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Interview | Avon Valley Motorcycle Friendly Region’s Karen Dore

This Sunday will not only see the annual York Motorcycle Festival take place, but it will also mark the official launch of the Avon Valley Motorcycle Friendly Region. We recently tracked down Karen Dore, who's headed up the initiative since its early stages.

Firstly Karen, tell me what the Avon Valley Motorcycle Friendly Region is all about.
Basically, it's predominantly - at the moment - a tourism initiative. So it's bringing together the seven different shires and businesses within them to become more motorcycle friendly. We've got a brand now and linked them all together with signage, maps and things like that. What I hope to do from here is work more on the safety aspect, so riders have places they can go to where they can give information and feedback about roads that might need repair or sings that may need changing - that's the basic premise of it.

So a benefit for businesses and riders?
Definitely. It was quite funny, there was a long and in-depth conversation on the Perth Cafe Racers Facebook group, and somebody actually said: "So it's just a publicity stunt?" I said you could probably call it that, but I think there will be a benefit for riders, because some of the businesses I've been talking to, whilst I've said to them that all you need to do is have a visor wiping station and where possible have somewhere for jackets and helmets, some of them are going above and beyond. Also, you have the whole raising awareness of motorcycle riders. I've never come across it, but there are so many riders that say there are people and places who just don't like motorcycle riders - just because they're motorcycle riders. I'm lucky that I've never come across that, but if we can change it, that would be even better.

Where did the initiative stem from? I understand you ride yourself, was it an idea of your own?
I am, I have my very own Cully's Yamaha! I actually don't remember where it came from, but Dave Wright who's from the Motorcycle Riders Association, he reminded me that a couple of years ago he had said to me that a place in Tasmania - a town - had become motorcycle friendly. I went and looked it up to see what they did, and because I was with Avon Tourism, I thought it was something that could work regionally. I put a bit of a plan together and then ran it by the seven local Governments, they all agreed that it wasn't a bad idea, so yeah, it went from there. We were lucky enough to get funding from the Wheatbelt Community Chest - that's what has paid for the maps, signs and advertising. The different participating venues have donated prizes, so there's over $1300 worth of prizes to be drawn at the launch this Sunday in York, so that's quite cool. Strett [Cull] and Cully's Yamaha came to the party when we were shy of funds, so he and the business paid for all the notice boards. It's all come together quite nicely.

What was involved in the process and how long has it been in the works for?
I put the plan together probably around 18 months ago, it was approved by the local Governments and Avon Tourism in April 2016. We got funding a few months later in June 2016, so I've been working on it full on for the last nine months.

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Obviously it kicks off this weekend, what's going to be involved in maintaining the initiative and progressing from here?
With maintenance, each shire has taken on the signage - they will erect the signage and it will come under their jurisdiction each year in normal maintenance plans. With the maps and notice boards, they are at the visitors centres, and they will be responsible for them and will just let me know when they run out of maps. It will be my job through Avon Tourism to seek more funding to get an update on the maps and reprinted. Everything else will be looked after by those people who are doing it, I'm hoping that the participating venues will take some more ownership as well. We have a couple of participants that are really interested, and we have a couple of local motorcycle groups that are really interested. I think with them pushing it, it will take a bit of the pressure off me to keep doing everything. I do intend to go back to the Road Safety Commission, they didn't give us funding the first time around, but to show them how much interest is in it and the amount of work that has already been done, it would be a good platform for safety - the notice boards were setup to have safety messages on them, and you know, brochures related to safety. Having all the riders linked in one place, there will be quite a good forum to do that.

The York Motorcycle Festival is obviously this weekend, is the plan to implement more motorcycle events or festivals within the region?
I think that will be brilliant! If people take it up, that will be great. The other thing I'm looking at is encouraging events that already exist to become more motorcycle friendly. For example, through work, I run the Taste of Chittering each year and I'm also a volunteer for the Toodyay Ag Society who do the Toodyay Annual Show, so what I'm looking at ding is possibly having a small motorcycle display at each of those events, along with dedicated motorcycle parking just to make them motorcycle friendly, rather than having events that are just all about bikes.

As for you, what's your role?
I'm the sucker who's doing all the work! (laughs) I have days where I think why am I doing this? I don't have a business or anything like that, but I get the satisfaction out of it. I came across this poster once that said something about all the amazing people you meet through motorcycling - it's true, I don't know how people don't like motorcycle riders - they're all lovely! I like the idea and I guess it's my nature, I like the idea that I'm helping out other people. It's helping local businesses in the region where I live - that's fantastic - it's raising the profile of motorcycle riders - that's fantastic - it gives me an excuse to go out and meet motorcycle riders and do something for them. It's a bit of self-satisfaction, there's no cash let me tell you! (laughs).

It all sounds really good, thanks for your time Karen!
No problem at all.

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