It was April 2010 when I first stood up, slightly nervous, in front of the assembled masses as Chief Observer. Shortly after that first month I received a text message from Chris Caswell that said, “1 down, 59 to go!” At the time, it seemed way off in the distance, but now I am not quite sure where the time went. As I write this with that 59th approaching fast, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a quick review of some of the changes that have taken place over the last five years.

The Club had been talking about a new website for a while and we finally delivered this on the 1st March 2012, complete with a new logo and branding. Soon after, we added the Forum and the web shop.

The relationship between the Full Members (Green Team) and the Observer side of TVAM has improved immensely with Full Members now taking more opportunities to keep their riding skills up with Enhanced Advanced sessions, volunteering for additional observed rides to assist with Trainee Observer (TOb) development as well as introducing our Pillion Rider Course. I’d like to thank Dawn Armstrong as leader of the Green Team and all the volunteers who run the desks at St. Crispin’s and form the Meet & Greet Team for their support in this.

Our Observer Training process was updated, and then updated again with the introduction of the IMI Local and National Observer Framework, much of which was based upon the TVAM process anyway. We now have growing numbers of National Observers and I expect to see our first Local Observers validated very soon. To support these processes and better align our coaching with the IAM test we also introduced new Associate and TOb Run Report forms.

The recession did take its toll a little, not only on membership numbers but also on the number of test passes we achieved each year. Membership numbers are recovering though and I expect the number of test passes each year to increase also. We started recognising the F1RST grade last year too. The IAM’s expectation is that around 5% of tests will result in a F1RST grade and we achieved that last year. This year though, we are already ahead of the curve, a tribute to the great coaching skills of our Observers. To complement the riding side, we also introduced our classroom based theory courses, BikeCraft and more recently, the Class of Better Biking.

As a charity, we always need to keep an eye on costs and one cost- saving measure we introduced was the electronic version of Slipstream. Over half of our members now get a monthly email and a link to download a PDF version of our magazine. This has certainly saved some money on postage and we could save even more if more people switched to the download version. We are looking at alternatives to PDF documents too so maybe a different format will persuade you if you have not switched yet.

TVAM’s relationship with IAM Head Office at Chiswick has been a source of contention for many over the years. I do believe that this has improved too though. It was partly because of this improvement that TVAM was asked to help develop a new framework for Observers wishing to use Bike-to-Bike radios. As the largest IAM group in the country and with the most radio Observers, we were in a prime position to do this. That framework was released and is now being rolled out, although not as quickly as I initially hoped. TVAM is now also providing support for other IAM groups as they look to increase their radio use.

In my time as Chief Observer, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside three different Chairs. Phil Pawley sadly had to step down for health reasons. Richard Tickner then stepped into the breach before Charon then took over two years ago. It’s been a pleasure working alongside each of them and I thank them for their support.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to be Chief Observer of such a great club. It has been challenging at times, very busy and also very enjoyable. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many of you a lot better than I did before, especially Committee members past and present, as well as getting to meet plenty of people from the IAM and other IAM groups.

There are still changes and challenges ahead and I am sure that with new members on the Committee, they will be handled with the best interests of TVAM at heart. They will have my full support.

A number of people have asked me what I will do with all my free time now. Perhaps I’ll do more Observing!

Andy Wedge
Chief Observer (for just a few more hours!)