Bay motorcyclists hitting the road

By Michele McPherson, Sandra Conchie

Tauranga had the fourth highest number of ACC claims relating to moderate or serious injuries caused by motorbike crashes last year, with an increasing number of older riders on higher-powered bikes hitting Western Bay roads.
The highest number of injuries was in Auckland City, where there were 655 new ACC injury claims, followed by Christchurch with 434, Wellington with 154 and Tauranga City with 134.
A total of 41 riders died on New Zealand roads during the last financial year and more than 4000 were injured.
There were just four claims from riders in the Western Bay of Plenty District.
Meanwhile, ACC spokesperson Fiona Robinson said the number of motorcycles registered in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region rose from just under 14,000 in 2005 to more than 20,000 in 2009.
This means that there could be large numbers of new, inexperienced riders as well as many "returning riders", she said.
Those older, returning riders (generally aged 40-60) often now own bikes that are much more powerful than the bikes they first rode in their younger days.
"In Tauranga there is a high percentage of people who have taken early retirement that are in the right age group to be classed as returning riders."
Miss Robinson said while every rider looked forward to enjoying the drier roads and warmer weather of spring, changeable spring conditions could also catch out the most experienced of riders.
"And when you first jump back on that bike it can seem like the skills you built up over last summer have deserted you and you're back to square one," she said.
ACC General Manager of Injury Prevention Keith McLea said: "Riding a motorbike requires not just your attention but total commitment.

Motorbike riders are much more vulnerable to serious injuries on our roads than car drivers and have far less margin for error. We therefore urge all motorbike riders to ease back into it this spring and be aware of the hazards that changeable weather can bring."
Bike enthusiast questions crash assumptions
Tauranga Ulysses Club branch treasurer Debbie Smith said the ACC statistics about the number of crashes needed to be analysed in greater depth as the "devil is in the detail" as to who or what caused these crashes.
Often bikers get blamed when other factors come into play - such as road conditions, hitting an oil slick, cars turning the path of riders but all went down on paper as a motorcycle crash, she said.
"As we told the ACC Minister when our club protested the hike in the ACC levies, not all biker riders are at fault for crashes."
Mrs Smith has clocked up 30,000km in the last three years since buying her 650cc Suzuki Boulevard machine and has been accident-free.
She said the club's 200 members were very safety conscious and took all precautions to avoid falling off and to ensure they were visible to other motorists, but sometimes crashes were just unavoidable.
 Mrs Smith said about a year ago a member fell off her bike when she turned into her road and was confronted with a huge pile of loose metal, which was swept into the middle of the road after it was tarsealed.
The ride broke her collarbone and she was out of action for sometime through no fault of her own, she said.
Mrs Smith said it was important that all riders had a bike that they could still touch the ground with their feet rather than buying a bike for its look.  
See Saturday's Bay of Plenty Times for Safety Tips

- Bay of Plenty Times

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