FEMA Partners - Sveriges MotorCyklister (SMC)
Maria Nordqvist from fellow FEMA member group SMC (Sveriges MotorCyklister) Sweden tells us about SMC and to beware of the moose when travelling in Sweden.
Interview by Ralf Bretveld – Picture SMC
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?
MN: In 2006 there were 265.000 registered motorcycles in Sweden. The number of motorcyclists is about 235.000. SMC had 71.000 members at the end of the year. Since SMC was founded in 1963, the member numbers rose until January 2004 when we were 84.190 strong.
Since then we’re losing old members and we’re having difficulties reaching the new groups. Our goal is to have 125.000 members, which equals fifty percent of all motorcyclists in Sweden. We’ve spent time and money to invest in a PR strategy, a new website, a new name and a new profile last year.
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?
MN: SMC is well known in the society; politicians, authorities and other organisations. We’re always consultants in motorcycle issues at all levels. We meet the ministry, the parliament, the National Road Administration and others on a regular basis.
We cooperate and they are well aware of what we want as motorcyclists and where we disagree. We’re well known in the motorcycle scene Sweden, but there are still bikers out there who do not know what SMC is or what we do for the motorcyclists in Sweden. We have a long way to go until every single motorcyclist knows who we are.
RB: Besides fighting for riders’ rights, are there other activities your organisation is involved in?
MN: SMC was founded 1963 for social reasons; SMC was a network for motorcyclists and clubs. We’ve always worked with consumer issues, such as RWT, taxes, mobility, insurances, discounts and much more. We’ve also worked a lot with touring and publish a calendar every year to all members and a motorcycle map of Sweden. We promote mc-rallies, touring advice and also run our own travel agency for members; SMC Tours. We have a very good member magazine, MC-Folket, that will be sold to the public (without SMC-info) from July 2007. Our members are pleased with the variety they get from the annual fee.
RB: Could you give some examples of the important successes achieved by your organisation?
MN: The first was 1976, when the government wanted to ban all motorcycles above 250 cc. Later victories are the right to modify, rebuild and build motorcycles, which was about to be banned with the member status of EU. Now, Sweden probably has the most liberal laws in Europe.
We managed to make the RWT tests more rare, from every year to every second year. It saves time and money for all bikers in Sweden. The purchase tax on motorcycles was taken away 2000 after years of complaints from SMC. Huge improvements in importing bikes from EU and outside. We managed to minimize the vehicle tax increase from € 25 to € 3. After 10 years of Vision Zero in Sweden, the authorities have finally admitted that the infrastructure must be more motorcycle friendly.
RB: What are the main subjects you are working on at this moment?
MN: Recruiting members is a very important issue right now. Minimize damage concerning the new insurance scheme for all vehicles is another. We want to improve information as a part of our PR strategy, BE SEEN! Minimize damage when implementing the new Driving Licence Directive. Improve infrastructure for motorcycles. Improve the safety for motorcyclists in Sweden concerning other road users (fatal accidents in collisions were 2/3 in 2006). Improve safety by selling training to different groups of bikers: those who got the A-licence with the car license, reborn bikers and the sport bike riders.
RB: Are there any subjects that will get your special attention in the near future?
MN: All are mentioned under the previous question. We signed a deal, consisting of nine points, with The National Road Administration on the 11th April about how to improve infrastructure for motorcyclists. We’ve never been mentioned in any regulation concerning building and maintenance of roads. The deal includes a new motorcycle friendly crash barrier or/and protection AND a regulation for where it should be put up. A working group will start soon where SMC, companies, CEN-people and the Road Administration will work together. This might be the end for the cable barrier in Sweden!
RB: When did your organisation join FEMA and what was the main reason to do so?
MN: SMC was a founder member of EMA (1992). SMC was one of the organisations that wanted the merge of EMA and FEM to FEMA. SMC cannot work in Brussels on our own and we need a strong organisation in Europe.
RB: What role does FEMA play in your current or future activities?
MN: FEMA plays an important role in the future for European bikers. Many decisions are made in the EU or globally and the motorcyclists must be a part in the process. FEMA is our key.
FEMA also gives us the information we need for our national work. Right now I’m waiting for the outcome of the discussions concerning the appendixes in the DLD directive. SMC are planning the strategy for the implementation of the directive in Sweden and the results FEMA can come up with are crucial to our national work. We always get in touch with our MEPs in motorcycle issues.
We can also learn a lot from good examples in other organisations and countries. A good example is the crash barrier issue in the Netherlands, Spain and Norway. And then we have a global network where motorcyclists all around the world are connected.
RB: Do you have some good advice for your fellow FEMA-member organisations?
MN: We share a passion for motorcycles. But we also have different backgrounds and different angles how to attack the problems. We must respect the differences.
RB: Some travelling tips: why should we all visit your country next summer?
MN: Sweden is a large country with a small population, only nine million. Only one million people live north of the middle of the country. So there is still a lot of wilderness, forests and lakes.
There are big differences in the landscape from the south to the north, from the west to the east coast. The midnight sun makes the nights bright, also south of the polar circle. There is never much traffic, not even during the holiday period.
Stay out of the main roads and go for the smaller ones. There are quite a lot of gravel roads, some really good. Try it, it’s not dangerous, just different. Weather can be great from June to September. July is the main holiday month for the Swedes.
There are plenty of campsites, cabins and hostels with cheap accommodation. You are also allowed to “wild camp” according to “Allemansrätten” as long as you stay out of someones private ground. Why not stay on your own by a lake for a night?
There are several mc-clubs with their own houses that welcomes bikers and also three mc-camps run by SMC-clubs.
The Swedish people are nice but perhaps not the most talkative in Europe. Almost everyone can speak English. And Sweden is no longer the most expensive country in Europe. If you eat out, try Dagens Rätt at lunch time. It will cost you about € 7 and includes food, drinks, salad and coffee. Dining out at night will cost a lot more. We still have the Swedish krona, not the Euro.
Some things to take into account are: the price of alcohol is rather high and is only sold in the government owned shop “Systembolaget” at certain hours.
The moose is a huge animal and every year some bikers are killed in accidents with them.
During the summers there are plenty of major road works. The whole roads are torn up and you have to ride on gravel. Beware!
On our website we provide more tourist information for foreign bikers. Visit us at www.svmc.se