Last weekend I had my first introduction in the art of motorcycle riding. I didn't end up in the hospital, but I am a little more worried about the teaching of the skills for traveling in a motorized vehicle on the road in Australia. In other words: cars and bikes.
This introduction taught us how to setup a bike (as in from the stand to the ready position), how to figure out what is happening around you, how to start it (vroom!), how to stop it (very tricky for a cyclist like me), how to get it moving (I don't like clutch riding...), how to take corners properly (look where you are going) and how to make sure you don't end up in dangerous or worse situations.
At the end I got my piece of paper showing that I know all the things above and that I know how to execute them properly. Next.. Will I buy a motorcycle? I don't think so yet. Why? There are a couple of reasons:
During the practise lessons we only drove in a nicely controlled environment. We didn't get higher than second gear, we didn't go faster than 20-25 kilometers per hour. I have absolutely no idea how it is riding in the real world where I go at 50 kilometers per hour (on normal busy Sydney roads), let alone 80 kilometers per hour (on the fast busy Sydney roads) where cars, roadrage and stupid people in cars are ever present. We used the indicators only once at the last practise and of course half of us screwed this up.
We only practised for six hours (two days with two times 1.5 hour blocks). Not many people know how long it took before my car-driving teacher allowed me to take the exam, but it was waaaaaaay above the average amount of hours (but less than 54 lessons :-). On the other hand, he never had to interfere with the wheel or the brakes! So to expect me to be comfortable on the seat after six hours is a little bit optimistic.
The other thing is that I am a very bad pupil but have a very good engineering mindset: I learn from my mistakes, and that's how I become good at it. Being told that I do something wrong doesn't hurt me, it helps me. Riding at some high speed and making a mistake is costly, and I won't be able to learn from it.
So... What's next? Not much I think. Michael and Stuart Lemon from Ride it right were great, the experience was great and I loved it. But I'm going to wait and try it again when I live in a city where the traffic isn't as mad as in Sydney. Canberra, I'm waiting for you! In the mean time I enjoy the backseat of Naomis bike :-)
Everybody who knows me that I'm crazy with cars. At cars. "Mad at cars" is the more the right line: I have a love / hate relationship with them. I know that todays society can't exist without them, but also that they are the biggest curse in todays society. Anyway, that's not the story here.
The story is about the availability of driver licenses in Australia: The joke goes that you get them with a box of Weetbix. And todays experience only shows that it is true. And why I feel so scared when I'm on the road.
So I got my dutch driver license in 1996, when I was 25. Wait, that was seven years after I was able to get it. I know. I told you I didn't like cars. I got my first car in 2000, five years after I got my driver license. I told you I didn't like cars. I moved to Australia in 2001, so I got rid of my car after six months.
In Australia you need an international driver license which is valid for six months or get an Australian driver license. So after six months I wasn't allowed to drive a car anymore. In 2006 my dutch driver license expired.
So, where does this story go to? Today, in 2008, seven years after I last driven a car, two years after my driver license expired, I got my Australian driver license. How? Just go to the RTA, show your dutch license, show some ID and fill in a form. Expired license? Not a problem. Not haven driven a car in seven years? Not a problem.
And you wonder why I am so scared on the roads here...