By BELINDA SCOTT
MOTORCYCLING is enjoying a boom on the Coffs Coast, with the region outstripping the rest of the state in the number of new riders choosing two-wheeled transport.
Among them are young Grafton couple Amber and Rodney McGrath, who spent the weekend at Coffs Harbour's motorcycle rider training school.
Rodney McGrath said the cost and the excitement were the factors in their decision 'with the excitement far outweighing the cost' although he said he would probably ride to work once he bought a bike.
Amber McGrath said it was something they had had in mind for some time and they were following the example already set by the rest of their family.
Other reasons given by students yesterday included wanting to ride on the road legally after riding motocross bikes and the fact motorbikes were cheaper and easier for fuel, rego and commuting.
Grant Tuckwell, the principal of Wheel Skills rider and driver training, said Coffs Harbour was one of the biggest 'bike towns' in NSW because of its climate, lifestyle and social activities.
"In the last six months our throughput has risen by 50 per cent," he said.
Yesterday the subsidised rider training programs had been one of the Roads and Traffic Authority's success stories and had been responsible for saving hundreds of lives in NSW.
The National Road Safety Action Plan, released last Thursday, reported a rising motorcycle death rate as one of the reasons Australia was at risk of not meeting the target of a 40 per cent reduction in the road toll by 2010.
There has been an increase in the number of deaths of motorcycle riders, with the a 33 per cent rise from 1999 to 2005, lending weight to the black-armband view of motorcycle riders as 'temporary Australians'.
Motorcycle fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes rose from 127 to 139 between 2001 and 2005, although the national road toll overall fell from 1737 to 1635 in the same time.
But Mr Tuckwell said comparative figures showed fatalities were not rising in line with the number of motorcycle registrations, which was cause for optimism. Coffs Harbour City Council road safety officer Ann Shearer said more than 100 people had attended her first motorbike 'roadcraft' workshop.
She has just secured a $2000 grant to hold more workshops.