The impact has been profound. BTB has seen a 50% – 80% reduction in serious injuries among corporate motorcyclists trained.  Our mission started out as a completely charitable effort – following our passion to save people’s lives – and has evolved to become a top-notch high impact social enterprise. Back to Basics Motorcycle Safety Mission now does training for riders in one of the highest-earning commercial fleets in Jamaica – with motorcyclists doing over 400,000 stops or deliveries per year. Corporate riders have ridden well over 3.2 million kilometres since inception, on several occasions going up to 10 months and 400,000KM without a single incident.

Sadly, Jamaica’s national reality over the past 8 years is vastly different. Between 2012 to 2017, the number of fatal motorcycle crashes in Jamaica skyrocketed. In just one year, fatalities nearly doubled from roughly 58 deaths (in all of 2014) to 111 fatalities for 2015. In the next month going into January 2016, fatalities surged even more, with 15 deaths in that one month, compared to 6 for the same period in the previous year.  Flash forward years later, this growing epidemic has taken the lives of multiple police officers, fathers, brothers, sons, grandfathers, mothers, daughters, and sisters. Many died leaving children fatherless or motherless…some children being as young as two months old.

A total of 135 persons died in motorcycle crashes in Jamaica for 2019.

If you had just 8 hours in a classroom to save a motorcyclist’s life, how would you do it? To help combat the national epidemic, Zawdie Business Ventures, with a  little help from friends (esp. Shango Bikerz), developed the Back to Basics Motorcycle Safety Mission. In 2014, the BTB “formula” was first tested as a 45-minute presentation at the Jamaica Driver & Traffic Expo. Since September 2015, the material has been further refined and tested as a variety of one-day commercial and BTB motorcycle safety outreach workshops. These workshops — designed specifically to help educate motorcyclists in the “developing country” context — have achieved strong praise from participants thus far, including the support of both experienced and novice riders alike.

Motorcyclists in the first group of Back to Basics commercial participants at the National Irrigation Commission mandatory employee safety workshop in September 2015.

Notably, our call to action came in September 2015, in the form of criticism from a rider who was ‘wowed’ by our first commercial workshop. At the end of an employer-mandated workshop for the National Irrigation Commission, the rider said,

“I’ve been riding for over 30 years and never knew HALF of what you guys have taught me. And the other half I learned by crashing and ‘brucking’ up. My only ‘criticism’ is, why aren’t you guys teaching this all across Jamaica? Why isn’t this knowledge being shared all across Jamaica?”

Less than 3 months later, BTB’s “outreach” model was coined. We began emailing out our solution and invited sponsors to help us to answer this call to action.  Our outreach services were exclusively developed and formulated by BTB as a creative solution to the fact that 90% of Jamaica’s motorcyclists simply cannot afford our commercial safety training services. Our intent was that even persons at the lower literacy levels must be able to benefit immensely…and indeed many have.

Initially, even a National Road Safety Council Executive was skeptical and was hesitant to participate. They asked,

“How do you know it will even work?”

Nevertheless, we were confident that it would. In February 2016, the first corporate sponsor to agree to come on board was Sandals Resorts International. Arguably, the hotel chain is the biggest Jamaican brand in the world, rivaled only by the world legends Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. But it was winter peak season in the hotel business and Sandals would have to delay their backing until the peak had eased a bit. After a self-funded test run in Kingston, the first entity to actually cut us a cheque to get started in the ‘big leagues’ was the Insurance Association of Jamaica. In May 2016, we put the two sponsor ‘ingredients’ together to make the first ‘huge’ outreach workshop happen at Sandals Whitehouse. A follow-up event in Kingston for June 2016 went just as well.

The next major breakthrough for BTB was purely organic. A senior representative of Celebration Brands Limited (a partnership between Red Stripe and Pepsi) – saw our motorcycle safety workshops featured in the Jamaica Observer and convinced CBL’s executive team that their 65 motorcyclists needed our skills. They gave us a call. CBL loved our vision and implemented an annual motorcycle safety training program throughout the entire organization. Even the executives and senior supervisors themselves came to sit in the BTB safety training sessions. The objective was to achieve true cultural improvements.

How did that all work out? Well, we’re told that prior to the start of our CBL corporate training program in 2016, those 65 riders did anywhere from 16 – 20 crashes per year. That was their norm. We did the first round of training in 2016 and by 2017, those crashes were down to 11. We’ve kept monitoring the strategy with ongoing interactions with CBL throughout each year. For 2020, there have only been 3 crashes so far. Fingers crossed. We have a few months left to go. When we’ve put in the work, we leave the rest to God.

All of these sponsors and corporate supporters have stuck by us through thick and thin, even in the most difficult times of this journey – even when the Jamaican government and other potential backers doubted and even reneged on legally binding agreements and policies. Many years in, BTB is continuing to do right by all our true supporters. Principle first. Ordinary motorcyclist’s lives have been saved as a result.

Our workshops don’t actually “teach” people to ride. We teach riders to stay alive. There is a huge difference. BTB’s material stands out for its heavy focus on risk-awareness, self-awareness, and self-control. This ‘mindset and behavioral’ approach has proved to be much more integral to boosting the odds of survival on a motorcycle than traditional approaches that emphasize road code teaching or methods that stress the need to teach “extraordinary and superhuman” practical motorcycle skills. It’s somewhat similar to defensive driving courses normally available for motorcar and truck drivers…but goes much further. The BTB process combines behavioral knowledge gained from extreme rider learning experiences spanning 30 years and fuses that with ‘aviation-based‘ safety risk awareness strategies. That aviation-minded approach applies the same “science“ that has helped to make flying one of the safest modes of transportation in the world. To top off the BTB ‘secret sauce’, we also rely heavily on principles similar to courses from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (USA) and Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist rider safety series.

On the practical side, most of BTB‘s instructors have at least 20 years of riding experience. We deliver each workshop with hands-on input from experienced instructors like Jordan Mullings of Learn to Ride Jamaica. Over the years, BTB has also worked very closely with Shango Bikerz and Jamaica’s 2015 B-Class racing champion, the late Andre F. Rickards. All this offers more than enough real-world credibility in all our safety teachings.

In a broad comparison, BTB’s approach really works. Our results by far exceed all other motorcycle safety training programs available across the Caribbean. In stark contrast to the national statistics, there is only one known road fatality among hundreds of BTB riders trained and millions of kilometres ridden on the streets of Jamaica. The rider was not at fault in any way in the crash. Never-the-less, we’ve still analyzed that crash to learn everything we can to keep the next batch of riders safer. If we stop learning…we’re dead. Literally.

In real terms, not all crash factors can be predicted or prevented. BTB can’t prevent them all. At a minimum, BTB aims to virtually eliminate the category of serious crashes where the rider himself proved to be his own worst enemy or did himself/herself ‘no favours’ in the scenario. More than half of all fatal motorcycle crashes in Jamaica may fall into one or both of these categories.

BTB has excellent working relationships with the Insurance Association of Jamaica, Sandals Resorts International, Celebration Brands, Guardian General Insurance, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. We’ve also gotten help from Superior Bikes – the largest retailer of motorcycles in Jamaica. Superior helped us by providing us the popular Zuhjuing, Zamco, and Yeng Yeng motorcycles on long-term loan so that we can help to confirm (or debunk) some of the myths about the safety, reliability, and overall functionality of these popular models. We’ve carried these loaner bikes on nearly all our workshops for the past 3 years. We’ll post our reviews soon.

Unfortunately, BTB currently has no relationship with the National Road Safety Council of Jamaica due to intellectual property breaches with respect to BTB’s Outreach work. Please see here for details. 

BTB training activities have been endorsed by,

  • Prime Minister Andrew Holness (2016 & 2017)
  • Keith Code (2016) – The most prolific motorcycle Racing Coach in the world. Keith even did a video endorsing our events in Westmoreland.
  • Sir Richard Branson (2017)

Early in 2020, we began the process to welcome aboard a new overseas-based commercial workshop client. This client’s needs for their fleet are much more demanding than the typical customer. As we were working to get that going…in came the Covid-19 global pandemic. Most of our commercial large-group training events have been suspended until 2021. Until then, we are staying in touch with our corporate clients, taking the time to retool (even more than we usually do) and reimagine strategies to get the entire Island of Jamaica to see the same 80% reductions that BTB has been able to deliver on the corporate side.

As far as outreach, things have become a bit uncertain. The biggest challenge thus far has simply been Government Policy…and a lack of meaningful cooperation. Why is “government” always like that? Who knows. Comments are welcome.

Stay safe. Looking forward to 2021.

If you would like more information or you would like to see the Back-to-Basics Workshops delivered to your friends, your community, or for your company, please feel free to contact ZBV. Individual training is also available.

Motorcyclists interested in attending BTB outreach workshops should check here.