Green Meanie ~ or ~ The Green Party pick on motorcyclists

I’ve been a quiet supporter of The Green Party for some time. I understand that us Humans are raping our own planet and that disturbs me. No matter what argument and counter argument you hear about climate change the fact is it is happening and we, the human race, are contributing massively even if we’re not entirely to blame.

It therefore came as a bit of a shock when I heard about this policy from The Green Party:

Motorcycles

TR320 Smaller, low powered motorcycles are generally preferable to cars (especially those with a single occupant) as they take up less road space and are more economic consumers of fuel. However, the Green Party does not wish to see increased use of motorcycles because they emit pollution and noise and can endanger road users. The aim is to encourage much less use of high powered machines and for low powered machines to offer an alternative for those who currently use these or cars and could not transfer to more sustainable modes.

TR321 The Green Party would take measures to encourage a transfer of motor cycle manufacture and use from larger, powerful machines to less powerful ones including scooters and mopeds. These would include setting and enforcing strict noise limits and, for higher powered machines, speed limiters.

TR322 For the safety of other users, the Green Party does not feel it appropriate for motorcyclists to be able to use any priority measures put in for pedestrians and cyclists, including those shared with public transport.

Hmm. My first thought was disbelief. How could a party that is progressive and forward thinking come up with a policy that attacks a natural ally. My second thought was anger as I took to social media to vent my frustration.

2015 04 23 FB Clip

 

After a few comments back and forth from friends I calmed down a bit. I took a step back and decided to look at the bigger picture. In a way much of it makes sense (not all of it) but the way it comes across is an attack on motorcyclists. It’s almost as though the bicycle brigade are having a pop at their combustion-engined brethren. I decided the only way I could get to the bottom of it was to write to the Green Party and find out why, in the grand scheme of things, they feel this policy is so important.

Here’s what I had to say:

On 1 April 2015 at 19:31, Dazzle Rebel  wrote:

Dear Anotonia,

I would like to understand the thoughts behind the Green Party’s policy on restricting high-powered motorcycles and removing all motorcycles from bus lanes. I am a motorcyclist and up until now was considering voting Green at the upcoming election. However this policy appears to be weighted towards appeasing cyclists and the anti-motorcycle brigade rather than having any real ‘green’ agenda.
I accept that high-powered motorcycles emit pollution but many of the ‘green’ electric motorcycles perform nearly as well as combustion engined counterparts and may even exceed their performance within the next decade. Should these machines also be legislated off the road? Why not simply bring in emissions restrictions instead? Motorcycles make up less than 1% of all road traffic and high-powered sports bikes account for less than 20% of all motorcycles. Surely there are much bigger producers of hazardous emission that need to be taken care of first?
The statement that motorcycles can endanger road users is not just a sweeping generalisation but weighted in completely the wrong direction. Look at accident statistics of accidents the involve motorcycles. Most motorcycle accidents in rural areas involve no other vehicle. A lack of training? Perhaps but not a major cause for third-party concern when the motorcyclist is the only one injured. Could more be done to encourage safer rural riding? Absolutely.
In contrast motorcycle accidents in urban areas will often involve another vehicle and that vehicle will usually be with a four-wheeled vehicle whose driver hasn’t seen the motorcyclist. Suddenly it seems that other traffic endangers motorcyclists rather than the other way around. Is more training on par with that a potential motorcyclist is required to take needed for car drivers? Quite possibly. Should more be done to reduce the distractions modern drivers are encountered with (mobile phones being a major issue)? Without a doubt. Most people forget that driving is a skill, not a right.
I am struggling to understand why the Green Party has taken such an aggressive stance towards motorcyclists such as myself. From a ‘green’ perspective that doesn’t make any sense as motorcyclists are a natural ally to the Green Party. We help reduce congestion and as congestion equals idling combustion engines we are a greener alternative to driving a four-wheeled diesel guzzler into the city.
I accept that you would prefer people to move onto smaller bikes such as mopeds but these are simply not practical for people who commute on a variety of roads including high-speed motorways. By all means encourage car drivers onto mopeds and smaller capacity bikes but don’t attack people who need a larger machine to commute.
I am struggling to understand who thought up this policy. So anti-motorcycle is the agenda that I wonder if this is someone who has been wronged by one or two idiots who just happened to ride a motorbike? Please help me understand why the Green Party has voted this policy in because it is seriously causing me to rethink my vote this May.
Kind regards,
Dazzle Rebel

I think I managed to  fire off a pretty compelling argument in that letter and it seems Antonia thought so too. Here’s the reply I received:

Good Afternoon Darren,

Thank-you for your email. I understand why you feel motorcyclists could be unjustly treated by some of our policies and hope to answer your questions as best I can. I also hope to be able to reassure you on a couple of the points you raise. Apologies if my reply is slightly epic and covers information you already have, I try to be thorough.

