Automatic bike licence upgrade from B2 to B is like ‘handing a rifle to a child’

The next few weeks or months will be interesting for Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

He and his officers will have to evaluate to see if the proposal to automatically upgrade the B2 class motorcycle riding licence to a B licence, has merit and can be implemented.

On Aug 27, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the government would bring the proposal to Loke’s ministry for an initial assessment.

Zahid, an avid biker himself, said he was confident in the proposal’s implementation, citing the experience of motorcyclists with B2 licences in riding the more powerful machines.

The Road Transport Department categorises the B2 licences for motorcycles not exceeding 250cc, while class B licences are for motorcycles whose engine capacity exceeds 500cc.

“I don’t think they need to go for another driving test because they are experienced riders, and I also do not see the need to impose strict conditions,” Zahid had said.

He added that “there shouldn’t be a problem because it is an administrative issue only”.

“That’s like handing a fully-loaded Colt AR-15 assault rifle to a six-year-old, and expecting him to have the mental capacity and wisdom to handle it safely,” said Ahmad Razlan Alias, a seasoned biker.

Social media is littered with video clips of Mat Rempits weaving in and out of traffic on highways, racing on public roads at breakneck speeds, and crashing spectacularly on the asphalt, their mangled bodies amid bits of plastic, shards of fibreglass, teeth, bone, and grey matter.

One of the most viewed clips was the one involving a Mat Rempit who slammed head first into a car along the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway in Penang in June. He never really got past the red light and his 18th birthday.

I got my B licence in March after riding on a B2 for about a year. My first bike is a Vespa, a 150cc machine, tame and sedentary by two-wheeled standards.

The Vespa is a simple, light, and nimble machine. A circus bear could operate it with ease. I got the hang of it after three or four rides.

I initially thought the transition to a bigger bike would be simple. Just take the experiences from the Vespa and extrapolate it onto a bigger machine, right? On my first class for the B licence, astride the driving school’s Kawasaki ER6, I realised just how wrong, and ill-prepared I was.

In terms of weight, mass, centre of gravity, performance, handling, turning circle, braking characteristics, power delivery, torque, balancing, etc, everything was different.

While the Vespa is a machine tolerant of vast amounts of ham-fistedness, the 650cc Kawasaki is a lot less forgiving. I had to get extra coaching from the instructors before I really felt comfortable, confident, and safe operating the ER6.

As if to drive home the point that it’s not that easy, I managed to break my left wrist on the same day I took delivery of my 650cc, 214kg Royal Enfield Interceptor in May, after riding it for only 30 minutes.

Now, you hand over the keys to a 650cc or a 900cc monster to a 23-year-old who is more accustomed to his ‘Y Suku’ without the proper training and evaluation process, and you’ve got a potential disaster on your hands.

“I tested the Kawasaki H2 a few years ago and the torque from that engine, honestly, scared me. And I’ve been riding for almost 30 years,” Ahmad Razlan, 46, said.

“Speed is intoxicating. Kids won’t have the awareness or wherewithal to see past the present. You need proper training, a minimum number of hours to safely ride those (bigger) bikes,” he added.

“This is a bad idea.”

The proposal, by Superbikers Association Malaysia president Datuk Abdul Halim Suleiman, calls for the automatic upgrade from class B2 to B for motorcyclists who have not committed serious traffic offences within three years after obtaining the B2 licence.

Hardest hit financially will be the driving schools across the country. A typical B2 course costs between RM350 and RM450 per person. An upgrade to a B licence will set you back anywhere between RM900 and RM1,100.

But the biggest concern would be the number of road fatalities that will most likely skyrocket, if this proposal sees the light of day.

According to the World Health Organisation, as of August last year, for every 100 road deaths in Malaysia, 70 involved motorcyclists. This puts Malaysia closer to replacing Thailand for having the world’s worst death rate for motorcycle users.

Between 2001 and 2021, a total of 89,953 motorcyclists have died on Malaysia’s roads.

A sobering thought.