Commons Gate

The Government's Motorcycling Strategy (HC 264-ii)

Transport Committee 7 Feb 2006

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Evidence given by Mr David Griffin, Deputy Chief Constable, Humberside Police, and Mr Phil Edwards, National BikeSafe Co-ordinator, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO),Mr Kevin Clinton, Head of Road Safety, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; Mr Don Matthew, Policy Advisor, Sustrans, and Mr Stephen Plowden, Transport Planner and Author, Dr Stephen Ladyman, a Member of the House, Minister of State for Transport and Mr Andrew Colski, Head of Vulnerable Road Users Branch, Department for Transport.

Q140 Mr. Eric Martlew: Going up from the small bikes to the bigger ones, I have a problem in my constituency and, tragically, two young men were very badly injured, but is it not a problem of perception to the extent that the public see the police doing nothing about it? You will see two lads obviously not 17, no crash helmets on, driving along the pavement, no silencer on. They are obviously breaking the law.

Mr Griffin: Yes.

Q141 Mr. Eric Martlew: There is a difficulty. People phone the police up and the police do not respond, or they respond late, and they do not catch them. I do not think the public think if you go chasing them they might crash, which is a very serious issue, but it is an anti-social problem that we have got in many parts of the country. How are you going to tackle that? How do you stop that happening without endangering your police or the youngsters?

Mr Griffin: That is one of the difficulties. A conventional police response in sending a police patrol is, generally speaking, ineffective and of too high a risk to that kind of situation, but not always, and we have to deploy very specialist patrols. For example, Phil was telling me on the way in that you have to use advanced motorcyclists, special machines, et cetera, to be able to stop them safely and deal with it. That is why I make the point about trying to deal with it more in a partnership framework and deal with the problem long-term. That is not to say the police should not do their part, clearly we should, and we do. We do use specially trained officers to do it, but they require a very high degree of training to do so safely. I think where we miss a trick is that members of the public feel let down in the sense that they do not know what is going to happen, and what, of course, we do is make a record of that and establish when we have got a pattern of offending and then we will deploy those special resources. Generally speaking, they are not available there and then to deal with that particular issue; it has to be pre-planned.

Q142 Mr. Eric Martlew: These bikes are ridden for an hour or a so at a time. They are actually stored somewhere?

Mr Griffin: Yes.

Q143 Mr. Eric Martlew: Surely that is the time to pick it up. You need the intelligence. You perhaps need the community to tell you.

Mr Griffin: Yes.

Q144 Mr. Eric Martlew: That does not seem to happen.

Mr Griffin: Obviously, I cannot comment about the individual cases you refer to. In my own force, we would endeavour to send a police patrol to see the person and establish what is going on, because they can sometimes deal with it - the people have got off the machine, they can stop, talk with them and deal with it. When they hare off into the distance across parkland or down the footpaths, that is when there is a difficulty, and, quite clearly, police officers are often not in a position safely to deal with that; so it is that difficulty. Just because that is a possibility, I do not think should mean the police should not respond at all. They need to assess it and look at each individual case on its merits.

Q145 Mr. Eric Martlew: Finally on this, I think it has been mentioned with regard to the mini motos, the situation about providing a facility for these barely young men to practise what they would call a sport.

Mr Griffin: Yes.

Q146 Mr. Eric Martlew: Is that, in your opinion, an advantage? The public would see that you are actually giving in to them, but you think that would be an advantage, do you?

Mr Griffin: I think if it is managed in a controlled way, you can manage where it is, it can be properly supervised, the machines can be safe, we can verify they are not stolen. In my experience, not in Humberside but in other parts of the country where this has been tried, generally speaking, it has been successful. We see a direct correlation when, as a scheme starts, we see a tail-off in the calls to the police about what are called nuisance motorcyclists riding off road in particular.

Q147 Mr. Eric Martlew: There is positive evidence of that?

Mr Griffin: There is positive evidence to suggest that is the case.


Mr Plowden: I think there are situations where it would make good sense to ban motorcycles. They are much more dangerous to pedestrians than cars are. I quoted the figure of 3.7 in my evidence. There are 3.7 as many pedestrians killed or seriously injured by motorcyclists per mile driven than cars. In London the figure is rather higher. It is 5.2 based on the years 1999 and 2000. So in areas where you are trying to encourage walking and where pedestrians should be king, I think it makes very good sense to ban motorcycles, but there, as I tried to say, the substitute would be a vehicle which had a little bit of power but was entirely compatible with a pushbike.

Q177 Mr. Eric Martlew: On the general usage of motorbikes, I can understand the concern of high-powered motorbikes, because it is very often fairly affluent middle-aged men who have not grown up, but the reality is that a lot of people who use motorbikes do so because they are cheap and they cannot afford the alternative of a car, and, while we have a very good transport in London, it is so cheap compared to the public transport system. So really are you saying we should punish people because they cannot afford a motorcar or they cannot afford to use expensive public transport?

Mr Plowden: Not at all. What I was suggesting was that I do not quite see why anybody needs a motorcycle more powerful than the learner machines, which have a top speed, commonly, of 60 or 65 miles an hour.


Q190 Mr. Eric Martlew: On the hydrogen motorcycle, I suspect what will happen is that they will invent an artificial noise so you will hear it. I do not know if anyone can remember when we went up to North Sea Gas. North Sea gas has no smell whatsoever; so they had to put the smell into it. I am sure that would satisfy Mr Stringer. The point being made about the pollution by motorcycles, I am not sure I accept it because I pull up at the garage in my car and I fill up 60 litres, or whatever; a motorcyclist comes alongside and is lucky to get ten in and he probably does maybe 80, 90, 100 miles to a gallon, so how can it be more polluting than a motorcar?

Mr Matthew: Partly because of propensity to speed, I suspect.

Q191 Mr. Eric Martlew: It does not use as much fuel?

Mr Matthew: Under some circumstances, but we have been talking about the growing share of the market with the more powerful models, have we not, and I think that is where the greater polluting effect comes.

Q192 Mr. Eric Martlew: If I have got a standard motorbike and a standard car, the car uses a lot more fuel than the motorbike. Am I correct?

Mr Matthew: Certainly not a lot more. If you compare it with a moped, yes, but, again, if we are talking about a modern improved car with a three-way catalyst, I am not absolutely certain.

Mr Plowden: May I quote The Government's Strategy on this. Paragraph 3.4 says: "However, larger motorcycles can emit more CO2 than some cars kilometre by kilometre because they offer far poorer fuel economy." That is CO2. I think with other gases there is not such a close relationship between fuel consumption and emissions anyway, so it could well be the case, and Don tells us it is the case, that they are more polluting than cars.

Mr Matthew: I also have a strong suspicion, partly linked to some of the anti-social element we have been speaking about, that they may be far less well maintained, and there is quite a market in second, third and fourth-hand motorbikes that probably are not maintained at all.


Q229 Mr. Eric Martlew: Just on the points that you have made, Minister, I can understand you having a strategy that says people will ride motorcycles so we have to make it safer for them and we must accommodate them.

Dr Ladyman: And safer for everybody else.

Q230 Mr. Eric Martlew: Yes, safer for everybody else, that is fine, but from what you have said today, what you are really saying is you want more people to ride motorcycles and with another hat on you are probably saying you want less people to drive motor cars. Is that your strategy?

Dr Ladyman: It is slightly more nuanced than that. I want people for whom motorcycles are a valid option ----

Q231 Chairman: What is the nuance between fewer and less?

Dr Ladyman: I want people for whom riding motorcycles is an option to consider seriously whether using a motorcycle to go to work, to commute, is a way that they could contribute to reducing congestion on the roads and the efficiency of their travel. Whether that leads to more people using motorcycles or fewer people using motorcycles is probably not my key priority. Clearly, the reason why the motorcycling industry is involved in the Motorcycling Strategy is they are hoping that more people will make that choice and decide to use motorcycles.

Q232 Mr. Eric Martlew: But you would bear in mind that riding a motorcycle is probably three times more dangerous than driving a car, therefore you would not recommend it over driving a car.

Dr Ladyman: I rode a motorcycle myself for many years and I still occasionally get on a bike when it is necessary in my ministerial capacity, although I do not have a bike any more, and a properly-trained, responsible motorcyclist can be as safe as any other road user but you have to get people into that position where they have a responsible mindset and proper training.

Q233 Mr. Eric Martlew: I am going to push you on this. Do you believe it would be better for people to give up their cars and ride motorcycles, is that what you are saying?

Dr Ladyman: I believe for some people it would be better to give up their motor car and ride motorcycles, yes.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB