Friday, 25 November 2011

Protest Ride


I don’t often protest. In fact, I cannot remember ever joining a public protest.

I did last Tuesday though because it was about something that I care a lot about – motorbikes!

The European Parliament makes laws that affect all of Europe and sometimes these laws are just plain stupid. It was becoming clear that the law makers were considering draft proposals that could mean home maintenance and the fitting of non-standard parts on motorbikes would not be allowed. If passed, this anti-biking legislation could severely restrict what for some is a common practice. Imagine not being able to modify, say, a Harley-Davidson with different exhaust pipes, or not being able to change the shocks on your sports bike, not being able to maintain the chain, brakes or doing the tuning on your own bike yourself. This proposed legislation is clearly a nonsense, and we needed to do something about this.

Motorcycle News, the weekly UK biking newspaper, had organised a protest ride at the centre of the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium. Previous protest rides had taken place in various UK locations, but while these had helped to consolidate feelings in this country, they lacked impact where it really mattered, in Brussels. I was able to attend, so at 4.30am on Tuesday morning my alarm clock rattled me awake and after making coffee for the ride, I hit the road at 5.00am on my way to Belguim.

The ride to the coast at Folkestone was in the dark the whole way. Worse, it was 98 miles of fog that meant keeping the speed down while having to crack on in order to get the bike onto the right Channel Tunnel train to France. I just made it in time and drank my previously made coffee while waiting in line to board the train....


I recognised a fellow rider in the train as we journeyed under the sea and five of us agreed to ride together to Brussels. Stopping for fuel and supplies replenishment, we pressed on riding through France and soon crossed the border into Belgium. Arriving in Brussels caused some confusion as at the last minute, the assembly point was changed and after struggling to find it for a while, we eventually arrived in good time.

A midweek protest ride in late November in another country that meant you would have to take your bike abroad, was never going to attract huge numbers, but we were pleased to see between 150 and 200 bikes had made the journey from the UK.




Me in Brussels with the Leading ladies....


Brief speeches were made by MCN’s Steve Farrell, Motorcycle Action Group’s Ian Mutch, British Motorcyclist’s Federation’s Chris Hodder and MP Mike Weatherley. Red Dwarf actor Danny John-Jules was also there. This is Ian Mutch talking to the assembled bikers.....


The bikes start the protest ride....


I have to say the Belgium police were fantastic. They lead the ride in their vehicles and at every junction and traffic light on the 5 mile route around the city, police stopped all traffic and waved the bikes through.

Here is MCN’s video of the protest....



The bikes arriving outside the European Parliament....




Marta Andreasen, a supportive MEP, talking to some of the bikers....


The bikes rode back to the assembly point before setting off back to the UK. All of the police motorcyclists and those in vans and other vehicles also went back to the assembly area as well. As they left, the protesting bikers spontaneously applauded the police for the great job they had done. The police smiled, waved back and blew their horns in recognition – an unusual and great moment.

The journey back to Calais and the train was uneventful and we arrived in time to get the planned train. I arrived back home at about 8pm having completed 476 miles on the trip.

I will keep you posted regarding what happens with the proposed legislation. Let’s hope these meddling politicians change their minds!

25 comments:

Raftnn said...

Apart fro the reasaon for going it looks like a great day. But what is with the stupid government, fuck me (apoligies for swearing), we have just a bunch of stupid idjits bringing in anti biking laws here. Or missing the point completly.

Eve said...

Good luck Gary! Yes I'll be looking to know how that turns out. There would be HELL to pay if they tried some crap like that here, but these days, I wouldn't doubt it if they tried.

RichardM said...

So what does the "M" in MEP stand for? Meddling?

I guess I'm still scratching my head as to the driver of the legislation. Emissions, noise, preserving the income of repair shops, or just "why not"?

I am still impressed by your ability to take off for a day trip through a couple of countries.

Richard

No Name said...

Why do Europeans put up with this EU madness?

A little revolution now and then is a good thing. Just sayin'.

bobskoot said...

Gary:

Quote: ". . . so at 4.30am on Tuesday morning my alarm clock rattled me awake and after making coffee for the ride . . .

where did the bacon sandwich go ? I envy you being able to travel through a few countries in order to be at the rally. You can cross the Channel faster than we can get through the USA/Canada Border crossing. 500 miles won't even get us to Alberta.

