Cape Town – For the senior members of the Wheels motorcycle club, the fact that 16 of the 57 participants in Sunday’s Safety campaign at the Gene Louw Traffic College in Brackenfell were teenagers, on a variety of entry-level machinery, was vindication of their efforts for more than 15 years.
These young riders were there not only to be coached in the details of the K53 riding test, but also in how to translate those requirements into real-world survival on roads populated by car and taxi drivers, seemingly with no peripheral vision whatsoever.
Wheels has always been a family motorcycle club, with a higher percentage of wives and girlfriends riding pillion than most, and it had become obvious that it was the younger members who were most at risk on the roads, despite their lightning reflexes and often superb machine control.
They seemed to lack the roadcraft necessary to read the traffic far enough ahead, and the intuitive skills, to avoid deadly collisions. Many old-school bikers believe that these skills only come with time and mileage; the members of Wheels insisted they could be taught.
“Catch them young, teach them right, keep them alive”, they reasoned.
They took the K53 riding test as a starting point, and with the help of the traffic services, evolved what has now become one of the most real-world training systems in South Africa, based on the riding situations we encounter every day.
But reaching teenagers riding on a learners licence, and teaching them how to stay alive on the way to school has been an uphill struggle, as most schools don’t want to get involved in encouraging their pupils to ride motorcycles.
Which made these youngsters very special indeed, and everybody welcomed them to the biking family, tried not to talk down to them or intimidate them - something that happens easily when you park your 150cc scooter next to a Harley-Davidson!
Meanwhile, the theory sessions had developed into more of a safety seminar, with searching questions being asked of David Frost, deputy director for road safety management in the Western Cape department of community safety about the reliability of the newly-readmitted breathalyser testing, and whether an amber cover over your bike’s headlight is legal (answer: it depends how yellow it is, which doesn’t help much).
Then it was out on to the training area to practice, under the safest possible conditions, the intuitive moves that will get you out of trouble when a car door swings open in your path, or a corner tightens up on you, or you have to change lanes without warning.
And the older Wheels guys, who’ve been fighting this battle for 15 years, smiled as they watched the teens learning these skills. This, after all, is what it’s all about: saving lives, one rider at a time.