To mark Volunteer Week (1-7 June), Derek Baker, Chief Observer and Group Secretary of Kidderminster Advanced Bikers, reflects on what volunteering for IAM RoadSmart means to him in this guest blog.
I joined IAM RoadSmart in 2007 following a surprisingly and thoroughly enjoyable BikeSafe course in Birmingham. I say surprisingly because I have ridden and been involved with motorcycles for as long as I can remember and have been working in the industry since 1979.
In my early years of biking I was a bit of hooligan which led me into short circuit racing. During my time in the motorcycle trade I received numerous offers of training from manufacturers, but being young, I thought no one could teach me how to ride a bike any better, how wrong was I? So, from my BikeSafe experience to the present day, I continue to learn and adapt, and above all enjoy my biking.
When it comes to being "recognised" for the work I do as a volunteer I receive it in the joy and amazement on associates' and trainee observers' faces when they finally achieve their qualification. Then from continuing to learn, riding with other like-minded group members.
I appreciate that different people have their own opinion on recognition for a job well done. In the context of charity work, which is what I do as a volunteer Observer, the reward is knowing I have "given back" to others some of my experience and knowledge I have gained from riding bikes over the years and from other volunteer Observers who I have had the privilege of working with, who are now close friends.
For me, it's not about the "badge" or the "certificate", its knowing I have done my part in helping others directly and indirectly in both helping them appreciate how they can enjoy their biking journey more; learning to ride swiftly, yet safely but keeping other "untrained" road users safe in doing so.
At Kidderminster Advanced Bikers we do not charge associates for fuel, it's our way of further contributing to road safety, as we say "we are a bunch of bikers who simply enjoy riding our bikes", after all, we do this with or without an associate.
All of us in IAM RoadSmart must remember that as a charity, with a mission to make our roads safer, our funds should be used to promote membership in order to increase the number of trained riders/ drivers on our roads from which society as a whole will benefit. The pot is not bottomless and can only be spent once, so it must be used wisely.
A new era beckons as the economy awakens from lockdown, quite what the future looks like is yet unknown but for sure I'm looking forward to getting our group back out and training once again and finally getting some time together to do the Masters.