Back Street Heroes
RICK HULSE – THE MUSINGS OF ONE OF THE MOST ELOQUENT THINKERS IN BIKERDOM
OVER RECENT MONTHS I’VE READ A NUMBER OF POSTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA ATTEMPTING TO DRUM UP SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGNS TO GET MOTORCYCLES EXEMPTED FROM THE SCHEDULED BAN ON THE SALE OF NEW PETROL AND/ OR DIESEL VEHICLES IN THE UK FROM THE YEAR 2030.
Ithink it quite obvious that any such campaign’s likely be the cause of much controversy amongst the motorcycling community. As much as motorcyclists generally love their machines dearly and, in many cases, the lifestyle of being a biker is a fundamental aspect of their lives, there’re also many who believe wholeheartedly that carbon emissions and other forms of pollution must be greatly reduced if future generations are going to have lives worth living.
As much as I love being a biker, and I revel in the sound and feel of a powerful petrol-powered bike or a trike roaring along country lanes, I also know that the pollution produced by humanity over the past two hundred years has poisoned air, land, rivers and seas to the point where its ill-effects can be seen in all aspects of the ecosystems of which we are very much a dependent part, and I now find myself torn between my deeply held belief that pollution has to be dramatically reduced as soon as possible, and my natural resistance to anything that’ll impose changes to my muchloved biker lifestyle. I also find myself wondering what such campaigns might do to the credibility of bikers generally, not just from flying in the face of the very real and deeply held ecological concerns of millions of people, but also by asking people to put what will undoubtedly be a great deal of effort into supporting a seemingly unwinnable campaign. I know from long personal experience that campaigning to change government policy can be heartbreaking and all-consuming work, though it can, and sometimes does, produce very gratifying results. However, this campaign wouldn’t just be aimed at changing government policy, it’ll also entail convincing manufacturers to continue producing bikes with internal combustion engines against the growing tide of worldwide ecological concern. On top of that it’d also involve convincing oil companies to continue refining fuels for a comparatively small proportion of road users, and supplying it to filling stations that will, inevitably, become increasingly scarce as the numbers of petrol and diesel cars, vans and trucks begin to dwindle over the next two or three decades. It’s also worth remembering that following the prohibition on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, the Government’ll have a green light to start increasing the tax on those fuels year on year.
Perhaps, at this point, I should point out that the effect of the ban on new vehicles with combustion engines in 2030 is likely to have a relatively minimal effect on my life. I’ll be 70 years old by then and, though I’m intent on being a biker until the day I die, I doubt that we’re likely to see any immediate reduction in the numbers of petrol-engine bikes and trikes on the road. It may be 2040 by the time we feel any real effect from this ban, and I expect that by that time electrically-powered vehicles’ll be quite commonplace and generally accepted, and I’ll most probably be long gone.
Obviously, many bikers’ll pull out all the stops to keep their petrol bikes running for as long as possible after such a ban comes into place – one only needs to look at those dedicated enthusiasts who’ve kept vintage machines in perfect running condition for many decades after the manufacturing companies’ve disappeared into history. But what happens when, in perhaps 20 or 25 years’ time, it’s not profitable for the oil companies to refine and process fuels for rapidly dwindling numbers of consumers? No matter how dedicated you are to keeping your old bike in good running order, without fuel it’ll become nothing more than a relic of a bygone age.
It’s also worth noting that many other countries’re planning similar bans on the sale of vehicles that use internal combustion engines. In Austria they plan to phase out new registrations of these types of vehicles in 2027; in Iceland it’s in 2030 (but with an additional plan to eliminate half of its fuel stations by 2025); in the Netherlands they’re going one step further – they plan to ban all petrol and/or diesel vehicles from their roads by 2030, even those that were registered prior to that year! India’s considering a ban on the use of petrol-powered bikes and trikes in 2025, and by 2030 all vehicles there will have to be electrically powered. Germany, Ireland, Israel, Sweden, Slovenia, Denmark and a number of US states all have similar restrictions planned for 2030, with Japan, Korea and Thailand following suit in 2035, and Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Spain, Portugal, France and British Columbia doing the same in 2040. This would certainly seem to be a growing trend throughout the world, and the snowball effect’s likely to see oil refineries and the manufacturers of internal combustion engines becoming relics of our misguided past over the next twenty years.
I’m certainly not out to convince anybody not to fight against these changes if they truly believe that fight to be worthwhile, I just think it worth pointing out the monumental challenges involved in such a battle, and perhaps postulate the idea that putting that energy into working with the developers and manufacturers of electrically-powered bikes might at least ensure that the bikes of the future’re the sort of thing that bikers can love to ride as much as we love our current machines.
To quote the American author Stewart Brand: “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”