First published in DURO RIDER Gazette – About four years ago, I was milling around at the end of a demonstration run against proposals from the European Commission that supposedly would have rung the death knell for motorcycling and customising – the freedom of choice to modify and change your motorcycle.
I asked a rider who I knew had been involved in “rider’s rights”, what we were demonstrating against on that occasion. His reply, paraphrasing the retail slogan of “you name it we’ve got” was, “you name it, we’re protesting against it”.
Perhaps that rider may not have understood the myriad of details or the purpose of the demo and he and his mates may have been misinformed (in fact they were) of what they were demonstrating against.
At least on a rain sodden Saturday afternoon they were there to make a point and give support. They believed that the presence of sixty or so riders would make a difference, as a member of the organising group or as an individual rider joining in, that somehow they and their fellow motorcyclists were an effective lobby or advocacy group.
Rational Grown Up Lobbying
If we look around the world we can see riders formed in various groups. From organised lobby groups, that could be considered in differing terms as professional organisations with full time lobbyists, supported by a membership base; to “professional” organisations that are involved in motorcycle lobbying, or even individual riders. The most important part of any group, including those on social media, is that they all have an (not necessarily informed) opinion about the issues that they are mostly in agreement with.
Social media can however bring out the worst excesses of rider opinions due to the fact that everybody can have a say, however misinformed, however misinterpreted. It can be presented in a format of belligerency, with key board warriors producing inconsequential babble. Even worse is when opinion comes from rider organisations reporting issues with an evangelistic spin and religious fervour irrespective of whether the content is made up simply for the purpose of keeping the faith alive.
What we should be expecting after decades of riders issues is a lead of rational grown up lobbying.
However it is not all a downturned mouth of disappointment, if we look to France we see organisations that lobby with facts and demonstrate, where the rider organisations can put out hundreds of demonstrating ride outs locally; thousands regionally; tens thousands nationally, along with professional lobbying and real informative information. If only they could just work more together…..
Or to Sweden and the rider’s organisation SMC – Swedish Motorcyclists Association, with professional lobbying to their authorities, tied in with a massive membership – around 70,000, in comparative terms. A member’s magazine that is competitive in terms of content and quality with any good specialised commercial magazine. Their training courses are excellent and provide motorcyclists with an array of courses depending on the individual needs. Furthermore they are in constant contact with the authorities, have an open dialogue with their government and are involved in global motorcycle issues.
Then there is the United States with two easily recognised main organisations, with professional lobbying, an organised membership structure, both of which are now involved in the run up to their countries presidential election. Both in their own ways organising riders with specific engagement in a “Meeting Of The Minds” and advice on “Voting Like A Motorcyclist” – “How to Communicate with Government” the latter from the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) is particularly relevant to this article.
On social media one piece of advice is to, “Offer accurate and reliable information. Providing inaccurate or misleading information can quickly discredit your cause and will make elected officials and the public reluctant to turn to you as a source.” With more advice, which travels well across the globe on topics such as – The Importance Of Getting Your Message Heard – Attending A Public Hearing Or Meeting – Attending a Town Hall Meeting – Having A Personal Meeting – Giving Testimony Before Legislative Committees – Using Written And Electronic Communication and advanced techniques of advocacy.
One piece of advice that could really sum up my own feelings when hearing riders “blame” government – the unelected officials when there is confrontation, whether real or not, is “However, you might be surprised to learn that the government doesn’t know much about you. The wealth of knowledge you take for granted as a motorcyclist could be a profound revelation to an appointed official or a government planner.” on the other hand government can and do have their experts who ride motorcycles who may not be of the same opinion and that is where good lobbying and understanding all comes to bear as riders.
In fact, from my personal experience moving back to Northern Ireland, with partner in crime Elaine Hardy, we found that the cut and thrust of political manoeuvring was redefined – or rather became more concentrated in a smaller more focussed area. It centred on the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The supporting civil servants however worked elsewhere and in our particular case – we mainly referred to those working in the Department of the Environment and the Department for Regional Development (now joined together under the title of Department for Infrastructure).
