I’m a biker – and the consultation on Roadside Facilities on the Strategic Road Network was my idea

As my years advance and my bones get old and knackered I find myself more closely in touch with my Inner Curmudgeon. Things were better when I was young. Hair was higher. Sony Walkmen were bigger. And Motorway Services lived up to their name, rather than being just an endless chain of opportunities to extort money from the road-weary traveller.

The trip to and from an otherwise excellent A.R.S.E was marred, on the way down, by the classic Small-Print-Parking-Sign shuffle. I used to campaign about these for a living so it’s profoundly annoying having fallen for one – maybe this is how Geoff Hoon feels, though at least I’m only out a tenner rather than a £5,000 day rate.

YOU MUST PAY TO PARK FOR MORE THAN 2 HOURS. Seriously? TRAVELODGE STAFF CANOT TAKE YOUR MONEY. YOU MUST PAY BY PHONE. What joy. Having been done by Westminster Council in the 5 minutes between parking and getting to my office in the hope of calling without getting rained on, I thought it were best to be done quickly, gritted my teeth and phoned the automatic call-handling service. £10 quid fee, oh, and a “handling charge.” How nice. How much does it cost to have a computer take your money anyway?

Drag the bags out of the panniers, squelch to the doors. In very small writing – FREE. Travelodge customers may park for free if they register their VRN at reception. I ask the receptionist that doesn’t speak English very well and the one with her ear clamped to her mobile phone if they can reimburse me. No, nothing to do with them, sorry.

So you have to pay for parking (if you’re going to be longer than 2 hours) and you have to pay to get your own money to hand back over the counter to the multiple retail opportunities, because free cash machines have been replaced by fee-charging boxes managed by the lovely people at LINK. (No, M&S in Service Areas don’t do cash-back, I asked.) At least in the old days the part of the services that was designed to ream you of your money was over-18s only and in plain sight as a slot-machine arcade.

What’s the point of a Motorway Services anyway? I’d argue that their key function is a safety one – they are a place to stop and rest if you’re so tired that your brain has stopped talking to your body. And since the arrival of HighwayHound, this is my perpetual condition. If you’re on a bike, you have a special need for somewhere you can sit that isn’t conditional on the purchase of fast food, because you can’t buy a sandwich and take it back to your warm and comfy car for scoff & shut-eye (119 minutes, max).

Maybe I am taking this too seriously in my sleep-deprived state. It’s good of the Government to consult on what Services should be provided at an MSA, and I don’t want to be too tetchy about the special prominence given to caravans and electric cars compared to the humble motorcyclist. The consultation says that we should be offered lockers to stash our gear. I’d prefer a parking space that wasn’t seen as a handy place to stash an RAC recruiting wagon. And that I wasn’t fooled into paying for.

Have your say: http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/2010-25/


Filed under Riders Rights

6 responses to “I’m a biker – and the consultation on Roadside Facilities on the Strategic Road Network was my idea

  1. Don't be too tetchy about provision for caravans. I have a caravan as well as bikes, and tow possibly twice a year. There is an MSA two hours from here on the M4, which is ideal for a rest stop, but the caravan places are always full of lorries. I have complained about this to the Duty Manager, but with no effect. The drivers claim that once they have stopped they can't move again because of the tachograph regs, but in reality it's money talking. The truckers park where they like because they know the MSA can't do without them. Small fry like caravans and bikes can just go hang.

    On the issue of the parking charge, you might be interested in this.

  2. MRA? Motorway Rest Area? We have those in the UK??

  3. Motorway Rest and Service Area – MRSA, and about as healthy.

  4. We are the country that 'invented' Dick Turpin….and his spirit is alive and flourishing on Britains's Motorways. Everything more expensive than off-motorway facilities, over-crowded, stinking holes!

    In comparison, what a joy it is to travel in other lands – particularly Germany and France. Remarkably, they manage to achieve their excellence without time-and-money wasting bureaucratic 'Government Consultation' exercises which (inevitably) are run by London-based Civil Servants who have no idea of a world outside of the Metropolis!

  5. We have seen some of the said lockers for motorcyclists near Carlisle, only for them to be out of use due to the terrorist threat on occasions. I say send for Team America. F*ck Yeah!

  6. Hi,
    Hope you don't mind, after reading your blog I passed on a link to the DfT's Proposal to the IAM, they said they were to investigate and prepare a response.

    In particular, I asked them to look out for secure bike parking and also sent them a link to your old post of the RAC van in the bike park area…

    – Russ

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