Friday, February 29, 2008

CARS 21: Motorbikes 0

A few days ago, a little mole in Brussels contacted me about a Swedish initiative called Vision 0, a PowerPoint presentation of which is also available.

The long term goal is that no-one shall be killed or seriously injured within the Swedish road transport system.

The whole presentation concentrates on how road users and road designers can interact, and a considerable amount of the presentation focuses on how humans are the main factor in safety issues.
  • People make errors, mistakes and misjudgements

  • There are biomechanical tolerance limits

Well, one can hardly argue with that nor, indeed, with the assessment of the fact that fatigue, alcohol and drugs impair driving. In Sweden, the initiative has focused heavily on road design, although the Swedish government is also keen to see all cars fitted with alcohol breathalyser locks.

Fine, what the Swedish government do is entirely irrelevant and, generally speaking, none of my business. Except that one of the slides includes the following information...
The Commission is currently conducting a review into the European Road Safety Action Programme and will, at the beginning of 2006, draw up an assessment of measures which have been taken at the European and Member State levels. Without pre-empting the conclusions of this assessment, it seems clear that the main causes of accidents remain speeding, the non-wearing of seat belts and helmets and alcohol/ drugs/ fatigue:

CARS 21 is an EU Commission initiative and, according to my informant, that same Commission is very interested in adopting the Swedish Vision 0 for itself.

But this is a laudable aim, is it not? Well, yes and no because, you see, the EU Commission does not have a "stop" switch, nor even a "this is a fucking stupid idea" warning light; would that they did. And it is relevant because road safety is entirely in the hands of the Commission: the British government no longer has primacy over our road safety laws.

And my mole reliably informs me that the Commission has seized upon the idea that it is human error that causes accidents; thus, they have reasoned, the best way to remove human error would be to automate the driving process. As such, they have been looking at ways of doing this—and it could be integrated with the Galileo project too.

Unfortunately, there is a little fly in this ointment: although the Commission have decided that it would be relatively easy to automate car driving, it would be near impossible to automate the driving of another type of vehicle.


As such, they have concluded that motorbikes would have to be removed from the roads. Indeed, a small and relatively unnoticed (even by Longrider) story in The Telegraph has started to lay down the platform.
Motorbikes should be banned as part of a plan to eliminate road deaths, a safety expert has claimed.

The goal of stopping deaths on the roads has been set by a number of countries including Norway, Australia and Sweden, where the programme has been called “Vision Zero”.

But Norwegian safety expert Rune Elvik said for it to happen, policy makers should consider the radical step of banning motorbikes.

“If they are serious about these lofty road safety ambitions that have been announced then I think such a discussion is needed,” he said in an interview with Motor Cycle News.

“Motorcycling would definitely not be allowed.”

Mr Elvik, research chief at the Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics, said motorcycles are incompatible with the target of eliminating road deaths.

Indeed. So, all you motorbike owners will need to watch out for your mounts, for they will be attacked next.

My mole informs me that this, like many other things, does not need to be worried about yet. There is, my mole says, an unusual logjam of legislation; in other words, there is not nearly the volume of legislation emanating from the EU Commission (they are the only ones who can initiate legislation, remember) as there usually is. The reason, apparently, is the Lisbon Treaty EU Constitution: the Commission is waiting until it is fully ratified and in force before they start unleashing the really big guns.

Once the Treaty is in place it is, effectively, similar to an Enabling Act (since it is self-amending) and will allow the Commission to start working on the really ambitious projects and no country will be able to veto them.

And when that happens, says my mole, all pretence will be dropped: be afraid, says the mole, be very afraid because, as EU Referendum points out at length, our Parliament is no longer sovereign...
Despite the dissembling of Europe minister, Jim Murphy – and the bunch of fellow travellers who spout the same nonsense, no better can be seen the demise of parliament than in Article 12 of the new consolidated treaty, with the insertion of a new article which states:
National parliaments shall contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union.

Under current constitutional doctrine – in theory at least – our Westminster parliament is sovereign in its own house. That much is stated proudly on the parliament web site, as pointed out by Booker and others recently. But, by accepting this mandatory requirement, incorporating as it does, the word shall MPs are accepting de jure that which has been de facto for some time – that parliament is no longer a sovereign body. It has subordinated itself to the treaty.

Refer then to Protocol 2, and in particular Article 6 which states that, "any national parliament … may …". This is the provision which "allows" our parliament to make representations to the EU commission on subsidiarity. It is a power that our parliament already had but, the treaty, in graciously granting such a power, again cements Westminster's position as a subordinate body.

Consider, if you will, that happy occasion when you own your house – the house in which you live. That means you have absolute right of occupancy, and the freedom to dispose of the property as you wish. Imagine then that "the government" decides to pass a law stating that you have permission to occupy the house in which you live.

