FEMA President - Hans Petter Strifeldt
MAG welcomes Hans Petter Strifeldt as the new President of the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA). The former Chairman of the Norsk Motorcykkel Union (NMCU) was unanimously elected by FEMA’s national members at their Annual General Meeting on Saturday 2 February 2008.
Could you tell us a little about your history: what is your personal and professional background, how and when did you get involved in riders' rights?
Sure. I’m turning 39 this April, I’m married to Sølvi and together we have two children, a son turning 15 and a daughter turning 12. My wife and daughter also ride so you might say we’re a motorcycle family.
I was born far up north in Norway, and love food - a fact that is somewhat visible on my stature, as my wife keeps reminding me. I’ve been working as a journalist for some 12 years before entering into communication and media relations 8 years ago.
I got my motorcycle licence in 1992 but didn’t become an active rider until 2000. From that time onwards, though, bikes have been my prime, first and most important spare time activity, only surpassed by time spent with my family. I ride some 20-25000 km’s per season and use my bikes as much as possible: commuting, touring, holidays and so on. I am a Guzzi fan and can’t get enough of them in my garage.
When I started riding I noticed that some people were actually interested in me as a rider. They spoke to me about my right to carry out my passion in the safest possible way. They didn’t say “riding is dangerous” or “motorcycles are not safe”. No, these were people who acknowledged my interests and wanted to work to minimize the risks by making me a better rider, making sure that the road authorities considered me as a “soft” road user when introducing new or updated infrastructure into the road environment - they were in short working for me and my interests. It struck me that these people, combining passion and professionalism, were actually very much listened to by the road authorities and politicians.
They produced results beyond expectations, considering both size and manpower. As years passed I became aware that I really had to contribute to this great work. I really wanted to apply my skills to their work, if they needed it. This is why I engaged myself with the NMCU (Norsk Motorcykkel Union) from 2003 onwards.
Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement within NMCU?
I was approached by NMCU’s central committee in a period when the number of members had been in a steady decline for some years.
For an organization such as NMCU, the number of members is its power base. Fewer members is effectively eroding NMCU’s power base, and the organization was in need of reinventing itself to increase support.
I was elected president of NMCU in 2006 with a program to make NMCU more visible and increase number of members which, I’m glad to report, we have achieved. NMCU has still work to do on this area, but we have hopefully turned the tides and the organization is very much a power to consider for the politicians and authorities in Norway.
Could you give some examples of the important successes achieved by your organisation?
I think the fact that NMCU took charge and renewed rider’s training was an important milestone.
Increased competence, risk management, safety awareness - it may look like words from a corporate brochure, but this is what riding is all about. When Norwegian riders took the responsibility for educating us, the results where profound. Today, Norway has the lowest risk of accidents for motorcyclists in Europe. And this was achieved without compromising the passion and thrill of motorcycle riding. Also, ban on cable barriers was a very important victory for Norwegian motorcyclists.
Today politicians and authorities consider MC riders to be the prime experts on MC safety, and NMCU is considered to be an expert contributor to this area even without us being a safety organization. This is not a small achievement, even though we still have work to do.
When did your organisation join FEMA and what was the main reason to do so?
NMCU was a founding member of EMA (1992) and one of the driving forces behind the merge of EMA and FEM in 1998. Norway is not a member of the EU, but still has to implement all Single Market legislation through the EEA Treaty. Thus, FEMA is crucial to NMCU.
Since we have no Norwegian MEPs to talk to, the only way NMCU can have some influence on future Norwegian legislation is through the FEMA membership.
What was you motivation to present yourself as candidate for FEMA presidency?
I was presented with some of the challenges that FEMA is facing, and they are somewhat similar to the ones that NMCU faced. No organization can ever become too strong, so when asked if I could contribute to strengthen the FEMA I felt I couldn’t say no. I really care for the motorcycle community – I live my life in it, my family and friends are motorcyclists, and I’ve met great people here. When asked to contribute as FEMA President, the answer was obvious.
How do you see your position as FEMA President? What do want to bring to the Federation?
FEMA has a solid base of professionals who really know their way around, both in the elected bodies and in the secretariat. FEMA recognized that they now needed a “CEO” type of president to capitalize on its achievements. I do not have the background or skills to intervene on technical issues, and that is neither the reason I presented myself as candidate for the presidency. I can, however, contribute to increase FEMA’s power. My work will be to strengthen FEMA’s economic base and contribute to recruit members to the organizations. I believe this will make FEMA and our case even stronger.
Norway is not member of the EU. Do you think that having a “Non-European” President representing European riders could be an advantage?
I think the challenges that European motorcyclists are facing are universal. Even Norway is heavily influenced by EU decisions. We cannot achieve results only by working on a national level. We must cross boundaries, work on a European level and, eventually, globally. Coming from a non-EU country does not matter, I think. I am European, and will work from that angle.
What is your vision for the future of FEMA?
My vision is a strong, economically independent and highly respected organization not only recognized by its professionalism - as is already the case - but also with a strong support from European motorcyclists. Strong national associations are the best foundation onto which FEMA must be built further. I hope - in short - that FEMA will prosper through strong national organizations.
Do you have a message for FEMA-member organisations?
Thanks for letting me have this opportunity to contribute. I’ll do my best, and I hope I can be to some help in your efforts.
What would be your message to European motorcyclists?
There are many threats to us as motorcyclists, but I can assure you this: We’re here to stay!