Victoria becomes the first state to trial mandatory motorcycle training for car drivers.
The bold move should come to no surprise to those who live local to Melbourne, a popular city for riders due to its footpath parking laws and beautiful scenic hill runs.
Following numerous accidents caused by "SMIDSY" (Sorry mate, I didn't see you), a state-wide campaign for mandatory motorcycle training for car drivers was launched by a small group of passionate riders who want to see fewer collisions on the road.
As a result, a suburb in Melbourne's inner city is now trialling a program in which all new drivers must undergo a 3-day training course on motorcycle riding, in order to pass their drivers test.
"I think everyone should be given the opportunity to try out motorcycle riding," says Brent, a long-time advocate of the two-wheeled lifestyle and owner of a 2007 Suzuki GSXR 600.
"It's one of those things that is not understood by people unless they do it themselves."
In the 3-day course, all car drivers must learn to use all four limbs to throttle, brake, use the clutch, change gears, and steer, while wearing inhibitory clothing and straddling a powerful engine, through a pre-determined route that includes tram lines, hook turns, U-turns, and a minimum of 6 SUV drivers wearing eye patches.
Jason is a recent graduate of the new training initiative and was surprised at how difficult motorcycle riding really is.
"I mean, I've ridden scooters heaps of times in Bali, so I never thought motorcycle riding was that much different. I see 'em zipping past my ute when I'm stuck in traffic. I used to think motorbikes were annoying and loud, but now I see that the riding community is actually pretty cool. I've since joined 4 Facebook riding groups just to get more practice in. This 3-day course really gave me some appreciation for motorcycle riders and what they have to put up with."
Jason just financed a brand new Honda Grom and is loving it.
"They don't need to pass the riding course in order to qualify for their driver's license." says Tom, a riding instructor for the new VicRoads Share the Road program, adding "But those who pass the 3-day course will get a discount on their car rego. So there's at least a little incentive to pay attention in class."
In addition, car drivers who complete the 3-day riding course with no demerits will be welcomed to Phillip Island where they will compete for a reduced rate on their car rego. The monthly competition, aptly named RegoGP, is becoming increasingly competitive given the state of the economy.
Janet, a 95 year old widow from Toorak, was among the first to pass the 3-day introductory course.
"Phillip Island is quite lovely and is close to where my grandson lives. He's a 30 year old racer and was the one who told me about the riding program. He also taught me how to get my knee down in the first corner. People my age usually get knee replacements, not knee down, so I was really quite thrilled with myself." Janet now has plans to run mid-afternoon riding classes for seniors.
"It's a joy bringing life back into these people. You should see their faces when I start my engine. Simply enchanting."
Janet commutes daily on a 2018 BMW S1000RR, which she purchased new with her life savings. She is currently saving up for a track bike, but is looking to pair up with someone who has a bike trailer. "I can't drive those darn things," she says. "I'm all about the bikelife now."
Not everyone was happy about this program starting up. Jocelyn runs a volunteer support group on Wednesday nights for people who have lost their partners to motorcycle riding.
"One day, I asked him why he spent so much time at work," she says, with tears in her eyes. "He wouldn't tell me. His collar smelled of petrol and leather, and he always had a sneaky grin on his face. It was only when I found his spare motorcycle key that I realized why he kept coming home so late."
Ben is Jocelyn's former partner and couldn't speak more highly of the initiative. "If I hadn't tried riding motorbikes at the age of 45, I might still be in the same old unhappy relationship. Now I have I new love, and I don't see it changing anytime soon."
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