Good stuff, you might say, except that you no longer own your house – in the sense that ownership necessarily conveys with it the right to occupy the premises. You now occupy it under licence from the government. And the licence that the government has granted, it can also take away. You are no longer "sovereign" in your own house.

Thus it is with parliament. When the majority – as they will – vote to ratify the treaty, they will be wiping out centuries of tradition and abolishing a fundamental tenet of our constitution.

The reckoning will not come tomorrow or immediately. Over term, however, we will see the continuation of the gradual decline in the authority of the parliament as it is consigned more and more to the margins. This will be reflected in the continued decline in election turnouts, as more and more people sense, mostly intuitively, that parliament is no longer relevant.

Even that, though, will not cause most MPs to stop and think. As long as they are members of an exclusive club, with their privileges, salaries, expenses and pensions – all paid-for by the grateful taxpayer - why should they care? In the end, as we have been wont to observe, we are going to have to shoot them.

Although I believe that traitors were usually hanged, drawn and quartered and then the various quarters displayed in gibbets up and down the country (with the heads displayed on spikes at Traitors' Gate) pour encourager les autres. This seems to me a much more fitting punishment although, as I am sure people will point out, shooting is far swifter and thus we can put the whole horrid episode behind us so much more quickly...


Anonymous said...

It's for your own good. Learn your place and trust your masters.

Broon prevails!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Longrider is still recovering from the salt ban, this might finish him off. Strictly speaking, the EU Parliament can initiate legislation (same as bills can come from HoL or HoC). That name 'Vision Zero' says it all. Finally, how the f*** does not wearing a seatbelt cause accidents? It might worsen your injuries, that's a different topic.

Old BE said...

I'm not convinced about this "self amending" bit which people keep mentioning. The new Article 48 mentions that the EU institutions can *propose* amendments to the treaty and can indeed *draft* amendments to the treaty but that changes still have to be ratified according to the "constitutional requirements" of the member states. I hate the EU as much as you do, DK, but I think this argument is spurious because any treaty changes would still have to be ratified by Parliament.

Anonymous said...

For sheer pomposity, this takes some beating:

". People make errors, mistakes and misjudgements".

This,in pompous EU-speak, means, "Everyone makes mistakes." Why add two additional words meaning "mistakes" except to attempt to make the statement sound more important and thought-out? The pomposity, bossiness, drive to interfere and self-invovement of the EU is a wonder to behold.

Longrider said...

This one has been grumbling away in one form or another for a number of years. The wording changes, but the principle remains the same - the EU commission knows better than we do what risks we should take. A decade or so ago it was Martin Bangemann and his absurd leg protector legislation. It didn't happen. The motorcycle world has learned the art of effective lobbying.

I seem to recall Rune Elvik trotting this particular idea out a year or so back.

It would be easy to say that having effectively imposed a smoking ban, they could do likewise with bikes; we are, after all, a minority. However, we tend to be a belligerent one. The motorcycle industry won't take kindly to being wiped out, and plenty of riders (myself included) will simply defy any ban making it unworkable. There will be mass ride outs through the capitals of Europe in open defiance of the ban.

Then, of course, there's the little matter of bikes being very useful to such organisations as the police.

They may try, but they will have a big fight on their hands.

Be aware, I'm watching the situation ;)

Anonymous said...


These cunts never go away, I wrote for the bike press for years (in the USA and UK) and recall all the bollocks they came up with day glo vests, leg protectors, approved motorcycle safety wear, daylight running lights etc etc etc.

The only way to get the fuckers off our backs is to leave the EU. Bikers for UKIP anyone?

Anonymous said...

I see that many pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, ... are also killed on the roads. Best ban them too.

Simon Fawthrop said...

I like the the first comment in the Telegraph article:

"Vision Zero" sounds too much like "Final Solution" for my liking ...
Posted by Craig Carey-Clinch on February 23, 2008 10:49 AM"

As to the comment about wearing seat belts causing accidents, it may be the opposite. It is well known that the safer people feel the faster they will drive and the more risks they will be prepared to take.

A a friend says, if they want to slow people down and reduce accidents take aay the drivers seatbelt, airbag and SIPS. As an extra measure add a 6" spike to the middle of the steering wheel, that will really concetrate the mind of drivers.

Anonymous said...

Fuck me, do these EU and elf and safety wallahs walk outside and go "Hello Clouds, hello Sky".

I don't think I've ever heard such nonsense in all my life.

Oh hang on I have, there's the whole MMGW malarky.

The world is inreasingly being run by fuckwits.

Anonymous said...

"the Commission have decided that it would be relatively easy to automate car driving,"

Hahahaha, this is funny.

They cannot even get simplest IT projects done, what makes you guys worry that they could complete a safety-critical government IT project for which the software AND hardware tech does not exist yet?

Modeling real life in real-time AND running it too, eh? And for their next trick, they'll legislate against stupidity, that'll work just as brilliantly.

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Anonymous said...

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