A motorcycle association is lobbying the Department of Transport to allow motorists to automatically qualify for a motorcycle licence not exceeding 200 cc in capacity as a way of alleviating the urban congestion problems in South Africa. What do you think?

The Association of Motorcycle Importers & Distributors (Amid) is lobbying the Department of Transport to allow motorists to automatically qualify for a motorcycle licence not exceeding 200 cc in capacity as a way of alleviating the urban congestion problems in the country.

Amid national director Arnold Olivier told CARtoday.com that as roads got busier and the fuel price went up, it would encourage motorists to switch to two wheels. “We believe that this class of vehicle is critical to the future mobility of the public and will make a contribution to the alleviation of traffic congestion and the economy,” he said.

Olivier said he had written to the department to say that there was very little difference between obtaining a learner’s licence for a motorcycle and a car. “A person driving a car already possesses the necessary skills to use a public road safely. The controls are just slightly different, but it won’t take long to become familiar with it,” he said.

Olivier pointed out that many countries, Austria, Belgium, France and Italy, do not require a special licence to ride a scooter, making it more easily accessible and simpler for people to use this mode of transport if they have a car licence.

“In South Africa, motorcycles form only 2,4 per cent of the total vehicle population. Eastern countries are closer to 40 per cent. What we need to do is to make motorcycles and scooters more accessible to qualified road users,” he said.

The organisation said it believed that riders should attend a formal training school before they ventured out on the road, but technically, a small capacity scooter was hardly more challenging to operate than a bicycle. “And we are not saying put people on bikes that are too powerful for them,” Olivier said.

Amid would also like the department to raise the minimum engine class for the 16 to 18-year-old group from 125cc to 150 cc. “There are more suitable and cheaper bikes in this range that would work well for schoolchildren. Some 125 cc motorcycles are very fast, while some of the bikes in the 150 cc range are not quicker than the top-of-range 125 cc bikes,” he said.

Olivier said he was also asking the department for approval of a new moped class from the age of 14. “A moped is essentially a motorised two-wheeler with an engine capacity not exceeding 50 cc and with a top speed of about 50 km/h. This will give us a broader entry-level market and will also help teach children from this age the necessary road skills before they go for their driver’s licences. It would help create safer drivers and improve mobility in the country. We think a moped category is a reasonable option as you can reach speeds of about 60 km/h going downhill on a bicycle, but there are no regulations governing bicycle use,” Oliver said.

The Amid director also said that the price of scooters was another factor to consider. “Modern scooters range in price from R13 300 for a 100 cc two-stroke machine, which are significantly more economical than even the cheapest passenger motor car, which now retails for approximately R55 000. Due to the automatic transmissions in use, riding a scooter is effortless, and a complete novice can be taught in five minutes,” he said.

“Amid calls on the government to act boldly to start implementing real and practical solutions to the transport crisis staring average South Africans in the face. The public transport sector has been unable to cater for the specific needs of a large section of the commuting public for many years. Businesses moving out of the traditional CBD areas have placed tremendous strain on the infrastructures of previously suburban areas,” said Olivier.

OPINION:

CAR technical editor Jake Venter said he did not agree that motorists should be allowed to automatically qualify for motorcycle licences.

“Personally, I started riding a motorbike about 10 years after I had a driver’s licence and I found it quite difficult. The skills needed are completely different and making the adjustment is not easy. Braking is complicated because you have to learn how to coordinate the front and rear brakes using one hand and one foot. In fact, I would go so far as to say that very few motorcyclists know how to execute a good emergency stop,” he said.

Venter said motorcyclists also have to be more aware of the road surface. “There are very different sets of skills needed for motorbikes. I have been involved in training people to ride motorcycles and it has to be done slowly and methodically or they will fall off,” Venter said.

The technical editor also said he did not believe the age for 50 cc bikes should be lowered to 14. Children that age are not mature enough to have the proper road sense,” Venter said.

What do you think?