MOTORCYCLE ACTION GROUP (MAG) RECRUITS TEAM LEMBIT & LEON
Lembit Opik...of course you know him. Apart from the unusual name, he's the (ex) MP that you always saw with a shapely and expensively dressed female on his arm, Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia and Sian Lloyd the ITV weather woman, to name but a few.
Mr Opik has now landed himself a gig with the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) as their Director of Communications and Public Affairs following a hiatus in MAG affairs after the two previous members of the campaign and membership team, Nich Brown and Paddy Tyson, departed rather suddenly. Lembit willl be working alongside another doyen of motorcycle lobbying and campaigning, Dr Leon Mannings.
From MP to MAG
Whilst a Member of Parliament, Lembit Opik chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group for Motorcycling. He is a long standing active rider since rebuilding a Yamaha YB100 in 1982 and his current ride is a Suzuki GS1000. MAG will obviously be hoping that his connections will help gain some political traction with the issues they and their local groups want to raise at a national level.
Raised in Northern Ireland by his Estonian parents, Lembit moved through various levels of academia, cutting his early political teeth at the University of Bristol students union and on the National Union of Students national executive. His stint as an MP began during the 1997 election, standing successfully for the Liberal Democrats in Montgomeryshire. He lost the seat to a Tory in 2010.
Although taking on a number of portfolios for the Lib Dems, his plans to rise through the party ranks were never successful, and he had a record of hitching his ambition wagon to a number of 'lost' causes and candidates giving rise in parliament to the phrase 'the curse of Opik'. MAG and motorcycling can only hope this has been left on the doorsteps of Westminster.
The Dynamic Duo
The energetic Leon Mannings is a transport academic and consultant and an active rider who has been involved with motorcycle campaigning, organisation and journalism for some years. In 2004 he was elected chair of the other national riders organisation - the British Motorcycle Federation (BMF) - but sadly he wasn't re-elected after his first year.
Readers of the magazine Motorcycle Sport and Leisure will be familiar with his writing, and London riders will remember him for his role in the campaign to have motorcycles exempted from parking charges in Westminster.
The MAG duo were introduced to the motorcycling world at the NEC show in November, and were available on the MAG stand to meet and greet. As yet, it remains to be seen whether the pair will bring the 'passion and power' heralded in their press release to the motorcycling campaigning orbit. Let's hope so.
'More motorcycles could reduce casualties'
Both Leon Mannings and Lembit Opik were present in the meetings held in December between some of the most influential people in motorcycle policy in Europe and the UK.
On 3rd December the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), in conjunction with the Department for Transport (DfT) held a conference for invited guests to discuss motorcycle safety under the potentially controversial title ' More motorcycles could reduce casualties'.
This proposition alludes to a theory that more powered two wheelers (PTWs) on the road could lead to a situation where motorcycle, moped and scooter riders become more familiar and visible to the majority of cars, trucks and buses etc on the roads.
Statistics were presented by Jacques Compagne the Secretary General of ACEM, the equivalent European body to the MCI in the UK, which looked at countries where higher volumes of PTW's have led to relatively fewer crashes and injuries.
The convening of this conference is part of an MCI strategy aimed at raising the profile of powered two wheelers as part of mainstream government transport, economic and environmental policy. In his opening address to the conference Steve Kenward, the Chief Executive of MCI said:
“To be aware of motorcycling we need visibility, and to be visible we need usage. Greater usage will benefit UK plc...single track vehicles (anything with two wheels) are the future of personal mobility and the UK must be ready with a strategy to ensure safe usage”.
Close on the heels of this conference, the following day in fact, a reception/come briefing was hosted by the Associate Parliamentary Motorcycle Group (APMG) to launch an updated version of the MCI's Policy Framework for Motorcycling.
The revised framework contained a number of factsheets looking at the role bikes could play in easing congestion, assisting economic growth and improving employment opportunities through the Wheels 2 Work scheme.
They also included ideas on cleaner transport with lower emission bikes and the development of electric vehicles. They are lobbying for a portion of the £500m grant available for electric cars to be allocated to motorcycles.
So all in all there are Interesting things afoot in the world of motorcycling and the trend is positive. Let us know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org
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