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Spring is here! Flowers are in bloom, birds are chirping, the sun is shining on many days in the Northwest, the days are longer and people feel more energetic.  Many want to get out to a happier place and enjoy the wind in their face.

Interestingly, it’s been reported that the Daylight Savings time change can be dangerous for some and researchers have shown there are increases in motor vehicle accidents.  Lack of sleep impairs driving ability, and driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as distracted driving.

Speaking of distracted driving

If you’ve been on a motorcycle for any length of time you’ve seen it all.  Talking on the cell phone, driving slow and looking down on the freeway, reading email at stop lights only to get honked at, eating and drinking, grooming, fiddling with instrument controls and GPS and talking with a passenger while using their hands for expressions. 

These are just a few of the common types of distracted driving habits that negligent drivers engage in across the northwest.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.28.44 PMAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine Americans are killed every day in automobile crashes that involve a driver who is distracted by some other activity while behind the wheel (Norton, 2015). As distracted driving crashes continue to claim lives, state agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) are working to develop countermeasures that will may convince drivers to drive more responsibly.

Despite all the efforts to implement safe driving campaigns which have included things like billboard slogans, graphic video clips, television (TV) and radio ads, publications and legislative initiatives; the crashes continue to increase. As reported by Kullgren (2015), fatal crashes in Oregon spiked from 217 to 288, or 33% from September 23, 2014 through September 23, 2015. During this same time period, total deaths increased from 238 to 312, or 31%; pedestrian deaths increased from 33 to 54, or 64%; and motorcycle deaths increased from 40 to 46, or 15%.

When drivers overstep the inattentive line as they willfully impose their own level of risk on others they become socially and legally responsible. Drivers who allow themselves to be distracted by their multi-tasking activities are increasing the risk factor for themselves and imposing that dangerous limit on motorcyclists, passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. This increased risk to which others are subjected is similar to other driver behavior’s that are considered aggressive and illegal: going through red lights, failing to yield, exceeding safe speed limits, reckless weaving, drinking and driving, driving drowsy, road rage, etc.  In addition, distracted driving causes auto insurance to go up for everyone and state legislators feel the need to control more of our lives via instituted laws.  

And speaking of legislators, today starts Oregon’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month with a big kick-off event in the capitol.  If you want to read more about the Distracted Driving Epidemic in Oregon see this report which details the problem, identifies some solutions and highlights the sobering facts.

Be alert out there!

UPDATED: April 18, 2017 — Noah Budnick, Director of Public Policy & Gov. Affairs for Zendrive published a blog post with some excellent data on Distracted Driving.  Interestingly was the finding that Oregon was the LEAST distracted of the states, however, the city of Portland was in 10th place of cities that were most distracted.  You can read the blog post HERE or download the report.

References:

Kullgren, I. K. (2015, September 30). More Oregonians are dying in car crashes, new data show. The Oregonian. Retrieved from http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/09/more_oregonians_are_dying_in_c.html

Norton, A. (2015). Texting while driving: Does banning it make a difference? HealthDay. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/texting-while-driving-does-banning-it-make-a-difference/

Photos courtesy of ODOT

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Curves Ahead

Curves Ahead

We’ve all done this a number of times.  Riding into a curve, adjusting your speed and noticing that you’re going 5 to 10 miles per hour above the posted speed on those yellow curve advisory speed signs.

Rarely do they seem accurate.

This is all about to change, but I feel compelled to go over this once again since it happens so often. The most common cause of single-vehicle, motorcycle crashes is where riders are seriously injured and/or die each year when they “drift” and/or fail to negotiate turns or curves, and they either end up in the opposing lane of traffic, or they lose control and crash.

One could debate that the worst riders are sometimes the people with the most experience because they think they are the great riders so they sometimes do not exercise the caution that they should.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.26.09 AMThe circumstances of drifting and the failure to negotiate a curve have resulted in multiple motorcycle deaths in Oregon just over the last 2 months!  Excessive speed is most often the main reason these “accidents” occur yet it’s one of the most preventable motorcycle crashes.  What typically happens is the rider gets into a turn and suddenly believes they are going too fast to make it around the curve. Maybe the rider hears the pegs start to scrape. Since they are not familiar with that sound, they panic, straighten up the bike, then look at the yellow line in the road, the guard rail, or even the oncoming vehicle and a crash occurs.  In many situations the motorcycle was very capable of making the turn at the speed the rider was going, but the rider was not.

They teach you in motorcycle safety courses that before you enter a curve you should direct your motorcycle to the farthest part of the lane away from the turn so that you can theoretically see around the turn more.  For example, when rounding a curve to the left, position your bike to the right side of the lane and focus on the end of the turn and no where else. Never look at the yellow line, the guard rail, or the oncoming car. If the road curves to the right, position your bike to the left side of the lane as you enter the curve.  However, you might find that sometimes it is not safe to go to the farthest part of the lane away from a curve because of oncoming cars or debris on the shoulder.  In the end the safest thing to remember when going around curves is to keep a safe speed period.

Changes...

Updating curve ‘advisory speed’ signs…

Now about those changes…

Updated federal procedures require consistency of curve advisory speeds on all public roads and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is updating curve ‘advisory speed’ signs around the state. This means that some 50-75 percent of all curve speed advisory signs will change over the next three to four years, most will see an increase in the advisory speed of 5 to 10 mph.  Yes, you read that correct.  An INCREASE in speed!

Historically advisory speeds were very conservative or inconsistent and now with new technology to determine advisory speeds for curves they will be closer to what riders should be traveling at through a curve. If you are accustom to going faster than the posted advisory speed it may not end well!

Read more on the comprehensive assessment of the ODOT Curve Advisory Speeds Program (PDF file), performed by Oregon State University researchers.

Photos courtesy of ODOT.
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OR 212/214 - Highway

OR 212/214 – Sunrise Expressway

Its the first new highway (2.15-miles) in the Portland Metro Area in over 30 years.  Yes, you read that correct — 30 years!

The previous new state highway in the Portland area was the opening of the Glenn L. Jackson Bridge in 1982.

As many have noted, it seems the state won’t build a mile of road without a mile of bike path.  Many years ago we were told transit would reduce congestion, now we are told we need to build more light rail and we have to just get use to highway congestion. Most commuters have all but given up on ever seeing extra lanes on constantly congested Oregon 217.  The highway now carries the most traffic in Oregon, with more than 30,000 vehicles a day.  Yet, when surveyed most in Washington county are more concerned about parking at the Nike company store than relieving congested highways.  And then you have Oregon researchers claiming that when it comes to improving freeway traffic flow, sometimes a bigger road really isn’t a better one.

Road expansion in Oregon does not move quickly.  Similar to the winter rain there is a drip, drip, drip process which requires lots of analysis.  For example the Sunrise Expressway project had been under discussion since the mid-1980s.  They broke ground for the project in August 2013 and it took three years to complete opening on July 1st.

Gov. Kate Brown led a dedication on June 30th to big fanfare and media coverage.  She announced that the project will improve safety and ease congestion for people who walk, drive and bicycle in Clackamas.  Likely there was a lot of angst by needing to include the word “drive” to that announcement.  So, after three decades of planning and three years of construction, the Sunrise Expressway, opened. The four-lane, 2.15-mile highway extends the Milwaukie Expressway east to Southeast 122nd Avenue where it links with OR 212/224 – the Clackamas Highway.

Congrats ODOT for getting as much use as possible out of the OR 212/214 transportation system we had up to that point. You’ve spent $130 million on 2.15 miles of highway of which $100 million came from the Jobs and Transportation Act passed in 2009 by the Oregon Legislature.  For a detailed review of the project please see HERE.

Next up are those “smart” highway signs (variable speed signs) which have been in place for well over a year now.  I’m curious how that is working?  Will we be hearing the sound of crickets…

Photo courtesy of ODOT.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 3.41.17 PMI’ve never been ask this question, but I was curious how you know if you’re under Federal investigation?

In Harley-Davidson’s case it might have been a knock on the door of the Milwaukee HQ.

As it turns out, the U.S. government is investigating complaints from Harley-Davidson owners who say their motorcycle brakes failed without warning.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states the investigation covers 430,000 motorcycles with model years from 2008 through 2011 and the investigation stems from motorcycles with an anti-lock braking system.

A common motorcycle maintenance task is to replace the hydraulic fluid in the brake system.  Check your service manual, but for many Harley-Davidson models it’s recommended to change the D.O.T. 4 fluid and flush the brake system every two years.

Did you know brake fluid can collect condensation over time from the outside air?  Brake fluid collects water in a similar fashion as your McDonald’s soda cup has water droplets on the outside. Hydraulic fluid will over time absorb water which causes the fluid to boil when the brakes are applied and will reduce effectiveness of the system.  A spongy brake feel might be a combination of contaminated brake fluid or air in the system. Either way, changing the brake fluid is often recommended.

41300152_obBut, I’ve digressed.  Motorcyclists have reported that the brakes on the hand lever and foot pedal did not work, causing one driver to crash into a garage door.

Government regulators said they’ve received 43 complaints, three reports of crashes and two reports of injuries.  The NHTSA said it is possible that some riders who experienced brake failure did not change the motorcycle’s brake fluid every two years as recommended by Harley-Davidson Inc.  The old fluid may corrode valves in the anti-lock braking system, but even if riders did not change the fluid, the sudden brake failure “is a concern.”This is not a motorcycle product safety recall as of yet.

Harley-Davidson stated it was aware of the Federal investigation and that it was cooperating with regulators.

Photos courtesy of H-D.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.07.03 AMI never had the opportunity to meet or hang with Adam Sandovalas and Scooter “Trash” Sandoval, his Chihuahua.  He’s traveling around the U.S to every Harley-Davidson dealership raising money and awareness for the children of fallen soldiers. Basically it’s a ride, stop, meet and greet, throttle up to the next dealer and repeat.  You can follow along on his web site at Scootin’ America.

Similar to the USPS slogan, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep Adam and Scooter from the swift completion of his task.

I remember seeing a Facebook post back in June of Adam and Scooter stopping at PDX Speed Shop and recall thinking it would have been cool to shake his hand and listen to a couple of his stories on this cross country adventure.  I admired the fact that here is a person willing to put his personal life on hold and do what he believes in to get the job done.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.14.26 AMMany of us have thought about doing something similar or noteworthy on our motorcycle.  I’ve heard and been part of the discussions in my own riding circles.  Take a couple months to do this or a bucket list dream ride of doing that, but more often than not we stop – just short of pulling the bike out of the garage.

Adam has dedicated a couple of years time to ride thousands of miles on his 1996 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide and spread the word benefitting those who need a hand.  I could drone on about Adam and his accomplishments, but this has already been done. I could write about his dedication to see this project through to the end and his drive to make a difference, but there are plenty of photos of the endless handshakes and well-wisher’s.

What I really wanted to bring attention to is that on July 2nd, on the way to one of the first Harley-Dealer stops of the day, a lady driving in oncoming traffic came across the center line and hit Adam. Scooter was okay, but they Life-Flight Adam to the UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh where he was admitted. He was stable and underwent surgery on July 3rd. He is progressing well given the situation and started the first day of physical therapy on July 5th.  If interested you can follow his updates on his Facebook page HERE or on his Twitter page HERE.

His stated goal is to fix himself up along with the Harley and complete his mission for our soldiers.  If you want to know how-to-help please visit HERE.

To read that Adam wants to get back out there and finish the task got me to thinking that innovative marketing is the underbelly of Harley-Davidson success and wouldn’t it be cool if they provided a bit of positive outreach and started a fund to loan or buy him a new bike!  This is something that would clearly serve all and is a win-win-win.

Harley-Davidson’s U.S. Media Relations Manager is Jen Hoyer.  If you have some passion about this her contact info is HERE.

Photos are courtesy of Scootn’ America.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.34.02 PMThe State of Oregon has more than 74,000 miles of total roads and highways to wander as you set out on your northwest adventure.  The state is known for a diverse landscape including the Pacific coastline, the Cascade Mountain Range, and the flat central/eastern desert. It’s the ninth largest state and with a population of 4 million, the 26th most populous.

Yet, over the last couple of weeks the state is being defined by an alarming spike in motorcycle accidents and rider deaths!  OSP flash alerts are HERE.

  • On Highway 36 on June 24th a 2004 Harley crossed the center line and struck a Ford Ranger head-on. The motorcyclist, 56-year-old Michael R. Lucier of Swisshome, died at the scene.
  • On June 25th there was motorcycle crash on Highway 46 at milepost 7 (Caves Highway near Cave Junction).  The preliminary investigation revealed that a 2001 Triumph motorcycle was eastbound on Highway 46 at milepost 7 when it left the roadway on a corner. The motorcycle struck a tree and the rider, Patrick Michael Daley, age 57, of Cave Junction, was thrown down the embankment and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • On June 26th there was a report of a truck versus motorcycle collision on Interstate 5 at the 235 interchange (just north of Albany). The 1995 Kenworth truck tractor was towing a chip trailer and had been traveling southbound on Old Salem Road. The truck began to make a left turn onto the Interstate 5 southbound on-ramp, but turned in front of a northbound 1995 Kawasaki motorcycle. The motorcyclist crashed as a result of the truck turning into its path. The rider, Kevin R. Argo, age 39, of Lebanon was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.
  • On June 30th near Deadwood, OR, Richard F. Araujo, 68, died when he missed a corner on his 1992 Harley Davidson and sideswiped a Dodge pickup. It was the 2nd fatal motorcycle crash on Highway 36 in less than a week.
  • On July 2nd OSP responded to a report of a motorcycle versus vehicle crash on London Road near the Cottage Grove Reservoir.  Information revealed a 1999 Honda 900 motorcycle was traveling southbound on London Road at a high rate of speed just as a 2008 Chrysler Sebring was pulling out of a private drive northbound. The motorcycle impacted the driver’s side of the Sebring. The rider, identified as Cory Nathan Tocher, age 33, of Cottage Grove, was thrown from the motorcycle and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • Also on July 2nd there was a report of a traffic crash involving a motorcycle rider and an SUV on Southeast 82nd Avenue near Schiller Street.  Efforts to save the motorcyclist, 45-year-old Aaron Christopher Rufener were unsuccessful and he was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.  The driver of the SUV, a 44-year-old man, remained at the scene and was cooperative. Officers learned that he was driving northbound on 82nd Avenue and was turning left into the Don Pedro Mexican Restaurant parking lot when the southbound motorcycle rider crashed into the passenger side rear of the SUV, a 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer. The motorcycle is a 2013 Harley Davidson.

In addition, on July 5th there was a vehicle crash reported on I-5, just south of Ashland.  The crash, involved a BMW motorcycle and a semi-truck going southbound at mile post 10.5.  The motorcycle was from Mexico and was traveling at about 70 mph when it ran into the back of a semi-truck.  The motorcycle driver was transported to Oregon Health and Science University to be treated for his life-threatening injuries.

On July 6th, again on I-5 in northern Josephine County near Wolf Creek, OSP responded to the single-vehicle accident at milepost 80.  David Carl Freiboth, 61-year-old of Mercer Island was riding his Triumph motorcycle in the fast lane of I-5 when a semi-truck in the slow lane quickly signaled and changed lanes in front of him.  Freiboth told OSP he hit his brakes and quickly veered away from the semi, which caused him to hit the median and lay his bike down. He complained of shoulder pain and was transported by AMR Ambulance to Three Rivers Medical Center for treatment.  A motorcyclist behind Freiboth confirmed the incident, but was unsure about the description of the semi – which did not stop after causing the mishap.

Oregon has no shortage of steep grades, tight curves and awesome views that can be fascinating on a motorcycle.  But, please, PLEASE pay attention because we want you to live through your trip here!

If you are new or considering a motorcycle visit to the state I urged riders – to review motorcycle safety information.

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Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods

On a cool summer morning it all started on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway with the wind at our backs looking east.

I’m talking about Interstate 84 and the 378 miles which stretches from Portland, Oregon to the Idaho border.  Senate Bill 461 took effect in January 2014 which required the use of private funds to be used in the purchase, installation and maintenance of the large brown signs which designates the route to honor all veterans who served and those who became casualties** during the Vietnam war.

There are approximately 20 signs installed to-date and our riding group passed a couple as we headed toward the base of the Blue Mountains to the Wild West city of Pendleton for the Pendleton Bike Week (PBW).  We took the Cascade Locks exit and rode across the cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River called the “Bridge of The Gods.”

Maryville Winery

Maryville Winery

There we picked up another rider in our group and headed east on highway 14.  We stopped in Stevenson, WA at the Venus Café for a bit of breakfast then made our way winding along through the Columbia Gorge through the forest and up steep bluffs.  We did a quick stop at the Maryhill winery, traveled past the largely dismantled aluminum smelter plant and then after a short stop in Umatilla we arrived in Pendleton.

This was the inaugural year of the PBW and based on my observations it looks to have sowed the seeds for the start of a recurring big event.  Bikers flooded the convention center, took in vendor booths, relaxed with musical entertainment, cruised around town and spent money which was an economic boost for the city!

Helmley's

Hamley’s “Old West” Saloon

Some key highlights were:

  • There is power in the wheat field and power in the rain because the Rogue Brewery Ale House officially launched the Pendleton Pilsner.  They grow their own hops, malting barley, rye, pumpkins, honey and other ingredients for refreshments.  The new Pendleton Pilsner is brewed at the Rogues HQ in Newport, Oregon and I’m reminded of that movie… where Frank the Tank states: “Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!
  • Pendleton’s legendary hospitality continues in fine style.  The local food was 1st class, the staff at restaurants were most personable and everywhere folks seemed genuinely friendly and appreciative of the motorcycle enthusiasts being in town.
  • PMR Registration

    PMR Registration

    The 100-year old mahogany bar at Hamley’s.  We spent a fair amount of time enjoying Pendleton’s iconic “old-west” saloon and taking in the towns ambiance.

  • Wildhorse Resort & Casino was most entertaining.  Operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the 10-story hotel and resort pulls in the people and the gaming revenue seemed brisk during my short time there. Yes, I contributed to their next expansion project!
  • Attendance of Rattlesnake Mountain H-D from Kennewick, WA at the rally celebration added icing to the cake.  The dealer brought over a bunch of motorcycles and there was a rather large assortment of accessories, parts and t-shirts for attendees to load up on.
Rally Crowds

Rally Crowds

Eric Folkestad, event partners and business leaders are likely making plans for 2016.   I chatted briefly with Eric and he deserves a big shout out from the riding community in taking on the risk and pulling together this quality event.  Motorcycle rallies are a huge gamble and you have to bring your “big girl panties” to the party because it’s not easy.  Note: That is a biker saying and apologies if I offended anyone wearing panties!  Granted he’s had practice being the co-owner of the Hells Canyon Rally and then selling his stake to his brother, but for any motorcycle event to be successful you need to bring large groups of riders together, offer up great entertainment, get biker vendors to support the event, cover the civic (OSP, police, 1st responders etc.) duties and hope that you don’t suffer financial ruin in the end.

Motorcycle Show Trophy's

Motorcycle Show Trophy’s

I’m happy to have participated in the “First PBW!”  Congrats on a most successful rally Eric!

Lastly, I wish I could report that there were no accidents, but Mr. Jason Anteau, 43-years-old, sadly died Friday night in a motorcycle accident at the west end of Pendleton.  Mr. Anteau worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation, was a Hermiston volunteer firefighter and was attending the rally.

Motorcycle Show

Motorcycle Show Entry

The preliminary investigation revealed speed and distraction were not factors, nor were any of the drivers impaired.  More information reported HERE.   Obituary HERE.  Rally’s can be a recipe for danger, but PBW is very small compared to other high profile events (i.e. Sturgis, Laughlin River Run etc.) where thousands of riders are packed into a congested area.  It’s an unfortunate blemish this occurred during the rally and we’re reminded once again how important safety awareness is to the motorcycle community, and how precious life really is.  My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Anteau’s family and friends!

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – added link to Mr. Anteau obituary.  Also adding that Mr. Anteau was on the Oregon State HazMat Team and was the vice president of the East Desert Diamondbacks chapter of the Iron Order motorcycle club.

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – The 2016 Pendleton Bike Week will take place from July 22 to July 26th. According to this report co-founder Eric Folkestad said the event met attendance and revenue goals and was able to break even. PBW brought in a total of 5,740 people over the five day event. The event peaked on Saturday, when 2,150 motorcycle enthusiasts arrived at the Pendleton Convention Center.

Photos taken by author.

**Approximately 57,000 Oregonians served “in country” during the Vietnam War with 719 killed in action.  Another 5,000 were wounded in action.  39 remain missing in action after 40 years.  Of the 333,000 veterans living in Oregon, approximately a third served during the Vietnam conflict. Interstate 205 (I-205) is also known as the War Veterans Memorial Highway and Highway 97 is known as the WWII Veterans Memorial Highway.  Thirty-three other states have officially designated highways in honor of Vietnam vets.

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