MRASA The Motorcycle Riders Association of South Australia
MRA Protest Rally, Aug 2006
Political Items
  The following items have been provided by Peter Mount as topical political matters.
The Political Arena
  Those who make recommendations, propose bills and enact laws pertaining to motorcycling and motorcycle safety rarely have any specific interest in, direct experience of or familiarity with motorcycling. As a consequence, without adequate consultation, such legislation and regulations may not reflect the best interests of those who ride, even though the objectives may be well-intended.

Motorcyclists, from learners onward, quickly become very familiar with road infrastructure and traffic management issues which threaten their welfare. If a politician is not familiar with issues relating to motorcyclists, what would be the best way to become familiar with them? With whom would he or she consult, and through what processes?

Clearly, the simple answer involves the facilitation of open-minded accessibility, consultation with motorcyclists and their representative organisations, the development and support of mechanisms which enable the implementation of effective and progressive initiatives, and encouraging a government-motorcyclist bipartisan approach. While growth in these areas has been significant over the last three decades, a wealth of opportunities for vastly greater improvement still exists.
Scooters
  Scooters of engine capacities ranging from 50cc to 650cc are becoming increasingly popular both as a lifestyle and a mode of transport. Their sales have increased around 400% since 2005 (notwithstanding a slight drop in 2009 and 2010 due to the impact of the Global Financial Crisis). At present, only a car licence is required to ride a 50cc scooter (which can account for a significant proportion of sales), whereas anything larger than this requires a full motorcycle licence, with its attendant costs, thereby discouraging the broader uptake of larger-capacity two-wheeled transport.

Motorcycle and scooter riding require specific skills which are not acquired through driving, with the associated potential to compromise one's safety if one has had little or no training or experience. On the other hand, the more familiar all road users are with the functional and behavioural characteristics of motorcycles, the safer riders of such machines will be. A balance between the two is highly desirable. This can be achieved through a training and licensing system which includes at least motorcycle-specific information and, ideally, a practical component.

In short, 'bums on seats' is good for motorcycling, for the more drivers there are who ride, or have some experience on a motorcycle or scooter, the more they will be aware of riders when they drive. In practical terms, not all people would be capable of riding a motorcycle for a multitude of reasons, but it is eminently reasonable to expect all vehicle licensees to have an understanding of motorcycle safety from a theoretical perspective.

Off-Road Motorcycling
  Currently, there are limited areas in the Adelaide region the public may go to enjoy off-road motorcycling on an ad hoc, individual basis. One popular and accessible venue is privately owned and a fee is charged. Off-road motorcyclists who are unable to utilise this facility for a range of reasons or do not have personal access to private or club land are limited to normal vehicular sealed and unsealed carriageways with their associated traffic-related risks, limited range of terrain appropriate for off-road motorcycles, and limited motorcycle-specific facilities.

At present, all motorcycles which operate on public land in South Australia are required to be registered for on-road use, regardless of whether or not they are to be used exclusively off-road. As such, they are also required to fully comply with the relevant Australian Design Rules. This means that those motorcycles which are used exclusively off-road have components which can either be easily damaged in a fall, such as blinkers and mirrors, or can cause harm in a fall, such as headlights and standard-sized numberplates.

Further, the cost of on-road registration and third party insurance is not considered to be directly correlated to the risks associated with off-road riding, particularly as few off-road motorcyclists tend to carry pillion passengers or have crashes with other vehicles.

Dedicated riding areas, together with a dedicated registration system, are therefore deemed by the riding community to be viable solutions. This has occurred with considerable success in other Australian states.

Rider Training
  The state government's motorcycle rider training scheme, RiderSafe, was introduced in March 1987, after developmental consultation with the MRA. As it was made compulsory, and full-cost recovery would not have been received well by the motorcycling community, the government subsidised the scheme to make it affordable. In recent years, the government's policy has been reversed and the RiderSafe scheme, at over $700 (including L and P licences), is now one of the most expensive in Australia. A full driving licence, on the other hand, can be obtained through a number of cost- and skill-related options for as little as $200.

