By: Wally Wersching
About five years ago, I attended a free session of the Bike Safe-NC program. I’m always looking for ways to improve my riding skills so I contacted them through their website www.BikeSafeNC.com, and registered for a class in Hendersonville, NC.
The Bike Safe program was started in London, England to cut down on their high motorcycle accident rate. After holding the Bike Safe classes, the accident rate dropped significantly. They are still holding classes in London. The North Carolina Highway Patrol saw this, and wanted it for North Carolina bikers hoping that it could reduce motorcycle accidents in North Carolina as it did in London. They tried it in Wake County during 2007 and 2008, and it worked. Then in 2009, they went state-wide, and have shown a drop in motorcycle fatalities.
The class was June 15th, 2012 at 8:45AM in Hendersonville, NC. I found the Hendersonville City Operations Building, the location for the class, and parked in the lot. After a few minutes, Officer Keith Quinn pulled up. I learned that he was from Gastonia, and would be my assessor during the class. He seemed very friendly, but I was still wary because he was a police officer, and all my encounters with the police have not been much fun.
The rest of the class’s participants came, and we went into the building. The class started with Lieutenant Mike Visely as the instructor, and the six of us listening attentively. He was very knowledgeable, friendly, and open about his experiences on the road as a motorcycle officer. There was a very interesting slide presentation. It differed from the MSF presentation with the showing of fatal crashes. We talked about how they happened, and how they could have been avoided. The Bike Safe Program works on real world situations on the road, and in traffic. It’s the next step in the learning progression from the MSF class. I can see where it helps. It helped me. You’re never too old to learn.
Then it was time for the riding part of the class. There were two riding portions where the assessor follows you, and watches every move you make and then grades you on it. We went out following a couple more sets of students and officers. I followed as though we were in a group. In essence, I played “follow the leader” throughout the ride. I was very nervous, made a few mistakes, and Keith saw them all.
After the ride, we stopped for lunch. Keith and I talked about the morning’s ride, and how I could improve. We also got more acquainted, and I became more relaxed around him.
We went back to the classroom for more of the presentation and discussion. It was very informative. Then it was time for the longer riding session. Keith and I went out alone. I was worried about missing the arrows painted on the street showing the route, but I really had no problem. I was much more relaxed, and with nobody to follow, I took my own path through the turns. It was more fun than the morning ride.
After we got back to the classroom, Keith told me that I got all “Ones” the best I could have gotten. I corrected all the errors of the morning ride. We went into the classroom, and I got my Certificate. I’m hoping that by taking the class, I’ll be a safer rider, and maybe even get a discount on my motorcycle insurance.
It was definitely worth the effort. I met some new people, and learned from men who ride for a living. Everything was as specified in the brochure, and on the website. I’d recommend this to anybody who rides. If it is not available in your state, contact your Highway Patrol, and ask them to initiate it. It works!
It’s been five years, and I’m registered for another class in April. I feel that I should get a refresher course. I’m not getting any younger, and can use all the help I can get. Go to the website www.BikeSafeNC.com, and check out the classes in your area. They have them all year long all over the state, and they are still free. It would be a great club outing where everybody learns something.