The Newsweekly of the Capital of Europe
July 29 1999
Motoring into the Millennium
Talk of the Town
"It's a real challenge," says Simon Milward, who hopes to be the 100th motorcyclist to bike round the world. "I'll be 35 by the time I go and I want to do it while I'm still single."
Milward, general secretary of the Brussels-based Federation of European Motorcyclists' Associations (FEMA), has a double mission: to promote bikers' rights and to raise money for medical charities Medecins sans Frontieres and Riders for Health.
Back by the World Health Organisation and Save the Children, Riders for Health was set up in 1988 to transport medical supplies to remote areas in the developing world. In may regions of Africa, four wheel vehicles are expensive to buy and run, while other forms of transport, such as cycling and walking, are not satisfactory alternatives.
Milward hopes to leave Brussels before Christmas and will spend New Year's Eve sailing from Italy to Tunisia. From Africa he plans to head east to towards India and beyond, riding through over 60 countries before returning to Europe in summer the next year - all on a bike that was custom-made in England by the family that fostered him and introduced him to the thrills of biking.
"A lot of things could go wrong," he says cheerfully. "The bike could break down, and either it or I could get damaged in an accident. I might be laid up in a remote part of the world waiting for a bone to mend, or catch an awful disease. Then there's the problem of muggings and being ripped off by border guards. But there are good things too, like the sense of freedom and adventure."
It's the sense of freedom, he explains, that makes biking so appealing: "You can weave your way in and out of city traffic, and you feel so much closer to your surroundings. But we're more vulnerable than drivers, who tend to disregard us. In that sense, we've got a lot in common with cyclists."
FEMA, which represents 22 national organisations in 18 countries, fights prejudice against bikers, including the notion that they are dangerous. The group is pushing for legislation on truck fuel tanks. "Manufacturers recommend that drivers only fill their tanks to three quarters of capacity, but they don't, so leaking fuel makes the roads slippery and dangerous," he explains. "This accounts for ten per cent of motorcycle accidents."
Individuals can sponsor Milward's trip by paying a minimum of 500 BF, for which they will receive a green and gold millennium badge and regular email updates. Corporate sponsors are guaranteed publicity, including a sticker with their logo on the bike. The EU symbol will appear thanks to a 5,000 BF cash donation from former MEP Roger Barton.
For more details, send a stamped addressed envelope to Millennium Ride, 62 Rue Des Champs, 1040 Brussels, fax to 736 9401 or email .
(Picture: Milward and machine biking for health)