This acts as a disincentive to many young people of licensing age who would like to purchase a motorcycle as a first vehicle for economic, enjoyment, ease of parking or other reasons. The MRA believes that the training cost may also be a contributing factor to the number of unlicensed riders (that is, those without an appropriate motorcycle licence) on the road, particularly as this group has an above-average rate of fatal crashes.

Some motorcyclists suspend their riding activities after they marry, usually for economic or family transportation reasons, then return to riding after the children have become independent. Many such riders believe 'refresher' training courses to be an invaluable aid to refamiliarising themselves with the skills they had acquired during their earlier experience.

After some experience subsequent to acquiring a full motorcycle licence, many riders seek to enhance their roadcraft skills by participating in training courses that are more advanced than those required to obtain their licence.

The underlying objective of riders taking refresher and advanced training courses is to improve their safety on the road. The benefit for riders as a group is a reduction in risk leading to fewer and less harmful crashes than there might otherwise have been; the benefit to the community is the reduced demand on the public purse for medical treatment.

A government subsidy on refresher and advanced training courses would encourage, and enable, more motorcyclists to expeditiously acquire or reacquire the skills which would otherwise be obtained through more extended experience and which anecdotal and statistical examination demonstrates leads to safer participation in the road environment.

Motorcycles and Transport Policy
  Without inclusion in a state transport policy, motorcyclists tend to be overlooked when the government prepares budgeting and programs for road safety initiatives, road infrastructure, traffic management, safety research, health and welfare, leisure activities and all other areas related to the road and traffic environment.

While this approach may increase the safety and welfare of drivers, it can often be at the expense of the safety and welfare of motorcyclists. Generally, any improvement in the road environment that benefits motorcyclists will also benefit other road users, whereas the reverse is not necessarily so.

Motorcycles are a very efficient, environmentally friendly and practical mode of transport in most situations. Compared to cars, they use relatively little fuel, hence contribute less per capita to pollution; they take up a small amount of space on the road, hence traffic congestion is not an issue; their parking requirements are minimal, with four to six bikes able to fit into a car parking space; they can carry one, two or three people (as pillion, trike and sidecar passengers), comparing favourably with cars, especially in commuting mode where there is rarely more than one person in a car; they are less likely to strike or harm pedestrians due to their manoeuvrability, lighter weight and smaller profile (pedestrian casualties due to motor vehicle - that is, non-motorcycle - impacts represent a significant proportion of the road toll).

The number of motorcycle licence holders in South Australia is approximately 168,000 - about four times the number of registrations. While a number of reasons could be proffered for this ratio, the common factor binding all the licence holders, regardless of whether they ride regularly, periodically, infrequently or are having a break from riding, and regardless of whether they have no bike or a dozen in the shed, is that they have an interest in motorcycling. Neither should we forget their families and associates who will have a direct or indirect connection to motorcycling. Hence, all these people will take an interest in issues about motorcycling and, in particular, in governmental decisions which are likely to have an impact upon their safety, welfare and lifestyle.

Motorcycle Safety
  One of the inherent problems road authorities have is catering for the safety requirements of different categories of vehicles. However, motorcyclists have quite different criteria for a safe road environment than other road users, and have a much higher probability of being injured or killed in a crash. In a bid to redress this inequity, through collaboration between motorcyclists and government, the Motorcycle Road Safety Strategy 2005-2010 was developed by the Motorcycle Task Force (MTF) to identify and address those factors which can cause or contribute to motorcycle crashes.

A raft of remedial measures was recommended, about 70% of which have been implemented with considerable effectiveness and acceptance by the motorcycle community. Some have been delayed due to time, complexity, management arrangements, legislative or regulatory changes, ongoing commitment or potential controversy. These include an on-road novice rider training component, advanced rider training (Level 3), refresher training courses for returning riders and a licence-based motorcycle levy (the last of which the MRA argued against determinedly).

Notwithstanding the Strategy, however, the road infrastructure and traffic management systems and applications still focus very strongly on the safety requirements of other road users, often to the detriment of motorcyclists.

