We get plenty of comments on stories in Rye News which we enjoy reading, and most of them get published. Just occasionally a subject comes up that dominates the comments columns and right now, that subject is motorcyclists and their weekly meet-up at Strand Quay.
We first published an article on this a few weeks ago and since then the Environment Agency, who own the Quay, have asked for opinions – and they are certainly getting them. In addition, the problem was discussed by the town council this week.
The council’s discussion seems to have centred mainly on noise and speeding of motorbikes who use Strand Quay as their meeting place, although they, as demonstrated below, are not the main cause.
A number of bikers have written to in give their point of view, pointing out, among other things, the interest shown in the bikes parked at the Quay by both locals and tourists, together with the money that they spend not just in establishments close to the Quay, but also in pubs, coffee and tea rooms, and restaurants elsewhere in the town.
In return, the anti-biking viewpoint has complained of noise, speeding and the ability of bikers to park free.
In view of all this, I recently went down to the Quay to have a look at the bikes and talk to some of the bikers and found them to be respectful of Rye and its surroundings, responsible in the way they treated and rode their (often very valuable) machines, and more than a little upset at the way they felt they had been unjustly demonised by some of the locals.
But let’s examine some of the complaints that have come in to Rye News.
Noise: It is, without doubt, a fact that a motorcycle engine makes a louder noise that that of the average car, even with the manufacturer’s latest exhaust and silencing technology. Many bikers also fit an after-market exhaust which is designed to increase and change the tone of the exhaust noise.
It should be noted, however, that when bought from a reputable supplier, these exhausts will still display the BSI Kitemark and therefore be within current noise regulations. One or two complaints suggesting that bikes could be heard several miles before arriving in Rye, would seem, even allowing for an after-market exhaust, to be somewhat exaggerated.
One reader claimed that over a given period on one day, some 300 bikes passed his home. I don’t know whether all these were counted individually or whether the figure (which, on the face of it, sounds a little excessive) is an estimate, but let us assume it is accurate.
“Simply passing through”
On the weekend I went to talk to the bikers there were around 30 bikes in the car park (although there was room for more). On this basis, therefore, only 10% of the bikes that passed our reader actually stopped in Rye, the remainder were simply passing through en route to other destinations, and, indeed, I saw evidence of this while talking to the bikers parked on the Quay.
Speed: Several readers have complained about excessive speed, and while this may be the case in some instances (as it is with cars and vans), the majority of bikes that I observed appeared to be travelling within the legal limit. Certainly one or two estimates of speed that have been made would simply not be possible under normal circumstances.
Should they pay to park? As a general rule, parking is free for motor bikes and scooters around the country. Some may not agree with this principle, but as this is the norm, there seems to be no reason to change it just for Rye.
The real problem here is not primarily the bikers, but that Rye is on a major east / west trunk route – the A259 – and, until such time as the Highways Agency realises that our local roads are totally unsuited to 21st century traffic (and don’t hold your breath waiting for that), we are going to have to suffer increasing levels of noise and pollution, whether it is cars, vans, HGVs or motorbikes, and the price we currently have to pay for living in this lovely old town is that we have to accept this.
It is easy to blame one section of the community for something that a few very vocal people find an inconvenience, but, as the council heard, it is cars rather than motorcycles who are most guilty of speeding. It is also a fact that the majority of motor bikes are simply passing through without stopping (a point that the council meeting, according to the report, seemed to have entirely missed), so any attempt to prevent bikers gathering at Strand Quay would have very little effect on overall noise levels.
For a number of years I lived at the lower end of the Strand where I overlooked the river and the A259. Compared to the noise of HGVs, bikes were rarely a problem and at 7am every Saturday a JCB would arrive in St Margaret’s Terrace opposite, and drag its bucket over the unmade road in an attempt to rectify the damage caused during the preceding week by lorries exiting Jempsons’ haulage yard. The noise was far worse than anything originating from motorbikes!
Image Credits: John Minter .