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The Motorcycle Action Group, more commonly known as MAG, is the main Riders' Rights organisation in the UK, as well as being a founding member of the FEMA (Federation of European Motorcyclists' Associations) and a model for many other similar pressure groups worldwide.

MAG was founded in 1973 when the UK Government introduced a law making it mandatory for motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Under the slogan "Let the Rider Decide" they (unsuccessfully) tried to argue that helmet use should be voluntary. After eventually admitting defeat on the subject (although it hasn't completely gone away), MAG developed into a general purpose pressure group to fight for riders' rights in all sorts of ways. To the uninitiated it might seem a bit strange that motorcyclists feel they need such a group, but there are many people and organisations that for various reasons are continually trying to pass legislation which most bikers feel is contrary to their interests.

MAG has been quite successful compared to many single-issue pressure groups. Amongst the propositions which have been put forward, opposed by MAG and then later withdrawn include:

  • Compulsory power restriction of all motorbikes to a maximum of 100 bhp
  • Compulsory fitting of leg protectors to all new bikes (an idea that was designed to improve safety: MAG showed the Governmental research to be so seriously flawed that leg protectors would actually have increased the risk of injury in a crash
  • Compulsory daytime headlights for bikes

They also do positive campaigning, such as trying to arrange for safe, secure parking for motorcycles in city centres. Motorcycle theft in the UK runs at about 3 times that of car theft, because unless they're physically locked down to something, bikes can easily be lifted up and placed in a van. MAG also campaigns for traffic laws and road design to take into account the needs of motorcycles as well as those of cars.

Despite some misconceptions, MAG isn't particularly on an anti-safety crusade. Their argument is more that responsible adults should be able to make their own decisions about their own safety: if someone prefers to ride without a helmet, knowing the potential risks if they crash, why shouldn't they be allowed to. Unlike cars, where loss of control is often more dangerous to others, loss of control on a motorbike is more likely to injure the rider than anyone else involved.

As well as a political element, MAG's regional and local groups also have a large social element, providing an excuse to go to the pub and get drunk (like we'd need an excuse!). Most MAG groups also organise Christmas toy runs and Easter Egg runs, where a convoy of bikers will take gifts/chocolate eggs to children stuck in hospital over the festive periods, and will often perform fundraising work for local charities. Having been on a few such runs, it's great to see people's attitudes chage towards what they thought were nasty, smelly greasy bikers!

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