'Just not right': Motorcycle permit system needs change, says training centre director

Being able to drive a motorcycle without a road test is 'just not right,' according to the director of a training centre that puts thousands of novice motorcyclists through courses across the province each year.

Not-for-profit training foundation said more mandatory training needed for motorcyclists

People in Ontario can drive any size motorcycle with an entry level permit that is granted without a road test. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Being able to drive a motorcycle without a road test is "just not right," says the director of a training centre that trains thousands of motorcyclists each year.

Anyone that's 16 or older who passes a written test on traffic safety along with a vision test can ride any motorcycle on roads up to 80 KM/h in Ontario during the day.

"People can actually get on the very largest motorcycle sold out there on the strength of a written test," said Don Redekop, Executive Director of Learning Curves Foundation, a not-for-profit motorcycle training organization. 

Redekop said he would like to see more mandatory training before people are licensed to operate a motorcycle.

"I would like to see more training on the street earlier," he told CBC News. "Right now we have a time delay system,which in itself is good, certain privileges are earned."

Two people were killed in motorcycle crashes in the London area on the Canada Day weekend.

Redekop, whose training centre operates a course in the London area, said it's a tragic blow to the motorcycle community whenever a biker dies.

"Terrible, just terrible. It's a failure on our part and (for) the training industry," said Redekop, adding that he's not sure of any specific details that explain the cause of the crashes. 

Bike size

In Europe, motorcycle licenses are tied to the person's age and a motorcycle's power. 

"For good or for ill, the Ministry of Transportation decided not to go with that model in the 1980's, so we're stuck with it," said Redekop.

He said that while a license system like Europe's may lower the number of crashes, "it's the rider, it's not the motorcycle" that causes an accident. 

Don Redekop says being able to ride any size bike without a road test is "just not right." (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"It might help to reduce the number of catastrophic incidents if people were on a smaller bike but the injuries are not proportional to the size of the engine."

He said the key to preventing injuries is learning on smaller bikes and slowly graduating to larger, faster motorcycles. 

'Let's stop accidents'

The owner of one of London's largest motorcycle shops said that he's noticed a disturbing change in the way driver's of all vehicles are handling traffic. 

"The roadways have changed, I feel," said Gordon Inglis, owner of Inglis Cycles. "I can't say it's gotten better. If anything, it's gotten worse."

"There's just a lack of interest or laziness towards safely operating a vehicle," said Inglis. 

Gordon Inlgis says in the past five years he's noticed that people driving motorcycles and vehicles have become lazy. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

He said everyone has to do a better job driving defensively by anticipating other motorists' behaviour, slowing down and operating in their own comfort zone. 

"Let's stop accidents," said Inglis, who said he gets mad whenever he hears about another motorcyclist killed in a collision. 

"I really think accidents can be eliminated."

Stop sensationalizing, start educating

Inglis said he won't sell a large bike to an inexperienced rider that enters his store.

He also suggests new riders take the Gearing Up motorcycle safety course by the Canada Safety Council that is offered at Fanshawe College.

Inglis said there's also a need for more safety awareness stories throught the year, not just after someone dies.

"I don't like the media for what they're doing in hyping up the fact that there's been a fatality," said Inglis.

"If there's been a motorcycle accident, let's find out why and build on to what we're trying to teach ... people in operating a vehicle on the roads in Ontario."

Motorcycles sit parked outside of Inglis Cycle in London, Ont. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The Ontario Provincial Police said that excessive speed was a factor in one of two fatal motorcycle accidents last weekend on roads they patrol.

When it comes to licensing, Inglis said that he does support a system that ties bike size to experience, but isn't sure exactly how that would work.

"There could be some 500cc's that I'd recommend and there could be some 400cc's that I wouldn't recommend," said Inglis. 

He said the motorcyclists need to be deeply famliar with whatever bike they own by driving as often as they can, in controlled environments with low traffic, and slowly graduate to more active locations.