MAG – David Short

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    I just read in BIKE (April 2007) magazine about the former Chief Superntendant of South Yorkshire police David Short. He has now retited from the force and is an active campaigner for MAG!

    Could be one of our key supporters.

    I found this interview with elsewhere on the web, gives us a bit of back ground.

    Good luck Dave!

    David Short

    Talking to the man
    Absurdly tall MAG member and BMW rider David Short has risen to the rank of Chief Superintendent of North Yorkshire (‘God’s own county’) police, after 29 years in the service. A lifetime rider, Patron of the MAG Foundation and Farmyard aficionado, he gives MAG his views on a range of subjects but won’t tell us how tall he is… interview – Ian Mutch

    SB Just how tall are you ?

    DS Taller than you by a long way.

    SB Hmmmph; all right tell us about your bikes then ?

    DS I’ve been riding all my life really. When I was a toddler Dad bolted a sidecar to his BSA A7 which served us well until my sister and younger brother came along and Dad traded it in for a Ford Thames van. He was a cop and had a Francis Barnett for many years before graduating to a mini van. As soon as I was able to manage a motorbike I started riding round on field bikes, Bantams and the like until I was old enough to ride on the road. I have never been without bikes and couldn’t imagine life without one, or two!

    My first bike was an Excelsior Consort 98cc, solid back end and girder forks, 1955 vintage. My first road bike was a Royal Enfield Crusader Sport 250cc, 984 WF, where are you?

    I have had too many to list, a couple of Bonnevilles, Speed twin, ( the originals! ), Norton Commando , Yamaha two stokes, Suzukis. I wish I still had the Brit iron. I swopped the Triumph speed twin for £50 quid and an electric guitar! Since 1985 I have had Beemers. I love them.

    My current bike’s a BMW GS 1150. I love it because life is too short to take seriously. It has attitude. Try looking one straight in the eye!

    SB What made you join MAG ?

    DS Motorcycling is such an integral part of my life and it’s important that it has a credible voice. MAG provides that platform.

    SB What do you see as being the advantage of MAG launching the MAG Foundation ?

    DS It’s so important that as bikers we get our own house in order. The MAG foundation will provide that framework with regard to improved safety, security etc and will hopefully inform policy on motorcycling to the benefit of bikers.

    SB How do you feel about speed cameras ?

    DS Safety Cameras, to give them their correct term, present an emotive subject and I can’t think of any other issue which has alienated the public from the police in such a way. If they are used correctly at genuine places where safety is an issue, eg outside schools, built up areas then I don’t have a problem with them. However, people seem to be able to give examples where the siting of them is questionable which undermines the whole ethos of road safety.

    SB What do you feel can make the biggest difference to the problem of motorcycle accidents ?

    DS There is no doubt about it that rider attitude is the single most critical factor in reducing casualties. Lots of people, the police, MAG, BMF, County Councils, have done so much over recent years and I now think it has got to the point where we should produce posters like Lord Kitchener’s recruiting campaign in World War 1, pointing a finger and saying, “what are you, the rider, doing about it!”. Bikes are only as safe as the nut holding the handlebars.

    SB Should that Brunstrom fellow have been given a knighthood or a lethal injection ?

    DS Knighthood definitely, pass me the sword, oops the blade slipped. Actually Richard Brunstrom is a top guy he actively supported me in the promotion of Bike Safe and he currently holds the Bike Safe portfolio in North Wales Police. He is controversial but he does stimulate debate. There are two many ‘clones’ about. He is a character, thank goodness. He’s an OK guy. Honest!

    SB How do you feel about the zealots in the road safety sphere who would like to see all vehicles controlled with high tech apparatus?

    DS They need to take into account the attributes of a motorcycle and the laws of physics. Ever played scalextric and got it wrong? Remote controlling motorbikes would be disastrously dangerous.

    SB Do you think MAG was right to oppose the 100bhp limit ?

    DS Yes, there is so much nonsense about BHP, mainly from bikers themselves. Most only ever use a fraction of the bhp available in an engine. The scariest bike I ever had was a Yamaha 350 which was ‘tweaked’. It probably only maxed out at 40bhp but wow and how! BHP is not the issue, it’s how it’s used that matters.

    SB Can you see us getting some form of serious high tech interference in the foreseeable future if 100% surveillance were to become acceptable, via ‘chipped’ vehicles for example ?

    DS I really worry that motorcycling is charging up a dead end alley, fuelled by all the blether in the popular biking press about knee down, wheelying, mine’s faster than yours. It’s so short sighted and I wonder at times what these goons think they are doing to motorcycling. I wish they would all piss off and take up hang gliding or something. We are being watched very closely and I suspect that if we don’t demonstrate a responsible, (doesn’t have to be boring ) attitude, then legislation will do it for us.

    SB Do you think the mainstream bike press carry any responsibility for cultivating a racing culture on our roads ?

    DS Yes I do, its the laddish culture which not only pervades motorcycling but cars and other walks of life too. My problem is that they actually promote irresponsible attitudes. They will get their comeuppance. Local pressure groups are buying the mags and waving them at me saying this is typical of biker attitudes. It’s difficult to argue back and I know that they are sending the articles to local MPs. I was in America recently and bought some Bike magazines, they were a real pleasure to read and written by journalists who had real skill in writing interesting articles. Our mainstream bike press is bilge by comparison.

