Despite the passage of 35 years I can still remember the debacle that was my motorcycle test. I turned up at the allotted time and place on my ‘oily rag’ condition Royal Enfield 250cc Crusader Sports, 984 WF, (where are you now!). The tester gave me instructions to ride round the block a couple of times, perform an emergency stop and…, that was it! Test passed! The L-plates were ripped up and there I was burning up the road and aspiring to a Triumph Bonneville. Was the test adequate? Was it hell and I guess many of us of a certain age survived due to the lack of traffic on the road compared to today and the relative slow speed of traffic, again when compared to today. Oh yes, and a huge dollop of luck!
No one can argue that better training gives those new to the road a better chance of surviving in modern traffic and congested roads but the latest incarnation and, more to the point, the implementation of the new motorcycle test which comes into force in October of this year beggars belief. The new stop and swerve tests, which have to be conducted at 30kph, and 50kph mean that purpose built off road sites have to be built. This means that the number of testing centres will reduce from the 230 or so at the present to 66 for the entire UK!
This means that the Isle of Wight, areas in Scotland, Wales and remote parts of England will not have testing centres, which are easily accessible by our most vulnerable, inexperienced bikers. MAG is negotiating with the DSA and the road minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP in trying to find solutions. Using the Isle of Wight as an example, we are campaigning for the Island to retain its testing centre, which it was set to lose under the new regime. MAG has identified a site on the Island, the DSA have approved it and the architects department have been to assess the site and report on the cost implications. This a real shift! MAG has had meetings with the Chief Executive of the DSA, Rosemary Threw, transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick and the head of the MPTC project team Steve Haddlesley. Whilst no promises have been made we are encouraged that they are adapting the strict criteria, which they initially were applying to a more flexible one, which may deem the Isle of Wight a financially viable ‘casual site’, after all. If we can make this work in the Isle of Wight then there is a chance we can campaign for similar arrangements to be considered elsewhere in the UK. In addition MAG are lobbying for a delay in the implementation of the new test to ensure that bikers are not discriminated against by being unable to take their test. Demand is high and outstripping the provisions of motorcycle tests.
All this at a time of real concern over the casualty rates of bikers! Do you want to help? Join MAG. Campaigning and lobbying is not cheap and your membership makes a significant contribution to our ability to defend motorcycling. Oh yes and we have great parties too!
David Short (MAG Campaigns Manager)
please can you send that to me for the next Desmo? Missed your contribution in 180 …
Thank you, Guy. Yes, got the cd when I returned from Milan
MAG puts DSA in the spotlight.
The new motorcycle test is in danger of turning in to the disaster for biking many feared it might.
MAG General Secretary, Nich Brown, made the riders’ view crystal clear in a face-to-face meeting with Road Safety Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick:
• there must be enough test sites for riders everywhere,
• the massive hike in test fees must be reversed and
• DSA must learn some lessons about the hazardous layout of its new test.
Without those changes, the promise of more and better trained riders will be dashed.
The meeting at DfT’s London headquarters also involved DSA’s senior management as well as representatives from the motorcycle manufacturers, training industry and BMF.
The new test is designed to make sure riders from all European countries prove their ability to corner, swerve and brake at relatively low speed. DSA say this requires an additional ten-minute test of machine control requiring a tarmac area the length of a full-size football pitch. DSA say it would not be safe to conduct the swerving and braking tests on public roads and existing CBT sites are too small.
But only 50 sites have been built of the 90 sites first envisaged. Another 22 are said to be in the pipeline, but this is a far cry from the 230+ test centres riders were able to use before. In the meantime, DSA are using 16 temporary sites, but most of these only operate at weekends.
The problem is especially acute in rural areas of Scotland and Wales. DSA say they have tried to get official support to temporarily close roads to run tests in remote areas. MAG is taking them at their word and will push local authorities to see this is a better alternative to new riders having to travel up to three hours just to reach an MPTC.
MAG spelled out the need for the Minister to look again at the unacceptable hike in test fees foisted on new riders: the cost of the motorcycle test has risen by 50% in the last year, but the cost of other driving tests is planned to rise by just 15%.
DSA expected to fund its MPTC building program through future savings from moving out of high street test centres and running tests more efficiently. But the collapsing property market and failure to anticipate problems such as finding suitable sites, or getting planning permission, have left the project finances in horribly overspent and bikers are being made to pick-up the tab.
The new test, as mandated by a European Directive, includes a simple test of swerving ability. DSA have interpreted this to include two changes of direction in quick succession. The first three weeks of the new test have seen regular reports of new riders coming to grief, with broken bones and concussion among the injuries. DSA claim poor training and under-prepared riders are to blame, but MAG believes that DSA’s failure to fully consider the effect of rain and the unnecessary double-swerve and stop combination (not required by Europe) have more to do with the steady stream of fallen riders.
Just booking tests has become a nightmare, say some training schools; some fear they are facing the end of the road. While DSA say there are hundreds of unused test appointments available, trainers claim they cannot book tests in a workable way. DSA announced at the Ministerial meeting that they want to make changes to the booking system and will be asking trainers for their views shortly. In the meantime they see no need for extra examiners.
Meanwhile there is a petition on the Number 10 website that refers to the swerve test.
The petition reads
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remove the stop and swerve part of the practical motorcycle test.
Submitted by Lucy Millard – Deadline to sign up by: 29 April 2010
The link is below.
For individual membership phone during office hours on 0870 444 8448 or on line at mag-uk.org
If anyone has any questions about MAG please phone me on 0870 774 3540 or you can e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fergus O’Connell (Clubs Officer)