MPs pledge to consider changes to motorcycle licencing legislation inline with MCIA recommendations

Politicians from both the Conservative and Labour parties have come out in support of a reform to the UK motorcycle licensing structure – stating it needs to be more accessible and affordable in order to help more people onto two wheels

Speaking early last week at the annual Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) conference at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull, figures from both parties said reform is essential for the future of the sector and could also offer environmental benefits as the nation moves towards net zero.

“I support your call for a full scale review of the L-category [motorcycles, scooters, three-wheelers, and quadricycles] licensing regime and I’m looking forward to helping you hold the Government to account on its action plan promises,” Transport Committee Chair, Iain Stewart MP (Conservative) told the audience via a pre-recorded video message.

“By emphasising the advantages in urban mobility, last-mile delivery efficiency, and the future of urban and suburban transport, you have transformed the conversation – making the sector more attractive and appealing for politicians to engage with.”

Learned rider on Kawasaki ER6 practises shoulder check

Readers agree

Stewart’s comments are supported by a recent MCN poll, which found that 94% of 328 readers surveyed online believe that the current motorcycle licensing structure was too complex.

That said, 40,249 riders passed a motorcycle test in 2023. Although 6.2% down on the previous year, 71% of new male riders were under the age of 40, with that figure at 64% for women – suggesting there is still an appetite for motorcycling amongst younger people and it is not just older riders on two wheels.

“We need to make this industry as accessible as possible, and far easier for current and future users to choose the right vehicle for the right journey,” added Labour’s Fabian Hamilton, who also sits on the Transport Committee, and rides a Honda CB1000R, Zero SR/F, and Triumph Street Triple.

Training school test bikes

“It’s needlessly far too complex and repetitive,” he added. “It’s a major barrier that’s preventing many road users from opting for an L-category vehicle.

“I know that the existing licensing regime for our sector has failed to improve safety. Casualties have stagnated over the last decade,” he continued. “The current regime indirectly encourages the Direct Access (DAS) route available for individuals over 24 years old – often with no prior experience.”

The MCIA’s calls for reform began in October 2023 with the ‘A Licence to Net Zero’ campaign, which is being supported by members of the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC), and Zemo Partnership (an independent non-profit, striving for cleaner transport solutions).

MCIA CEO Tony Campbell added that if Government are not able to untangle the testing system then barriers to helping more people get onto two wheels will be far more of a threat to biking than any phase-out of petrol powered machines.

Learner rider on Kawasaki KLX125 training

Progress report

To ensure that the voice of motorcyclists continues to be heard, the MCIA and Zemo Partnership have launched an Action Plan Scorecard, grading the current effectiveness of ministers in supporting the needs of the motorcycle industry.

Using traditional traffic light colours, with a green tick representing a positive commitment being made, amber dots in the middle, and a red cross marking no commitment, there are many areas still highlighted as in need of improvement.

These include licence reform, where there are red crosses for both commitment and delivery, with an amber signal for development of the idea. A green tick has, however, been awarded for industry progress.

Motorcycle licence training rider on 125 weaving around cones

Keep calm

As good as it is to see reforms on the agenda, exactly what this might look like for new riders is still unclear. Following the conference, MCN spoke further with Labour’s Fabian Hamilton, who confirmed that because he is not in Government, he does not know when this will be brought forward to be discussed in the House of Commons.

This could of course all change though, with a General Election looking likely later this year. However, this could also to put the discussion on the backburner.

“Elections create very short-term focus for parties and politicians,” MCIA Director of Public Affairs, Alfie Brierley told the conference. “I think their interests are very much going to be heavily focused on presenting positive and appealing images to voters during the campaign, rather than actually getting too bogged down in the potentially contentious and detailed processes of passing legislation.”

Motorcycle licence training emergency stop