Life on bikes

Charley Boorman: Every biker needs to support We Ride London’s campaign

Charley Boorman has called for national support from bikers for a campaign calling for a change of attitude from planners and authorities towards the motorcycle.

We Ride London has been set up to challenge local government attitudes that, at best, completely ignore biker’s needs and at worse could force many bikers off the road.

The belief is that measures introduced in London will soon spread to the rest of the UK.

The proposals have become the catalyst for a number of concerns We Ride has around biking in London. To improve the situation for bikers they have five key aims that they want TfL and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to act on:

  • The protection of lane widths to allow safe filtering for all bikes
  • Make use of bus lanes universal across London boroughs
  • Enough free, safe and secure parking for all motorcycles
  • More action to be taken against bike theft and bike-jacking
  • Exclusion from all charging related to congestion of pollution (ULEZ)

If you weren’t aware, TfL has set out new proposals for the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (the ‘ULEZ’) that would see many bikers have to pay up to £12.50 each day, including weekends, to ride in the Capital. Most badly affected will be riders of pre-1st July 2007 bikes (ie non-Euro 3 compliant), who make up a significant percentage of the 150,000 motorcycle and scooter riders in London.

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Charley says

We met Charley and other founder members of the We Ride campaign at The Bike Shed, to talk over their aims.

Over a beer, and with his nearby walking stick a reminder of this year’s serious collision with a car while reviewing a new bike, Charley explained the group’s views on pollution.

“Motorcycles should be a key part of any congestion and pollution solution. It’s already well established that bikes contribute far fewer emissions. We don’t sit in traffic idling our engines as much as larger road users and, as a result, we accelerate less frequently too, which are the two aspects of motoring that cause the most pollution.

Riders who can’t afford Euro 3 bikes are going to really suffer, yet they are often the least financially able to do anything about it. If you are a longer-distance commuter, cycling isn’t an option. If you’re on a lower wage, you either can’t afford the train or maybe you work outside of regular timetable hours.”

We Ride London co-founder, new wave custom scene figurehead and Bike Shed boss Dutch Van Someren added, “Pollution and congestion aren’t unique to the Capital. What’s happening in London is going to happen in every major city. Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, they will all look at TfL’s policies closely and probably follow them. If Londoners have already accepted them it will be easier to force on their own constituents. Every town and city could end up with their own ULEZ.”

We pointed out that many of his customers at The Bike Shed, who have built their own bikes using pre-’07 bikes, will be affected.

“This isn’t about bikers being put off from riding to the Bike Shed or to our events because of a high charge,” said Dutch. “It’s about everyone being put off when in actual fact more people should be encouraged to use powered two wheelers. Bikes are a really positive part of the congestion solution. And less congestion means less pollution.”

Motorcycle helmet with We Ride London sticker
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As well as the charge itself, one extremely worrying aspect of the proposals is to expand the perimeter from the current Congestion Charging zone right out to the North and South Circular roads.

This means a huge number of motorcycle journeys, including weekend leisure rides, could be chargeable, forcing many bikers off the road. Which seems to be a curious policy, when it’s the jam-creating larger vehicles that contribute to the lowering of the average speed in London to just 7.9mph…

Nearly £1billion spent on cyclists. £0 spent on motorcycle safety

It’s not just the ULEZ proposals that We Ride are worried about. Co-founder Mike Butler: “We Ride London isn’t just about trying to get TfL to reconsider motorcycles in the ULEZ Consultation. We want them to consider us in every aspect of their planning, for example, to stop reducing lane widths, which makes it harder to filter safely.

TfL has budgeted nearly £1billion making the roads safer for cyclists. They are spending £0 on motorcyclists. When you consider how much motorcycle theft alone is costing the Capital – how much productivity is lost when someone has to deal with their bike getting nicked, the cost of law enforcement and so on, it just makes sense for motorcycles and their riders to be included in a holistic approach.” 

Bikers need to be recognised

Through the involvement of Charley and other celebrity bikers, the campaign’s cause is becoming more widely known (the hope is Charley’s Long Way Down partner Ewan McGregor will be able to find time from a busy schedule to add his support soon). But they know celebrity involvement will not be enough to catch the Mayor’s and indeed other legislator’s attention.

“It’s important,” says Charley, “That all bikers, wherever they live, get involved in the ‘We Ride’ campaign.”

The term ‘bikers’ could be something that holds the campaign back, the suspicion being that politicians see bikers in a negative light. For that reason the campaign is using real people – the workers and commuters – to show the person behind the biker gear.

Bikers have been posting pictures of themselves dressing in their ordinary work gear, holding a crash helmet, with the tag #WeRideLondon.

So far, firefighters, chefs, office workers and many others who need their bike to ride to work have added their support to the campaign.

This human aspect, ordinary people campaigning to be heard, echoes the very successful awareness initiatives run by cyclists. As Mike points out, “The cyclists did it, with their sit-down protests. We can achieve the same. We need riders to join us so that our collective voice can be heard.” 

How you can get involved:

Take part in the Transport for London Consultation on the ULEZ. Be quick, though. It closes on 18th December 2016.

Tweet, Insta etc. a pic of yourself, in your non-biker clothes, using #WeRideLondon.

The group will be running regular mass-awareness rides, again in work clothes. The ride dates and other announcements can be followed on the campaign’s Facebook page.

If you want to know the facts about the ULEZ proposals and the other issues We Ride is tackling, visit the website at weridelondon.com.

Sign the petition calling for Sadiq Khan to do something about the bike theft epidemic in London.

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The Author

Ian Malone

Ian Malone

Ian is the Editor and a co-founder of Biker & Bike.

He is obsessed about bikes to the point that he often starts conversations with new people by saying, "Please don't get me onto the subject of bikes. We'll be here all day."

Inevitably, the next question asked is nearly always, "What bike have you got, then?"

He owns five bikes right now:

'78 Kawasaki Z650
'97 Triumph Daytona 955i
'11 Triumph Tiger 800
'09 Yamaha R1
'88 Suzuki TS125X

At any one time, only two of these bikes are ever working, as you can read about on our blog.