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Oh!! The weather outside is frightful….

December 20, 2010


Bexhill, England – But the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go. Let it snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Its snowmaggedon in the UK! It’s the thirty year winter. It’s the scientific advisors getting it wrong. Its global warming! Its apologies, ‘we’ got it wrong! Its Secretary of State for Transport, Phillip Hammond, saying that the reason that we cannot get anywhere by road it’s because 90% of UK drivers and riders are not trained for the conditions, hold that thought. Well actually Phil no. We are in a mess, again, despite a year of ‘emergency’ planning meetings. Its because the managers involved simple don’t know what they are doing and are not up to the job. One can only wonder if they were employed because they were someone’s ‘mate’.

So to the good news, I think? Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mike Penning, has announced plans to trial a new, single, on-road motorcycle test. Yep its good-bye to the Driving Standards Agencies (DSA) super test centres. Bon voyage to the brake and swerve and back to the open road, where we three years ago actually.

Any joking apart there’s some good stuff here. A single, on-road test which is to be rigorous and reflects real-life conditions. Changes which will open up the test to those living in areas which are poorly served by the current network of-off road test centres. Yes DSA examiners actually going out to training schools and testing candidates for slow manoeuvres such as slalom, figure of eight, and U turns. A new ‘flexible’ hazard avoidance manoeuvre, the brake and swerve, carried out on the road. Subject to trials, work on safety and cost and value for money analysis, we should see a phased introduction of the new test by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

Little wonder then there is mucho back slapping going on at the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF), the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), the Motorcycle Industry Trainers Association (MCITA) and similar manifestations.

But let’s ponder for a moment. This little gig into motorcycle testing has cost the UK around £77million. MCI and the trainers were all for it when it was first floated by the European Commission and did little to change it during its passage through the EU legislative process or while the DSA busily gold-plated it. Its only when they realised it was having a detrimental effect on the ability to recruit new riders and sell product that they we spurred to action. Then instead of standing back and appraising the test the BMF and MAG simple boarded the MCI’s, it’s no good train. What about rider safety then?

What about the people who spent a lot of cash training and taking the ‘new’ test not to mention those that crashed taking it, and those who spent a lot of money and failed. I think we have let them down?

Then there’s the sub plot, yes I’m afraid there is one. According to BRR’s information, and of course allegedly, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and some ‘other’  training interests have been a bit busy lobbying Penning to introduce mandatory post test training. Let’s guess who gets the training contracts! The scenario is you take the test and then have to do some more training, you pay, of course. Which leads to questions like, is the test too easy if you have to take more training after you pass? How much will this cost? Is this part of a trade-off with the ‘industry’ i.e. we make the test easier and you shut up when we introduce post test training.  Do the BMF and MAG know? Should be an interesting 2011!

I take the opportunity to thank all of you who take the time and effort to read BRR’s musings.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2011.

Enjoy your riding.

© Back Roads Rider 2010

10 Comments leave one →
  1. dave permalink
    December 21, 2010 9:05 am

    Not entirely sure that’s fair you know, if MAG, BMF etc did nothing why was the test delayed by 6 months when it was introduced? I believe it was largely down to them and MCIA et al that kicked up enough of a fuss because there were only half the agreed number of test centres.
    It actually took a TSC enquiry and a ministerial review to change the test so blaming MAG and BMF etc is a little unfair. Especially when BRR only sat on the sidelines and make glib comments…

    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      December 22, 2010 12:55 am

      Thanks for your views.

      Glib possible, sidelines no.

      This piece was discussed with a former rider’s rights ‘lobbyist’ with an intimate knowledge of the issue, and who actually took part in the DSA trials of the test. His opinion of the test as it stands is challenging but passable with the correct training and likely to ensure that riders have better knowledge of machine control and handling. After all the ‘new’ test was introduced to reduced the incidence of loss of control under braking and cornering.

      We could debate the six months delay in introduction. The fact is the DSA simple didn’t have enough sites ready to open so the delay suited all concerned and was a nice bit of PR for the lobby. It was two edged sword for the ‘industry’ who simple lengthened their ‘take your test now’ campaign and then found that candidates taking the ‘new’ test dropped dramatically. That’s part of the reason we are where we are. One could ask the question was that actually a ploy to discredit the ‘new’ test.

      I’m not blaming the BMF or MAG for anything except not fulfilling their roles as guardians of rider safety. The test is going to be made easier so more people pass and get the ‘industry’ out of the hole its in. Sure the ‘industry’ cares about safety but they also care about sales and staying in business. The ‘industry’s’ view of the test is not that well balanced, i.e. between sales and safety is thus up to the BMF and MAG to act as safety’s broker. They obviously didn’t and simple sided with the industry.

  2. dave permalink
    December 22, 2010 10:49 am

    I was under the impression that the avoidance manoeuvre was a result of the MAIDS study which found that riders being able to avoid cars pulling out on them was a useful skill. It’s also supposed to teach novice riders about positive counter steering but fails to take into account the difference between counter steering round a cone at 30 mph on a 125 and counter steering at 60+ mph on a 1000cc sports bike when you come round a bend which tightens up or has a hedge cutting tractor half way round it… and teach them not to brake and steer at the same time.

    Interesting about MAG and BMF being guardians of safety. Are riders rights the same as rider safety? Given MAG’s founding argument was that riders shouldn’t have to wear helmets (despite the very obvious safety benefits) this seems a litte incongruous… Is it a riders right to crash and become a casualty statistic which is then used as evidence to bring in restrictive legislation? Both MAG and BMF have spoken out about enforcement activities which specifically target motorcyclists, however these have shown marked reductions in rider casualties where they’ve been effectively used. Is that a riders rights issue or a rider safety issue?

    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      December 22, 2010 8:06 pm

      Thanks very thought provoking.

      In particular this:

      “Are riders’ rights the same as rider safety?”

      A very interesting area for discussion and one the in their present manifestations both MAG and the BMF are failing to come to grips with.

      It’s not simple about chucking KillSpills a few quid or offering BikeSafe a free show pitch. It’s about developing a political position that enhances riders’ rights and comes to terms with the obvious dichotomy that riding a bike and road safety presents.

      “Is it a rider’s right to crash and become a casualty statistic which is then used as evidence to bring in restrictive legislation?”

      If looking at MAG’s ethos the answer is yes. They consistently take the line that it’s the other persons fault. The helmet thing is of course based on the freedoom of choice issue and is nothing to do with safety. If it was compulsory for bikers to wear size nine boots MAG would be against it.

      Recently the BMF have also fallen into this trap, not surprising as their current chair of the political committee was originally in MAG.

      The BMF’s political strategist from 2000 to 2006 is a BRR contributor and has this to say.

      “In 2001 I was called in by the then BMF Management Team and handed a piece of paper. It was a simple instruction ‘we must do all we can to reduce motorcycle generated road casualties to zero’.

      At that time the BMF had a very good rider training scheme and thus we had a pool of knowledge from that source and from road safety professionals to allow us to grapple with the issue of where road safety and riders rights meet.

      We did a number of things:-

      Ensured that standards in the BMT Rider Training Scheme were improved and that the post test training arm was better supported. This included the instigation of a training scheme for trainers leading to an NVQ qualification, the first.

      We developed a number of in house road safety campaigns in consultation with RSO’s and national road safety bodies.

      We increased the number of articles relating to better riding in the BMF ‘Rider’ magazine.

      We involved ourselves with and supported Bike Safe.

      Most interestingly we talked to members and other motorcyclists to try and get a handle on the interface between rider’s and enforcement. We too realised that the best way to drive down casualty rates was better firm but fair enforcement. This concept was supported by the membership. Thus we added ‘the firm but fair’ stand to out lobby.

      But how in practice to actually do something. How to side step the rhetoric and do something practical. Easy become the UN of biking enforcement. That’s what we did. We formed a small group of trainers and ex police offices that with the agreement of two forces went out with police enforcement teams and ensured ‘fair play’ at ‘point of sale’. Of course it worked like a charm. Riders who were stopped were seen to be dealt with fairly and the BMF was seen to be doing its job and looking after riders rights.

      Pity it only lasted 16 months. A new breed of BMF management team didn’t have the balls to support it”.

      Don’t forget that the BMF also financially supported MAIDs and the IHIE Guidelines for Motorcycling.

      The BMF had an excellent team road safety wise in the five years from 2001. Often using RSO members for help, support and ideas. Now unfortunately all gone.

  3. dave permalink
    December 23, 2010 12:01 pm

    Given that the EU (and even the UN) are keen to reduce road casualties to an absolute minimum this area is going to need some serious thought from the biking realm in the near future. The size of the mountain biking has to climb is this: Riders were around 25% of all road fatalities in the UK last year. And as other modes get ‘safer’ and the total number drops that proportion will increase, unless something fairly drastic happens. Can’t see the powers that be tolerating that for too long.

    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      December 23, 2010 11:05 pm

      Can’t but agree with you.

      There’s a real lack of leadership from the ‘rights’ groups. Perhaps we should have the debate on the right to kill yourself on a motorcycle. Of course the problem with that is the innocent bystander you may take with you. Or even what is the acceptable level of road death in a European country.

      The riders groups and the industry are in denial about the casualties, that’s the bottom line when you look beyond the window dressing. There’s a conspiracy of self interest around all this too, something I’ll be examining in 2011.

      The ‘riders groups’ simple offer yet another safe riding course while the industry ring their hands and flog another R1 to a ‘weekend warrior’ and do the same.

      To be fair there are a considerable number of dealers who access their customers and gently advise on best machine for purpose. But let’s face it with sales the way they are if it’s a choice between a sale and staying in business, the sales going to win.

      Lets be honest in the problem age groups its all about thrill seeking, the buzz, peer pressure and fashion. You can do as many research projects as you like but that‘s what it comes down too.

      I’ve lost count of the strategies, campaigns, action plans, new approaches etc I’ve been involved in or come across relation to road safety and motorcycling. The underlying issue is still unresolved, how to convince people it can happen to them as a majority are convinced that ‘it will never happen to me mate’.

