According to the Motorcycle Industry Association, 2016 saw sales of motorcycles and scooters showing positive signs of an increase, with overall sales up by 11.7% over the previous year. This runs counter to fears that the industry was facing an inexorable decline as the number of new riders had seemed to be dwindling over previous years.
Steve Kenward, CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association, identifies two distinct factors shaping this trend: “With rail fare hikes, public transport strikes and increasing congestion on our roads, many people are turning to motorcycles and scooters as a more affordable and efficient form of commuter transport, which is reflected in the type of bikes which are selling well.” Meanwhile, “The leisure market is strong too, with sales of bikes popular for trail and adventure riding also performing particularly well throughout the year.”
This is encouraging, but there’s still some way to go towards improving the perception of motorcycling in the UK.
Visit any city in continental Europe and you’re immediately struck by how many more motorcycles and scooters there are on the roads, and how their riders broadly span the social spectrum too.
Meanwhile, in the UK, motorcycling continues to be perceived by many as a marginal, high-risk activity, and bikers as part of some kind of outlaw culture.
In part, I think this attitude derives from an overemphasis upon motorcycling’s perceived risks. That, in turn, continues to shape public policy in a direction that has tended to place barriers in the path of a more positive uptake of motorcycles as a viable transport option.
Of course, motorcycles aren’t always practical in every situation. Even the most committed biker would have to admit that there are many occasions when you need to use a car, such as moving large or bulky objects, or transporting children, animals, or multiple passengers. And we can’t forget the UK’s consistently dismal weather. Much as we often criticise those trapped in their ‘steel cages’, the fact is there are plenty of occasions when cars are simply a necessity.
It’s clear that continued training and rider development has an important role in reducing accidents and road casualties and, by extension, in improving public perception of motorcycling’s associated risks. In that respect the advanced riding community are playing their part in shaping a social and cultural shift that may eventually benefit the whole of society, helping to make our cities move more freely and making them more pleasant places to live in. That’s certainly a vision worth promoting.
University of Leuven congestion study
NPCC & Highways Agency Transport Policy Framework
MCIA press release – motorcycle sales improve in 2016