland already!

So any connotations on religion, head covings versus discrimination, we have to remove our head covering so why don’t “they”, including baseball caps, scarfs or sun

glasses we do not entertain.

Talked To–Down To

There seems to an issue with how riders are “talked to–down to” by petrol station or supermarket staff, from cashiers to security guards, from blasting instructions down tannoy systems, to gesticulating across forecourts, to staff who appear never to have completed a customer care course.

With the outcome that riders are getting annoyed because, like any other person, should be treated as human beings. Equally, forecourt staff who should also be treated with respect without being abused. This seems to have led to a circle of words, ill temperament and frustration on all sides.

In 2009 we said that one solution would be, “An agreeable universal sign that can be used by petrol stations whether there is an actual issue or perceived threat of drive offs (bilking) and thefts. What other options can they take to protect their staff and more probably their livelihood from drive offs or robberies, without being seen to discriminate against one section of the community! What is the actual scale of the problem? Or is it just easy to adopt a policy of helmet removal without consideration of genuine honest law abiding customers who wear a motorcycle helmet.”

However we never got past the starting line with further contacting petrol station operators/associations, as other issues that seemed more important kept us busy.

Should There Be Rules?

tescohelmetHowever as recently as two weeks ago, a rider from here in Northern Ireland, was in touch regards keeping their helmet on at a petrol station, a petrol station that they had been at numerous times before, with no previous issue.

With no “don’t wear helmet” signs anywhere the rider had already put petrol in the bike, went to the counter and was asked to remove his helmet, this he did, although he commented that if there had been helmet removal signs the rider would have taken his business elsewhere.

The problem harks back to signage, not discrimination and customer/retail owner relationships, in this case there was no signage, the rider was not aware of “rules” in place.

Our view is this: We have to put garages and their staff in the same situation as if you had just got cash (petrol) from an ATM (petrol pump) – outside the bank and then walked into the bank with a helmet on – we all know you would not walk into a bank with a helmet on, it is a simple unwritten rule.

All Tesco petrol stations have a sign on the pumps and most on the doors of the shop, Tesco give you the choice to take your custom elsewhere, you may stand and argue the point but that is their rules, so why not the all other businesses. Should riders recognise this unwritten rule for banks and apply it to other premises?

Pump To Shop

If there were universal guidelines for all petrol stations that require riders to always remove helmets from pump to shop, rather than the

choice to go where you can wear your helmet from pump to shop, then if all garages adopt a universal sign, you would have no choice, other than to argue the point. At Right To Ride we will not be arguing that point

We are all entitled to our opinion on this issue and our underlying thoughts are simply that we prefer the freedom of choice NOT to wear a helmet therefore to “fight” to keep wearing a helmet for us is somewhat of a dilemma.

Asking riders to pre-pay for petrol or any other un-defined or un-reasonable request because they are riding a Motorcycle or a Scooter is another matter.

BMF – Taking It On-board!

tescohelmet2smallThe BMF (British Motorcyclists Federation) in the UK ( we have a regional representative in Northern Ireland), is talking at the moment to the Petrol Retailers Association to get a “sensible understanding” looking at the wearing of helmets – the safe placing of helmets, pay at the pump vs entering the shop and the arbitrarily inconsistent local rules and other aspects of this “strange subject” after receiving complaints from their members and riders.

The Spring 2015 edition of the BMF member magazine – Motorcycle Rider – asks the question, “Can you imagine any other circumstances under which a customer would be singled out and identified to all over the public address system, asked to remove items of clothing so that they may be permitted to shop?”

The BMF’s Government Relations Executive, Graeme Hay writes that, “I can’t and neither could the Head of Policy at Morrisons”, with an open and enlightening discussion around customer experience with the head of policy.

Graeme writes that the Head Of Policy and himself will be speaking with the Petrol Retailers Association to see if a sensible understanding for all of us on the issue and promises, “I will write more, when I know it.”

If you wish to find out more you can contact the BMF through their website www.bmf.co.uk or become a member and find out through the members magazine – Motorcycle Rider.

Links & Information

Right To Ride – “Helmets Off” – Click Here
BMF – British Motorcyclists Federation – On Facebook
Website – www.bmf.co.uk

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