I don't understand all of this either, that means I would have to book an appointment every week to lube my chain, or to check my oil. How about even checking the tyre pressures ?

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

SonjaM said...

Obviously laws proposed by prejudiced, biased and otherwise mentally handicapped non-riders. Glad you and all the others were there to protest against this BS.
Did I spot the Leading Ladies in the fast forward bit at 0:27 of the video?

Geoff James said...

Gary:
Words fail me with the decisions which Eurocrats try to make on all manner of things. Can you help me with this issue please as I can't find out the underpinning root cause for the need for such legislation.

Why is such legislation actually needed? Has there been an explosion in injuries arising from home maintenance or customisation? Where is the hard data or rationale for rules of this nature or does it fall under the same rationale as rules for straight cucumbers and bananas?

Congratulations for standing up to such incredible nonsense!

Your perplxed friend from Down Under.....

Nikos said...

Completely by coincidence I was in Plac Luxembourg last Tuesday wondering why all those bikers were pitching up!

Whilst I broadly support the principle of some sort of European cooperation, it would be far better use of tax payers money if these bureaucrats devoted their time and energy to problems that actually need solving!

Gary France said...

Roger - why is it that politicians seem so far removed from the reality of the people they are meant to represent?  As far as I can tell, this happens in most countries in the world,  no problem about swearing, the air was very blue on Tuesday as well. 

Gary France said...

Eve - I may be wrong, but it seems to me that US politicians do pay much more attention to the voters in America than in Europe.  I think that may be due to in the US, approval ratings are measured and publicised about most politicians. Is that correct?  It happens here only about the leaders.  I am certain there would be uproar in the US if this type of law was going to be introduced, but for some reason, us Europeans (with the exception of the French) seem just to accept most things. Pathetic really!

Gary France said...

Richard - I believe the M stands for "Masturbating".  The train under the sea is excellent, well organised, runs frequently and cheap. For £28 (about $42 US) I can take myself and a bike to France and then onto anywhere in mainland Europe. The train takes only about 30 minutes.  There are no seats or drinks etc on sale - you just sit in your car or stand near your bike. Of course, being bikers, everyone just talks to everyone else, so being on the train is just like a bikers social gathering!

Gary France said...

Bob - I would normally have stopped somewhere on the ride to the coast to get something to eat, but it was so foggy and dark, I couldn't see what places we're open.  I was also having to ride so slowly due to the fog, that I didn't have time anyway. I grabbed something in France when stopping for fuel.  You may be right that it is quicker to get to France by train than cross the US / Canada border.  You must check in for your train 30 mins before it leaves and the journey takes 30 mins, so you can be riding in France in just 60 minutes later if you time it right.  I think oiling a chain wouldn't be included in the proposed law, nor checking tire pressures, but changing a tire yourself might be!  I have heard that the proposed laws may be considerably watered down now, but who knows?

Gary France said...

Sonja - I am sure that you are right about this being proposed by non-bikers. Clearly these idiots don't understand the culture amongst bikers that improving, modifying, customising and working on your bike yourself is important to a lot of bikers. They probably go to work on a train!  You obviously have good eyes, as that was the Leading Ladies where you said. I didn't think anyone would notice that!

Gary France said...

Geoff - You raise a very good question - why are they thinking of bringing in these laws?  The simple answer is I don' know for sure, but people have been speculating.  Most I have talked to believe these anti-tampering (it has even got a crap name) measures were initially designed to prevent performance enhancing modifications such as race-cans and nitros.  This then presumably got expanded to include a potential ban on anything related to the drivetrain, from throttle to engine, gearbox, chain, wheels and even tyres.  Then it was mentioned that all bikes would have to included an on-board diagnostics system that indicates by a light that any after-market part had been fitted to your bike, and this was only capable of being turned off by a dealer!  This effectively would mean the end of people working on their bikes at home and fitting any non-standard parts. Even adding an after-market top box would have been against the law!

These proposals are still at the draft stage, so rumours and assumptions abound, but those drafting the proposed law have to consult with industry groups such as MAG and the BMF, so word does get out.  Not surprisingly, the dealers are keeping very quiet about all of this!

So, while none of this is yet set in stone, who knows which way it will go.

