Motorcycle Action Group
Category: Motorcycling Group
The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) is a “volunteer led riders’ rights organisation” that “campaigns to protect and promote motorcycling and the interests and rights of all riders”, according to its website.
MAG opposes emissions charges on older, more polluting motorcycles and has strongly criticised Clean Air Zones (CAZ) and London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). It argues that increasing motorcycle use will reduce congestion and air pollution by cutting the number of cars on the roads.
The group belongs to the Coalition of Motorcycling Organisations, whose members include the British Motorcyclists Federation. It also belongs to the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA), the “only European riders’ rights organisation with a permanent presence in Brussels”, according to MAG’s website.
The group works “directly with politicians and civil servants, but still employs other forms of direct action if necessary to ensure the rider’s voice is heard”. It describes its core principles as “freedom of choice and self-determination”, with the motto “education not legislation”.
In a 2014 blog post, Conservative MP and former Brexit Minister Steve Baker stated that 28 MPs were members of MAG. Former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik serves as the group’s Director of Communications & Public Affairs.
MAG was founded in 1973 to oppose compulsory helmet legislation and dedicates a page of its website to a man who campaigned against the law, making “exceptional sacrifices in the name of biker’s freedoms”. The group runs numerous events during the year and publishes a magazine called The Road.
According to its website, it is still “opposed to compulsion per se” but recognises the “political impropriety associated with total repeal”, while regarding the law in its current form as a “disgraceful and unsustainable anomaly in a supposedly free society”.
MAG is funded through “membership subscriptions, proceeds from MAG events and advertising in ‘The ROAD‘ magazine and donations”.
According to its 2018-19 annual report, the group had net assets of £239,579.
Air Pollution Lobbying
MAG has spoken of its “ambition to clean up the atmosphere in our towns and cities” and told DeSmog that it “fully supports effective policies to improve air quality”.
However, it also said it did not believe Clean Air Zones were the “best way to tackle the issue” and said encouraging single-occupancy car drivers to use motorcycles would be a “significant solution to poor air quality and carbon emissions”.
The group has also lobbied strongly against motorcycles being subject to charges under London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which it described in 2019 as a “punitive toxic tax”. It claimed the £12.50 charge for non-compliant motorcycles would increase the cost of a daily commute “by over 1,000%”.
When contacted by DeSmog, MAG claimed that “73% of all pre-Euro 3 motorcycles individually tested in London emit less than the required limit”, arguing that these motorcyclists were being unfairly subject to charges and had no access to financial support if they needed to test their own vehicles.
In a recently-deleted post on its website, the group claimed there was “no evidential basis to justify the charge for motorcycles” under the ULEZ and that motorcyclists were being “victimised” by a “draconian policy”.
MAG produced a video in 2018 criticising the ULEZ, introduced the following year. It argued that if motorcycles and scooters were “accepted as a legitimate transport mode” and a proportion of car drivers switched to using them, congestion would fall dramatically and there would be “no need” to impose emissions charges.
The group made the same argument on Clean Air Day in June of the same year, when it called on “all those who own motorbikes or scooters to ride to work on two wheels to help reduce pollution”. Elsewhere, it has argued that the “environmental and congestion benefits of bikes” are “massive”.
MAG’s Director of Campaigns & Political Engagement Colin Brown has called the inclusion of motorcycles in the ULEZ charging scheme a “tragic and embarrassing mistake which, unfortunately, seems to come simply from an inability to actually understand the evidence”. He has argued motorcycles reduce air pollution by “filtering past” traffic congestion and the reason they are not being promoted is “prejudice”.
A Transport for London spokesperson told DeSmog that while motorcycles produce a small amount of overall air pollution in the city because of how comparatively few motorcyclists there are, individual motorcycles can contribute significant amounts.
While the ULEZ was still in the planning stages in 2016, MAG said it had “raised major concerns about a ridiculous new ‘tax on biking’ in the county’s capital city”, claiming that it would be “counterproductive” because motorcycles produce less pollution than cars and no congestion.
MAG opposes the banning of new petrol-powered motorcycles, as the government plans to do for cars and vans. In a February 2020 article on its website, the group notes that its Director of Communications & Public Affairs Lembit Opik attended a talk by Professor Gautam Kalghatgi, an adviser to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the UK’s principal climate science denial group. During the talk, Kalghatgi argued that a proposed 2035 ban on the sale of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles was impossible.
Key Arguments in Order of Prominence
- Motorcyclists improve air quality by reducing congestion and the number of cars on the road
- London’s ULEZ is a draconian policy that would significantly increase the cost of commuting for motorcyclists
- Motorcycles are being subject to ULEZ charges despite not breaching emissions limits
- There is no evidence to justify charging non-compliant motorcycles
- There would be no need to introduce low emission zones if some drivers switched to using motorcycles
- Motorcycles cause a very small proportion of emissions
- The ULEZ is counterproductive because motorcyclists produce less pollution than cars
- Excluding motorcyclists from the Mayor of London’s vehicle scrappage scheme would be discriminatory
Bath: MAG encouraged its members to respond to a consultation on the city’s planned Clean Air Zone supporting the exemption of motorcycles from the scheme. The group celebrated the council’s proposal not to subject motorcycles to any charges, arguing that the “emissions footprint of this economical form of transport is, and always has been, far superior to that for even cleaner modern cars on a mile-for-mile basis”.
Birmingham: MAG successfully campaigned against the inclusion of motorcyclists under the city’s Clean Air Zone charging scheme.
A representative of the group said in response to the news: “Birmingham City Council has recognised and accepted our position that motorcycles are net reducers of harmful emissions and thus should be exempt from charges.” He described the decision as a “clear endorsement of the fact that motorcycles contribute to improving air quality”.
The group’s Chairman Selina Lavender said the move was a “result of much hard work by MAG’s political unit and the support of MAG members and supporters”.
Ipswich: MAG submitted a response to the council’s Air Quality Action Plan and were invited to meet with Ipswich Borough Council “to discuss the benefits of motorcycling in improving air quality”.
London: MAG’s Director of Campaigns & Political Engagement Colin Brown has called the inclusion of motorcycles in the ULEZ charging scheme a “tragic and embarrassing mistake which, unfortunately, seems to come simply from an inability to actually understand the evidence”.
Wales: MAG submitted a response to a consultation on the country’s Clean Air Plan.
MAG published a report entitled Powered Two Wheelers: An Air Quality Solution arguing that air pollution could be reduced by encouraging people to switch from using cars and vans to motorcycles. It also highlighted the small proportion of emissions caused by motorcycles.