BMF NEWS ROUND UP – May 2023
The monthly news round-up, brought to you by the BMF
Meetings and issues addressed by the BMF in May:
*BMF/NMC Meet the Minister: Anna Zee (BMF) and Craig Carey-Clinch (NMC) plus representatives of the TRF and IAM RoadSmart met Transport Minister Richard Holden on 23rd May. Mr Holden was quick to acknowledge that he knew little about motorcycling issues and expressed a willingness to consider how motorcycling could fit within transport policies. He agreed that further work on rider licensing, safety and accepted that the practice of overlooking or ignoring motorcycling in various policy initiatives deserves reconsideration.
*National Highways Motorcycle Working Group: This group has restarted work. Previous work by a subgroup resulted in improvements to the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), taking better account of motorcyclists’ needs. One topic which now needs addressing is the IHE (Institute of Highway Engineers) guidelines, which need to be updated. Also the Manual for Streets, another authoritative publication in road safety circles.
*Road Safety Education Forum: A group in the DfT is working on guidance about road safety interventions, what works and what doesn’t. The Road Safety Framework is awaiting approval from ministers – this could be published before the summer parliamentary recess.
In other news:
Bad news from Brighton, where it’s been confirmed that motorcycles will not be taking part in the Brighton Speed Trials this year. The VMCC’s Sprint Section, which organises the bike entry, blames the current road layout of Madeira Drive as, “not conducive for two- or three-wheeled motorsport without additional safety features being installed.” Better news from the fabled hill climb venue of Shelsey Walsh, which is holding a bike-only event on 1st July 2023 – the £100 entry fee for solos includes insurance and a day’s ACU membership.
Have you ever felt threatened by a big HGV? Longer artics were permitted on UK roads from 31st May – the weight limit is unchanged at 44 tonnes but the total length of LSTs (Long Semi-Trailers) can now be up to 18.55m. The DfT says an 11-year pilot study revealed fewer injury collisions than standard-length HGVs, but safety campaigners aren’t impressed. Still on safety, Australian researchers have developed a new blood test for tiredness – five biomarkers pinpoint how long someone has been awake and how fatigued they are.
Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki are getting together to research the use of hydrogen as a direct alternative fuel for petrol engines. The Hydrogen Small mobility & Engine technology group (HySE) will look into all practical aspects, to see whether hydrogen can work as a realistic alternative fuel for motorcycles while cars decarbonise through electrification. From new technology to a possible revival – Chinese manufacturer CF Moto has patented an updated design for girder forks, standard issue on bikes of the 1920s and ‘30s. Because a girder fork separates the steering and braking forces, its spring/damper can be relatively soft without suffering from dive under heavy braking.
Some would argue that what motorcycling really needs – more than a whole raft of high tech – is more young people getting involved, both as riders and in the bike trade. Triumph has announced new initiatives to attract younger people into the motorcycle industry, countering fears that the industry has an ageing workforce as well as customer base. The Triumph Design Awards will give students an opportunity for students to showcase their ideas, alongside the company’s existing three-year apprenticeships.
Meanwhile, Royal Enfield is in the money, with parent company Eicher investing $121 million (over £97 million) in new models, both ICE and electric. The first of those new bikes is likely to be the Bear, a scrambler version of the 650cc Interceptor twin, with a bobber to follow. On the electric front, RE has taken a 10% stake in Spanish dirt bike manufacturer Stark, for access to its battery-electric knowhow.
Electric bikes are coming but in the meantime petrol prices are falling, according to the RAC, with the average price per litre down to £1.45 on the forecourt. It now costs £21.75 to fill the typical 15-litre motorcycle tank – it peaked at £28.65 in July 2022, thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And finally, we’ve all heard of overland riders whose 12-month trip across the world extends to several years, but how about being on the road for 34 years? Oz couple Sam and Stew Saunders started out on their BMW R100GS in 1989 and have been on the road ever since, covering 90,000 miles so far – they expect to arrive home in Australia in 2025.