A View From The Top

By Ian Dobie

This could be my last “View from the Top” as President of the club as we go into the Club’s National AGM. In future it might have to be “Just a View” or “A View from the Side”! The club has faced its most difficult period in its entire 71-year history during my time in the post. Not just because of the pandemic of the last 2 years and its impact on every aspect of our individual, collective and club lives, but the changes in peoples work-life balance and expectations. Technology has given everyone the ability to source and acquire knowledge, materials, possessions and literally anything they desire with a few taps on a keyboard. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but it has had an undesirable side-effect of sidelining the need for longer term thinking and planning in the day-to-day life of many people. That too might be satisfactory for individuals with the flexibility to move swiftly as situations or opportunities appear. However, it doesn’t work for organisations where big decisions are hampered by the inevitably more complex organisation and administration system in place.  In my AGM manifesto for President in 2022-23 I have made it very clear that I intend to push for substantial changes in the structure and administration of the club. Just fumbling on as we are and have done for far too long with a steadily declining membership is a recipe for failure and not one I can stand by and watch any longer. I am going to restate my objectives at the end of this article.

As membership declines so does our income and at the same time we are about to go into a period of higher inflation, greater than for a good many years. All our personal costs are going to increase and naturally so will those of the club. I’ve already discussed with the treasurer a small increase in the annual membership fee. However, his view is different from mine and he insists that we have sufficient reserves to ride out the forthcoming storm. Whilst that might have been true once upon a time, I doubt it will be now with the latest estimated 8+% inflation predicted by the end of this year. We will then face the inevitable much larger increase at some point rather than small regular incremental increases. It amazes me that almost everyone appears content to spend £2.50 for a regular coffee break, but then objects to an increase in an annual fee which currently equates to 67.3 pence a week. Can we reduce overheads? Yes, we can of course, but since we don’t run the club as an autocracy, but as a bottom up democracy, what changes are you prepared to accept?

On a completely different front, but a very important one, can I urge everyone of you to go out and purchase a copy of the new 2022 Highway Code. This is the first revision to bring in eight very important changes to how we have all used the roads in the past which will have a significant impact on future road traffic collisions (RTC’s), any subsequent legal penalties and resultant insurance claims and costs. It will be available to purchase from the 11th April so no excuse. Now, come on, be honest with yourself when was the last time you actually read a copy of the Highway Code? Prior to your test or perhaps when you started taking your daughter or son out for a few lessons / experience! As a past motorcycle instructor and later holding a position with significant over-arching responsibility for driver training and operational policy for UK and world-wide motor transport operations, it was essential reading. Later as an engineering and training director of a bus company and finally as an On Road Operational Assessor for Highways England for several years, I’ve maintained the habit of always having the latest edition available.

The new edition establishes, for the first time, a vehicle hierarchy which defines a greater level of driver responsibility dependent upon the vehicle you are operating at the time. It is based simply and clearly on the level of harm that may be inflicted. It also contains different, but useful hints such as the “Dutch Reach” for drivers to exit from a vehicle. This involves the driver of a UK vehicle using their “Left Hand and Arm” to reach across their body to their door handle to open the door, thereby twisting their body to the right and rear, affording a much better rear view to the offside of the vehicle. The Netherlands version has significantly reduced the car door-v-cyclist collisions and the same would apply equally to car door-v-motorcyclist collisions where the rider is the more vulnerable to injury from the impact. It requires a minor adjustment to our current practice as drivers today, but it is simple with practice and costs nothing to implement. I cannot pretend that all motorists / drivers are happy with this hierarchy and its implications. The recommendation for cyclists to avoid riding in the kerb edge and take a centre of the road approach and riding side by side has been roundly criticised. As has the obligation for drivers, riders turning left into a junction to give priority to pedestrians crossing that road. Now that’s not new; it has always technically been the case; it is just that the vast majority of drivers and riders have routinely ignored the pedestrian priority for years to the extent it has become habit and the acceptable norm. No longer will that be the case; so tune in and start practicing now.

Towards the end of February MAG announced that they were pulling out of the National Motorcycle Council (NMC), a relatively newly formed organisation during Covid to present a singular voice to Government on all motorcycle related issues. The reason given by the chair of MAG was fairly bland and left me thinking there was more to it than was being said. Ride safe.


My Presidential Manifesto for 2022-23

The challenges ahead for the club don’t seem to get any fewer. Despite the pandemic we have finally got a workable new membership database, but there will always be work to do updating it. Volunteers to fill current posts are increasingly difficult to find and retain. The recent Google announcement ended their free email system (currently a key administrative resource) leaving only commercial contracts at considerable cost of around £11,000 per annum. We are already seeking a viable alternative option. The membership continues to decline, being lower now than when I joined. Despite strong representations to BMW in Munich we currently receive little official support in any form, but they are quick to demand compliance with regular Logo changes. However, there has been a recent glimmer of hope in talks with Munich.

For that reason, after some thought, I decided to stand again to be your Club President for 2022-23 in order to pursue this change in attitude with optimism for a positive outcome. Along with that I intend to start an active move to implement sensible and planned changes, reduce financial overheads and the administrative burden on officers over the next 12 months. I have no illusions that it will be easy to achieve and want to maintain the best of what we do whilst implementing any collectively agreed changes. It will require in-depth analysis of every aspect of Club life, as I believe some form of structural change is essential now since continuing as we are won’t ensure survival. Such a change must reflect the different and more complex work-life balance conditions of today along with the expectations of members. If re-elected, I want the club to get back to its previous free and relaxed mode of social interaction internally and externally, with the ambition to present a well-considered alternative structure in time for the 2023 AGM, if not before. It is your club as members so your views and participation are vital. I hope you will take that into consideration when making your choice in April.

Ian M Dobie


Author: Biggles