Seventeen years ago, I fell off the back of a motorcycle. It was a Suzuki GSXR1100 belonging to my ex. We had gone out for a ‘Sunday hack’ as they called them, with a group of other bikers, and I was riding pillion. One of the guys decided they needed fuel, so everyone started to pull into the garage and I thought that Dave was going to do the same so I relaxed and went to turn with him. Instead he decided to do a little bit of showing off and popped a wheelie in front of everyone – much to my surprise! I, of course, lost my balance, fell backwards and was dragged along the road with my head hitting the rear tyre. One of the group described me as looking like a ‘rag doll’. Dave was unaware until his friend, Mark, rode out of the petrol station to signal to him.
I was completely disorientated and, as a result, unable to let go of the back bar until the bike had slowed down. As I let go, all I could do was lie on the road! I found it intriguing that none of the cars following us either stopped or slowed down – just drove round me. Dave was upset but thankfully I wasn’t badly injured.
From that moment, instead of putting me off, I wanted to learn how to ride a motorbike myself. To fully understand how it worked, what it did and how affected you as a road user. This was eight years before I became a Driving Instructor but learning how to ride made me a better road user. It taught me to be more aware and how much more important the use of my mirrors was.
Of course, there are many motorcycle riders out there who act like complete and utter fools on the roads. They take unnecessary risks and charge through traffic. They try and ‘get their knee down’ on roundabouts, pull wheelies and ride far too fast. I find the young moped riders particularly bad. They charge through and round things, showing off to their mates and taking silly risks. Many a time when I have picked one of my learners up from their college, I have had to explain to them how to handle situations like this.
The Highway Code section which particularly apply to motorcyclists are rules 83 to 88. The first 3 of these laws are fineable offences if not adhered to:
On all journeys, the rider and pillion passenger on a motorcycle, scooter or moped MUST wear a protective helmet. This does not apply to a follower of the Sikh religion while wearing a turban. Helmets MUST comply with the Regulations and they MUST be fastened securely. Riders and passengers of motor tricycles and quadricycles, also called quadbikes, should also wear a protective helmet. Before each journey check that your helmet visor is clean and in good condition. Laws RTA 1988 sects 16 & 17 & MC(PH)R as amended reg 4
It is also advisable to wear eye protectors, which MUST comply with the Regulations. Scratched or poorly fitting eye protectors can limit your view when riding, particularly in bright sunshine and the hours of darkness. Consider wearing ear protection. Strong boots, gloves and suitable clothing may help to protect you if you are involved in a collision. Laws RTA sect 18 & MC(EP)R as amended reg 4
You MUST NOT carry more than one pillion passenger who MUST sit astride the machine on a proper seat. They should face forward with both feet on the footrests. You MUST NOT carry a pillion passenger unless your motor cycle is designed to do so. Provisional licence holders MUST NOT carry a pillion passenger. Laws RTA 1988 sect 23, MV(DL)R 1999 reg 16(6) & CUR 1986 reg 102
I remember passing my test and being worried about what my Mum would say. I didn’t tell her for three months! I needn’t have worried because when I did finally get the courage up to tell her, she told me that she wasn’t bothered as she felt it was far less dangerous than riding a horse (which I had done for many years!) because a motorbike doesn’t have a mind of its own.
I haven’t ridden a motorcycle since before Grace was born, over six years ago. It doesn’t mean that I am any less aware of motorcyles or bicycles out on the roads and do believe that everyone should have a go at riding either of these two-wheeled vehicles on the road to fully understand just how vulnerable these road users really are.
You can find the Highway Code online here
If you live in the Berkshire/Surrey/Hampshire area and are looking for a a Driving Instructor, then, try me! My website is http://www.madeeasydriving.co.uk
Next week: It is Road Safety Week in association with Brake the road safety charity. 19th until 25th November 2012.