My local riding group has lots of members and many of them are novice riders. Whenever we post up a ride or and event we always make it clear that learner or novice riders are welcome on the ride. Just every now and then we organise a ride that is for more experienced riders and we make it clear in the ride description that novice riders are welcome but should probably consider giving the ride a miss due to its more taxing format, distance, duration and so forth.
Getting around town and the local area it is very obvious that the number of learner/novice riders in the Illawarra is much higher than what I remember it being from many years ago. I think this is terrific. More riders on the road unintentionally forces other road users to become more aware of motorcycles and adjust their driving accordingly.
This doesn’t always happen as I noted the other day when passing the scene of a road accident where a Learner motorcyclist had come off second best in an altercation with a truck. The bike looked pretty second-hand but it seems the riders was not seriously injured.
This underlines the intention of today’s article. In other articles I have looked in detail into the question of whether riders should begin their road experience by driving a car and learning road sense that way (which is what I did, though that wasn’t a plan, it just happened). When I first raised this issue I copped a lot of flak from fellow motorcyclists who said exactly the opposite, that novices should ride first and learn the road and then proceed on to a car licence. Despite some very good arguments, I still maintain that starting in a car where the individual has more protection is a much better idea than starting on a bike with all the risks that this entails.
And the current learner rider situation doesn’t really help. To start with, the feedback that I am getting from novice riders is that the learner riding programme is woefully inadequate in preparing riders for real-world riding. It concentrates on areas that are not as important as defensive riding, anticipation and real-road skills and teaches and assesses skills that are both easy to teach and easy to assess. Remembering that learner riding programmes are funded and supervised by the government, the concentration on outcomes that show that the programme is WORKING is fundamentally flawed.
And, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Regardless of the fact that the rider is not being supervised once they have that yellow “L” plate, the evidence that the programme is majoring on minors is pretty clear to see.
The roads are still crowded with (mostly) young riders on LAMS bikes that are supposedly limited in power so that the rider can’t get into too much trouble but that have more than enough power to get the rider into a fatal amount of trouble. Most LAMS bikes are hooligan bikes and they are being ridden accordingly.
IF the message is bring given about wearing appropriate gear every time you ride, then it is being largely ignored. IF the message is being given about buffering in traffic and anticipating the ebb and flow of the traffic, then it, too is being largely ignored.
In fact, my perception is that the current crop of Leaner/Novice riders are more irresponsible than any that I can remember.
What is the answer? I don’t know. More rules won’t help, trying to restrict what riders can and can’t do will be counter-productive as it will lead to a further decrease in the skill levels and an increasing level of disregard for the skills that will, ultimately, make the riders better road users and will keep them alive. If you don’t believe me, come down and ride Macquarie Pass on the weekend and see which class of riders are the worst on the road. You guessed it.
Yes, you have to start somewhere but I’m not sure that the start point and the process of getting to the end point is clear in the minds of our rider trainers and the government and I’m equally unsure whether it’s going to get any better.
Got a chance to get out on the bike today and did a RNP loop. I was very glad to see that a poultice of money has been spent on the road since last I rode it making it much safer and much more enjoyable. Thank you, RMS.