While I believe 100% in Green Party prioritising improving public transport over more road-building, I do feel some of our other transport policies need updating. I admit straight away we do need to be more careful about blinkered generalisations.  As you point out, any generalised statement about motorcyclists affecting the safety of other road users overlooks the evidence that motorcycle accidents in urban areas mostly involve a four-wheeled vehicle whose driver hasn’t seen the motorcyclist. Your point that most people forget that driving is a skill, not a right, is however strongly part of our policies, with increased training, more regular tests for car users and harsher penalties for causing a crash, drink driving etc. I think we’re far harder on car use than motorcycle use.

I realise that for many motorcyclists, it is not only a way of getting from A to B, but a way of life. I agree with you that emissions restrictions are a core concern. Greens pledge 1% of GDP on science and engineering with one priority area being advances to counter climate change. It is my hope that steady, progressive aims of decreasing high emissions cars and bikes will work alongside advances in fuel and vehicle technology so we can protect both climate and ways of life.

Greens know motorcyling causes less congestion, stating in our transport policy “smaller, low powered motorcycles are generally preferable to cars (especially those with a single occupant) as they take up less road space and are more economic consumers of fuel.” This definition is limited and balanced in favour of mopeds, which should be open to review. We also recognise that electrically powered transport, and hydrogen or other secondary fuels, if the electricity generation available is sustainable, are a ‘greener’ option and that electric vehicles are also pollution free at the point of use. I believe electric motorcycles reaching and exceeding the performance of combustion-engine counterparts should be welcomed alongside mopeds and scooters. I would like our policy to be updated to encourage such advances.
To answer your question regarding our thoughts as a party, all our many policies are made and voted for by our members at conference. These are added to and amended over the years. This makes us more democratic and honest than most parties who create policies at the ‘top’. It also means there is a filtering process as we later decide, democratically, on the most practical, useful and fair policies ready to bring forward to each election manifesto. For accountability, we publish every policy we’ve made as long-term objectives online, updating this as we make amendments. This gives everyone a voice in suggesting changes because nothing is hidden, so we don’t only show policies we think are ready to use as they are now, without alteration. To the best of my knowledge the policies you raise concerns about have not made it into our 2015 election manifesto but remain part of a vision of the future that remain subject to change via members suggestions and votes.
Our GE2015 transport priorities focus on public transport by shifting some of the millions currently ring-fenced for road building, beyond road maintenance, and by reversing privatisation so people no longer get half the service for twice the cost with resources siphoned away in profits for multinationals. In some places in Europe, more people use public transport because it is decent, affordable and well-run. Here it is not really an option for most people. It will never be everyone’s choice, but it’s our priority to make sure it is fit for purpose and a real option for many. This focus has my full backing.

Our long-term transport aims are more challenging, written with an understanding that as global population grows and climate change continues to be an ever increasing threat, our answer must include alternatives to more and more roads with more vehicles. We ultimately need to decrease reliance on cars and to a lesser extent on motorbikes. These are long-term aims based on current projections on climate alteration, peak oil and global land capacity. I personally feel it is important that Green policies manage this as much as possible by increasing choice, not by limiting it. It is hoped by many of us, including myself, that scientific and engineering break-throughs, women’s empowerment, renewables and broader action to challenge climate chaos will help create more favourable predictions for climate and resource availability so we will all have more freedom of choice. More transport options should allow freedom in how we travel. We are uncomfortably aware, however, that a weighted reliance on road travel is currently not helping.  I am happy our policy encourages more car drivers to try forms of motorised bikes instead. Though, as mentioned, our policies have not acknowledged all recent advances in ‘green’ motorcycling engineering.

