The day after my 17th birthday aboard a Kawasaki KH250, I rode twice clockwise and twice anticlockwise around a small residential block in Darlington. I executed an emergency stop and then read the numberplate of a nearby car before answering four general questions on the highway code ..... total cost £3.20. After completing that twenty minute exercise, the nice man with the large clipboard handed me a certificate that entitled me to legally ride any motorcycle that I could afford on the roads of Blighty. At the time, I felt that the need to take a motorcycle test and the new legal requirement to wear a crash helmet were infringements on my liberty ........ but then I grew up.
April 27th 2009 was an important day for new bikers in Britain as it saw the introduction of the Driving Standards Agency's new Motorcycle Test. Since that day, the motorcycle newspapers and Internet bulletin boards have been rife with criticism of the DSA's new two-part test process. Apparently, in the safety of a non-road environment, new riders are being asked to make two quick changes in direction before executing an emergency stop from around 30 mph. Reports of 'dramatic accidents' and 'multiple injuries' seem to be everywhere and the 'Press' are blaming these incidents on the sharp decline in test applications from potential new riders .... what an absolute load of horse bollocks.
Ok, so the new test may be more expensive than it's predecessor and it may be more testing for the new rider, but it's supposed to be testing and the clue is in the title ..... it's a bloody 'Test'. Apparently 16 riders have crashed their bikes attempting to maneuver around static plastic road cones and a few have even been taken to hospital ..... wow! I work on a bike in London, I ride for 12 hours a day, I see hundreds of people riding bikes and scooters on the road and my assessment of their riding abilities are to be kind .... variable. If you take a tumble whilst riding around stationary cones in an empty car park then that's got to be a better learning process than trying it for the first time when avoiding a Black Cab in the rush-hour. If a new rider is scared of taking the tumble in the first place, then perhaps they should reconsider their entire relationship with powered two wheeled vehicles. In my eyes, tumbles come with the territory of riding and the opportunity to take your first tumbles in the supervised safety of a car park is an opportunity far too good to miss. With the able assistance of a calculator, I worked out that 1 in 250 applicants have taken a fall since April 27th ..... lower odds than winning the lottery but still an awful lot better than dying out on the road.
The only thing about the new DSA test that will deter new riders from taking it is the sensationalist reporting from people who should bloody well know better. The new DSA Motorcycle Test will probably help to save the lives of those who really want to learn ........ and will hopefully deter those who already know it all.
The photograph above is of my daughter Hannah when 12 years old. She's riding my Honda CBF600 dispatch bike on four inches of gravel in Great Saling. She didn't fall off the bike until she'd studied Newton's Laws of gravity in physics lessons at school ..... I wonder if there's a connection?