October 2 2009.

In its detailed submission of evidence to the Transport Select Committee on the introduction of the new European motorcycle test, the British Motorcyclists Federation say that with fewer people now taking their test than at any time in the past five years, the Driving Standards Agency's (DSA's) interpretation and implementation of the test Directive has been a disaster for British motorcycling.

With training schools reporting downturns in business and income dropping by a third* (and winter still to come), many businesses will probably not survive the additional seasonal drop in business, trained professionals will find themselves unemployed and many of these small businesses will go to the wall say the BMF.

The inadequate provision of the new Multi-Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs) now required for testing has also meant that even if they fail their test, some trainees literally face a 220 mile round trip for a Module One motorcycle test. Riding such distances when a rider is deemed not up to standard makes a mockery of the test say the BMF.

The test's content also comes in for criticism from the BMF because of the way that the DSA have implemented the swerve and brake manoeuvres as a swerve and then a controlled stop as one manoeuvre.

The BMF point out that the directive does not specify that these manoeuvres have to be tested as one manoeuvre, simply that an obstacle has to be avoided at 50kph and braking should be from 50kph. By combining braking and swerving the DSA have exceeded the EU Directive's requirements and made it a more difficult and hazardous manoeuvre, so much so that several learners have crashed trying to complete the sequence.

The DSA also decided to introduce specific distances and dimensions for the manoeuvre whereas the directive does not specify any minimum elements, except for that of speed.

On the speed issue, the BMF maintains that not enough was done by the UK government to allow a derogation. Sticking rigidly to a 50 kph speed requirement (31 mph UK equivalent) means that the braking test can no longer be carried out on UK roads as UK speed limits would be exceeded. A derogation allowing braking from 30 mph (48 kph) would have meant that many of the manoeuvres now requiring special areas could have been part of the on-road test. The BMF also point out that the motorcycle test now includes at least four low speed manoeuvres as opposed to the two mandated by the Directive.

The BMF are also critical of a system whereby DSA examiners make no allowances for low-powered machines struggling to reach the required speed in the distance specified, or for any adverse weather conditions. Manoeuvring areas are rigidly adhered to even though advice on riding and driving in adverse weather conditions recommends allowing a greater stopping distance say the BMF. (NB: Prior to the new test, emergency braking tests conducted on UK roads had no specific stopping distance).

Extra test requirements, such as that of executing a figure of eight manoeuvre, are of dubious benefit say the BMF, as they take valuable training time away from learning how to interact with traffic.

On the provision of the MPTCs now required for this gold-plated procedure, the BMF reiterate that it has always maintained that provision would be inadequate.

As examples, the BMF point out that if a learner from say the small town of Portree in Scotland needed to take their test, the nearest centre is 110 miles away in Inverness, a round-trip of some 220 miles! In Wales someone from Aberystwyth would need to ride 70 miles to Swansea or in Cumbria, a learner from Kendal would face a 55 mile ride to Blackburn. If on the other hand, they were to be learner car drivers, all of them could take a car test in their home town!

Commenting, the BMF's Government Relations Executive Chris Hodder said: "The BMF have been campaigning on this issue for eight years and it appears that everything we have said has come true. What does it take for the DSA to wake up and admit they were wrong? The situation now facing motorcycling is a dire one and I foresee many young people in remote areas resorting to illegal riding or perpetual learning as the norm."

The terms of reference for the Select Committee inquiry can be found at:  

The 2nd Directive text can be found at: