Thursday, 22 May 2008

DSA Test Centres - A Trip Too Far?

If you're even thinking of taking the bike test - or know anyone who is - the message to hear is : "Do it now!"

The new off-road test will begin at the end of September. In itself, the test is no bad thing, in that riders will have to be taught the basics of good steering control for cornering and swerving. I have my doubts about the way in which other elements will be tested, and severe concerns about how training centres will be able to train riders for the higher-speed test exercises.

There are also concerns I've seen voiced about how easy it will be for low-power bikes to achieve the required test speeds (set by the EU) within the distance available.

But one of the most worrying factors is the sheer distance that riders will have to travel to actually take the test.

DSA are claiming " . . Most of the population able to reach one of these new test centres within 45 minutes and 20 miles."

Really? That's an average of 27 miles an hour! You only have to be stopped at lights, or at a junction for a few moments and that average will rise rapidly. The DSA's 'most' probably includes most of the UK's main population centres. Oh, except South London . . . where no test centre location has been identified!

And there are some real horror stories coming out over the distances some riders will have to travel (see below). Remember these are novice riders, who will have to travel (without the ability to use motorways where available) for some time and distance to the test centre, take the (extended) test, then return to their training site - perhaps in poor weather conditions.

Here's the DSA view:

Here's some alternnative views, including a BBC TV report:

Taking a motorbike test? Well, from the end of September, it's likely to mean a 160- or even 200-mile round trip to Devon.And a Penzance motorbike instructor fears he will go out of business due to the new regulations which will see testing being taken away from Penzance and moved to either Exeter or Plymouth from September 29, unless a possible site at Redruth is up and running.

The test is being introduced by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) to comply with European legislation and will entail the rider having to take a practical test at a Multi-purpose Test Centre (MPTC). At present, the nearest working MPTC is at Exeter although sites for other MPTCs have been identified in Plymouth and Redruth.

Alan Parker, owner of Cornwall Bike Training, in Albert Street, Penzance, says he can't understand why the new regulations are being brought in before all the new MPTCs are in place. "I can appreciate why the new test is being introduced," he said. "But why close the centres at Penzance (currently open two days a week), Camborne, St Austell and Bodmin before there's an alternative centre in Cornwall in place? It just doesn't make sense.

"I really do believe that if the new MPTC at Redruth does not open on time, it will lead to people riding around illegally without having passed the test."

And he fears he will have to close his business - which employs seven people - due to the additional costs.He estimates his company sees five to 10 people a week through the test and said if he had to take them to Plymouth or Exeter, it would add enormous extra expense to his business.

He thinks his fuel bill, currently £500 to £600 a month, would triple while the length of time between services on his fleet of 22 bikes, carried out every 2,500 to 3,000 miles, would also drop dramatically.

And perhaps the worst bit of all this? Alan Parker wonders why the introduction of the test hasn't been delayed until enough sites are in full operation. S

Simple answer: It can't be delayed, the test must be in place and operating this year, because the DSA have already had a two-year extension from the EU!

No comments: