If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 23 September 2011

IAM and ABS 2

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had written to the IAM over their stance of support for the European Parliament proposals for compulsory ABS on bikes over 125cc. I reproduce their reply to my first message, and the content of my reply to that.
Dear Mr Nowhere

Thank you for your email of 22 September.

It is true that we have publicly supported this measure on road safety grounds, but it would be a shame if this single story were to bring your nine years’ support of the IAM to an end.

This European move is in any event unlikely to mean a retro-fitting of ABS to existing bikes.

Anything that makes motorcyclists safer in education terms we would support, and so by extension, if engineering can help reduce motorcycle casualties, we support that too.

Vince Yearley
My response:
Hi Vince

Thank you for your prompt reply. Just on a point of detail, I joined the IAM in 1992, so I make that 19 years of membership.

I think you may have missed the main issue that I have with the IAM's position. It is not the benefits of ABS that I was questioning, but the forcing of manufacturers to fit it to all new bikes. There is a big difference between advice, guidance and education on one hand, and compulsion on the other. I would support the first, but feel uncomfortable with the second.

Whether ABS will be mandated to be retro-fitted or not is irrelevant. It is the compulsory fitting to any bike, and the IAM support of it, that I object to. I suppose I could just keep riding older and older bikes if I chose to. That's a kind of freedom, isn't it?

I cannot accept the logical leap in your final sentence, from supporting education in motorcycle safety to supporting mandatory engineering solutions. Education enables people to make informed choices, whereas compulsion removes choice altogether. One does not naturally flow from the other.

Do I take it that the IAM will be supporting all the other proposals currently under discussion in the European Parliament, such as compulsory high-visibility clothing and anti-tampering measures?

The header line to your website speaks of "increasing skills" and "raising driving and riding standards". I cannot see how you get from that position to one where you are supporting the removal of people's freedom to choose. As you can see, this is a philosophical concern, not a technical one. But if the IAM is going to come down on the side of Big Brother, then I fear we may have to part company.

Best wishes

I know I have a lot of non-biking readers of this blog (and you are all very welcome, be assured of that), who might be asking: What is he on about? If it makes his hobby safer, what's the problem? Surely no-one in his right mind could object to the imposition of rules and regulations designed to save lives?

Well, yes I could. The state in general has no right to force people to do things for their own good. The EU in particular has no mandate to pass any laws or regulations governing British people, because their consent to such rule has never been sought. People with no experience of motorcycling have no right to tell motorcyclists what is or is not good for them. And, of course, there is the 'slippery slope' argument. It's ABS on bikes today. What tomorrow?
  • All people walking in remote areas must take a satellite phone (for their own safety)
  • All people wishing to take a boat from off its moorings must be aged 18 or over and have passed a rigorous test of competence (for their own safety)
  • Anyone proposing to commit an 'act of a horticultural nature' must have a medical certificate to prove they have had a tetanus jab and be wearing the appropriate protective clothing (for their own safety).
All perfectly reasonable regulations if you believe that the state has a duty to stop people harming themselves. But where does it stop?

And let me dispose of the 'if it saves just one life' argument. If every biker in Europe was forced to wear fluoro yellow suits, have ABS, kept their bikes totally unmodified, and rode everywhere at 45 mph, and it saved one life, would it be worth it?

My answer is no, it wouldn't.


  1. Hah Rich m8 they have forced me to smoke in the cold and wet...now they have come for another of my hobbies, I am beginning to feel picked upon and soon I may even be pissed off enough to start fighting back...they won't like that one little bit I promise you and they can stuff my un ABS front end right where the sun don't shine ...at its maximum velocity to boot!

  2. I have felt like that for a while now. I am as law-abiding a chap as you could wish for, but I now feel as though I am being kicked around. When I snap, it will be a big one.

  3. "All perfectly reasonable regulations if you believe that the state has a duty to stop people harming themselves. "

    I thought the state's duty was to stop people harming other people?

  4. Exactly. It thinks it is. I don't.

  5. If every biker in Europe was forced to wear fluoro yellow suits, have ABS, kept their bikes totally unmodified, and rode everywhere at 45 mph, and it saved one life, would it be worth it?

    Worse, the cost of those yellow suits, the ABS systems, and the lost time spent at only 45mph all have an impact. Money is diverted into these areas, and we forget to take account of what we don't see. We don't see the investment that would have happened but for the money wasted on yellow suits and boxes of electronics, and we don't see the work that would have been done by the person who would otherwise have got to work earlier.

    We don't see the economic growth that would have happened but for this, and we don't see the lives that would have been saved by that growth, because we never saw the taxes it would have paid or the extra nurse that tax would have funded.

    And we never again see the person whose midnight medical crisis was spotted by that nurse.

  6. Couldn't have put it better myself. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.


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