Over a period of six – seven years we got to know and work with these people – most of whom we found to be delightful, intelligent and warm.
It would be true to say that we did well; we promoted our little corner of the world and were received with kindness and respect. We left our mark and we would like to think that our departure gave the civil servants and politicians a new outlook on the fascinating world of motorcycling and the people involved in that “ambience”. Building bridges is possibly the most rewarding and fruitful part of lobbying.
Share Aims And Objectives
Across the tectonic plates to Australia it is more of the same with different rider groups made up of umbrella groups for motorcycle clubs, associations and riders.
Overall picking through three of the groups, they all in some way share their aims and objectives to promote and improve all aspects of road safety concerning motorcycling in Australia:
- Promote, improve and protect the use of motorcycles, recognising their environmentally beneficial place in urban and land transport planning and systems
- Promote and improve at all levels the full knowledge, awareness, understanding and acceptance of motorcyclists’ welfare and safety needs
- Ongoing commitment to provide a safer road environment, improved rider training and sensible motorcycle related legislation on behalf of all motorcycle and scooter riders
- Strive for Fair and Sensible Legislation
- Improve Road Safety
- Improve the Image of Motorcycling
- Promote Motorcycling
the list is endless.
From up to Canada to back across Europe and beyond there appears to be a riders’ organisation almost everywhere, or clubs, groups associations and individual riders that fit in somewhere as part of an effective lobby or advocacy group or for various reasons individual riders who wish to remain just that, that will be effective in their own way as lobbyists.
Frequently this can mean differences of opinion even between the lobbying groups and for example, industry – after all, the industry’s purpose is profit, the rider organisations are effectively defenders of the consumer rights of motorcyclists. In one particular instance there came a time where this difference became confrontational and in that case, the point made was to set out what is meant by riders’ rights:
“We absolutely agree that confrontation is generally unacceptable and unviable. Our own experience has proven that aggression and abusive language is a waste of time.
However, there are circumstances when it is necessary to disagree, to firmly criticise and even to walk away, in order to preserve and maintain our ethos and beliefs as representatives of riders in our respective countries. When all else fails, we have other alternatives at our disposition. We can make our views known, preferably with diplomacy but also through active dissent. This is our strength.
It would be a sad day if we were not able to express our views and concerns openly and even firmly if necessary. Riders’ organisations are not knitting circles and as we are all aware, the stakes (our freedom to ride) are high. It would be preferable if organisations that engage with each other accept our positions and views. However, there is a fundamental difference between working with other organisations and conceding our hard won freedom to them in order to maintain their approval or financial support.
In conclusion, it is our view that everything can be discussed. However, we must use a lot of prudence when a critical point is reached, because a decision that has not been thought through could worsen the difficulties rather than resolve them”.
In conclusion, if you were to ask the questions: Are motorcyclists effective lobbyists? – Can they make a difference? Can you as an individual motorcyclist make a difference?
Yes You Can!
Trevor Baird – Motorcycle Minds
Exploring the boundaries of bike and rider performance; physically, mentally, spiritually…and experiencing the lifestyles and the arts from within and around the biking community and to showcase it to a wider audience.
We’re riders, getting out there, preparing ourselves and riding bikes to show how far we can go without getting busted up! It’s about the ride, the joys & challenges in varying conditions & times. Doing something different, riding somewhere but nowhere in particular and seeing how far we get and how we did along the way!
DURO RIDER Media includes website, social media, videos & multimedia, promotions & productions and the DURO RIDER Gazette online magazine…bringing stories, rider performances & issues, images and arts from our riding world. The alternative motorcycle magazine that showcases the artistic, creative & performing lifestyles from around the motorcycle world. Independent, inclusive and providing opportunities for everyday motorcyclists to share and showcase their lives and talents…whatever they may be.