Testing time for ‘Easy Riders’

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BACK in the 1970s the must-have accessory for most young lads was the Raleigh Chopper bike.

Manufactured by the Raleigh Bicycle Company based in the Midlands, it was described as a cultural icon of the period. Its appearance was based on the Chopper motorcycle and gave the lads aspirations to become the next Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper or Jack Nicholson of Brighouse, the three stars of the 1969 road film “Easy Rider”.

Many readers who were the same age as the youngsters in this mid-70s photograph will I am sure recognise this open space as Blackburn Road where we all went for a week’s tuition in the school holidays and then hopefully passed the cycling proficiency test.

I still have the certificate to prove it and with a bit of searching I could probably find my badge as well.

Little did I know in 1959 that 25 years later, along with PC Jenny Sharp, I would be visiting schools and putting young riders through the very same cycling proficiency test.

The first job I had to do was to check that each bike was roadworthy and while many were very good there were a few that had bits falling off. One lad even turned up with a bike that did not have a saddle. A common failing was the brakes or in some cases the lack of them.

‘You have no brakes, lad’,

‘Mi dad’s doing it tomorrow’

‘But how will you stop your bike today without brakes?’

‘Slur mi feet on‘t ground’.

He came the next day with a bike that was in perfect condition but neither PC Sharp nor I chose to ask where he got it from. Some bikes we later discovered to have been ‘temporarily’ loaned for the week but assurances were given that they would eventually find their way back to their rightful owner.

While shouting “Get out at’ way” was not a substitute for failing to fit a bell according to the Highway Code, it was quite surprising just how many young cyclists considered it was.

No one was ever given a free passage through the written test or subsequent cycling test they had to pass it on their own merits and while a few failed most did very well and were thrilled when we came to school to present the certificates.

We were equally pleased for the ones who throughout the week had been hopeless but on the actual test were brilliant.

For those who did fail, usually the younger students, they were able to come back the following year and show everyone what they had learned.