When I started my position as young driver ambassador I soon learnt that the road safety world is a fairly small one, and you tend to see the same people in different places. As most people know each other, it’s quite a friendly and supportive community where anyone is more than happy to educate you on their respective field. Aside from the intricacies of the road safety world I was fairly brushed up on cars, but when it came to motorbikes - that’s another story!
Quite early into my role I received an invite from the MCIA to come along to Motorcycle Live. They had seen that I was newly appointed in my role and wanted to know if I’d like to be involved in a “get on” and visit the show. I had no idea what a “get on” was but I was up for it! A ‘get on’ is a brilliantly organised initiative to get people who’ve never been on a bike familiar with its controls, by giving them a chance to ride unaided in a safe environment. For me it was an amazing opportunity to do something that I’d always wanted to do but never got around to trying.
The NEC provided me with the right sized jacket, helmet and pair of gloves. Then I was taken in a group with 4 other people to a motorcycle, where an instructor talked us through the basics of the vehicle, its controls and its mechanics. Once we were familiar with what does what and were suitably briefed on clutch control, we were able to go out into the arena and pick a motorbike of our choice. I went for a nice bright yellow Herald. My instructor talked me through the process of starting it up, getting a feel for the brakes and then putting it into gear and pulling away, something that weirdly felt natural and dare I say it quite easy to do. After a few lengths of riding up and down the arena, my instructor (who was also an IAM bike observer) felt that I had made comfortable progress and that she could teach me a little more. I was taught about the rear brake and its use for low speed manoeuvring. After about four more lengths of the arena, my time was up. I had successfully learnt how to ride a motorbike!
After this, I met up with key contacts in the motorcycle industry and managed to quiz them about motorbikes. I was in a room full of motorcycle manufacturers (including the man whose company built the bike that I rode!), training school instructors and racers. And as a person who knew absolutely nothing about motorcycles, this was the perfect time to learn. Let’s face it, if I tried to pretend that I knew anything I’d be found out pretty quickly! I had a wonderful time meeting lots of people from the bike industry, lots of whom have offered to show me more of an insight into their world should I want to learn more.
One thing that every single person I met said to me after hearing my story is that as a person representing young road users, it makes sense to see things from the point of view of a biker as well as just a car-driver. One rider said: “Going through the licencing process will show you a biker’s perspective, something that you will never get unless you’ve been on a bike.”
So, having learnt a little about the bike world and having been encouraged by people (even people at IAM RoadSmart) to take my riding skills a step further, is the next logical step in my bike education to get my licence? I’m starting to think it might be!
Let me know your thoughts and drop me an email: David.Gallagher@iam.org.uk
By David Gallagher, IAM RoadSmart’s young driver ambassador