ANNAPOLIS – Female motorcyclists are tired of sitting on the back of bikes and are taking over the handlebars.
Women are enrolling in motorcycle training classes across the state in larger numbers than ever before, according to the Motor Vehicle Administration.
“My husband and I have had bikes for 23 years, and I’ve always been a passenger,” said Bobbie Zeck. “I decided it was time to see something besides the back of his head. I want to choose the course.”
The Jessup resident was participating in the MVA’s Motorcycle Safety Program Saturday in Glen Burnie to learn to ride a motorcycle and to study the rules of the road.
Women are beginning to realize that motorcycling is not just for men and are responding to that by getting on bikes, course instructors said.
“Women are more intimidated by it than men are,” said Ruth General, a safety program instructor who’s been riding motorcycles for 13 years. “But they are tired of riding on the backs of their boyfriends’ or husbands’ bikes. They want to drive.”
The females who take the course span generations and come from diverse backgrounds. They don’t fit a stereotype, said Carol Kral, an office manager with the program who was persuaded to enroll in the course.
“The stigma about motorcycles is gone,” Zeck said. “Motorcycles aren’t just for skinny little girls in black leather anymore. People need to know that middle-aged women can ride, too.” With the decreasing stereotypes, one obstacle remains to keep women on the back of the bike: fear. Taking the safety courses can help women overcome it, though, said Wanda Brocato, an instructor trainee. “The course helped me with my fear of riding,” she said. “It’s great to see the smiles on people’s faces when they see they can do something that they never thought they could do.” “I always wanted to ride,” said Johnisha Witherspoon, of Baltimore. “I wanted this class to teach me the proper procedures who I wouldn’t go out there and be a crash dummy, though.” In 1993, about a quarter of the participants enrolled in the MVA’s training classes were women. Today, more than a third of the 3,589 students are female, said Richard Scher, with the Motor Vehicle Administration. “The percentages have definitely increased over those five years,” he said. “From all signs, we don’t see that decreasing.” In fact, there’s been enough female interest in the class to prompt the MVA to schedule an all-female safety class in June. Twenty students already have signed up for the program to be held in Baltimore, Scher said. The safety program, in its 15th year, runs four days. Thursday and Friday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m., students review road safety and focus on classroom instruction. Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. students begin practicing on the training motorcycles in the MVA parking lot. Classes are held from April to October and are offered at Allegany, Carroll, Harford and Prince George’s community colleges and at the MVA offices in Glen Burnie, Annapolis, Hagerstown, Frederick, Salisbury and Waldorf. The cost of the training program is $50 for Maryland residents and $100 for non-residents. Similar programs exist in every state and in many other countries. The program’s instructors supply training bikes and helmets, giving interested participants the opportunity to see how comfortable they feel driving a motorcycle before they commit to purchasing one. “Sometimes people want to take our course before making such a big investment like buying a bike,” Scher said. “Maybe halfway through the course, they decide this isn’t for them, but at least they haven’t made a major investment.” But the female participants Saturday said they will buy bikes after completing the course. “I feel much more confident,” said Roberta Hastey, of Glen Burnie. “I know I’m going to get a bike. I’m tired of riding in the back.”