So, there you go, it’s a bit of an essay but I’ve done my best to explain our policy and policy-making, defend some aspects and admit obvious room for improvement in others. It may not be the answer you would want but it is the one I can give. If public transport improvements, new technologies and gradual legislation work hand in hand, we may find more motorbikes instead of cars on the road. I hope we won’t alienate motorcyclists because I agree, you can be part of a way forward. There is an acknowledgement within existing policies, albeit currently a grudging one, that motorcycling is more sustainable than car driving and that electric motorcycling is part of the way forward. This part of our transport policy is arguably slightly biased towards motorcyclists, if only in relation to car drivers.

I believe a Green vote is a good vote because we are the only parliamentary party standing against privatisation of NHS, Education, Energy etc. We are the only ones with a presence in Westminster standing against the insane, unjust austerity agenda and for closing tax loopholes for a fairer and more sustainable future. We are also the only ones taking climate chaos seriously.

Whoever you vote for, I wish you the best.

Antonia

I’ll be honest I’ve written to political parties, MP’s and parliamentary candidates before and it’s been a less than 50/50 chance I received a reply. I wasn’t expecting anything back this time so the fact I actually received a reply counts for something. The fact that it’s not just a generic response counts for more. However what really impressed me is that the reply I received clearly states that mistakes had been made and that a review is needed. I am particularly happy that I pretty much get an admission that bikes are not a danger to other road users.

There is a Green Candidate in my consituency and I am happy to report that, based on the satisfactory response to my email, I will be voting Green in this General Election.

Daz

Ecotricity Do A Ratner ~ or ~ How to make political friends and alienate your customers

Dale Vince is someone I very much want to like. He is a former New Age Traveller and a vegan, just the type of person who seems to have a good old story to tell. He is also an industrialist, founding Ecotricity, his renewable energy company. I like renewable energy, it’s nice and fluffy and helps reduce my carbon emissions meaning I can ride my motorcycles more. What’s more he has similar haircut to mine and is worried about the sustainability of life – like me. Yes he is someone I very much want to like.

So why do I find myself thinking that actually, this guy is a bit of a dick? Well I’ll come to that in a moment but first let me give you a bit of background on Dale’s company, Ecotricity. As a company that trades under the Green Energy banner it entices altruistic customers who don’t mind paying a premium for their energy requirements under the stipulation that the company invests in renewable energy with the profits. Sounds nice and fair doesn’t it? Well it hooked me and many others too, 155,398 people at the time of writing. The thought that I’m paying over the odds for my energy is easily reconciled as I am helping to invest in a greener future for us all. So far so good.

So Ecotricity = plucky, progressive, sustainability loving company that likes to challenge the status quo? Well I thought so right up until I learned that Dale donated £250,000 of Ecotricity’s cash to the Labour Party. You could say that this made me a little bit pissed off but that would be an understatement. Livid is closer but add a good dose of bemusement and you’ll be right on the money as to how I’m feeling right now. A Green Energy company donating a quarter of a million pounds to the Labour Party. It doesn’t quite compute and it seems that I’m not the only one who has taken offense to this move.

Within hours of making the announcement Ecotricity’s Facebook page was awash with comments from disgruntled customers just as confused, pissed off and bewildered as me. Of course the Labour faithful had also gotten a hold of the story too so there was the odd po-faced detrimental comment from them about the Green Party and the term “Vote Green Go Blue” was branded about without much thought. Though aside from the vitriol there were objective comments from both sides.

It might be true to say that a Tory/UKIP coalition government would be the worst result to come out of the election. This is the reason Dale Vince has given for his actions but there’s no strong evidence that a Labour/UKIP coalition is off the cards either. Which would really be the lesser of two evils? In the wake of an overwhelming UKIP result and a lackluster Lib Dem and Green turn out would Labour really choose not to seek a coalition with the purple party? Regardless of tactical voting how about the very issue that money that we the customers believed was to be invested in renewable energy was now lacing Miliband’s war chest?

Would I be as pissed off if they had donated the money to the Green Party? Probably not but issue remains, as a customer I did not expect my Green Energy company to be making its bed with a Labour government that refuses to condemn the practice of fracking. I expected this money to be invested in renewable energy. A quarter of a million pounds donation to a party I do not believe in because the owner of my energy company wants to try to block the Tories from forming a consecutive government? No thank you. If Dale Vince wanted to donate money to Labour he should have done so with his own money. For a Green Energy company boss to alienate his customers who may vote any other way than Labour (especially the Greens) is a huge faux pas that must be up there with Gerald Ratner?

