On Balance  

A Winter's Tale...

....... and other classics.

It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, and the weather outside is, well, frightful.

Happily, we elected not to join the merry throng on the roads today, so I’m not stuck in a lineup somewhere waiting for the crews to clear one of a myriad of collisions.

And, unlike many others, our little cottage in the woods has electricity flowing through its neural pathways, so I’m not staring at a black screen.

A good day for coffee and a bit of light reading, then. I’ll plow the driveway once the snow stops.

What I’ve been reading is a bunch of interesting historical documents about riding motorcycles and driving other vehicles in our province — the Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations, Learn to Ride(Drive) Smart, and Tuning up for Riders (Drivers).

Why, why, why? Well you may ask.

I don’t eat cereal, so no box to read.

Also, there’s been a fascinating brouhaha over in the Kootenays about a young fellow on an “L” licence who drove the folks home from the party where they “took drink” to some considerable excess. So his required supervisor was impaired. This is not the preferred method.

Our friend Tim Schewe has already written about this in his column (Behind the Wheel, Dec 24).

What we learn there is that our laws don’t actually hold any requirement for the supervisor of a learner driver other than that they sit beside the driver, hold a valid driver’s licence, and be over 25.

Sober doesn’t come into it. Could be 105 years old, legally blind, and stoned out of their wits.

The learner motorcyclist regulations are just as fun. Supervisor has to hold a valid Class 6 and be “within sight.” Think about that. On some roads, I can see a rider more than a kilometre away.

No mention of whether the supervisor follows or leads, no mention of what vehicle they use, if any. No mention of whether they’re driving, riding, sober, asleep in the passenger seat, or standing at a third floor office window.  

Within sight. Egad.

So the guidance provided us by the legislation and the ICBC documents for new riders and drivers, ummmm, lacks rigour, shall we say.

I mention this, however, in the context of having started out with the idea of talking to riders who are going to be supervisors this new year, and to the new riders who will rely on their knowledge, skills and experience.

My thought was that those supervisors would be wise to refresh their knowledge. Allow me to suggest a good bit of time spent with the ICBC documents I mentioned.

You won’t find any more specific requirements of supervisors, or anything about your responsibilities and liabilities. Which do bear serious consideration.

But you will find a good and necessary overview of the rules, regulations, and requirements for riding. Necessary, because in the decade I’ve spent in this game, I’ve found one glaring consistency in the drivers and riders I’ve met.

Consistently, our knowledge of said rules is pretty sketchy. If we’re going to help a new rider learn the ropes and prepare for a road test, we owe it to them to study up.

Take the lowly Yield sign, for instance. What colour is it? How do we give effect to it? What’s the difference between that, and a Merge sign?

Nope, not yellow any more. Stop, and wait for passing traffic to clear. And you don’t just accelerate up to match the speed of passing traffic, as you do when merging, or failing your road test.

There’s a ton of this stuff that we forget, never knew, or misunderstand.

Here’s another. Generally, in B.C., you can turn right turn on a red light. But you have to stop first. Obvious.  Surprisingly, though, many are the souls who genuinely misunderstand the rule to mean that, because you’re turning right, you don’t have to stop.

That’s another way some supervisors help new riders to fail the road test, and/or get hurt.

So come on, turn off the telly, crack the books for awhile, and make yourself useful to the newbie in your riding life.

Same message to those planning to start or resume riding. The knowledge and road tests are a whole lot easier to pass the first time, and less embarrassing, if you do your homework.

Let it snow, let it snow, read to know.  Instead of assuming you’re already up to speed about the rules of the road.

However, please don’t understand the ICBC books to be comprehensive or current. They are, just like the Act and Regulations, in some respects more historical artifact than contemporary guide, and haven’t kept up with changes in motorcycles or traffic.

You need to look elsewhere for information about safety-critical equipment and riding techniques that have become broadly available and used since, oh let’s say the year 2000.

 I’ve mentioned the SPOKES website before; it's good place to start.

Or, you could take a course. Just mentioning.

Happy New Riding Year, ye lads and lasses!


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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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