You know us at Bankstone News: why we would bother writing something ourselves when we can borrow something much better that someone else has written already.

It was in precisely this spirit that we spent all of ten seconds deciding to bring you the letter reproduced (largely un-mangled) below, which recently featured in esteemed industry organ British Dealer News.

The epistle in question sprang originally from the pen of esteemed dealer Pete Aitkenhead. It has important points to make about an issue of real concern in the market today: the scourge of violent crimes involving motorcycles currently raging in London and other towns and cities up and down the UK.

Frankly it’s a tad light on jokes, but then moped enabled crime is hardly a laughing matter and it’s well worth reading just the same.

We need to address the despicable double act of theft and thuggery

I’ve been in the bike trade long enough to see history repeating itself, and I fear we may be heading there again.

In around 1994, Norwich Union was paying out £2 in claims for every pound it took in premiums. So it discontinued its much-loved Rider policy, which allowed you to own, insure and ride several bikes for one reasonable premium.

Back then, Norwich Union enjoyed two-thirds of the market, around 400,000 riders, but stepped back because of the problem of spiralling thefts. In came a new Premier policy, with 17 bands instead of the previous seven. No-one under 28 was accepted. No-claims bonuses were not offered. Premiums rocketed.

Several other companies bailed out of bike insurance altogether.

That same year, Fowlers took on the parts distribution for Piaggio, whose vehicle sales grew steadily under the excellent stewardship of Giuseppe Tranchina. He took a different approach to sales and marketing, and built a strong network of good dealer relations. But he was being held back, particularly where youngsters were concerned, by high insurance costs.

In conjunction with Lexham Insurance, Piaggio began offering a flat premium of £125, which made their machines accessible to a much wider audience. Sales went through the roof, doubling over several successive years.

Insurance companies are constantly analysing the market. Which vehicles incur most costs? Where are they located? But actuaries don’t live in a bubble. They also watch the TV news.

In recent years, PTWs have had a generally positive press: low fuel consumption, allowed in bus lanes, no congestion charge, widely used in fast (and fast food) deliveries in London and across the UK.

But now they are starting to be seen as theft liabilities, ridden by acid or hammer wielding thugs. We urgently need to do something to address this.

I have been somewhat appalled at the casual attitude of the government to the recent acid attacks. They can say only that they are going to “review” the situation. In general discussion with staff here, I said I couldn’t see the difference between carrying a loaded gun or a knife and a container of acid. One of the staff spun round in his chair and said “I’d rather be shot.”

There are laws for dealing with Burglar Bill wandering the streets at night with a bag of screwdrivers and a jemmy (it’s called going equipped). If the Plod pull a scooter rider over, and a search reveals a mobile phone, some keys, and a container of acid, the conclusion is inevitable.

One MP said on the radio that the problem is that substances like bleach and drain cleaner can be found under everyone’s kitchen sink. Sir, I rest my case! Because under the sink is where they should be. Anywhere else, and someone should be getting their collar felt.

If machine thefts don’t stop, bike sales will dry up. Then you have no-one left to sell to – whether you’re talking about, helmets, locks, insurance or whatever.

Secondly, I’d be willing to bet these acid attacks aren’t being committed using legitimately owned vehicles. So, if we can slow up the thefts, we can help remove the tools these thugs need to carry out their despicable acts.

Lastly, I have heard police won’t pursue stolen scooters or fail-to-stops when the riders aren’t wearing crash helmets – just the ubiquitous hoodie – in case the Dear Little Things get injured.

I have an opinion on that, and I expect most others will as well!

– Pete Aitkenhead, Fowlers of Bristol



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