Ride against road pricing

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MCN is calling on you to help challenge plans for road pricing for motorcycles by joining us in a mass ride-out in London in October.

Together with riders’ rights group Rider Connect, we’re planning to gather thousands of motorcyclists at Wembley Stadium on October 20 for a ride through the capital to drive home our message to Government that bikes are non-congesting and should not have to pay congestion charges.

Our Ride for Rights aims to celebrate motorcycling and challenge moves which could see us all facing national pay-as-you-go-style charges to use the roads. 

We revealed last week that Cambridgeshire had become the latest region to draw up plans for road pricing with no exemption for motorcycles and that four other councils were considering the move. Cambridgeshire County Council draft plans are to to charge us between £3 and £5 a day to enter a congestion charge zone “primarily” in the Cambridge area. It says the precise boundaries have yet to be set.

Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset have said they are considering making us pay congestion charges, with details of schemes to be announced shortly.

The news is the latest warning sign that 10 regions given funding by Government to develop road pricing plans aimed at cutting congestion could all end up charging motorcycles. It’s also a warning that motorcycles could be included in any future pay-as-you-go-style national road pricing scheme, according to the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI). Craig Carey-Clinch, policy director for the MCI, said: “I think we all know the underlying motive here is to pilot schemes that could be used nationally. It’s all part of the softening up process.”

Manchester has already outlined a scheme with no exclusion for motorcycles. When those plans were announced in May, the city’s transport authority said cars would be charged £5 a day to enter a congestion zone and that motorcycles would get a discount but not exemption. Since then the authority has wavered and said it hasn’t decided whether to charge us after receiving many objections from riders. Last week a spokesman said motorcycles were “not excluded” at this stage.

Each of the 10 regions to receive Government funding is expected to submit its plans to the Department for Transport (DfT) in a bid for additional funding to implement the schemes. The first schemes are expected to be up and running by 2012.
While some of the regions are single towns or counties, others incorporate several counties. It means we could have to pay not just to enter cities across the country but also small towns and even routes between towns. 

A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire County Council said: “Our business model does include charging motorcycles.” She added: “They’re included at this stage because all motor vehicles are included and they are a motor vehicle.” 
She said motorcyclists would have the opportunity to voice their objections, along with other road users, during a public consultation beginning in the middle of October.

Councillor Shona Johnstone, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “We have not given any consideration at this stage to any form of exemptions.”

A spokesman for Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset councils, which make up a single region, said: “An outline bid will be made to the DfT at the end of September and then a more detailed business case will be submitted at the end of December. It is this business case which is likely to focus on the specific charges for vehicles, including motorbikes, if appropriate.”

Other regions drawing up plans with Government funding are Durham, Tyne and Wear, the West Midlands (including Sandwell, Birmingham, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall and Solihull), Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicester, Reading and Norwich. MCN called each one and none would rule out charges for motorcycles.

A spokesman for Durham said: “We’re considering all vehicles.”

Of the 10 regions to receive Government funding, only Shropshire has indicated it intends to exempt us. Proposals drawn up so far for the town of Shrewsbury say: “All motorised vehicles with four or more wheels will be charged the same amount, regardless of size. Motorised vehicles with two or three wheels may not be charged. Non-motorised and small personal electric vehicles such as scooters also may not be charged.”

Provisions for road pricing schemes are set out in the Draft Local Transport Bill. Rider Connect is calling for an amendment to be made to the Bill setting out exemption for motorcycles. 

Richard Olliffe, Rider Connect’s campaign manager, said: “Ten thousand bikers going past 10 Downing Street is a big wake-up call to any politician. Numbers count and we need people to turn up and be counted. Otherwise we could be charged.”

Join us on October 20 to drive home to Government the messages that motorcycles are non-congesting and should therefore not have to pay congestion charges. We’ll be setting off at
1pm for a ride through the city centre and back again, passing through Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square (see the full route below).

A charge of £5 per rider will be split between charity and organisation costs – £2 will be split between Riders for Health and UK Air Ambulance charities and the other £3 will pay costs such as venue hire and marshalling. MCN makes no money from the sale of tickets. 
Tickets will be on sale via our website from September 12.

Get MCN today, August 29, to see why shadow transport minister Stephen Hammond thinks we should be worried about road pricing for bikes.

Ride for Rights – the route

Wembley Stadium Green Car Park (start)
South Way
Great Central Way
North Circular Road
Hanger Lane gyratory
Western Avenue/Westway
Edgware Road
Marble Arch
Park Lane
Hyde Park Corner
Piccadilly Circus
Trafalgar Square
Parliament Square
Bessborough Gardens
Belgrave Road
Eccleston Street
Belgrave Place
Belgrave Square
Grosvenor Crescent
Hyde Park Corner
Park Lane
Cumberland Gate
Edgware Road
Western Avenue/Westway
Hanger Lane gyratory
North Circular Road
Drury Way
Great Central Way
South Way

Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell