Rider Education of NJ has been offering the Motorcycle Safety Foundation motorcycle rider courses since 1990. RENJ is a non-profit educational organization based in Edison, NJ and is fully approved to teach those courses by the MSF and the state of New Jersey . The RENJ program is considered one of the best run motorcycle safety training and education operations in the country with some of the best trained and motivated instructors anywhere.
One of the unique aspects of the RENJ program is our instructors. They are our greatest strength, never losing interest, dedicating themselves to motorcycle safety; they just get better and better. Our instructors have heart, they believe in the program, they believe in what they do and they do it with style and gusto to bring life to the classes bringing the best classes possible to the students. Our students feel it; our staff feels it, as do the motorcycle dealers who greatly benefit by this ever growing population of motorcyclists. Rider Ed is very much alive thanks to everyone involved.
Back in 1988 there was a serious decrease of motorcycle registrations, a very high accident and fatality rate; the sport we all loved so was in decline. Jersey A.B.A.T.E. (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) a motorcyclists rights organization, knew something had to be done, but what? Bill Turkus the lobbyist for ABATE came up with the idea that motorcyclists would need to help themselves out of this slump. To learn as much as he could about the MSF and their motorcycle safety programs Bill became an instructor. With his new insight into MC safety the obvious solution was to not only train more people to ride but to ride in a safe and proper manner.
Originally known as Rider Education of Jersey ABATE the program eventually came to be known as RIDER EDUCATION OF NEW JERSEY. Through the efforts of Bill Turkus and many ABATE members the program incorporated and filed for non-profit status. In July of 1990 the first class was held, an Experienced Rider Course at the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical High School in Piscataway . The intent being to make better riders of those that were already riding. It took over a year to convince the Board of Education that we weren’t a bunch of crazy bikers that would wreck and burn their school. No one else would even talk to us about running a motorcycle training program on their property and eventually the Board granted us an opportunity to run regularly scheduled classes. And to this day we run our program there each year. At the start we had no training bikes to run beginner classes with and only offered the ERC. ABATE members came to the rescue in two very important ways. It was ABATE members who volunteered to train as instructors and it was ABATE members who either donated or bought and donated our first training bikes. As dictated by the rules all the bikes had to be under 350cc and as dictated by the circumstances all the bikes were 1970s or ‘71s except for one “new” bike a 1980 Honda Twin Star. We had to have a volunteer mechanics’ staff on site to keep the bikes running! But the very first week after that first beginners class four students went out to buy bikes just like the ones they were taught on. One Suzuki dealer, seeing the immediate benefit, called us to offer four very new loaner bikes if we took the antique Suzuki bikes out of the course. We were both on to something big. More of everything was needed as the demand for the beginners class grew. In May of 1991 RENJ completed its first instructor preparation course graduating five new instructors. We painted a second range in Piscataway to double our enrollment and 14 more bikes were needed.
The proposed Rider Education legislation was written and introduced by NJ Senator Thomas Cowan. The purpose of the bill was to provide a state sponsored program where people who wanted to learn to ride could do so in a safe riding environment. Upon completion of the course students would have the confidence that they had acquired the mental and physical skills necessary to ride in a safe manner. Additionally the bill would insure that motorcycle training would be available to those who wanted it and at a reasonable cost. After the first hearing of the bill before the Law and Public safety Committee of the Senate, Senator Cowan stood up and congratulated the motorcyclists of ABATE who generated thousands of well written positive letters. The bill came into law a year later when signed by Governor Jim Florio. Like all political campaigns there was opposition to the legislation by both individuals and government agencies. Once the legislation was passed everyone got behind the program to get it up and running and RENJ became a private provider for the state.
Rider Education of NJ has grown in leaps and bounds. Although some training sites have come and gone others remain the mainstay of our program. In 1993 the ERC was recognized by the state as a defensive driving course allowing graduates the opportunity of a two-point reduction off their driver’s license.
An Intermediate Course was added with great success in 1994 but was recently eliminated with the introduction of the new ERC Suite. Outgrowing the office space we shared we purchased our own building in 1995. 1996 saw a provision that waived the Division of Motor Vehicles’ road test for students who successfully completed the beginner’s course. Not bad for a crazy bunch of bikers! To our credit we have trained over 65,000 people to ride or ride better. Our instructors continue to teach year after year, and our ever growing number of students continue to ride year after year. Word of mouth, be it our instructors or our students remains our strongest marketing strategy. Many of our students have become RENJ instructors and our instructors are the most experienced in the state. Motorcycle registrations continue to grow while the accident and fatality rates go down.
But we’re not done. The RENJ Board of Directors each work their area of expertise and combine as a team to offer the best program possible. Our office staff and instructors, or RiderCoaches as they are now known, work just as hard to insure a quality experience for all. There are monthly meeting and a winter workshop to keep us all at the top of our game. Next time you’re out riding ask around, you’ll be amazed at how many riders have learned to ride by taking a RIDER EDUCATION OF NJ class.