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Honda MD Voices Ongoing Motorcycle Industry Concerns to Vic Government

In response to the Victorian Government's announcement that they will provide new bicycle path funding in the amount of $72 million, Managing Director of Honda Australia and FCAI Board Member, Stuart Strickland, has written a letter to Premier Steve Bracks to highlight the ongoing plight of the motorcycling industry within Victoria.

The main points of the letter are:

  • Motorcycling/scootering, and the ongoing development of fuel efficient technology, is a partial answer to the problems of rising fuel costs and inner city congestion, however the Government continues to overlook the advantages of motorised two-wheeled transport in favour of bicycles; in fact, the Government is still to concede that small low-powered scooters have a place in Victoria’s transport system.
  • Queensland, South and Western Australia continue to allow small low powered (50cc) scooters to be ridden in metropolitan areas by holders of a motor vehicle licence. Small scooters used in these states are defined within the Australian Design Rule (ADR) Vehicle Categories as “LA” category (MOPED), and are equipped with full lighting, indicators and braking systems – the same of which are found on full size motorcycles and scooters. Their braking performance, visibility and stability far exceed bicycle and electric two wheel products.
  • Industry discussion with the Victorian Government to date has included suggestions for the introduction of a number of specialised scooter training programs, however any and all suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.

The letter sent to the Premier...

19 May 2006

The Honourable Steve Bracks
Office of the Premier
1 Treasury Place Melbourne Australia 3000

Dear Premier,

Re: Proposed Bicycle Path Funding in the amount of $72 million announced 14 May 2006.

I am writing on behalf of Honda Australia as well as within my capacity as Board Member of the automotive industry peak body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) in which I represent the widespread motorcycle industry and their associated brands.

Whilst I applaud the initiative to support alternative forms of transportation in our vehicle congested City, I am dumbfounded as to why the Government continues to overlook the advantages of motorised two-wheeled transport in favour of bicycles.

Inner city congestion frustrates anyone who has to deal with it on a daily basis however not all commuters favour public transport and/or bicycling for various reasons. Further, personal mobility is an “Australian right” and a way of life, so why is the motorcycle/scooter industry continually treated as the ‘poor cousin’? This is particularly frustrating considering motorcyclist and scooter riders are legitimate, taxpaying road users.

Motorcycling, and the ongoing development of fuel efficient technology, is at least a partial answer to these problems. Relative to cars, motorcycles and scooters conserve fuel, act as an antidote to parking and traffic congestion and, in urban centres, can complete the commute in roughly half the time of cars. Moreover, at a nominal gross vehicle weight, motorcycles cause no road wear. Cars, on the other hand, consume fuel, congest traffic and require extensive infrastructure.

Honda – like many other manufacturers - has responded to these obvious advantages by developing a range of smaller motorcycles and scooters that are particularly fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.

I’ve been in the motorcycle/scooter industry for nearly forty years. In the early seventies we had Dick Hamer, the then Victorian Premier sitting on a small 50cc scooter and extolling its virtues as a great way to move around metropolitan Melbourne.

Here we are in 2006, experiencing record motor vehicle sales and with that unprecedented traffic congestion. Yet the Victorian government is still to concede that small low-powered scooters have a place in Victoria’s transport system.

“Safety” is continually mentioned by government bureaucrats as a negative aspect of low powered two wheelers, yet there has been no meaningful statistical data emerging to date to dispel this theory.

Queensland, South and Western Australia continue to allow small low powered (50cc) scooters to be ridden in metropolitan areas by holders of a motor vehicle licence. There are no indications from Victoria’s attitude towards transport policy continues to confuse manufacturers of low powered two wheelers. Bicycles enjoy the freedom of inner metropolitan roads and will obviously be further supported by this new funding. However bicycle initiatives have added further complexity and frustration to the daily commute of many motorists.

Further confusion occurs when our government allows electric “bike – scooters” to be used, sold and advertised as requiring ‘no licence, no registration required, up to 30km/hr unassisted’ (Sunday Herald Sun April 30, 2006).

Small scooters used in the states mentioned previously are defined within the Australian Design Rule (ADR) Vehicle Categories as “LA” category (MOPED), and as such are required to have an engine capacity not exceeding 50cc and a top speed of no more than 50km/hr which is now the maximum speed limit in most urban centres and residential areas.

As these mopeds fall under the scope of the ADR system, they are equipped with full lighting, indicators and braking systems – the same of which are found on full size motorcycles and scooters. Their braking performance, visibility and stability far exceed bicycle and electric two wheel products.

Industry discussion with Government to date has included suggestions for the introduction of specialised scooter training to support the safe use of scooters in the transportation system for those already holding a motor vehicle licence. This is currently not required in the other states mentioned.

Another suggestion has included introducing a full scooter training course to accommodate teenagers with the idea that 16 year olds would be allowed to gain a licence for this form of transport as a ‘precursor’ to gaining a full licence.

This plan has the further intent of giving youngsters the opportunity to gain road traffic skills in a low speed environment. It has also been suggested that scooters be given access to ‘bicycle only’ lanes.

So far discussions have fallen on ‘deaf ears’ despite the current environment being the most suitable for the introduction of this type of personal mobility with its associated $103 annual registration and average 50 km/ per litre fuel consumption.

I implore you to consider these issues with the appropriate bodies including the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, and representatives of the motorcycle industry in particular.

I look forward to establishing a dialogue with you to this effect in the future.

Sincerely,

Stuart Strickland Managing Director