The founder of a motorcycle safety initiative has issued a ‘plea from the heart’ in a bid to reduce casualties among bikers.
Alf Gasparro is flight crew on the air ambulance which is based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, which covers Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. He is also founder of the Heli Bikes motorcycle safety initiative.
Mr Gasparro, who has more than 10 years’ experience of dealing with motorcycle casualties while working on helicopter emergency medical services on air ambulances in the UK, formed Heli Bikes in 2011 to promote motorcycle rider awareness and safety.
In a blog titled ‘Can anyone hear me?’ he says: “When anyone has an idea about road safety, one of the hardest things is to get people to listen.
“I have always claimed that any safety campaign, especially a road or motorcycle safety campaign, will not work unless it engages with the target audience.
“If a local government or police policy to improve road and motorcycle safety meant that their strategy was to go out in force, target riders with punitive methods and maintain a dismissive demeanour, then the target audience, i.e., riders will not be engaged, will be resentful of ‘interference’ from law enforcers and will likely not change their ways, or may only do so temporarily. There would be no winning of ‘hearts and minds’.
“The same can be said for riders who wish to improve rider safety, but their main or only strategy is to blame other road users for hazardous situations and ignore the rider-induced ones. This method will gather much support within the biking community, but the target audience – drivers – will not be engaged, will not listen, will be resentful and the message will not get through.
“For anything to have a good chance of being effective in the long term, firstly it has to be factual, it has to be balanced and it has to be directed at the target group – and most importantly the message to that group should make them want to listen and to change behaviours.
“Secondly, anybody (or campaign) must be willing to listen to new ideas and new methods that are not only factual and applicable but are also manageable and practical – not some ideological nonsense dreamt up by a disconnected think tank or group of political players.
“Thirdly, any campaign must know when to call it a day, or change its focus. The message might be right or wrong, but regardless people may just get tired of hearing the same old tune.
“And last, no one can work in isolation and no group can be truly effective on a large scale without cooperation and collective application and support from other groups and agencies.
“We have to engage with our target audience but also with each other and be willing to listen – and act together to truly improve things, improve riding and driving standards and practices and move forward.
“Otherwise we’ll be here in a decade and nothing has really changed. There will continue to be high accident rates, more injuries and more fatalities.”