Discuss: Government Speed Control

Tim Dickson is clearly a man who worries a lot. And now he's worried about the government governing our speed. How likely is it?

Every year bikes are getting cleverer and making our riding a safer, easier and more pleasant experience. We've got ABS, cruise control, GPS, semi-automatic gearboxes, fly-by-wire throttle and, most recently from BMW, electronic suspension adjustment and traction control.

The biker of tomorrow won't need to know how to feel for grip from the front tyre under braking. Why should he? A computer does that for him and the ABS will work if it needs to. He won't have to be careful accelerating in the wet - his bike will have traction control, so throttle control will be a thing of the past. Suspension adjustment? If our future-biker wants to enjoy his favourite set of bends he just pushes the 'sport' button on his handlebar and the computer adjusts all to suit.

But there's a dark side. The Government is experimenting with automatically speed-limiting bikes via satellite tracking. Is a future of sticking rigidly to strictly enforced limits on the cards?

Quite possibly. But why us? Aren't motorcycles the answer to all our problems of pollution and congestion and the end of the world and things? Yes, bikes take up less space and use less fuel than cars and lorries and aircraft, but these days most of us ride for the hell of it. There's nothing environmentally sound about a track day, or going for a Sunday blast with 10 of your mates. If you really cared about the environment the 10 of you would take a bus. Or stay at home.

Now please don't think I'm being anti-bike. Of course I'm not. I thrash about on bikes for the hell of it, I go on track days, I want to make my bike faster and more powerful and burn petrol purely for the sake of my own self indulgence. I feel I have a 'right' to do that, but I increasingly find myself thinking that perhaps I shouldn't. And if someone who has loved and lived bikes for most of their life is starting to get nagging doubts of environmental angst, then just imagine how the Government and the green lobby feel about us.

Trouble is it appears to be bordering on heresy for the likes of us to even think such things, let alone write them down or speak them publicly. The BMF's Jeff Stone was recently publicly lambasted for his quoted-out-of-context views after testing a prototype speed-limited bike, prompting the BMF to issue a statement making their position clear.

"While a voluntary speed advisory system might well have advantages in helping to avoid inadvertent speeding, actual intervention, by whatever means, is unacceptable," said the BMF. "Technically the system works, but... the concept of external speed control has far-reaching implications and such devices cannot be looked at in isolation."

Jeff Stone had been invited to ride the speed-limited Suzuki Bandit 650 at the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) proving ground following the completion of a five-year trial.

"I didn't like it but couldn't say it was dangerous," says Jeff. "This thing first warns you if you're speeding, it's not an intervention. Only if you're determined to speed does it intervene.

"But I've never had so many e-mails in response to something. It was disheartening, demoralising to have these people turn on me. I've been riding bikes for 40 years and I understand the dynamics of how they work. I've ridden this thing, these people haven't. I wish they'd understand where I'm coming from. I'm disappointed when people aren't prepared to see the bigger picture."

To actively scaremonger motorcyclists by pretending 'they' are out to get 'us', curtailing our 'right' to speed by enforcing limits with cyborg-like motorcycles controlled by Government via satellite is to miss the point.

This is something that's happening to motoring as a whole; motorcycling hasn't been singled out as the target of some spiteful, high-tech castration. We are not the problem, only a part of one, a tiny sideshow to a wider, ever more politically pressing issue of traffic management, speed enforcement and carbon dioxide emission control. And make no mistake, those last two are becoming ever more entwined in policy, propaganda and public perception.

It's terribly hard to publicly argue a case against this technology. By doing so we're saying, 'We break speed limits and we want to continue to be allowed to do so.' "And that," says Jeff Stone, "is an incredibly difficult argument to have with a civil servant."

Under no circumstances do we want our motorcycles automatically speed limited but we're scratching our heads trying to come up with a case we can put forward that will have politicians and safety campaigners and environmentalists say, 'Oh, you know what? You're absolutely right. Go as fast as you like.' Simply saying, 'Because we want to,' isn't enough.

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