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Discuss: We don’t need to reduce motorcycle casualties

Yes, MAG President Ian Mutch really said that. Hear him out.

VISORDOWN'S discussions aim to challenge assumptions about motorcycling. This week, Ian Mutch, President of the Motorcycle Action Group, opens with a statement that would make the safety lobby spit their cornflakes all over the table. It sounds controversial. That’s the point.

Mutch says:

‘We don’t need to reduce motorcycle casualties. It’s the kind of statement I?used to mischievously frame when chairman of the school debating society. Like many extreme viewpoints and over-statements, it has a measure of truth in it.

‘Sometimes to get a good perspective on a situation you need to take a big step backward to see the truth of it; kind of like a Rolf Harris painting, at the risk of conjuring a contentious analogy – as if I?would.

‘Because we have by degrees been turned into a risk-averse society, what might have seemed just the natural state of things a few decades ago now seems to many like the greatest challenge to Western civilisation since the Mongol hordes headed for Europe.

‘Motorcyclists get killed more often per mile travelled than car drivers - utterly amazing!?Who’d have thought that? I?mean, we have so many wheels and so much protection around us, right? The trouble is the safety nannies really seem to think they can aim to bring down motorcycle deaths to the same rate as motorists'. Okay, it is possible. How, you may ask. Stick another pair of wheels on them and wrap a steel shell around the outside – simples.

‘No let’s face it, motorcycles are dangerous. Yes, yes, yes, I?really did say that. We all know that it is always the other guy or the road or the weather or whatever factor we want to blame for our misfortunes. But when all is said and done, if you have an accident on a motorcycle the odds are far higher that you will end up injured or dead than if you collide with something in a car.

‘The real safety zealots with their "Vision Zero" agenda are living in cloud cuckoo land because in the real world things are different from other things. Some kids are not just intellectually different; they’re thick. Some people do not just have perfectly acceptable weight-height ratios that vary from the norm; they are fat bastards. Mountaineering is more dangerous than flower arranging and Everest is littered with the evidence of that.

‘Our world is overpopulated with safety loons who pretend to be baffled by the fact that bikers suffer higher fatality rates than motorists, as if this is some kind of disease that can be addressed with a cure in a bottle.

‘So where am I?heading from that provocative opening line? Of course it would be a fine thing if we could get motorcycle accident deaths down. And yes, I?used the word "accident", not "incident". An accident is something that isn’t planned. The zealots in their shock-horror world of "someone is to blame and there should be a law" can’t accept the idea that there is such a thing as an accident, so they have to start dicking about with the language to make their point.

‘I?say again, it would be good if fewer riders died on our roads. But what we really need to do is not commit our energies to cutting fatality rates but to changing the mind-set of those who frame laws to recognise that there are different levels of risk in life, and this is part of what life is about. Respecting the right of the individual to make those life choices is as critical to the quality of life as clean water. Abandon that reality and you must abandon the defence of motorcycling.

‘Speaking as MAG’s President, I?am proud that we helped launch Bikesafe and the Get a Grip Campaign (for good, consistent road surfaces). I am proud of all our sensible pro-safety efforts that divert politicians into useful channels rather than those that end in draconian legislation. They are not however essentially what MAG?is about, any more than safety is what motorcycling is about. Motorcycling is about exhilaration and freedom and MAG?is about defending the appetite for those things despite the fact that - here we go again - it’s far more dangerous than the alternatives.

‘What was the station sergeant’s line in Hill St Blues? "Take Care out there, it’s dangerous." That’s life.’

IAN Mutch is President of the Motorcycle Action Group and author of five books on motorcycle travel and culture. A former ship's navigating officer, he describes himself as "jolly clever".

That's Mutch's view. What’s yours?