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The Mulhouse Declaration

Words from the Chair - Originaly published in Motorcycle Actions Group's newspaper Streetbiker issue: 117 June/July 2001.

Written By Neil Liversidge (Chair of MAG).

About 18 months ago all the world's major Riders' Rights organisations met in Mulhouse, France. The occasion was the second International Motorcyclists' Public Policy Conference.

It was a good meeting where allies learned from each other and from the various experts who gave presentations. As the meeting moved towards a close though it seemed to me that we had within our grasp a golden opportunity to make a pre- emptive strike against the politicians and self appointed safety-crats.

The issue in question was that of External Vehicle Speed Control or EVSC as it is known, sometimes misleadingly referred to as Telematics. In case anyone does not know, academic Oliver Carsten of Leeds University has just produced a 40-page death warrant for motorcycling. As yet that death warrant remains unsigned by Government. Our job - the job of the international Riders Rights lobby, of MAG, of myself, is to see that it remains unsigned or better still that it is sent back to Mr Carsten with a recommendation that he shove it where the sun doesn't shine. This death warrant is Carsten's final report recommending the implementation of EVSC within a laid-out timescale. EVSC is defined by the report as 'a system that provides the capability for automatic limitation of vehicle top speed to the current limit.' Got that? A beacon by the roadside will determine how fast you go. You won't be in ultimate control of your bike any more. Electronic gizmos set by some bureaucrat will have removed that control and with it your freedom and independence of action in relation to your bike, your property that you worked to buy. The report concludes that mandatory Europe-wide EVSC has large accident reduction potential and suggests that fitment to vehicles could be compulsory by 2013 or earlier, 2019 at the latest.

Back to Mulhouse and that golden opportunity I mentioned. Present at Mulhouse were not only Riders Rights organisations such as MAG UK and allies, but also academics, representatives of the motorcycle industry and the FIM, which governs the lucrative world of motorcycle sport. Some of the riders rights organisations in Mulhouse were also those that are national members of FIM such as the American Motorcyclists Association, SMC of Sweden and our own BMF and ACU. With all the glitterati present it seemed to me that we should use the opportunity to put down a firm marker against EVSC and draw a line that no politician would dare to cross. I therefore moved what has since become known as The Mulhouse Declaration.

The Mulhouse Declaration
We the undersigned utterly oppose the compulsory fitment to privately owned vehicles of any device designed to arbitrarily remove control from the driver to remote operation.

We note with extreme concern the tendency of governments to impose ever more intrusive and restrictive regulations upon the citizen.

We caution governments to remember that they are permitted to govern only by the consent of the people and that such consent when given through an election does not grant unlimited licence to interfere in the daily life of the citizen.

We further caution all governments that to impose unduly on popular freedom is to imperil the respect in which government and the rule of law is held.

Mulhouse states - Knowing that most of the people there would not have the authority to vote for their organisations I asked them to vote as individuals. Whilst they could not guarantee the support of the organisations they were representing it seemed to me that people trusted to represent their organisations would at any rate speak with considerable authority, albeit only in a personal capacity. Only the BMF Chief Executive (Simon Wilkinson) spoke against the motion and nobody voted against it. Most of the delegates signed the declaration on the spot.

After returning to the UK I was bombarded with emails from organisations and individuals worldwide, all eager to sign it also. To me the Mulhouse Declaration is a sine qua non for any organisation claiming to represent riders' rights. If MAG was not 100% opposed to EVSC then I would not be a MAG member and I am sure the same goes for all of you. There can be no backsliding, compromise or betrayal on this fundamental issue. This, even more than the helmet law, goes right to the heart of what MAG is all about - keeping big brother out of biking.

That so many of our allies worldwide signed up without hesitation was a source of great cheer to me. To beat EVSC we need in the first place a united front of every riders organisation and everyone making money out of biking - which pretty much means the industry worldwide and those like FIM who run motorcycle sport. In the second place we need a broader alliance bringing in everyone who uses any form of personal transport and who at the same time values his or her freedom and independence. I don't think for one minute that this will be difficult to achieve. The average car driver will have no more use for EVSC than we have. Car drivers will sign up to Mulhouse in droves.

What does Mulhouse mean? It's pretty simple really.

First of all it talks about 'privately owned vehicles' - in other words the generally accepted terminology for personal transport, bikes and cars. I didn't want to give anyone the chance to cloud the issue by arguing the general merits or demerits of EVSC for school buses and petrol tankers. Mulhouse talks about the transport that matters to us - bikes.

Secondly Mulhouse talks about devices that arbitrarily remove control from the driver. In Ohio we were treated to a large dose of anaesthetic from proponents of telematics. They were keen to tell us about night vision devices and audible warnings for car driving coffin dodgers who wander over the white line. Mulhouse is not about telematics in general but about EVSC in particular - and any other device that removes control from the driver to remote over their vehicles, control over their movements, control over their lives.

Thirdly Mulhouse reminds Governments that they do not have carte blanche. Politicians have a knack of arrogating powers to themselves that the electors never intended them to have. Never forget that it was a democratically elected government that made Jews wear stars. Tyranny creeps further than it leaps. It is more often and more securely established by degrees than by any sudden coup. Anyone who wishes to understand how this can be should read the diaries of Victor Klemperer, 1933-1945.

Lastly Mulhouse makes clear that we value the rule of law. Any politician that asks the police to enforce stupid, unfair or irrelevant laws does them no favour at all. Ask a Los Angeles cop who is supposed to arrest people for smoking on the street. Most cops I know possess a great measure of common sense. They know that law enforcement is easier with the public on their side. The academics, safety-fascists and assorted do-gooders who seek to impose EVSC on us say they are trying to save lives. When will it dawn on such people that death cannot be abolished? In trying to achieve that end though it is perfectly possible to make life unliveable.

If you can see the threat that Carsten's report poses, if you are against EVSC, what can you do?

Well for a kick off if you are not a MAG member already you could join. Click Here

In due course we'll be putting out a petition on EVSC. We need to make it the biggest petition with the most signatures ever raised. We'll do this by using the Internet. Watch the MAG website. When it's launched, email everyone you know and ask them to sign, and ask them to email their friends. We need millions of signatures against EVSC.

Mulhouse took me five minutes to write. It's only 114 words long. If I had agonised over it for a week however I could not have written anything that more clearly and simply expressed everything that I feel on this issue.

There are those who will argue that this issue can only be fought on technical grounds and that all other language is emotive claptrap. They are sadly deluded and tragically naive. Technology is moving fast. Nobody, the boffins included, knows what might be possible in a few years time. If we build our argument on technical criticisms alone then we build it on sand. This issue is not ultimately about what is or is not technically feasible; it is about what kind of world we want to live in.

Think about it. It's your life, your freedom.

Ride Free

Neil F. Liversidge