Has Riding Now Been Re-classified as Essential?

9 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: IKapture, Salvatore Aloisio

It’s hard to keep up, isn’t it? For the past month, we’ve done our best to absorb the overload of information about financial market volatility, business relief packages, restrictions on our movements, and what the ‘authorities’ regard as essential or, more to the point, non-essential! Now, all of a sudden, we’re trying to decipher a fresh barrage of information about the impending lifting of some restrictions, and what that might mean for our lives, and for riding our dirt bikes. And all of this amid a month-long concoction of conspiracy theories, propaganda wars, threats to our right to privacy, Donald Trump’s abject lunacy, and of course the sobering death statistics around the world. It’s been like studying for an exam all over again; only this time around, the cost of getting it wrong is a hefty fine and/or putting lives at risk.

In spite of some glaring inconsistencies with the restrictions (such as mountain bike riding being classified as exercise and okay, but dirt bike riding not exercise and not okay), most of us have chosen not to ride our dirt bikes on public land for the past month. Rather that look for loopholes in the restrictions, we’ve recognised there’s a broader social responsibility to do the right thing; to put the greater good of the community first. We’ve had to accept that riding is not in fact essential – not in the new world order’s definition of “essential”, anyway. And that response has been admirable.

Earlier this week, however – after NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said in a 2GB radio interview that, “riding a motorbike is akin to exercise” – a million throttle hands suddenly snapped to attention. Websites and social media lit up with riders asking whether that was an official green light to go riding again. After all, the Premier’s comments coincided with announcements about the impending rollback of social distancing
rules in most states, and the specific relaxation of riding restrictions in Qld from May 2.

But the Premier’s remarks didn’t offer much follow-through joy for dirt bike enthusiasts. When the guys from Dirt Action Magazine asked the NSW Police’s Media Unit to clarify whether using exercise as a reason for riding was sufficient to avoid a fine for non-essential travel, the reply was short and frustratingly ambiguous: “While we enforce the restrictions, what is deemed reasonable is at the discretion of officers at the time”.

Okaaaaaay. So the decision about whether your travel with a dirt bike in the back of your ute or van is considered essential or non-essential will depend entirely on a police officer’s interpretation of the specific circumstances. Which is about as clear as mud.

So, what can we take out of all of this? Well, for starters, if you do decide to go riding somewhere other than your own private property, it’s best you arm yourself with more than a watertight rationale for it; you’ll also have put in an Oscar-winning performance to sell it to the boys in blue. But, to our way of thinking (assuming the Premier doesn’t backpedal on her comments about riding being exercise), it’s unlikely that police will now fine you for riding your dirt bike, or for transporting it to where you plan to ride (so long as that’s in reasonable proximity to your home). If they do, there’s every chance the NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, will simply reverse the fine, just like he’s done in 32 instances over the past couple of weeks (no doubt, driven by the fact it’s not a good look for the NSW Premier and NSW Police Commissioner to be at direct odds).

Whatever the case, let’s hope our state and national pollies manage to create some clarity and coherence around how various activities – riding and transporting dirt bikes, included – are officially classified, as that will determine what social distancing advice and/or restrictions and/or fines apply to it. The import-dependent Australian motorcycle industry – which is suffering from a massive downturn in trade and adverse exchange rates – could sure do with a demand-driven shot in the arm right about now. Without people riding their motorcycles, there will be no motorcycle industry. So why not support your local dealer by getting that essential bike service, or by ordering some fresh parts and accessories for those essential bike mods?!

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