  4. Darius permalink
    December 26, 2010 8:25 pm

    Reference the comment that Riders’ groups are safety groups. That depends on entirely on perception. Although I would tend to agree that the people running the UK organisations could best be described as not up to the job and the quicker they find alternative work the better it will be for all concerned. The good thing about riders’ rights organisations is that they are heaving with conspiracy theorists – thus the “best team in the history” will soon become a faded memory.

    However I must take exception to the comment “They (MAG) consistently take the line that it’s the other persons fault. The helmet thing is of course based on the freedoom of choice issue and is nothing to do with safety. If it was compulsory for bikers to wear size nine boots MAG would be against it”.

    MAG’s ethos has never been that it is the other person’s fault, quite the opposite. MAG’s position has always been that each person is responsible for their own actions.

    A founder member of MAG was interviewed a few years back and I think that his words explain pretty succinctly what MAG’s ethos is.

    “What MAG started out as was something extremely simple, it was a bunch of people who didn’t like being told what to wear and the helmet law was really the founding issue. Up till then – I’d been riding bikes for four years then in 1973 and the helmet law came out. Now I wasn’t aware of any anti biker problems whatsoever, or there may have been some prejudice but I wasn’t aware of it. But when that came out it seemed to me like the end of the world, it was certainly a dramatic change in the world. I used to wear a helmet probably 70% of the time, but on a day like today if I was riding around in the sunshine, slow old bike that I had then, I wouldn’t wear one and I still wouldn’t today even though I’ve got a much faster bike – although I don’t go that fast but this isn’t really the point. The point is that what had been challenged was a fundamental civil liberty.

    Because what the government was saying was “We have the right to make you do what we think is right for your own good” but to neglect that proportion which we’re advocating is not going to harm anybody else and I couldn’t think at that time of another law which in the same way fundamentally attacked the civil liberties of an individual – not in quite the same way. I suppose there are parallels in the drug culture, with drugs we could say. I suppose there is a slight difference there in that society felt itself threatened and felt its entire moral fabric threatened by this insidious attack.

    Whether that was right or wrong, you couldn’t levy the same charge at helmetless riding. My feeling was then as it is now, for a law to be legitimate it really has to satisfy a number of criteria. Number one it has to necessary and if you took a look at the situation just prior to the helmet law about 88% of people were wearing helmets voluntarily, so the number of people being affected was very small.

    Secondly you have to look at the possibility of it actually working, is it going to make any difference. If you look at the number of people that have accidents and you boil it down to the number that have head injuries and then you take away those that are so severe that it wouldn’t make any difference what you had on your head. Then you are looking at a number that is so small that it can’t be quantified and that appears to be what has happened because subsequent to the helmet law being passed, they were not able to prove that it had saved any lives what so ever. But the reluctance of the government to reform that legislation really reflects an arrogance that I find intensely irritating 30 years on and it’s that that really fuels my appetite.

    With regards to sports bike riders, there is an oaf culture within the sports bike market. They go out and buy the fastest bike they can get their hands on because they want to get an adrenalin rush from speed and they would no more join MAG than they would join the Rotary club I suppose.

    They have no long term commitment to motorcycling. If you talk to them about all the political issues and civil libertarian issues, they just get bored instantly and they’d be in their one piece leathers and their heroes are people like Carl Fogarty because he can go very fast round bends.

    It’s a very simple, physical kind of appeal. I’m not one for saying let’s not have labels, because a biker is somebody who rides a bike in its simplest form. But these guys that just take them out very occasionally and have no sense of commitment or responsibility for motorcycling, I really don’t call them bikers. I call them a damned nuisance actually.

    I think that MCN are monstrously responsible for cultivating a thoroughly irresponsible culture and one of the things I deeply resent is the fact that they have perpetuated the notion that if you are not wearing full race leathers, knee sliders, serious Judge Dread boots up to your knees, full face helmet, Kev Love gloves and body armour, then you’re an irresponsible inadequate who is just a frivolous clown”.

    That however is the perception that government has of motorcycling – so while I can’t help but think that the encumbent employees of the UK riders’ rights groups would be better off stacking shelves in Tescos, the fact is that the blame lies well within the motorcycling press for enticing the oaf culture – and the industry because they provided the R1 machines, knee pads and leathers for the oafs.

  5. b.godwin permalink
    January 3, 2011 2:10 pm

    About time it was abolished…

    I’m and advanced rider and not a member of any club or organisation but will “chaperone” new riders and at present I have a female learner who is at an advanced standard regarding safety on the road yet her bike wont beat the speed for the swerve test yet is capable on the open road of keeping up with me at times!!

    She is a very very competent rider and would pass any road test…

    The test should always be a road test and any examiner worth his salt could spot a “non motorcyclist” who should not pass a test…

    I wrote to Worcester offering my services as a “biking buddy” to newly passed CBT bikers, not as a trainer or examiner but as a “critic” and free of charge, just to accompany them on a road and point out advice and bikers in other areas agreed to assist but alas no reply.

    Obviously its the money that counts!!!!


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