Life on the road: motorbike training
As part of the Trust’s drive to deliver a more mobile approach to aid in Nepal, we recently partnered with the UK’s leading road safety charity and advocate IAM Roadsmart.
With a new structure to our work in Nepal, we were in need of the relevant training to ensure that all of our staff are best equipped to face the challenges that Nepal offers in their line of duty.
The Pensioner Support Teams
Following a review of how we need to deliver welfare to our ageing and increasingly less-mobile beneficiaries in Nepal, we introduced our Pensioner Support Teams. These teams journey deep into the hills of Nepal with 4×4 all-terrain vehicles and off-road motorbikes to visit our pensioners, and are made up of drivers, doctors, other medical staff and welfare staff.
“Many of the pensioners we look after are now approaching their centenary. If we didn’t reach out to them, they would be left without care or support.”
Staff on motorbikes
This new model has meant that a lot more of our staff now need to navigate their way on specialist off-road motorbikes (the majority of whom use a Honda XR150L).
Enter IAM Roadsmart. We approached the UK-based charity (with their being no equivalent organisation in Nepal) to see if they would be willing to head out to Nepal and support our staff over ten days of training sessions near our head office in Pokhara. Unsurprisingly, they were able to find a couple of keen volunteers!
Instructors Peter Doherty and Scott Tulip got the call, and duly headed out to Nepal on 1 April 2018. Though the navigation of streams, rope bridges and the most intense traffic in the world isn’t part of their everyday routine, the duo were more than up for the task, having worked at the Metropolitan Police Driving School for the last decade.
Upon arriving in Nepal they were tasked with taking twelve of our staff members through their paces, selected from our offices across the country, including Damak, Chitwan, Lamjung, Phidim, Myagdi and more. Over the next ten days they took staff through a method of riding to a system, colloquially known as IPSGA, which stands for:
“Overtaking seems to be the national sport and the whole nation practises at every opportunity.”
It’s fair to say that traffic in Nepal is a little different than the traffic our supporters may be used to here in the UK. Though a shock at first, it didn’t take long for the instructors to get into the swing of things.
“If you want to overtake, sound your horn. As you are overtaking, sound your horn. As you complete the move, sound your horn. If you are being overtaken, sound your horn. If someone drives towards you, sound your horn.”
“After a while, though, it sort of made sense; all of this madness contains no malice; people will always make room for you…”
The ten days entailed a mix of field work – tackling ascents and descents, tricky terrain and riding through water – as well as ‘classroom’ teaching – exploring things like safe ways to overtake.
The training was incredibly well received by our staff. Though many were competent riders already, the time spent with the instructors allowed them to ask questions they’d never had the chance to and to pick up tips for some of the more difficult aspects of riding, as well as a few quick wins:
“I never knew picking up a bike from the ground single-handedly would be so easy. I have finally learnt the trick!”
As our Field Director, Steve Whitlock pointed out, once the course was complete these twelve riders represent the only trained motorcyclists in Nepal (to obtain a license in Nepal you merely have to apply).
Concluding, instructor Scott Tulip commented:
“The guys have had a full, intensive, course of instruction. They were experienced motorcyclists in their own right, but in reality that was just machine handling skills. Road safety and having a few options of different techniques available were both new areas. Are they safer than they were when we started? Oh yes, without a shadow of a doubt.”