Consequently, it is necessary to continue this focussed approach with renewed vigour by developing and implementing a motorcycle safety strategy to cover the next five years or longer, with clear, achievable objectives and, particularly, a commitment by government to its implementation. Given motorcyclists' unique requirements for a 'safe system', it is critical that a standalone strategy is established, rather than having those requirements subsumed under a broad 'all-road-users' strategy.

Disturbingly, at the present time the State Government does not intend supporting a replacement Motorcycle Road Safety Strategy. South Australia is now the only state without such a demonstrably effective mechanism for saving motorcyclists' lives. Given that the previous Strategy ceased in December 2010, and the following year recorded an unsettling surge in motorcycle fatalities, the argument against renewing the dedicated Strategy would appear difficult to sustain.

From its inception in 2003 the role of the MTF has been that of a consultative body. While this was a step in the right direction, its recommendations carried insufficient weight to achieve the objectives for which the it was established. A higher standard of interaction between motorcyclists and all levels of government became manifestly evident as being essential for the establishment of a safe road environment.

As a consequence of lobbying to this end, the MTF has recently been disbanded and replaced, at least in part, by the Strategic Stakeholders Group, which is not motorcycle-specific and includes other road user groups such as bicycles, pedestrians, taxis and trucks. The MRA hopes that the SSG will have an advisory, rather than consultative, capacity, together with appropriate funding, and that it will be a progressive move towards improving motorcyclists' safety, as SA's motorcyclists will need the MTF's successor to assume a greater degree of responsibility in the development and implementation of safety initiatives for each of its constituent groups.

The Immediate Future
  The SA Motorcycle Road Safety Strategy 2005-2010 included a proposal for a levy on motorcyclists which would fund motorcycle-specific safety initiatives. This proposal was subsequently replicated in the latest version of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020.

The only state currently with such a levy is Victoria, at a cost per registered bike (limit of one fee per owner) of $63.80. It was introduced in 2002 at $50, and has raised $36m to date. The levy is not always spent exclusively on motorcycle-only safety improvements, but rather on improvements which are intended to benefit other road user groups as well, such as road safety barrier systems, signage, road surfacing, delineation and hazard removal. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that motorcyclists have benefited from the levy to some degree.

MRASA has consistently argued that a motorcycle levy is discriminatory, as both state and federal governments have an inherent responsibility to cater for the welfare of all road users, and that revenue raised through road-related fees, such as registrations, fuel taxes and fines, were originally intended to be utilised for the benefit of all road users, and should continue to be spent thusly according to need. No other road user group has a levy in place, for it can neither be justified nor warranted.

By comparison, the Queensland Government is funding the current 'Here For Life' campaign for motorcyclists out of general revenue, which is regarded highly by the state's motorcyclists.

If a levy were to be introduced in SA, the MRA would expect it to be administered in a way which would directly and exclusively benefit motorcyclists, and recommends the following:

  • Form the South Australian Motorcycle Advisory Council (SAMAC) with representation from the current major rider groups, DTEI, MAC, RAA, RiderSafe and others. This body would be the sole administrator of all revenue raised.
  • SAMAC to have up-front access to funds projected to be collected in the first twelve months to facilitate the immediate commencement of safety programs.
  • All revenue raised to go to motorcycle-specific projects only.
  • No motorcycle-related projects to be funded if they are already coming out of general revenue, such as the new BASYC barrier protection system being rolled our on the Gorge Road black spot area.
  • RiderSafe fees to be reduced by the amount of the levy so that new riders will not be initially disadvantaged.
  • The levy to be fixed and not subjected to a CPI annual review.
  • DTEI to engage a motorcycle safety expert within the Safety Strategy Section.
Political Liaison
  MRASA will be liaising closely with SA Government agencies and other interested bodies in the immediate future with a view to significantly addressing the safety concerns of SA's riding community. The MRA is making every effort to represent motorcyclists' interests, and welcomes your support and contribution.

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