Looking back at – and forward to – the Russian motorbike club road trip that has Eastern Europe so excited at the moment. Plus, the ‘Blitz Marathon’, Tour Auto, major road plugs in the Netherlands and Austria, a Belgian General Strike and new Rolls-Royce.
If the idea had been a dignified memorial to fallen comrades who fought a bloody battle between Moscow and Berlin then it seems to have failed.
On the other hand, if the idea was to ratchet up the tension still further in Eastern Europe, then the Russian motorbike club ‘To Berlin!’ road trip – accompanied by the notorious Night Wolves – has succeeded admirably, without even turning a wheel.
The rally was decried by Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz as a ‘provocation’ on Wednesday and has been casing a huge kerfuffle throughout the region all week.
Berlin authorities said the group will not be allowed to ride in convoy through the city but may stage a ‘modest celebration’.
As expected, opinions are rather more conflicted in the Czech Republic. Some Polish bikers too are concerned about tit-for-tat reactions to their own annual ‘Katyn Raid’ motorcross tour to Smolensk to remember the 1940 massacre.
Meanwhile, authorities in Poland, Czech Republic and Germany all say they have not received visa applications from the group though, even if they did, it’s not clear on what grounds they could be refused.
Whatever happens on the trip, due to leave Moscow on Saturday (25 April), it has rather exposed an awkward split: thanks to his alleged involvement in Ukraine, Night Wolves’ leader Aleksandr Zaldostanov is already barred from the US.
Why wasn’t France involved the first ever pan-Europe ’24 hour Speed Marathon’ on Thursday?
It’s an intriguing question as the country struggles with yo-yoing road safety stats and last year recorded the first rise in road deaths for more than a decade.
It does rather imply a lack of commitment, especially as tackling speeding drivers is supposedly the bedrock of France’s – on and off successful – road safety strategy.
They missed out on strengthening ties with neighbouring police forces too.
Switzerland didn’t take part either, a place where police are known to be ‘flash happy’, and which has previously co-ordinated very successfully with TISPOL – the European traffic police network who co-ordinated the Blitz Marathon – notably on the now-defunct Cannonball 2000 run in August 2013.
Perhaps it’s a question of resources. Germany fielded 13,000 officers in 7,000 different locations and netted 91,262 fines, 75% of all those issued during the campaign. The next best was Italy where 5,561 drivers were caught.
Also, be prepared for major rush hour delays as re-surfacing work starts tomorrow (Monday) on the Galecopperbrug on the A12 south of Utrecht, the second busiest bridge in the Netherlands. Lanes have already been narrowed with speed restricted to 70kmh. On Tuesday, Austria’s S16 Arlberg Tunnel closes completely until November. For cars it’s a case of diverting to the Arlberg Pass. For trucks and trailers the detour is much more long-winded, see full details here. Also, a stretch of the E40, the motorway between the Channel ports and Brussels, will see major road works until Monday 11 May reports Verkeers Centrum. There will be just two narrow lanes in both directions between Aalter and Beernem (Bruges-Gent) from Tuesday morning. Overnight Monday-Tuesday, 20-21 April there will be just one lane in each direction 21:00-06:00. Late Tuesday, from 22:00 for 24 hours, sees a General Strike in Belgium. The impact is likely restricted to public services, including trains, trams and buses. P&O says its services will not be affected but inevitably there will be more traffic on the roads and in Belgium that is something to be feared. On Thursday, Rolls-Royce reveals a new car. It’s a bit too soon for a first look at the Continent-crushing SUV 4×4, so far called Project Cullinan, surely? On Friday, coach operators are planning more ‘Operation Escargot’ go-slows around Paris in protest at the tripling of parking charges from 1 May. Many say it will be cheaper to keep moving around the city while passengers sight-see rather set down and wait. More details to come.