A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
There is a clear need for DfT to integrate motorcycle thinking across departmental divisions and be more open to inputs from those who are expert in motorcycle safety and related transport policies. This will be important to ensure that DfT thinking is balanced to include motorcycle policy areas in normal departmental business – as cycling is. Particularly as both cycling and motorcycling represent broadly proportionate shares of road transport.
DfT have been asked to outline how they intend to bring motorcycles more into mainstream departmental business. As part of this discussion, MCIA have offered personnel resource to assist DfT and work with officials.
Within government, motorcycle transport policy work is largely confined to DfT’s Road Safety Division, DfT’s Vehicle Standards Division and the DVSA. This has been the case for at least the last 30 years. A consequence of this has been the emergence of a general lack of expertise about motorcycle matters across the wider department. This lack of expertise risks negative or anecdotal thinking about motorcycles. For example ‘Motorcycles are a safety matter, so this is an RS Division issue’ is a view that has emerged.
As of today, individual sections of the Department have only limited knowledge of the broad picture of PTWs and their contribution to transport, society and UK plc. On the occasions where DfT officials at operational level have had the opportunity to develop motorcycle knowledge and expertise, they have moved on within the department, sometimes rapidly, as staff turnover is currently high. The level of staffing within Road Safety and PTWs specifically has also been greatly reduced due to austerity cuts. It should be noted however that there has been welcome consistency in the DfT’s approach to technical issues to date which has been very helpful. This means that even when there is a willingness to act on wider policy issues, expertise is lacking regarding how to proceed and higher ‘command’ policy priorities means that work is not progressed.
The Government has recognised this in the past and made some attempt to break the mould, for example the development of a government motorcycle strategy announced in 1998. Unfortunately, management of the process was defaulted to the Road Safety Division and inputs from other divisions were limited. The result was a 2005 strategy which was primarily focused on safety, with opportunities to integrate motorcycle thinking across the wider department lost.
All the above said, in recent times, there have been two interesting examples; the involvement of the Communities division in Wheels to Work and dialogue with the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) on electric and low emission motorcycles. These two examples illustrate how opportunities for a wider motorcycle discussion do exist – particularly where motorcycles are identified as serving a wider policy agenda. These examples of positive working illustrate both what is possible and also the importance of DfT adopting a ‘think motorcycle’ approach to their overall work.
It should also be noted that at DfT vehicle technical level and also at Highways England and the DVSA there are several officials with extensive motorcycle experience and productive relationships are maintained with external stakeholders. However, the ‘mission’ of the Agencies and DfT’s vehicles standards division is not related to core transport policy.
The British Road Safety Statement of 2015 has provided a new focus on safer motorcycling and has welcomed the opportunity to consult further in the context of this framework: “We intend to develop and consult on a range of further proposals to support safer motorcycling during 2016 and we welcome ‘Realising the Motorcycling Opportunity: A motorcycle safety and transport policy framework”8
MCIA/NPCC/Highways England propose to take further steps to work with the DfT in order to bring greater general knowledge about motorcycle matters to a wider number of officials within different departmental divisions. Such support will also enable the realisation of various safety and policy actions at government level.
A proposal was submitted for MCIA and NPCC to fund a personnel resource, a person who can work with the DfT. This was not about funding ‘lobbyists’, but about selecting an individual with the correct professional experience, who could work directly with DfT on motorcycle policy matters. Activities can include a series of seminars and discussion groups for DfT officials.
It was seen that this activity would work very much as a two way street. There may have been concern about the lack of motorcycle policy traction within DfT, but both organisations desire more in depth insight from officials about why this seems to be the enduring case – and then to work with officials on potential ways forward. The proposal outlined above would therefore be of benefit not just for government, but also for industry, the police and Highways England.
Unfortunately, despite a range of discussions and several actions related to the proposed activity, it has not been possible to progress the proposal for a DfT based personnel resource at this time. Discussions will however continue in order to seek the realisation of this Action.
- To hold further discussions with officials and Ministers about the proposal.
UPDATE – Action 22 – To Encourage Policy Making Improvements to Incorporate Motorcycling into Transport Policy
As outlined above, we have focussed heavily on realising this action and although it has not yet been possible to reconcile the objectives of DfT and the Industry/Police, we will continue to work on this matter, given that proper focus on motorcycling within transport policy is vital to making long term sustainable safety improvements.
It is however also for Government to fully recognise motorcycling within overall transport policy as part of this process.
8 Working Together to Build a Safer Road System, British Road Safety Statement, Moving Britain Ahead, page 18, Dec 2015