Compulsory wearing of hi-vis jackets is also being considered by the UK government!

Nikos said...

The Germans have a long established system of approval and permitting of modifications (ABE etc) but this has not driven this latest nonsense as far as I can see. In fact it would make that system redundant?

Gary France said...

Nikos - It is a small world, as you were right there with us!  I totally agree with you, those politicians have many really important issues to solve and they shouldn't be wasting their time with crap like this.

Gary France said...

Nikos - I personally don't know too much about the German system, but I have heard of it. I imagine that you are right, if this new legislation does go through, it is likely to be in conflict with existing laws within individual countries.

Gary France said...

No Name – That is a very good question and one that I don’t know how to answer. It could be that in Europe, the population of each country looks mainly at its own laws and concentrates mainly on its own national issues, while the mainly faceless European Parliament goes about its business un-noticed. It is only after some publicity has been given to a Europe-wide issue that individual nations then have to try to do something about it. Geoff quoted a good example, in that a few years ago the Eurocrats decided it would be a good idea if bananas and cucumbers were straight, to make packing and standardisation easier. Of course, this was stupid and the dissenting voices from each individual country were very loud indeed.

As our American cousins, you are much better at making your voices heard, so well done to you! Maybe I should move to America......

Geoff James said...

Thanks Gary!
The confusion surrounding this issue just goes to show what a nonsense it is! If the Eurocrats came out and said "Motorcycle modifications cause unnecessary deaths or pollute the atmosphere" or something, then you'd know how to fight it. This very confusion as to root cause suggests poorly thought out reasoning.

What next - cars? Bicycles? Talk about a nanny state!

Canajun said...

My first thought was about the banana and vegetable regulations (cube tomatoes?) those same idiots in Brussels tried to pass a few years ago. What is it about people in power that makes them think we need any of their nonsense? It's like an infant throwing a tantrum just to make noise.

Anyway, good on you and your mates for making that run. Every voice helps.

Charlie6 said...

These actions of politicians that you and your fellow motorcycle riders protest are a shining example of government thinking "they know what's best" and for you all to just accept it.

I am a firm believer in less government is better....so I hope your protest brings about the expected results.

What a bunch of B.S.

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Gary France said...

Geoff – You say what next? We already know what is likely to be heading our way and I will do a separate post about this soon. The governments of Ireland and France have both stated that they are going to introduce laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear hi-vis jackets. Full sleeve, all the time! No doubt the insurance companies will refuse to pay out if you are not wearing one and get into a accident.

Imagine any government insisting what colour clothes any one group of people should wear! Yet, that is exactly what the Irish have said they will do from 2014. I don’t know the planned date for the French.

No doubt, this will then sweep across the rest of Europe and it is likely all other countries will introduce it as well.

Cyclists are not even required to wear helmets, they are allowed to ride through red traffic lights and have crap lights on their bikes (if any) and of course , they have no insurance. Kids walking to school in the dark are not even required to wear hi-vis! Car drivers are allowed to drive dark coloured cars on sidelights! However, these idiots pick on motorcyclists and want us to dress like dayglow clowns! No doubt, these hi-vis does make biking slightly safer, but what ever happened to freedom of choice??

Financially, Europe is in total crisis and these wankers are wasting their time looking at this bollocks!

Gary France said...

Canajun – Bananas? It is the friggin’ politicians that are bananas! Those proposals trying to control the shape of fruit and vegetables were as stupid as the people who tried to introduce them. What really gets me going is WE PAY TAXES for these morons. We need less government interference, not more!

Charlie6 – I totally agree. We have to stand up and fight petty government intervention when it is not needed or wanted. Last week I even joined MAG (Motorcycle Action Group) in an attempt to fight the possible introduction of this stupidity!

BeemerGirl said...

Wow! Oilburner and I are the same way about public protests. When I began telling him of your blog the first thing out of his mouth was that he would definitely be there too. Good on you for going. This issue seems a tad extreme. Why are they focusing on motorbikes? Do this for motorbikes should also do for cars and bicycles and such as well.

Gary France said...

BeemerGirl – I really don’t know why they are focusing on motorbikes. Maybe one of them has an issue with bikes in particular and decided to pick on them? It is extreme and that is why something has to be done about it. I would have welcomed you both to ride alongside me in the demo!