Speech to Australian Motorcycle Council – 4th annual Federal Members and Senators Motorcycle Ride, Parliament House, Canberra
It’s hardly news to any of the riders here today that you are part of a grand renaissance.
No-one in Australia could have missed your growing presence on our highways, country lanes and suburban streets.
Motorcycle and scooter road registrations bumped along at around two or three hundred thousand from the 1970s, and then took off like a Ducati in the early 2000s.
They are still soaring, making motorcycles and scooters the most rapidly growing road vehicle sector by far.
This surge in demand is forcing a major shift in how we look at bikes and scooters.
A lot more people, including those responsible for transport policy, are now taking seriously the role motorcycles can play in transport, especially urban transport.
Scooters and commuter bikes now dominate sales growth.
Twenty years ago, dealers in Australia were lucky to move 700 scooters in a year – these days they sell a 1,000 a month.
And light-weight commuter bikes are usually the best sellers among motorcycles.
This shift in consumer perception and demand is very significant.
It fundamentally changes the national conversation we need to have about the place of motorcycles and scooters in our transport system.
For decades we focused on how to make bikes safer.
Now we need to be talking about their role in the transport ecology of our cities.
With new riders taking to the roads each day, the safety aspect is as critical as ever.
But we must achieve this in a way that doesn’t hinder their massive potential in moving people around.
In our cities, motorcycles and scooters have several advantages.
They are space efficient at a time when space is at a premium in our major cities.
Every day we see five or more scooters parked in a single car space.
Depending on the local laws covering lane splitting or filtering, motorcycles and scooters take up a lot less space in slow moving or stationary traffic.
Some recent European studies suggest truly extraordinary improvements in congestion through a greater reliance on motorcycles.
Space-efficient transport modes like motorbikes and scooters can help more people reach their city centres helping entire cities function better.
Motorcycles and scooters can fill the crucial gap in cities between walking and cycling, and taking the car.
Too far for the push bike?
Wheel out the Vespa, hit the starter button and you’re halfway there.
The other unarguable fact is that motorcycles and scooters are the most fuel-efficient motorised personal transport mode.
They have less embodied energy, only about a fifth of that involved in producing the rubber and steel and various parts that make up a car.
Compared to the car, they also cause much less damage to roads – not to mention lower emissions.
The surge in demand for cycles and scooters has created a major challenge.
And that is, how we maximise the potential benefits that increased motorcycle and scooter use bring – not only for riders – but for transport systems and cities.
There are four actions we will take into the next term of Government.
First, we will make sure we understand much more than we do now about the effects of motorcycle use on the whole transport system in Australian cities, and how to maximise the benefits.
If we do this we can put issues like the costs of lane splitting or filtering and parking into perspective.
Secondly, motorcyclists and scooter riders themselves will be part of the transport infrastructure planning process.
There has been real progress in this area by some local and state governments, but we can do a lot better.
Thirdly, at a Commonwealth level we need to go well beyond the current statistics which don’t extend beyond mortality rates.
We must understand much more about risk factors, both behavioural and environmental.
For example, road barriers that are designed to minimise damage in a car crash, may in fact be deadly for a motorcyclist.
Motorcyclists must be part of this discussion.
Fourthly, we will work with States and Territories to make sure regulations affecting motorcyclists are uniform across the country.
It is crazy that you can buy a helmet in Civic and be breaking the law by the time you reach Queanbeyan.
We need a national standard for helmets and preferably also one for clothing so that riders everywhere can have the best possible protection.
Let’s acknowledge your own role in the future.
Many of the bikes you now ride are light years ahead of those of ten years ago in their performance and handling.
You, the rider, will be vastly better protected than you were a decade ago.
Most of you will be armoured, and that’s one of the best things you can do to avoid serious injury.
Many of you will have taken advantage of the excellent training courses now available.
Imagine, if you can, how much better it will be in another ten years.
The maxi scooters may be showing the way.
Who knows, the Honda Integra, the Suzuki Bergman or the BMW scooters may be the next Bike of the Year.
I wish you well for your visit to Canberra.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.