Wheel safe: Course revs up motorcycle skills
Second Lt. Kevin Rivers of the Air Force Program Executive Office maneuvers through the obstacles and tests his skills at a motorcycle safety course July 21. Air Force officials have declared 2011 the year of motorcycle safety. (Air Force photo/Chris Baldwin)
by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs
7/29/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Base personnel participated in the Maxwell Safety Office's basic riders' course last week. The two-day course, a requirement for Airmen and civilian personnel who wish to operate motorcycles on base, teaches riders basic skills, including low-speed maneuverability and safety.
Even though the course is required, course instructor Jim West of the wing safety office's traffic safety section said the mandate isn't the only reason people should attend.
"This course will save your life," he said. "If you ride a motorcycle, and you don't know what I teach you on this course, you are a danger out there. It's not something you pick up automatically. Balancing a motorcycle and riding down the road is not 'knowing' how to ride a motorcycle. Knowing the safe way to handle it, stopping properly, turning properly, being aware and anticipating what is happening will save your life."
The course coincides with the Year of Motorcycle Safety, an Air Force initiative to combat recklessness on motorcycles and emphasize safety. Noting there have been three Air Force deaths this summer related to motorcycle accidents, Col. Brian Killough, the 42nd Air Base Wing commander, echoed the importance of the course.
"We have this course to save Airmen's lives. We invest so much in our Airmen, we love our Airmen and we don't want them to get hurt," Killough said.
While the course has been held for some time, this month marks the first time participants will be using new motorcycles purchased by 42nd Air Base Wing.
Previously, the wing would rent motorcycles and have them brought here for the course.
"From a resource perspective, the fact that we own the motorcycles is much more cost effective than leasing them. This way, we don't have to pay leasing costs and transportation costs over and over again," Killough said.
The course has given some participants the chance to try out motorcycles, while for some it's been a much-needed refresher course.
Second Lt. Kevin Rivers, a project officer for the Theater Medical Information Program, looked forward to the freedom learning to ride would bring and felt the course would allow him to do that safely.
"I wanted to be able to get the confidence in riding," he said. "I want to add benefit to the road, not be a hindrance."
As an experienced rider, Staff Sgt. James Lide of the 908th Airlift Wing said he wanted to take the course to brush up on motorcycle safety. "I wanted to enhance my motorcycle skills, I'm already an experienced rider, but this will give me some added experience," he said.
At the end of the course, West said he hopes the participants will have learned to operate a motorcycle safely, and, more importantly, why motorcycle safety is so critical.
"I hope that they'll take away a safe attitude about motorcycles; that's what we stress from the start of the class to the end of the class," he said. "It's a building block. We teach them the very basics ... from not ever being on a motorcycle to being able to ride a motorcycle competently in traffic."
West also had a message for experienced riders who feel they don't need a safety course: "Come back. I'll break all of the bad habits you've picked up. I'll teach you how to ride a motorcycle again."