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Many automotive motorists simply are not taking their driving task seriously.

Distractions are everywhere and some seem to think cruising down a public road is a passive activity rather, it’s a complex task that involves concentration and more than just knowing how to use the accelerator, brakes, and steering.

Few automotive motorists will land on this blog post, but if they do here are some key messages for drivers:

  • Look For Motorcyclists — Use your eyes and mirrors to see what’s around, and check the blind spots when you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections. Look, and look again.
  • Focus on Driving — Don’t Text, hang up the phone, put down the eye lash liner brush, stop adjusting the sound system, ignore the navigation system, settle the passengers, and DRIVE.
  • Use Your Turn Signals — Signal your intentions for everyone’s safety.
  • Give Motorcycles Some Room — Don’t tailgate or pass too closely.
  • Take Your Time — Nothing is as important as the safety of your loved ones, yourself, and the others with whom you share the road.

Key messages for motorcycle enthusiasts?  Responsible riding habits are paramount and always worthy of special attention.

2017 Proclamation

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month and it’s time to remind everyone about driver safety.  Please keep your mind on the road!

NOTE:  As of the blog posting time stamp there’s been NO proclamation from Oregon’s 38th  Governor or the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety on the May 2017 Motorcycle Awareness Month.  Of course members are supportive of everyone being a responsible rider with efforts centered on training to improve rider skills and communicating the dangers of motorcycling, but a statement for this year has yet to be released.

UPDATED: May 4, 2017 — CORRECTION: Governor Brown did sign a 2017 proclamation in late April about May being Motorcycle Awareness Month.  See HERE.

Photo courtesy of Motorcycle Rider News.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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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

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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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.
All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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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.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Ride it to work!

Riding it to work!

On Monday, June 15th it is the 24th annual Ride To Work Day.

Some of you will leverage the day as a way to highlight the value of motorcycles and increase government awareness on the positive benefits.  But, most will ride to work because it’s just fun!

And speaking of government…  you may have missed that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the state’s “dead red” bill (SB 533) into law, allowing motorcyclists and bicyclists to proceed through a red traffic signal if they have waited through a full cycle and the light failed to change. The bill passed both the state’s legislative houses on unanimous votes and takes effect January 1, 2016.  Oregon is the 17th state to pass such a law although each state has unique restrictions.

However, the Oregon House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development killed the BikePac initiated bill (SB 694) that would have made lane splitting legal in Oregon.

Lastly, the U.S. Department of Transportation has called for additional safety requirements for motorcycle helmets to reduce the use of “novelty helmets” that offer little protection in a motorcycle crash.  The DOT proposal includes standards for helmet thickness, compression ability and other features which novelty helmet are unlikely to comply.

As always be smart and ride safe!

Photo courtesy of RTW.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Mountain-SnowBack in the “party like it’s 1999” days, ODOT estimated studded tires cause $50M (that’s millions!) of damage EACH year.

The lawmakers in Salem must have salivated at the ODOT estimates while using them as a recruitment tactic to advocate increased license fees or increase road taxes, or pushing legislation that would require those “freeloaders” who use studded tires to be penalized to help cover the costs.  There were even rumors of using Motorcycle fees to help pay for the damages.  There have been 17 attempts by lawmakers to ban or limit those devilish tires.  They debated a permitting system and complained about how there is no mistaking the sound these tires make on the roads… just hearing those sounds provides proof positive that irresponsible citizens continue detrimental road behavior.

Studs Report
Then last Friday, on what is one of the slower news day and largest travel day before the Christmas holiday – ODOT quietly released an updated studded tire report

It’s a miracle!

The costs of repairing studded tire damage is expected to decline.  The study concludes that the use of studded tires in Oregon has declined by half.  Well if that doesn’t just dig a rut into any lawmaker’s “tax ‘em heavy and often” way of thinking.

