Graduates of an on-road motorcycle training academy have said the course should be made mandatory for new road users in Bermuda.
Seven students picked up their certificates at a ceremony at Pembroke Primary School last Wednesday after they completed ten hours of on-road and on-track training with qualified instructors from the Bermuda Motorcycle Academy.
The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign has called for the introduction of mandatory on-road and additional training that would make up an extensive graduated licensing programme.
Bermuda already has the 12-hour Project Ride programme designed to teach safe riding skills but the practical element is confined to a car park.
B/Moto founder and chief instructor Antoine Richards told the graduates: “As a community, we really need to take account for ourselves — how serious we are on this road safety issues? There has been a lot of lip service paid to it over the years.
“It is a bit of a bitter pill to swallow to say that you need to, at 16, not only pass Project Ride but then go out and do an additional five or ten hours of training. Students are busy.
“From the side of the parents, it may not be very easy to motivate some of these young people. It can create a lot of tension, I have found out.
“I think that as a community we need to decide that we are no longer going to take this and decide that our students deserve the exact same opportunity as any students in the UK or anywhere in Europe, the States and Canada.
Mr Richards, the island’s first professional motorcycle racer, added: “When it comes to our road safety and statistics, we are at the bottom of the barrel.
“As Bermudians, we don’t belong at the bottom of any barrel. Having you all here tonight tells me that we are on the right path. For me, that means a lot.”
The B/Moto programme, set up a year ago, is not mandatory but Mr Richards is optimistic that the public and lawmakers will get behind the scheme as the benefits become apparent.
He said: “I guarantee you we will be around here for as long as it takes before this room, or an even bigger room, will be filled up with all my graduates year after year.
“Education is the one way we can really push things up. There is no one on this island that is happy about the current level of education.”
Mr Richards told the audience: “I encourage you all to follow The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign. You need to start writing in to your MPs to say we are supportive of mandatory on-road training and you will not lose our vote if you say that.
“Let your MP know that you are serious about road safety, your child’s future.”
Nearly 15,000 road-related injuries have occurred in the past ten years. According to statistics compiled by the Bermuda Hospitals Board, 16-year-old motorcyclists are most likely to be injured in a traffic incident.
Ali Bardgett, chairman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council when it presented the former government with a graduated licensing proposal, said: “You see the difference between riding around the cones in the car park and then the reality of the roads where there are 47,000 vehicles on 236km of paved road.
“You can’t send a 16-year-old out with no road training.
“We have got all of the theory for graduated licensing, we have written a paper we gave to the government. They said this is great, it was to be proposed on July 7 and then there was an election so we are starting again.”
But Ms Bardgett added: “We have had great support from our new minister and Antoine was the piece that was missing.
“I would encourage all parents to go up to the track and see how they teach.
“For you guys who graduate, I hope that you realise that you are the trailblazers among your peers and you can encourage people to do the same thing. You could save a life — that is what it comes down to.”
The UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which backed the B/Moto programme, said Bermuda’s road safety training standards were where the UK’s were 30 years ago.
The society added that the B/Moto training course is the closest thing to the UK’s GLP on-road portion available in Bermuda.
The introduction of a GLP is also backed by Drive for Change’s partners at road safety group A Piece of the Rock as well as the Bermuda Police Service.
The proposal is also supported by the Bermuda Road Safety Council, anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada and emergency doctors and technicians at the Bermuda Hospitals Board.
Another advocate is road safety expert and orthopaedic surgeon Joseph Froncioni, former chairman of the BRSC.
Transport minister Walter Roban has said he is committed to improvements to the Project Ride programme, including on-road training as well as other safety-enhancing measures.
What they said ...
Graduates of the Bermuda Motorcycle Academy on-road training programme have queued up to back the scheme.
Brianna Simmons, 16, a Berkeley Institute pupil, said: “I had my bike but I just wasn’t comfortable with it after Project Ride. In my head I thought, this is something that I really needed to do.
“I feel a lot better now. It’s my mother that worries. I will always feel nervous when I am on the road but now it is just not as much because you always have to look out for other people on the road and that makes you feel nervous.
“But as far as myself — I don’t feel nervous at all anymore.”
She added: “One of the main things I learnt was how to take corners properly — that’s very helpful because there are hardly any straight roads in Bermuda.
“I also learnt how to look for traffic and make sure that it is absolutely clear before you pull out. I also learnt about spacing between cars.”
Karen Simmons, Brianna’s mother, said: “There was a presentation where we saw the movie A Piece of the Rock. After the movie, they were talking about the graduated licensing programme and B/Moto and the types of things they would be doing.
“It was a month before her birthday and I was like — I absolutely need her to do that. She did Project Ride and I needed for her to get road experience.
“Watching her dad and I getting on the road isn’t going to help. We wanted a professional to do it.”
Ms Simmons added: “I feel confident with her going out. She rides on Harbour Road and I didn’t ride on Harbour Road for years. I recommend it — we have a son three younger than her, so when he goes 16, he’s doing it as well. They learn how to use their brakes properly in traffic.”
Ms Simmons said: “I think the programme should be mandatory for every young person and even for guest workers who come in. Even those who think they can ride should do it.”
Adult graduate Hywel Davies, originally from the UK, said: “I had never ridden a motorbike or car before I moved here because I have always lived somewhere with good public transport. With no experience it’s quite dangerous on the roads here.
“I feel much more confident now I am a much better rider and I’m much more familiar with the roads in Bermuda just by travelling on them. Some of the key lessons I took away is that the roads here are much more dangerous than you think. You have got people going much faster than the speed limit, you have got low, dangerous walls, you have got lots of drunk driving and you have got an adult test that is frankly a joke.
“It is very hard to get your bike licence in the UK. It is incredibly unsafe here — the proof is in the death rate here which is far higher than it should be. Absolutely, it should be mandatory for all new drivers.”
Yanayah Dillas, 17, a Berkeley Institute pupil, said: “I think this training should be mandatory.
“When I was taking Project Ride, we only had experience inside the parking lot. I don’t see the point in that. I think that B/Moto should be the second step.
“After Project Ride, I was probably about 85 per cent ready but I had no experience on the road.”
Berné Dillas, Yanayah’s mother, said: “When Yanayah went to Project Ride, I videoed her to see how she made out each time. I think every time she went she was getting a little better but she was still timid so I thought that she needed more experience.
“She is turning 18 and we have a new bike at home but I still needed her to get more practice.”
She added: “We have to slow down for the fools who are speeding and overtaking — I have to show her. She is aware of it and she’s the one who said it should be mandatory. If it is mandatory then it would be more useful and people will get a better understanding and it will reduce accidents.”
The Berkeley Institute graduates of the course were Daelynn Richards, Alejandro Solis, Brianna Simmons, Yanayah Dillas and Amirh Wade. The adult graduates were Hywel Davies and John Doherty.
• Anyone who wants to take B/Moto training should contact Mr Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 595-5599. For more information, visit bmotoacademy.com or Bermuda Motorcycle Academy on Facebook