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Safe skills

PUBLISHED: 12:29 21 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:29 21 June 2016

The Norfolk scheme has been taken on by police forces around the country

The Norfolk scheme has been taken on by police forces around the country

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Norfolk Police have led the way with a training scheme to cut motorcycle casualties, as motoring editor and biker Andy Russell explains

Andy Russell (right) joins the Safer Rider scheme to find out how it is helping motorcyclists in NorfolkAndy Russell (right) joins the Safer Rider scheme to find out how it is helping motorcyclists in Norfolk

Norfolk Police pioneered an innovative motorcycle training scheme to promote safety and cut casualties by alerting riders to the hazards they face.

It’s a sad fact that motorcycles make up one percent of traffic but 24pc of casualties and one that encouraged the county’s motorcycle traffic officers to set up Safe Rider in 1998, which is now run nationally by other police forces as BikeSafe, to improve riders’ hazard awareness, observation and planning, safe cornering and overtaking.

The Safer Rider schemeThe Safer Rider scheme

More than 170 courses later, about 2,500 riders have benefited from the specialist knowledge of police motorcyclists, who give their time voluntarily.

The £50 course starts with an informative, but informal, evening workshop at police headquarters at Wymondham. Do some homework first by reading the useful Hugger rider skills downloads on the www.think.norfolk.gov.uk casualty reduction partnership website. The real learning takes place on the five-hour road session on a Saturday or Sunday, when five groups of three riders per course are each accompanied by a police motorcycle.

I joined Sgt Andy Spall, involved with Safe Rider since it began, and his pre-ride briefing had a clear message - safety first and foremost.

Following him on cross-country routes and main roads, watching his road positioning and line through bends to give a safety margin from other traffic or potential hazards, was a learning curve in itself.

He also pointed out clues to what might lay ahead – a hedgerow showing up a side road, signs almost obscured behind fields of crops, a church indicating where the road goes and, on a Sunday morning, people and cars might be gathered outside.

It’s a lot to take in but an enormous confidence-booster - and I still felt nervous when I took the lead so he could assess my riding. His police bike filling my mirrors was a bit daunting at first but you go at your own pace as it’s about safety not speed, and the police motorcyclists are there to advise, not criticise. Regular stops give opportunities for feedback and discussion while any hazardous situations are discussed.

Safe Rider is also about encouraging riders to keep learning and developing their skills with further advanced rider training from a variety of sources. As Sgt Spall kept telling us – it’s not rocket science, just common sense. w

Visit www.norfolk.police.uk/safetyadvice/roadsafety/saferiderscheme and www.think.norfolk.gov.uk/motorcyclists/training/safe-rider-scheme

To find out more about Safe Rider, call 01603 638115 or email andy.micklethwaite@norfolk.gov.uk

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