FEMA Partners - Norsk Motorcykkel Union (NMCU)
Morten Hansen from fellow FEMA member group NMCU Norway gives us a Nordic view.
Interview by Ralf Bretveld – Picture Wim Taal MAG NL
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?
MH:Norway has approx. 105.000 registered motorcycles, owned by approx. 90.000 riders. By the 1st January 2006, a little more than 15.000 of these 90.000 riders were members of Norsk Motorcykkel Union (the Norwegian MotorCycle Union) - NMCU. The last four-five years NMCU has been loosing members. Not many, but enough to make the organisation worried. Possible explanations for the situation: In our neo-liberalistic and market-oriented society, people seem to be less keen to join and support organisations. Besides, outside circumstances have forced NMCU to focus heavily on road safety, and although most riders understand why, road safety is not a very "sexy" issue.
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?
MH:In 2004 we had a questionnaire out on our website. One of the questions was: Do you know what kind of work NMCU is doing? 43 % of the answers from non-members said, no! Another question was: Would you regard NMCU as being a "visible" organisation? 72 % of the answers from non-members said, no! The die-hard bikers do of course know NMCU. But I am afraid that NMCU is better known among politicians and bureaucrats than among the many thousand, not-so-committed motorcycle owners. NMCU is really struggling to find a way to reach these "Sunday-bikers". We also have a huge problem "translating" the importance of the political work we do, into a "language" that ordinary riders understand and can relate to. However, we have high hopes that the ongoing Membership Project is going to solve these communication problems.
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.)
MH:NMCU is primarily a Riders' Rights organisation, and most of our resources are channelled into the political work. However, we are involved in other activities as well. We issue a member magazine every second month and produce an annual Touring Calendar. We operate discount schemes on insurance, fuel, accommodation, financing and tyres.
NMCU is also deeply involved in road safety work. Mostly for political reasons, but often because we have the expertise needed to improve the accident situation. An example is a project from 2001. Our own research showed that people died in single -vehicle accidents because they had never really learned how to ride a bike. Thus, NMCU published an 80 pages book describing a precise and effective riding technique. The book is called "Full Kontroll" (In Control) and more than 30.000 copies (!) are now distributed to Norwegian riders.
RB: Could you give some examples of the important successes achieved by your organisation?
MH:In 2003 NMCU managed to establish the principle that motorcycle owners should only pay half of the annual tax paid by car owners - an annual saving of nearly 200 Euro for the bikers ("Two Wheels - Half Tax"). NMCU also contributed to the opening of bus lanes to bikes and the exempt of bikes in toll-rings around the major cities and on many other toll-roads. With the new Norwegian initial rider training scheme the learner riders are getting "value for money": Instead of just learning how to pass their test, they now really learn how to ride a motorcycle. That makes them safer - and they are having much more fun. The new initial rider training is to a very large extent based on the "Full Kontroll" book and inputs from NMCU.
RB: What are the main subjects you are working on at this moment?
MH:The main issue right now is undoubtedly the process of having a formal ban on further use of cable barriers. NMCU congratulate MAG Netherlands with the great victory in the Dutch Parliament and we sincerely hope Norway will join the "cable barrier free zone" after a scheduled, final meeting with our Minister of Transport on the 26th January! We'll let you know. Two other issues: 1) Finalizing the work of implementing new and more liberal rules and regulations for modifying bikes and, 2) organising a large SEE US!! campaign in March/April 2006.
RB: Are there any subjects that will get your special attention in the near future?
MH:The next big issue on the agenda will be to promote motorcycles and scooters as an environmentally friendly alternative in city transport. Included in the issue is the demand for free motorcycle parking, exempt from proposed road pricing (rush hour toll) and removal of all vehicle taxes on the 125cc light motorcycles and scooters.
RB: When did your organisation join FEMA and what was the main reason to do so?
MH:NMCU was a founding member of EMA (1992) and one of the driving forces behind the merger 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.
RB: What role does FEMA play in your current or future activities?
MH:A big part! For three reasons: 1) FEMA membership gives us a chance to take part in European lobbying, 2) FEMA membership gives us access to vital information before Norwegian Authorities, and that gives us an edge, 3) through FEMA we are part of the world wide motorcycling network, exchanging information and ideas - invaluable!
RB: Do you have some good advice for your fellow FEMA-member organisations?
MH: Never forget whose interests you are fighting for!
RB: Why should we all visit your country next summer?
MH:Because Norway is a large country with a small population, giving you plenty of space to move about in - in some parts you can ride for hours without seeing another vehicle. Because we have thousands of kilometres of twisting and turning roads - excellent for motorcycle riding. Because Norway has beautiful fjords and mighty mountains. Because here you can ride through unspoilt nature and put up your tent up wherever you want - far away from heavy industry and pollution. Those things might weigh up for the fact that we have very low speed limits and extremely high fines for speeding. It might even weigh up for the fact that pint will cost you at least 6 Euro!