Ecotricity Web
Ecotricity give £250,000 to the Labour Party

Thanks for reading, please feel free to lend me your thoughts.

Daz

A Brand of Fry and Folly ~ or ~ Russell Brand takes a swipe at Stephen Fry

2015 02 04 A Brand of Fry Russell Brand verses Stephen FryI love Stephen Fry and I love Russell Brand. They are incredible human beings whose views and beliefs often overlap with those of my own. I was therefore somewhat taken back when good old Rusty Rockets took offense over Stephen Fry’s comments during an interview on RTE, an Irish Public Service TV channel. He was so enraged that he made Fry the subject of his regular YouTube programme ‘The Trews’ where he laid into Fry and his blasphemous ways.

Well OK it didn’t quite happen like that, in fact Brand was actually quite benign. His Fox News baiting persona was turned down to disappointed friend mode as he made his case on the subject of spirituality. When it comes to spirituality and religious beliefs I personally think “each to their own” and as long as they are not preaching hate or shouting down ‘sinners’ in the street like the old manic street preacher (no not James Dean Bradfield) who used to hail abuse at my gang of mates as we walked through Dunstable town centre.

It seemed that Brand had taken Fry’s public slamming of a wicked and ruthless ‘God’ to heart and went on the offensive as he turned into a spiritualist zealot delving into questions that had no real answers, logical or otherwise. As much as he was dismantling traditional religious dogma he was in turn pedalling his own spiritual theory and ideology. It was bizarre thing for me to watch and made for uncomfortable viewing.

I like Brand and his feral cat like persona. He is a champion of many good causes and I applaud the way he exposes the flaws in the political systems across the globe. I find myself agreeing with his views on the redistribution of wealth, that a change is needed in our political system and that the decriminalisation and destigmatization of drugs and their users can only lead to improvements in public health and treatment of addiction. For these I applaud his efforts though I am not sure I agree with his simplistic belief in an anarchy system. I don’t think a system where people self-govern would really work in today’s overcrowded world.

I like Fry too. He has done a lot to highlight the plights of depression and like Brand, drug addiction. For sheer entertainment value Fry is a hoot in whatever I’ve seen him in, be it on panel shows or in character. It’s difficult not to love such an apologetic persona. Listening to his answers given to Gay Byrne (the RTE host) I thought what he said was more than justified in the context of the interview. When probed further about spirituality I felt that Fry was adequate in his response, especially as it seemed he was being backed into a corner a little by Byrne.

As much as I would like to take this opportunity to analyse and probe what Brand stated in regards to his spiritual ‘truth’, I fear I would only be doing the same Brand did to Fry. Though Brand’s polite attack on Fry has obviously grieved me I feel it would be hypocritical of me to counter Brand’s spiritualist notions phrase by phrase. Personally I don’t have issue with what Mr Brand does or doesn’t believe in and judging by Fry’s interview I doubt that he does either.

It’s not just Brand who has zoned in on Fry’s comments. Pavan Dhaliwal of the Independent has used Fry’s comments on the subject to highlight the fact that not everybody around the world enjoys the same level of free speech as we do in the UK. Indeed even in Ireland, where the interview took place, there are some rather antiquated laws regarding blasphemy which Fry could well be in breach of. Though it’s highly unlikely that Fry would see any recourse for his blasphemous rantings (other than a whole Russell Brand Trews episode dedicated to the subject) others around the world are not so lucky. As Dhaliwal’s article points out in Saudi Arabia, Muslim blogger Raif Badawi was arrested on a charge for the crime of insulting Islam by running a website that criticized religious leaders. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and one thousand lashes. She also notes that Blasphemy is illegal in 49 countries. So be careful what you say when you’re abroad!

2015 02 03 a FryIt seems though that Fry saw the funny side and responded to The Trews episode with his trademark wit on Twitter. Brand responded and it looks like all is forgiven. But the whole debarkle has raised a valid point.2015 02 03 b Brand In the UK we must be thankful that the worst that can happen for being a little blasphemous on UK soil is you might rile a few angry religious leaders and receive a Russell Brand Trews inquisition. I’ll leave you with this little thought that sums up my beliefs; everything in nature is so awe inspiring and incredible why do we need to invent something which explains it?

Daz

Watch the interview:

Watch The Trews:

Read the article:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/stephen-frys-comments-on-god-could-lead-to-criminal-sanctions-against-him-in-many-countries-10018658.html