FEMA Partners - MAG Netherlands
Wim Taal from fellow FEMA member group MAG Netherlands gives us a Dutch 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?
WT: There are about 550.000 registered motorcycles in the Netherlands, so we guess that there should be about 450.000 actual riders. At this moment just over 5.000 people are member of MAG NL. We have been growing steadily for years, but last year numbers started dropping, mostly - we think - because of poor economic circumstances.
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?
WT: I would say that we are quite well known amongst most riders and politicians, but the general public probably hasn't got a clue who we are and what we do. We do our best to change this by actively seeking media attention to reach everybody, not just riders. Apart form that, we do of course try to contact riders through newsletters in motorcycle magazines and by presenting ourselves at motorshows and fairs.
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.)
WT: Looking after the interests of motorcyclists is a full time job, so we don't take on to many extra things. We do however always look for possible partnerships with insurance companies or advanced rider training schools, in order to get some nice deals for our members. But, as one of the smaller FEMA oranisations, we only have a limited number of people working for us or volunteering their time to MAG, so we have to be careful with those extras, as they may cause a lot of extra administrative work that would cost us too much time.
RB: Could you give some examples of the important successes achieved by your organisation?
WT: The most recent victory came when our national parliament voted in favour of a ban on wire rope fences. We have been fighting for this ban at the same time we did our lobbying for motorcycle friendly crah barriers and it worked! We have also achieved that the ministry of transport, together with MAG, will start an inventory on all crash barriers along highways. After the inventory they will be adapted to riders wishes. So those are two major successes, but there are all kinds of smaller victories as well, such as new standards for road markings, public campaigns - aimed at cardrivers as well as motorcyclists - to reduce motorcycle casualties and a code of conduct for filtering through traffic jams.
RB: What are the main subjects you are working on at this moment?
WT: Well, the motorcyclefriendly crashbarrier is still number one on our list, because we will not stop raising this issue until European laws are changed and motorcycles are included in the tests that these crashbarriers have to pass in order to be used on public roads. Besides that, we have more and more in contact with the different provinces in the Netherlands, where we explain our visions directly to politicians. We hope that in doing so, these people get to the point where they take a look at their designs and proposals from a motorcyclists'point of view before they are carried out. That saves us a lot of energy trying to get unacceptable situations undone afterwards.
RB: Are there any subjects that will get your special attention in the near future?
WT: I think on of the subjects that has been on our mind for a long time but has not been given the right priority, is the environment. However you feel or think about the subject, European and global regulations on vehicles will get stricter, wether we like it or not. We, and I mean all of the FEMA members and FEMA itself, should be at the leading end of the discussions on this topic to protect the future of motorcycling.
RB: When did your organisation join FEMA and what was the main reason to do so?
WT: Let me think… I think we joined FEM in 1989. Anyway, we were one the earliest to join the European riders' community because even in those days our boardmembers realised that 'Brussels' rules Europe. There is no point in fighting on a national level when the real decisions are made in Brussels.
RB: What role does FEMA play in your current or future activities?
WT: FEMA, or should I say European isssues have always been important to us. We live in a small country and we have no doubts that Dutch riders need a strong organisation like FEMA to have our voices heard and to get our points across to European politicians.
RB: Do you have some good advice for your fellow FEMA-member organisations?
WT: Some good advice? I think I could fill a page on this subject alone! But let me keep it simple.
Everybody in FEMA should ask themselves from time to time: is what we are doing now really benefiting the riders in my country and in Europe? We sometimes have a tendency to focus on - and fight over - details and we get stuck in endless arguments; we look like politicians sometimes! FEMA's slogan is 'fighting for riders rights', so keep doing that and never forget that the riders' influence in Europe could be much bigger if we could sometimes agree on things before it's too late.
RB: Why should we all visit your country next summer?
WT: Okay, I'll give you some do's and don'ts: don't try to ride your bike while wearing wooden shoes. Stay away from Dutch cars with caravans, they drive like idiots. Don't speed, there's cameras at every street corner, even hidden in garbage bins and fines are getting higher and higher. When you enter the Netherlands via a highway, do get off at the first exit. Do tuck your map away deep in your suitcase or tankbag. It is impossible to get lost here, but this is the best way to get to some unexpected places. Do visit our woods, wildlife, beaches, busy cities and museum towns. Do it all. Because the best part is: wherever you are in this country, everything is within riding distance. Best reason of all: the Netherlands are "gezellig". And you can look that one up in your dictionary!