01 March 2022

MCIA puts case for protecting leisure riding against one-size-fits-all net zero strategy

Journey to a brighter destinationThe Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) has launched a robust defence of leisure motorcycling and called for a more nuanced governmental approach to its Net Zero transport strategy.

In a comprehensive new report, Journey to a Brighter Destination, the MCIA details the substantial environmental, economic and social benefits that biking offers.

It in particular points to the need to protect and promote the use of higher powered motorcycles which dominate leisure riding.

These machines are much less likely to be electrically driven than lower powered  bikes, scooters and other Powered Light Vehicles (PLVs).

Joy stick

Petrol-powered bikes also offer a visceral appeal which is intrinsically linked to the joy of leisure riding.

The feel and sound of the motor, coupled with the satisfying slip of the clutch when working through the gears, is central to the experience.

The MCIA notes that under the government’s decarbonisation plans, riders of such bikes face being penalised.

Yamaha MT10 2016 modelExhaustive argument

That’s because current strategy is focused simply on securing net zero emissions at the tailpipe.

This is despite the government’s own data shows showing that motorcycling as a whole contributes just 0.4% of UK transport greenhouse gas emissions.

As such, new bikes face the same 2030 deadline for the ditching of petrol engines as cars, vans and trucks.

Launching the report, the MCIA’s CEO, Tony Campbell, said:

“The future can and will be bright for our sector, but if, and only if, the Government ensures the right level of support is in place, starting from now, both in terms of financial consumer incentives but also the time and investment needed for us to adapt to new powertrains, electrical or otherwise,” states the document.

“The decarbonisation agenda is here to stay and rightly so. However, unlike other modes of transport, we face significant challenges when it comes to higher powered leisure motorcycles and their becoming zero emission at the tailpipe.

“Accepting net zero is the goal, there can and must be a transitional role to play for ICE engines as we look to head towards that end point. We accept not every vehicle is appropriate for every type of journey which is why MCIA has always been a strong advocate of the right vehicle for the right journey approach and extends to a right policy/regulation/subsidy for the right vehicle approach too.”

KTM bikesLife stories

Backed by riders’ advocates the Motorcycle Action Group, biking sports body, the Auto Cycle Union and the charity Mental Health Motorbike, the new report puts forward a holistic case in support of leisure riding.

So rather than simply looking at what comes out of bikes’ pipes, it examines the wider environmental picture.

It cites its own whole life cycle analysis data which shows that a 950cc petrol motorcycle creates roughly half the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions of a two litre petrol car.

Pertinently, given the direction of travel policy, that bike, from its manufacture to disposal, will create less than four-fifths of those generated by a medium-powered electric car over its lifetime.

The MCIA also notes that leisure riders chew up less tarmac than other road users and that fewer miles means less environmental impact

The fact that leisure riders don’t spin the odometer quite so much is, incidentally, one reason why many of our policies offer limited mileage motorbike insurance.


Happy helmet heads

But emissions are only part of the story.

Journey to a Brighter Destination embraces much wider benefits afforded by getting out and about on a bike.

courier news insuranceMental health is a biggie.

According to MCIA-cited research conducted by the Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behaviour, those riding on two wheels are less stressed and more fulfilled than those driving on four.

This is backed up by Australian research which found that 82% of motorcyclists said riding made them happy and that over half cited riding’s positive mental health effects as being key to their choice to ride.

There are other arguments in favour of mental wellbeing.

Because it demands greater concentration, motorcycling has been found to improve cognitive functions such as memory and spatial reasoning. It can even help prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Obstacle course

Whilst making a compelling case for giving higher powered motorcycles special status within the UK’s transport decarbonisation strategy and promoting the virtues of leisure riding, the MCIA also highlights obstacles in the road.

CBTIt rightly points out that the “current training and testing regime is unnecessarily onerous”.

It “encourages perpetual learners”, with young riders discouraged from taking their full test until they hit 24.

It is certainly hard to imagine drivers accepting the idea they should take two practical tests, as bikers must if they want to ride something with a bit of poke.

The MCIA recommends streamlining the process by merging the two module Direct Access to A/A2 tests into one.

This would be easier, cheaper – not least for the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) – more convenient and fairer.

Make advances

In addition the association argues that post-test training would help riders maintain their skills.

It’s a good point. If you disagree, have a think about why so many of our insurer partners offer discounts to those holding advanced riding qualifications.

Commendably the MCIA has done more than just point out the desirability of riders enhancing their skills.

It is creating “The Elite Skills Hub”, an online portal which will signpost riders to training schemes, offer advice and allow them to book a course.

As well as assisting riders, it argues, again, for more to be done to educate drivers.

As a motorcycle insurance specialist, we can tell you that so many bike accident claims could be avoided if, for example, drivers properly checked their mirrors before executing a right hand turn.

Current thinking

Returning to environmental issues, it’s fair to say that bikers haven’t been incentivised to embrace electric in the same way as motorists.

The charging infrastructure, such as it is, is largely car centric.

The grants offered to transition from petrol to electric bike are proportionately less generous than those given to drivers.

Add to that, for reasons we touched on in our blog on the MCIA’s PLV Action Plan, the ticket prices of electric motorcycles remain relatively high.

This makes it more difficult for riders to switch to the latest generation of higher powered machines, such as Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire and Zero’s bigger capacity machines.

These are great, exciting bikes; we need get people on them.


A bright biking future

As the MCIA report says:

“The future can and will be bright for our sector [motorcycling, but if, and only if, the Government ensures the right level of support is in place, starting from now, both in terms of financial consumer incentives but also the time and investment needed for us to adapt to new powertrains, electrical or otherwise.”

It does not make sense to insist that  higher powered, petrol-engined bikes be subject to the same time-frame and narrowly focused net zero tailpipe emission obligations of more polluting vehicles.

Given their minimal environmental footprint and the wider health, social and economic benefits of leisure biking, they deserve to be treated differently – better! – under our transport decarbonisation strategy.

Leisure motorbike insurance? Click or call our specialist two-wheel team on 0330 024 0087








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