I read a story in Visordown that the IAM, of which I am a member for both car and motorcycle, is supporting calls to make anti-lock brakes compulsory on all large motorcycles from 2015. Apparently, the European Parliament is shortly to be discussing proposals to force manufacturers to fit ABS to all bikes over 125cc by 2017, and the IAM has lined itself up with these proposals, and in fact is lobbying to have them brought in two years early.
This post is not about ABS. I have ABS on my car, and I love it, although I would appreciate an 'off' switch, because there are a limited number of circumstances where it makes things far worse - ice, for one. I have had bikes with ABS and bikes without, and I haven't ever had to brake hard enough in an emergency for it to kick in. I am much less convinced of the benefits of ABS on a bike because hard braking on a bike calls for much greater care and skill than in a car, and keeping the wheels turning is only part of the equation. ABS adds weight, expense and complexity to a machine where lightness and simplicity are virtues. I'd prefer a bike without it, although it wouldn't be a deal-breaker if the machine I wanted was so equipped. But I would like the choice. The European Parliament would appear to think that I should be denied that choice. And the IAM appear to be supporting them.
This post is about compulsion, not technology. One of my favourite quotations of all time, and one I try to live by, is currently heading the blog:
There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.We do not have the right to tell others how to live their lives. We have the right to insist they do not harm us; but we do not have the right to insist they do not harm themselves. That is why, although I always wear a helmet and safety gear while riding and a seat belt while driving, I do not support laws making these things mandatory. The same goes for ABS.
- P. J. O'Rourke
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who wish to see the world made a better place, usually in accordance with their own prejudices, and by force if necessary, and those who just wish to live their lives according to their own consciences, without interference. I am firmly in the latter camp, while governments of both left and right are in the former. By supporting the calls for mandatory ABS, the IAM is aligning itself with those who wish to interfere, to nanny, to scold, and to control. The IAM has done, and continues to do, a great job in educating, training, assessing and advising. But when it crosses the line into supporting compulsion, it ceases to be an organisation I want to be part of. Yesterday, I wrote the following to IAM Motoring Policy and Research:
I have read on a motorcycling website that the IAM is publicly supporting compulsory ABS for new motorcycles. Please could you confirm if this is true or not? If true, this could be a resigning issue for me. If the IAM sees itself as assisting government in applying yet more rules and regulations to our already overburdened lives, then I would not want to be part of it. The IAM would no longer speak for me.
Advise members by all means, advise government by all means, but when you cross the line into advocacy of compulsion that will affect your members you have gone too far.
Today, I received the following reply:
Dear Mr NowhereThis reads like a whole degree course in missing the point, and I will be replying in due course. And it's 19 years, not nine, by the way.
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.