National BikeSafe

Motorcycles and motorcycling make us all quite passionate. Passionate about the bikes, the technology, the roads and the camaraderie we feel when around other like minded people. There is a kindred spirit that bonds motorcyclists and sets us apart from other road users. How often do you hear of anyone just going out for a drive?

It must not be forgotten however, that going for a ride requires a much more finely honed set of skills than nipping somewhere in the car. There are additional associated risks in riding a motorcycle. The right attitude to that risk, a systematic riding style and a good experience base will go a long way to managing the road environment in a safer way.

As a motorcyclist we are vulnerable – fact!

This fact makes ‘BikeSafe’ passionate about something else in addition to all the other things that make motorcycling attractive. That something else is safety. It may not be a crowd puller but there is no getting away from the fact that far too many motorcyclists are getting seriously hurt on the roads today.

It is infinitely better to avoid an incident than to try to apportion blame afterwards. Blame is largely irrelevant as it is almost always the motorcyclist who comes off worst in respect of injury or damage or both. It is well documented that, as a human, the ability we feel we have may be higher than the ability that we actually have. Some riders also feel that riding is a low demand task even though, in reality, it is very complex. High perceived ability and low perceived task demand is a potential recipe for disaster when you add the active ingredient of the motorcycle. Managing our expectations can be an important part of being safer whilst riding. As an example of managing expectation, many people choose to undergo pilot training each year however, few would expect, or contemplate, even if it were allowed, to train for a week on a light aircraft before setting out for a spin in a Eurofighter Typhoon. It is plain to see that the necessary skills and experience base are not in place for that monumental jump in platform performance and operator demand. Motorcyclists sometimes seem to fail in identifying a similar shortfall and are happy to purchase cutting edge, 21st Century machines that would have easily been capable of running at the front of a Grand Prix a few years ago. The question presents itself – “The machines have improved, what about your skill level and attitude to risk?”.

It is sometimes difficult to be self-critical or accept that training and re-training is an integral part of a good safety strategy for your motorcycling into the future. A recent Audit Commission report suggested that road casualties cost the National Health Service around £340 million per year and the economy as a whole £8 billion. These are huge sums of money but they are just figures and we must not forget that they represent real people who have been injured on our roads. Real people who have received life changing injuries or worse. Real families and real work colleagues who have been affected as a result. It is the human cost which is incalculable and unacceptable.

I’m hoping that I have planted the seed of a thought in your mind that it might be a good idea to take control of your motorcycling safety in a more structured way rather than leaving it to chance. If that is the case, it may be that you are unsure of where to start and what your options might be. I am sure that, in the current climate, cost is also likely to be a consideration.

You might suspect that I would say ‘BikeSafe’ is a great place to start for motorcyclists who hold a full licence but I really do believe it is. Why might that be?

  • ‘BikeSafe’ is not about making profit, in fact, the Police Service and partners soak up large amounts of the cost of delivering the workshops. This reduces the cost to you, the motorcyclist. Some areas, as a result of local subsidies, even provide workshops cost free.
  • In many areas we work in partnership with the other emergency services who assist in delivery of our workshops and, where feasible, augment them with specialist input of their own such as the Northwest Ambulance First Bike on Scene motorcyclist first aid course. Road safety professionals from many local councils assist in administrating and delivering ‘BikeSafe’ so there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise available to draw upon.
  • Civilian riders who hold credible riding qualifications assist in delivery of the on-road element in certain areas. Without them, ‘BikeSafe’ would not be as widely available and their involvement really adds to the feeling that the scheme is about motorcyclists who have been fortunate enough to have benefited from assessment and training helping those who have not – yet!
  • Our motivation is wholly about safety. We have been tasked by the Government with doing our bit towards motorcyclist casualty reduction but that is something we want to be involved with anyway.
  • ‘BikeSafe’, being Police-led, knows why motorcyclist crashes are happening and we can discuss the tried and tested ways that emergency service riders use to reduce the on-road risk.
  • ‘BikeSafe’ has an international award winning DVD curriculum based around hazard awareness, crash avoidance and the riding system employed by emergency service motorcyclists to manage the ever changing road environment in a consistently safe way.
  • ‘BikeSafe’ workshops have an eclectic mix of characters attending and are always good fun. They are informal and lively and a great introduction to lifelong learning in respect of your motorcycling. The majority of Police areas in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland offer workshops so finding us is never very difficult. Places are limited however and offered on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
  • ‘BikeSafe’ has an on-road element where your riding can observed by an experienced motorcyclist. The ride might only last an hour or two but often provides food for thought and whets the appetite to make your riding safer and take it to the next level through formal training.
  • ‘BikeSafe’ acts as a signpost or a conduit to accredited trainers. It is a scary thought that, at the time of writing, there is no mandatory regulation of the post-test training world. We can advise you broadly where to start looking to ‘get your bike the skills it deserves’ thereby ‘bridging the gap’ from test pass to accredited training.
  • ‘BikeSafe’ can also provide common sense, industry recognised, advice in respect of crime reduction measures you can take to keep your pride and joy safer whilst it is unattended.
  • ‘BikeSafe’ can mean safer for you and safer for your bike – Result!
  • The Police Service hold great store in working for and within communities. I believe that ‘BikeSafe’ is a great example of this principle. Police officers, partners and agents working with the motorcycling community for the good of the motorcyclists.

The above are just a few of the reasons why ‘BikeSafe’ could be the start of something good. I hope you agree.

So, in a nutshell, ‘BikeSafe’ is all about reducing motorcyclist casualties which are at an unacceptable level at present. It is a Police-led, post-test, advisory, assessment and referral scheme that aims to work with training providers to get you the skills to stay safer on the road. Police riders have a minimum of six weeks intensive training before they ride alone at full advanced level. That is a lot of training! We don’t have you with us long enough on ‘BikeSafe’ to ‘train’ you to ride, but we can point out why serious crashes happen. We can work with you on attitude, hazard awareness and risk management and let you know about the riding systems we use to stay safer. We can observe your riding and provide you with a riding development plan encouraging the all important link with accredited training providers. These are the people who can use your ‘BikeSafe’ development plan to good effect in identifying any weak areas that particularly need addressing to make you a better, safer rider.

Glen Dennis, National BikeSafe Coordinator