The Mayor must act now to ensure the safety of London’s estimated quarter of a million motorcyclists.
The acid attacks on five motorcyclists last Thursday were one of the darkest days in memory for London’s motorcycling community. Not one, not two, but five delivery riders were selected at random by criminals and attacked with a viciousness which has shocked and angered all Londoners, not just those of us who ride motorcycles. Five innocent hard working people sustained in some cases horrific life changing injuries and psychological scars whilst on their motorcycles, working to keep London and its economy moving.
As the story became headline news, politicians and many others were quick to condemn this horrifying and sustained attack on London’s motorcycling community. But one important voice was missing. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and the man elected to ensure the security of Londoners and our safety on the roads, kept silent. Eventually, some 16 hours after this latest wave of attacks on motorcyclists began, he put up a brief tweet, barely noticeable among many others in which he advertised a sporting event. His tweet mused on the weapon which the criminals had chosen. There was no recognition of the community which was being attacked, no thought given to support or compensation for the victims of this barbaric crime, and no offer to listen to or engage with London’s besieged motorcyclists with a view to preventing further such attacks.
Shortly after the Mayor’s tweet, a sixth motorcyclist was attacked with acid in East London.
The appalling acid attacks on London’s motorcyclists have drawn some mainstream attention to our plight. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Acid is only one weapon in a terrifying arsenal which these attackers routinely deploy against us in order to rob us and steal our motorbikes. On a daily basis we are attacked with knives, hammers and improvised weapons. The theft of motorcycles has gone up manifold over the last year or so. Motorcyclists in London no longer feel safe, but most of us have no choice: public transport is exorbitantly expensive, slow and unreliable and we have to get to work somehow.
Motorcyclists are the most vulnerable group of road users, followed by pedestrians second and cyclists third. All three groups need protecting. In 2015 four times more motorcyclists than cyclists died on London’s roads. Cycling in London has billions spent on it and has reaped the benefits of improved safety as a result. But as far as we know congestion busting / pollution reducing motorcycling is yet to see a penny. There is a Cycling Commissioner in City Hall, but it would seem there is not even a junior researcher or apprentice tasked with championing the safety of London’s many thousands of motorcyclists. There is no mention of motorcycle theft and the crime it enables in the recent Mayor’s Police & Crime Plan, despite the vastness of the problem.
Will these shocking events focus the Mayor’s mind and finally encourage him to act? Campaigners like the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Community have been warning City Hall for months that London’s motorcycling community is under constant attack and that the criminals doing this pose a threat to wider society too. Prior to his election, Mr Khan wrote to the Motorcycle Action Group and committed to meeting with motorcyclists and working with us to make things better. In the 15 months since he was elected the situation has worsened catastrophically and he is yet to fulfill the commitment of even one meeting. Will he finally meet with the community and listen? Will he appoint a motorcycling policy lead at City Hall? Will he pay attention to evidence and the insights of academics and frontline workers?
The police do an absolutely heroic job on a daily basis. But when their budgets are being cut and there is little policy leadership from City Hall, no amount of heroism is enough. It is the Mayor who must act now to ensure the safety of London’s estimated quarter of a million motorcyclists.