Yes, that new study of studded tire use in Oregon shows drivers have changed their habits. The study downgrades the current use of studded tires, the amount of pavement damage caused by that use and the cost of repairing the damage.  All good news!  A quick summary of some findings:

  • The number of vehicles using studded tires has dropped by 75%: A previous report published in 2000 determined that about 16 percent of registered vehicles in Oregon were equipped with studded tires; the 2014 survey found a reduction in that number to about 4 percent.
  • The study concludes that the use of studded tires in Oregon has declined by half since the previous survey.
  • The study found wide ranges of wear rates for different kinds of pavements, reflecting the many factors that contribute to pavement rutting.
  • Based in part on an overall reduction in the use of studded tires, the increasing popularity of all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles, and the increased use of non-studded winter tires, the research indicates the use of studded tires will continue to decline; therefore the resulting damage to Oregon’s highways, streets and roads and the costs of repairing studded tire damage are expected to continue to decline.
  • In 2012, studded tires caused an estimated $8.5 million in damage (that’s much different than the $50M!) to Oregon highways. This calculation was developed by looking at effective pavement damage—damage sufficient to require repaving before the pavement surface would normally be repaved.

The first question I have is whether we’ll see a proportionate drop in ODOT budget now that we know citizens are preserving Oregon roads?  Studded tires are no longer a tactic to raise fees/taxes across the state, so what’s next – for the Salem masters?

Full Disclosure:  Currently I do not, but I’ve owned multiple sets of studded tires in the past.

Photo courtesy of ODOT.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Real Time Signs Being Tested

Real Time Signs Being Tested

Drum roll…. it’s coming this summer.  Oregon motorcycle riders will be bossed around by technology.

I’m talking about how the state has money to burn on solar arrays, sensors, LED signs, and computers at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

You’ve likely noticed the construction of those seven full-color, LED, 30-foot wide traveler information signs on OR 217, four in the southbound lanes and three in the northbound lanes.  In addition, there will be five smaller signs on roads leading to OR 217, including OR 99W, Barnes Road and Kruse Way.  The system will  include subterranean sensors, moisture tracking all communicating via advanced computer algorithms that we’re told will fix the congestion-plagued OR 217.

Real Time Signs - WDOT

Real Time Signs – WDOT

What?  Congestion on Oregon 217 with all the light rail, WES and bike paths, how is that possible?

If you’re like me… texting, day dreaming, adjusting the navigation system, eating a bran muffin and chugging down an extra hot vanilla latte while shaving during the work commute… we missed all the lane expansions during the last 30+ years on Oregon 217!   Of course there was no expansion and all the transit geeks in Portland (who hate all things automobile) celebrate weekly that it’s still only 4 lanes.  To be fair, there have been small widening of the shoulders on three sections of OR 217.  Of course there have been several signage changes and who can forget that rutted out mess last year that was re-paved?!

Variable Message Signs

Variable Message Signs

But, what ever happened to the studies for widening 217 or how about that Newberg-Dundee Bypass?   ODOT’s stated goal is to improve transportation operations by first addressing management techniques prior to building additional capacity to a highway.

But I’ve strayed off topic.

There are approximately 200 crashes a year along OR 217, which equates to a crash occurring four out of every five weekdays.  So, ODOT is following the likes of Seattle (clearly they are traffic leaders to emulate!) by powering up strategically placed signs displaying variable speeds and real-time traffic reports based on the weather and road conditions.

When ODOT flips the power switch on that $6.5 million artificial traffic-intelligence project, motorcyclists will no longer have to endure recurring bottlenecks, high crash rates, and unreliable travel times.  We won’t witness panic braking during peak travel times and can ignore those short weaving areas that create erratic changes to traffic speeds due to interchange spacing.  The new flash advisories will tell us if it’s raining (duh!), if a crash has occurred if it’s being cleared and which lane will glide you along with faster commute times to your destination.  At least that’s ODOT’s hope.

Color me skeptical about this “intelligent” system.

UPDATE: July 11, 2014 — ODOT turned-on the first of the RealTime travel signs yesterday on OR 217.  An email message went out highlighting the accomplishment and evangelizing that National studies show that advisory speed signs have reduced overall crashes by 20 percent, reduced rear-end collisions by 30 percent and reduced secondary crashes by 40 percent.

Full Disclosure:  I’ve been disappointed in ODOT for 4+ years now about a proposal to use the Variable Message Signs (VMS) to help make the driving public more aware of motorcycles.  It’s been rejected multiple times.  The absurd viewpoint, especially given the 12 new signs on OR 217 going off /on multiple times a day has ‘artificially’ influenced this writer.

Photos courtesy of WDOT and CalTran.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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