Lisa is a Swedish girl who has just turned 24 and thus also reached the age requirement for driving A bikes. Lisa suffered a stroke when she was two years old, which left her with permanent muscle and nerve injuries on her left side. Through extensive training with the support of parents and the health care system directly after the stroke and until today, she has managed to live a normal active life. But, to cope with everyday life, Lisa always uses her healthy right side to the maximum and uses the left side as little as possible.
After taking a B driver’s license at the age of 18, Lisa decided in the fall of 2018 to get a motorcycle license. She examined the requirements for vehicles and if it was possible to get a driver’s license with a motorcycle with automatic gears. A motorcycle with a manual gearbox was never relevant due to the permanent weakness on her left side. Lisa can neither use the clutch with her left hand nor change gear with her left foot. To ride a motorcycle with automatic gears is simply a prerequisite for her to be able to ride a motorcycle and feel safe and secure.
In the fall of 2018, Lisa began to look for a bike that meets all the requirements to be considered: an A bike that can be used in the riding test and at the same time be suitable for Lisa based on her length. The choice was a Honda NC 750 S which has power just over the stipulated 40 kW and fulfilled the weight requirements and cylinder volume. After the purchase in May 2019, Lisa and her father started to ride and train in different environments, ranging from manoeuvring to riding on country roads. In order to increase safety, the bike was lowered two centimetres, which made it easier to reach the ground with both feet. This is important because Lisa’s balance is not terribly good.
Lisa has prepared herself well by purchasing a suitable motorcycle in order to be able to practice riding in order to get an A license. After training with her father, she also wanted to take lessons in a traffic school. Unfortunately, she has not been welcomed anywhere. There is not a single traffic school in Sweden that has a motorcycle with an automatic gearbox. In addition, the traffic schools have responded to Lisa that they don’t have the permission to receive her as a student if she is riding her own motorcycle. Since no traffic school can or wants to have Lisa as a student, she decided to ride privately only at her own motorcycle and do the riding test as a private driver (this is allowed and common in Sweden).
Then the next problem came up. The Honda that fulfilled all the requirements to be approved to conduct driving tests for the A license was not enough! The rules were changed 1st January 2019 by requiring that the motorcycle should have at least 50 kW instead of as previously 40 kW. At this stage Lisa became desperate and contacted SMC. “I have bought the only motorcycle on the market that suits me, based on my disability. Had I been a B student I would have been able to choose a traffic school and a car with a manual transmission or with an automatic gearbox. The Swedish Transport Administration would had rented a car for me with or without an automatic gearbox at a low cost. This opportunity does not exist for me. I have no choice for the A riding test besides using my own motorcycle”, says Lisa.
FEMA member SMC helped Lisa to apply for an exemption to use her own motorcycle during driving tests. SMC thinks that there are good grounds for granting an exemption in Lisa’s case since there are no other suitable motorcycles with automatic gearbox. The exemption application also cited the Swedish Discrimination Act, which clearly states that a person with a disability should not be disadvantaged. The Swedish Transport Agency can grant an exemption. There are very few motorcycles with an automatic gearbox in Sweden. Honda is the manufacturer that has a range from 750 to 1200 and 1800 cubic. For example, those with larger cubes are Africa Twin and Gold Wing. I do not reach the ground or the handlebars on these bikes which for me is fundamental for safety. To use one of these unsuitable bikes solely to meet the 50-kW requirement in driving tests is a bad alternative from a road safety point of view, says Lisa.
Last week the decision from the Swedish Transport Agency came. They rejected Lisa’s dispensation application for one reason – the Honda lacks 9.7 kW. The Swedish Transport Agency has not made any investigation of Lisa’s disability and her limited opportunities to get a motorcycle license. Nor have they reported on how an exemption would jeopardize road safety.
SMC has now helped Lisa to appeal the decision to the Administrative Court and asked them to change the decision so that she can do a riding test on her Honda.
Lisa’s case is a school example of the negative consequences of today’s requirements for test vehicles. There is no evidence that shows that she would be a safer rider on an auto-shifted motorcycle with over 50 kW that is not available on the market. Therefore, SMC will help Lisa to appeal the decision as far as possible. SMC will also inform politicians and officials in government, parliament, the European Parliament and the European Commission. The driving license directive will be reviewed shortly, and this is an important input into the process.
Written by Maria Nordqvist