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Motorcycle escort riding – the skill of leading the way

By Mario

Many of us gladly take part in large rides for good causes. But the safety aspects of such events are often taken for granted. We talked to Shaun Webb of CERNZ who trains motorcycle escort riders.

Shaun Webb, Vice President of BRONZ Wellington, has been helping with running and organising charity rides since the days of cross-ply tyres, and they'd always gone pretty well.

Typically, NZ Police would provide outriders to escort large groups of riders and help ensure their safety, in liaison with the ride's organisers. But as the boys in blue began to cut back on their motorcycle fleet things got harder. More and more onus went onto the organisers to provide a safe riding environment.

It's quite a responsibility, not to mention a risk. Shaun saw that he and people like him, were increasingly going to have to do this for themselves, and a professional approach was required. He researched what was done overseas and hit upon the Godfather of safety escort providers in the USA: CERA Certified Escort Riders of America. CERA was started by some California Highway Patrol riders and to this day only accepts current or ex-Police Motor Officers for training as instructors.

Among other assignments, CERA provide the motorcycle escorts for US military and veterans' events. Taking CERA's structure and approach as a model, Shaun and others in the BRONZ executive team blended it with standards from NZTA and IAM (Roadcraft) to create the Certified Escort Riders of New Zealand: CERNZ.

Ladder of achievement

Today, after 14 months in operation, CERNZ offers escort riding as a commercial service to anyone organising an on-road event. But the organisation is also heavily committed to training others – either as a CERNZ-certified rider or as a CERNZ instructor.

CERNZ has an Associate status as well, which lets riders operate under direction from them at an event, with an expectation to move on to achieving rider certification. That commitment to continual improvement is something Shaun, Kim McGill and Byron Cummins the exec team of CERNZ all share. "Something many people don't appreciate is how perishable riding skills are," says Shaun. "So we encourage people to keep training, keep moving up the ladder if possible and, at the very least, understand that regular training is essential to maintain your skills in good shape. "It's one reason why CERNZ insists riders get re-certified every two years, and instructors every year.

Safety, in numbers

Large charity rides, like Pink Ribbon, can see as many as 500 or even 600 riders on the road together. It's a massive logistical undertaking and it comes with a very particular set of risks to manage.  

Ensuring the safety of participating riders is not just about those escorting them having great riding skills. While a high standard is required, the training CERNZ provides is specific to the task of escorting large groups.

"We don't try to teach people how to operate the machinery, or themselves," says Shaun. "Because we only take people who have already done some form of advanced training, we expect them to be well trained, skilful riders. They wouldn't pass our test otherwise. Instead, it's about learning the system of riding we've created. Our approach uses the CERA system as a base, then we've built on it with the IAM and CBTA systems, as well as a couple of small inserts from the Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management. Our testing also uses part of the California Highway Patrol technical cones pattern from their pass-out test, and of course everything has to fit within the NZ Road Code. 

The value of Gold

As Shaun says, the riders CERNZ accepts for training as instructors must have passed some form of advanced riding test, and it's highly preferred for those wanting to certify as a rider too.

One of the qualifications accepted is the Ride Forever Gold course qualification. "We're passionate about improving the safety of everyone on the road, including drivers," he says. "That's why, for example, we also offer a Road Safety Driver's Improvement Course, alongside motorcycle training.

So we are huge advocates of Ride Forever coaching and we actively seek out those riders who've got to Gold standard and are maybe thinking, what next? We're talking maybe the top 5% of those who've taken at least one Gold course. This could be the perfect next challenge, especially if you want to add a professional qualification to your riding.

With CERNZ now up and running, and with several successful events under their belt, the exec team has started talking with government agencies like NZTA about creating a National Standard qualification around what they do. For the time being, it's great to see riders sharing their skills with others to help keep all road users safe.

 CERNZ contact information

If group events are something you’re involved with, you might want to contact Shaun and his team, including checking out the possibility of training. You can contact Shaun on 027 533 2934 or email
CERNZ website