Chief Observer’s Report, January 2009 [2009/01]

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For a change, I’ll start with a report – which is what this is supposed to be after all.

It’s been a year of highs and lows. Our training program has been expanded and everyone should now know how successful the slow-riding days have been. Many thanks to Alec Gore and all others involved in that.

For many, slow-riding doesn’t hold an immediate appeal and with careful planning, it’s an activity we can usually avoid during normal riding. At the back of our minds is the question of why should I run the risk of damaging my bike unnecessarily? However, we can all admire the skill involved in competent slow-riding and I urge everyone to have a go on one of these days.

Also our classroom sessions have proved to be popular, particularly with new Associates, and we plan to continue with those in the new year. The course covers Roadcraft and the Highway Code. Yeah, I know that sounds dreary, but we hope we can bring it to life and have a bit of fun. It’s also an opportunity to meet other Associates and ‘compare notes’. Again I urge you to attend. Many thanks to Lilian for organising those evenings.

We have recently taken on two new Observers – Alec Gore and Chris Ford.  Also John Parvin joined our ranks in the summer and we welcome them all aboard.

Well, those were some of the ‘highs’, and now for a bit of a ‘low’. Despite maintaining a very healthy input of new members, I remain disappointed at how many Associates ‘drop-out’ and how few take and pass their Advanced Test. With a bit of effort, everyone should be capable of achieving the required standard. I know circumstances may change, but if there is any way we can help, please don’t hesitate to ask. I hate the thought of people just giving up.

I know that learning Advanced Riding Skills can at times seem confusing and pedantic, but believe me when I say that not only will you be safer on the road but you’ll enjoy your biking much more.

Okay, enough of that – now for the festive bit...

Season’s greetings to you all.

And now I’m struggling... I was trying to think of some bike related topic with a Christmas theme, and I was thinking of twinkling lights when I suddenly decided to talk about signals. Okay, poor link I know, but they are an act of giving after all.

When it comes to using signals I confess to being a bit of an anorak. I love the challenge of turning signalling into a craft. I find that making the perfect signal is very satisfying.  Does that make me sad? Naturally, I don’t think so – it’s just an extension of making everything we do on the bike safer and more fun.

Nothing demonstrates the average driver’s arrogance and selfishness more than the lack of using signals. How often have we sat at the roundabout waiting for a car, only to see it disappear up the previous exit? He’s okay, but we’ve wasted time.

Having said that, I hate the use of unnecessary signals. Nothing we do should be by rote and everything must be considered on the circumstances. You should be a thinking rider and not signalling automatically.

If there’s no time to signal and it’s safe, why signal for every overtake? And it’s rarely necessary to signal our return to the nearside. The assumption must be that you will return to the left after the manoeuvre.

And why signal to pass an obstruction that is clearly visible to all other road users? We are clearly not intending to plough into the back of a parked car.

Signals must always be signals of intention, not of achievement, and it’s at what point a signal should be given that’s important. Rarely is it the distance away from the manoeuvre that’s important, it’s how long it will take you to get there. And they must always be unambiguous.

One of my pet games is to always cancel my signal the absolute instant the manoeuvre is completed. For instance, when leaving a motorway I wait for the exact point when I’ve just crossed the broken line at the start of the slip road and then I hit that cancel button. I then breathe a sigh of satisfaction at a job well done. Perhaps I am a bit sad after all.

Anyway, there’s a mountain of stuff on signalling I could talk about. My advice is to turn it into an art – not just an activity.

And a Happy New Year to you all.


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