Life on bikes

London gets its motorcycle strategy wrong, again

Today the Mayor of London published his draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy, a document that will set out how the city’s people will be moving around for the next few decades.

Before we weep over it, apologies must go to our non-London readers for occasionally becoming so Capital centric, but what happens in London tends to work its way out into other cities too, so please read and perhaps take a part in influencing thinking in your own area of the country.

Motorcycling has until now been pretty much completely ignored by the Capital’s transport planners, but what at first seems like positive news for bikers in the draft version of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy actually comes with a sting in the tail.

First the good news

It now appears that we exist. Having spent over £700m on promoting cycling in the city and precisely zero on motorcycling, TFL and the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, now recognise that motorcycles have some kind of role to play in dealing with London’s chronic transport problems. In fact, we get a whole page – page 34 out of 149 – dedicated to just us.

On that page there is an excellent idea. ‘The London Standard,’ of motorcycle training will involve, ‘offering improved rider skills (particularly those of young riders) by promoting a suite of voluntary training courses.’ These will be accredited through the MCIA (Motorcycle Industry Association). This is a good thing.

The page also sets out that street design must now be planned with the motorcyclist’s safety in mind. One issue with town planning is that the road planners themselves are rarely motorcyclists and so do not understand the issues involved. This excellent document, the Urban Motorcycle Design Handbook tells a non-rider how to plan safer city streets. Ironically, it was produced for TFL. Ironic because it was published over a year ago but none of its recommendations seem to have been taken on board, until now.

Greater safety in road planning is something We Ride London has been actively campaigning for and it’s good to see TFL and the Mayor’s office now recognise and take on board the advice included in (their own) handbook.


Now the bad news

The whole document is based on ‘reducing reliance on private vehicles for personal travel, including motorcycles, by providing Londoners with more opportunities for walking, cycling and using public transport.’

The next paragraph goes on to reinforce exactly the role they want motorcycles to play:

‘Two-wheeled vehicles could, however, play a more significant role in low-impact freight and servicing trips, especially where these vehicles replace trips by lorry or van and are made by ultra-low emission motorcycle.’

So they want to make motorcycling safer, but the only journeys they want to see are for business use, not personal commuting.

Perhaps the idea is that only companies like Amazon should be allowed to use the roads. Perhaps those same companies could at some point pay for them too.

At odds with their own advice

This is clearly disappointing. It’s also at odds with their own understanding of the role the motorcycle plays for many commuters.

In the Urban Motorcycle Design Handbook they acknowledge that the majority of motorcycle journeys in the Capital are over 5km and therefore not suitable for walking or even cycling.

They also acknowledge that motorcycles are perfect (our word) for shift-workers, ‘motorcycles can be a useful option for shift workers at times when public transport isn’t available.’

However, in the draft Transport Strategy they just couldn’t bring themselves to recognise that if just 10% of car drivers switched to bikes, congestion would be reduced by 40%.

In fact, they would almost like to do the opposite. The proposals to include pre-2007 motorbikes in a £12.50 per day Congestion Charge remain the same as the initial consultation paper.

You read that right – vehicles that can reduce congestion are to be charged for creating congestion. This is how muddleheaded the strategy is.


We shouldn’t be surprised

Sadiq Khan has personally refused to get involved. Since coming to power only his emissaries have actually directly spoken to interest groups like MAG.

TFL themselves seem to be on such a rabid, mouth-frothing drive to persuade cyclists not to do any more of their ‘dead in the road’ protests that, until today’s one-page recognition, they completely ignore motorcycle safety.

Cycle traffic light
Motorcycle safety could be improved with joint use of phased lights

They could do more

They could, at a single stroke of white paint, massively improve the relationship and safety between cyclists and bikers by giving the right-hand side of Forward Boxes over to motorbikes.

They could announce that the phased lights being introduced for cyclists could be used by motorbikes. But no.

They could insist that one in three car parking spaces is turned over to free parking for motorcycles (radical, I know, but have you smelled London’s diesel pollution recently?).

None of these kinds of ‘innovations’ has been proposed and, reading between the lines in the Strategy, are ever likely to.

There’s a ray of light…

It’s at the end of the bus lane, not a tunnel.

Something MAG has rightly long campaigned for is for ‘all boroughs to allow motorcycle access to their bus lanes, to end the inconsistency between highway authorities that causes unnecessary confusion and risk to motorcyclists.’

That’s now included in the strategy. At least now our food and parcel deliveries can be even quicker.

It’s a small victory. But it looks like in London at least, the war is being lost. Unless you are Deliveroo.

Get involved:

The strategy is currently in draft form. It won’t be implemented until after a consultation process, which you can contribute to here:

Get yourself sorted:

If you are having trouble sleeping, ditch the Nytol and download the full Mayor’s Transport Strategy here.


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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's 'down' to three bikes at the moment:

'97 Triumph Daytona T595
'11 Triumph Tiger 800
'13 Triumph Speed Triple R

He's not even a huge Triumph fan, it just turns out that's how the stable is filled at the moment.

Having been on every continent except Antartica (as long as Cuba kind-of qualifies as South America) he is a big fan of travelling. However, to his deep but hopefully not eternal shame, he's only ever explored Europe on two-wheels and only started doing this a few years ago.

His main mission now is to explore as much of the world on two wheels as possible, at the same time as trying out as many new motorcycling experiences as he can and go on to inspire other bikers to do the same.