    SB What do you think of Streetbiker’s editorial complexion?

    DS I don’t have to say it’s ab-fab, but I will!

    SB How much responsibility does the motorcycle industry carry for cultivating a racing culture on our roads ?

    DS The industry will produce what they can get away with to meet customer demand. That demand is fuelled by the biking press. It’s a chicken and egg. I want personal choice and I don’t want it taken away from me because certain types of bike are legislated out of existence due to the irresponsible minority. I know a lot of people in the biking industry and they are genuinely concerned. It’s trying to find that Holy Grail which will engender the right attitude amongst bikers.

    SB Do you have any evidence that Bikesafe is working?

    DS The biggest achievement of Bike Safe is to get safety on the agenda for a wide range of groups. There is always the problem that we are seen to be preaching to the converted but if it makes just one person think and prevents one death, then it will have been worth it.I am not aware of anyone who has been through a Bike Safe assessment being involved in a crash so that must be a good endorsement.

    SB How helpful has MAG been in assisting Bikesafe ?

    DS Right from the start back in 97 MAG have been staunch supporters and provided financial help through donations. A very important part and thanks to everyone.

    SB Do you think track days are good or bad for safety ?

    DS I’ve done track days and thoroughly enjoyed them. They haven’t made me any more a dangerous rider but you have to remember the road and track environments are worlds apart. Some out there haven’t made that link!

    SB How do you feel about the noise issue?

    DS I would like to see race cans banned and loud cans also. It’s the one issue that gets up the public’s nose and reinforces the perception that bikers speed everywhere. A CBR 600 at 60mph is probably revving at 7 grand or something, blast that through a race can and it sounds like it’s doing 100mph at least.

    SB Do you think bikers are their own worst enemy ?

    DS Without a doubt the sports bike brigade are the one group who will do our knees. The sad thing is I don’t think they really care. They will just move onto something else, ‘more cool’ for their egos. By then it may be too late for the rest of us for whom biking is a lifetime commitment.

    SB Do you think motorists are a bigger safety problem for bikers than bikers themselves ?

    DS The standard of driving of some people is truly frightening. Family saloons have sports car performance ABS power steering etc and they have no concept of the potential dangers they cause. We also have an increasingly ageing motoring population whose reactions are not what they were. All in all it is not getting any better out there. You have got to treat every other road user , including bikers as having a mission to kill you. Defensive riding with bags of anticipation of hazards is the only way to survive.

    SB Do you think using headlights in daytime is helpful?

    DS I guess you are going to think I’m starting to sound boring now but yes they are. Anything that promotes visibility has got to give you a better than average chance. Mine’s hard wired anyway but I would never ride without them on.

    SB What do you say to those riders who get pulled up over small number plates and complain that you should be out catching real criminals ?

    DS This is going to sound like a worn record but it’s all about attitude. In my experience loud cans and small plates say, ‘I don’t give a stuff’ and the number of bikes you pick up out of the stone wall or the hedge back along with their broken riders reinforces that belief. We lost 28 bikers in North Yorkshire last year. Change the attitude and we will reduce casualties.

    SB Do you think riders should be made to wear CE approved clothing ?

    DS No but so long as they are aware of the risks of inappropriate clothing. I have seen people reduced to burger meat simply because they thought jeans, T shirts and trainers were cool!

    SB Do you think that the state is losing the PR war because of the perceived ‘kid gloves’ treatment of thugs compared to the enthusiasm for prosecuting speeding road users ?

    DS Yes.

    SB Is this growing compensation culture a pain in the arse ?

    DS Yes, when I had my off, which was someone else’s fault it was sorted out in a matter of weeks because we were reasonable about it and not trying to claim for every damned thing possible. The insurance company of the third party were great and I was back on a new bike in 6 weeks.

    SB Do you ever urge your motorcycling colleagues to join MAG ?

    DS Yes, definitely, it’s worth it for the camararderie alone.

    SB In what direction would you like to see MAG evolve?

    DS MAG has changed dramatically over the years and become a credible lobbying voice for motorcycling issues. It will go from strength to strength and evolve but will not lose sight of its underlying principles. The MAG foundation is such an example of taking the organisation to a new level.

    SB If you had a dream stable what would it include?

    DS I have a GS 1150 and A royal Enfield 350 and I love them both for different reasons. I love all bikes so I guess there wouldn’t be a stable big enough. Having said that a Honda 250/6 or a Guzzi V8 circa 1956 would be nice!

    SB How do you feel about the so called yuppie Harley rider phenomenon?

    DS Harley D have a brand name the envy of the world. I think they’re great and the older I get, the more chilled I become and the more they make sense. I will have one one day. but I won’t be a Yuppie!!

    SB Are you going to the Farmyard Party this year ?

    DS Most definitely. The year revolves around it!

    SB What do you like best about the Farmyard ?

    DS The deep meaningful conversations one has about the meaning of life and nuclear physics at 4 in the morning.

    SB Is it true that you drank 20 pints on Saturday night last year?

    DS Er, you must be mistaking me for my twin brother Eric.

    SB Final answer ?



    He does sound like a good ally, I read the bit in Bike about him

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