FEMA Partners - FFMC France
Eric Thollier from fellow FEMA organisation La Fédération Française des Motards en Colère (FFMC) gives us a view on thinking long term for European riders' rights.
Interview by Ralf Bretveld - 2006
RB: How many active motorcyclists are there in your country and how many of them are a member of your organisation? Is your organisation growing, stable in numbers or are you losing members?
ET: France has around 1.1 million motorcyclists (powered two wheelers of 125cc or more) FFMC has 5.000 members. Numbers are stable, but eroding, with a big turnover. We are well below our potential.
RB: Would you say your organisation is well known in your country, among bikers as well as among the general public and other parties, such as politicians?
ET: We are well known to the general public, politicians, and road safety interested parties. We've been existing for 25 years now, and we need to find our "second breath": not enough new motorcyclists know about us, or care enough to join.
RB: Besides fighting for riders' rights, are there other activities your organisation is involved in (for example consumer activities such as discount on insurance or fuel, participation in riders' trainings programs etc.)
ET: FFMC is quite a complex organisation since we have created several other entities aimed at better serving the needs of the riders (for example :
- An insurance company (Mutuelle des Motards): I insist to say that we have not been making a deal with an existing company, but have created our own. Between 1980 and 1983, 40.000 riders have given each 300 FF (50€) in order to have the minimum funds to do so. Nowadays the Mutuelle des Motards insures 170.000 riders in France, and reinvests part of the benefits in FFMC projects.
- A motorcycle Magazine (Moto Magazine) that takes care the 'defence of the consumers' part of our activities , by testing bikes and accessories.
- Safety Training: The 'Association pour la Formation des Motards' defined a quality standard for motorcycle riding schools (about 40 training centers joined this schemes) as well as a post license training scheme.
FFMC is organised as a federation of 70 regional organisations. Each of them develop a number of riders's rights activities or safety related activities, acting as a local rep of riders to local authorities.
RB: Could you give some examples of the important successes achieved by your organisation?
ET: Just a few examples: The creation of the three entities above is in itself a success for us. It led to creation of 500+ jobs in the motorcycle sector, better serving the riders.
Following demos by FFMC in the late 90's, 450 kilometres of French crash barriers are now equipped with riders protection, and standards being defined for road infrastructure, taking into account riders' point of view (non slippery white lanes, lowered speed humps, crash barriers protections, … ), the repeal of an unfair motorcycle road tax that was instored in 1980 was the 'founding battle' of FFMC, we obtained a reduction of 40% of road toll on motorways for PTWs, we set up a quality standard for U locks that has now become a 'French Norm' (AFNOR) that is being used by many insurance companies to offer theft coverage. This started in 1985 with 5 members making bets about how easy it would be to break a lock open, and now it is an official norm!
RB: What are the main subjects you are working on at this moment?
ET: Daytime Running Lights for cars that the government tried to introduce and that we are fighting like hell, successfully up to now. French Road safety approach consists of putting speed camera everywhere and aiming specifically motorcyclists at the moment.
Filtering is on the verge of being banned. French Riders are regularly getting tickets for this. We are trying to promote an approach like the Dutch one, with a 'code of conduct' aimed at both the riders and drivers giving practical advice for a safe 'lane splitting' during traffic jam. The new heresy that has just come out is that derestricting a bike in France (remember we still have 100 bhp ban) now becomes a crime that can put you in jail for up to two years and costs you 30 000 € fine.
Yes, you read it. Who said France was the country of human's rights?
RB: Are there any subjects that will get your special attention in the near future?
ET: Road Safety is the big subject in France and has been for the last three years.
The number of casualties has dropped from 8000 /year to 5000/year, but PTW casualties has remain stable (while the circulating parc of PTW was growing considerably (+50% in 10 years)). As a result, the proportion of riders casualties has grown from 10% to 15% of the total casualties and this is attracting politicians attention.
There is a rampant anti-bike campaign where motorcycles are accused of being anti social polluting speed maniacs. We have answered with a recently published 'FFMC Manifesto' with 40+ proposals for road safety.
RB: When did your organisation join FEMA and what was the main reason to do so?
ET: FFMC is a (proud) founding member of FEMA and also was a founding member of FEM. The growing importance of Europe, and the growing influence of Brussels based decisions in our day to day life makes our presence in Brussels crucial.
RB: What role does FEMA play in your current or future activities?
ET: After years of passive presence at the FEMA board, FFMC has decided to increase our involvement in FEMA activities. After all, France is one of the big countries in Europe, and it is fair to say that our involvement was insufficient.
Now with Laurent Verbois a steady member of the board, and taking part in the FEMA Executive Committee, as well as myself, Eric Thiollier, former FEMA campaigns officer, employed as FFMC general delegate, we should be up to our expectancies.
For example we have organised the 2006 FEMA Spring meeting in Nice. We hope to be able to share better the experience of our fellow organisations and take an active part in making Europe what we want it to be, and a nice best place to ride a bike.
RB: Do you have some good advice for your fellow FEMA-member organisations?
ET: MAG Netherlands is an example to follow in terms of involvement of riders and effectiveness of its structure.
I'd rather be taking advice from you than giving to you! Anyways, there we are…
Keeping the balance between our claims and our proposals is a challenge in itself.
Think long term & global, act here & now.
RB: Why should we all visit your country next summer?
ET: That one's easy: best scenic roads, great food, good road infrastructure and nice weather.
There is a fantastic diversity of landscapes, gastronomic specialities and winding roads.
Avoid the expensive and crowded motorways and take some time to ride the B roads inside the Massif Central or the Alps.
Learn some French words, because French people are really bad at foreign languages (and sometimes proud of it).
Watch out the speed traps, France is no longer 'tolerant' on speeding.