FEATURE: Driven by a shared passion for keeping bikers safe on the road

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Motorcyclists make up just one per cent of the traffic on the roads of East Sussex, yet they are involved in just over a quarter of all fatal or serious collisions.

Biker Down Sussex, a scheme led by a dedicated team of volunteers headed up by coordinator Clive York, is working to change this sobering statistic.

Bikers in Hastings. 6/5/13'Please credit Frank Copper if used. ENGSUS00120130705100721

Bikers in Hastings. 6/5/13'Please credit Frank Copper if used. ENGSUS00120130705100721

A firefighter of 26 years, currently serving at Battle Fire Station, Clive has been responsible for the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s Firebike scheme, promoting safer riding, since 2007.

Clive said: “I’m just passionate about keeping people safe on the road, especially those on powered two-wheelers.”

Biker Down was first introduced by Kent Fire and Rescue Service in 2011 before being brought over to East Sussex.

The Biker Down Sussex team was first formed in 2013, holding two pilot workshops in February, 2014, with the first official workshop at Hastings Fire Station in July, 2014.

Bikers in Hastings, 7/5/12'Please credit Frank Copper if used. Photos taken free of charge. ENGSUS00120120805101512

Bikers in Hastings, 7/5/12'Please credit Frank Copper if used. Photos taken free of charge. ENGSUS00120120805101512

The team is made up of ESFR Firebike riders Clive York, Martin Alford, Pete Higgins and Dave Thurston, PC Phil Barrow of the Sussex Police Roads Policing Unit, First Aider Andy Sullivan, Tracy Pelper and Jane Poplett, a critical care sister at Eastbourne DGH.

Clive said: “Biker Down is aimed at all powered two wheelers who happen to come across an accident involving either another motorcyclist or other road user.

“Most people are not quite sure what to do, but Biker Down will give you an insight into what needs to be done before the arrival of the emergency services.”

The workshop is broken down into three modules.

Bikers in Rye, 7/5/12 ENGSUS00120120805081757

Bikers in Rye, 7/5/12 ENGSUS00120120805081757

The first deals with accident scene management, with participants learning how to secure the scene and maintain a cool head while contacting the appropriate blue light service. Module two teaches first aid while module three is all about the ‘science of being seen’.

Biker Down is a partnership between East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and Sussex Police.

The force has two road policing units based in Arundel and Polegate, with the latter covering a huge area from Brighton and up into Surrey.

And it is a long way to travel from Leatherhead to attend an accident in Rye. So anything riders can do to secure a crash scene and help the injured while waiting for the emergency services could be a matter of life or death.

PC Phil Barrow, of Polegate RPU, explained: “It’s a worthwhile workshop that motorcyclists need to come on to improve their skills. From a police point of view, it’s good that someone can take control at an accident scene. They can get on the phone to us, but they can also be doing stuff while we get to them.”

The course attracts bikers of all ages, from teenagers up to those in their 70s, from West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset.

At Monday’s workshop at Bexhill Fire Station the crowd is male-heavy, with ages ranging from early 20s to 60s.

Four people dropped out ahead of the event – one having been involved in a motorbike accident – but these spaces were quickly filled.

In fact Clive tells me there was a 125-strong waiting list for the workshops.

But despite the interest, there are no plans to expand the scheme, which is run entirely by volunteers with a shared passion for biking.

One of those who gives up his free time to lead the first aid module is Andy Sullivan.

Andy is the director of Emergency Life Support Team Ltd, a Hastings-based company which offers first aid training. But Andy waives his fee to help out at Biker Down.

Speaking about the bikers, Andy said: “It’s a huge community and a community not a lot of people know about or understand. This lot really care about themselves and other people, other riders in particular.”

He added: “If they go away with one thing that changes their riding, it could potentially make a difference.”

All the Biker Down workshops are fully booked up until September, but there are still a few places left for the June 13 workshop at Maresfield.

Other free workshops will run on September 19 at Lewes, October 11 at Uckfield, November 14 at Bexhill and December 5 at Hove. To book a place, email firebike@esfrs.org

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