As the debate over road pricing rumbles on and London's extended Congestion Charging Zone starts to bite, the British Motorcyclists Federation say that motorists could avoid road pricing altogether if they took up two wheels, i.e. motorcycling.
In its response to the Government's road pricing proposals, the BMF is calling for motorcycles to be exempt from not only a national road pricing scheme but the ten proposed local pilot schemes too.
The advantages of using two wheels instead of four have been completely overlooked in the heated debate over road pricing say the BMF, and this despite the motorcycle's advantage in reducing congestion, occupying less road and parking space and bringing social inclusion to those poorly served by public transport. London's now extended Congestion Charging Zone however still exempts motorcycles say the BMF, proving the motorcycles recognised worth in reducing congestion while improving personal mobility.
In fact, the Government's own Motorcycling Strategy published in 2005 and currently being implemented calls for 'the mainstreaming of motorcycles as transport' so this omission surely indicates a lack of joined-up thinking say the BMF.
The BMF now calls for the Government and local authorities to provide a package of incentives for the increased use of motorcycles by:
- Exempting motorcycles from road pricing schemes
- Provision of dedicated parking free of charge
- Access to bus lanes and advanced stop lines
- Inclusion in Local Transport Plans
- Inclusion in travel incentive schemes like TravelWise
- Inclusion in business travel plans
- Provision of more post test training
- Raising other road users' awareness of motorcycles*
The Government's position on road pricing appears to be aimed at congestion in light of anticipated increases in traffic during the next few years. Although there have been suggestions that a national scheme will replace the existing fixed charges for fuel duty and road tax, it is more likely to be an additional charge whereas positive incentives for a shift to non-congesting modes such as motorcycles have not been considered.
Motorcycles with their efficient use of space do not cause congestion, are able to filter through congestion where it does take place and they occupy less space for parking. They have been subject to EU emissions limits since 1999 and so all new motorcycles, coupled with their ability to avoid intermittent movement in dense traffic, mean that pollutant emissions and CO2 emissions are lower than for four-wheeled traffic.
"This is not just a matter of avoiding charges," said the BMF's Senior Government Relations Executive Trevor Magner, "but a realistic alternative for those seeking personal mobility where public transport does not serve their needs and cycling or walking are not viable options".
There is a petition on the No10 website calling for motorcycles to be exempt from road pricing on the grounds that motorcycles are part of the solution to congestion and the BMF urges road users to support it.
*Note: Experience has shown that since the introduction of London's Congestion Charge, two-wheel use has increased substantially but the number of crashes has fallen as other drivers have become more aware of the motorcyclist. Safety concerns over motorcycle use are therefore often exaggerated say the BMF.