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Oregon State Capitol in the Spring

Did you know that in 2013, Portland was ranked as the 10th most traffic-congested metropolitan area in the United States?

Jump ahead two years later, and Portland is now ranked (2015) as the 8th most traffic-congested metropolitan area on a Friday in the United States.

I’m an advocate for motorcycle safety and the passage of laws that improve motorcycle safety with a result of increased motorcycle awareness and driver accountability.  Like many of you, I’ve been riding for a good long while and my perspective comes from years of riding motorcycles across the United States (including in California).

Given the fact that Oregon continues to struggle with funding issues associated with overhauling an aging transportation infrastructure at the same time in which it is coming under increasing strain from population growth you’d think aspects of improving stop-and-go traffic situations would be relatively straightforward.  It’s not!  There is a lot of discussion and hand-wringing in Salem about riding motorcycles, incentivizing motorcycle use in dense urban areas and using less fuel-efficient automobiles, but few actionable plans seem to materialize or get put into motion to address increased traffic congestion.

One could debate if the “let it melt” strategy for ice storms, is being applied to traffic congestion, but instead it would be “watch it get worse.”  I’m still looking for a report out or the glowing “success” memo from ODOT in regards to the near Real-Time Reader Signs on Highway 217 that seldom seem to be accurate.

In fairness, there have been enhancements to various roadways to “ease” some traffic congestion and construction is now happening on Highway 26 to widen the road.  In addition, there is a major enhancement planned to improve traffic conditions and highway operations on I-5 from Highway 99W to I-205.  Part of the Corridor Bottleneck Operations Study, the I-5 project isn’t going to start until early 2018 and hopefully be completed by the fall of 2019.

Below is a quick summary of some key 2017 motorcycle legislation and the current status:

Senate Bill 385Lane Sharing (Highways Only) — Bill would have made lane splitting legal, but has died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety (GAC-MS) discussed, debated and identified merits and problems with this legislation, and decided at its February 16, 2017 meeting to oppose SB 385 by a 5-2 vote in the name of motorcyclist and motorist safety.  ODOT opposed passage of SB 385 citing that Oregonians don’t support this motorcycle riding practice and that the safety of motorcyclists across the state of Oregon will be compromised.  The AAA and the Oregon Trucking Association also testified against the bill.

The next legislative session opportunity is now in 2019.

You might recall that there was an identical bill which failed two years ago — SB 694.  Interestingly this bill received initial support from the GAC-MS.  The group provided written and verbal testimony in support of the bill which made it out of committee (unanimously) and passed the full Senate with a 2/3 bipartisan majority before failing in the House.  The GAC-MS changed its position after SB 694 passed the Senate and then opposed the bill at the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.  It’s unclear why the Committee’s position switched or the mixed messages on the riding practice.

What is the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety (GAC-MS) you ask?

It’s an influential group comprised of eight volunteer citizens who advise the Governor and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative on motorcycle safety issues and legislation. The GAC-MS reviews legislation that could or might affect motorcycle safety in Oregon.  The Committee consider’s input from Oregon Confederation of Clubs, Abate of Oregon, BIKEPAC of Oregon, Law Enforcement, ODOT, AAA, Trucking Association to name a few and from motorcyclists and organizations in support of motorcycle legislation.

House Bill 2665Lane Sharing (Lanes and Shoulders) — Allows operators of motorcycles and mopeds to travel on the shoulder of highway during traffic jams or slowdowns.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety Committee voted to oppose 7-0.

Senate Bill 680Lane Sharing (All Roads) — Allows operators of motorcycles and mopeds to travel between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles during traffic jams or slowdowns.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to oppose 7-0 in a previous meeting.

House Bill 2598Vehicular Assault of Motorcycle Riders (Enhanced Penalties) or often called the “Driver Responsibility Bill” — Expands offense of vehicular assault to include contact with motorcycle, motorcycle operator or motorcycle passenger.  Specifically adds motorcyclists (and/or their passengers) to a current Oregon law that provides those who operate another vehicle recklessly resulting in contact with and injury to a motorcyclist and/or their passenger to be possibly charged with the crime of “vehicular assault” and its associated penalties.  There is no specific provisions to protect motorcyclists from reckless drivers and there is no specific accountability for drivers that injure a motorcyclist as opposed to a pedestrian or a bicyclist, and motorcyclists are not on the vulnerable users list.

The bill has moved thru the House committee with a “pass” recommendation and is headed for House Floor vote.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to oppose 4-3 the bill and is determining how best to communicate the Committee’s position to the legislation.

House Bill 2599Helmet Choice — Requires only persons under 21 years of age to wear motorcycle helmet while riding on or operating motorcycle or moped.  This is an emergency bill and would take immediate effect upon passage. Topics discussed included: individual choice, what happens when a rider doesn’t have health insurance and needs long-term care, the efficacy of the age requirement, the inability to see or hear as well when wearing a helmet.

The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to oppose the bill.

Senate Bill 36Three Wheel Motorcycle Skills TestingWaiver — This bill eliminates the requirement that DMV conduct a skills test prior to issuance of a restricted three-wheel motorcycle endorsement. Individuals applying for the three-wheel motorcycle endorsement would still take the motorcycle knowledge test.  There are approximately 45 tests offered per year at five DMV field offices for the restrictive three-wheel motorcycle user.  The DMV is not currently granting waivers to three-wheel cycle users and that users who want a three-wheel motorcycle only endorsement still have to take knowledge and skills tests and receive a unique endorsement.

The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to support the bill.

I’ll continue to update this blog post as I learn about any bill updates during the 2017 legislative session.

Photo courtesy of State of Oregon

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Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby)

Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior (Bobby)

It would seem that AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, isn’t the only person making inexcusable blunders that goes far beyond foolish.

Huh?

Let me provide some context.  

You might recall how the AOL CEO whined last week  that two “distressed babies” had cost his company a million dollars each. That pronouncement was widely criticized, especially because it seemed Armstrong (who was paid over $12M last year) was trying to shift the baby care costs onto the Internet company’s employees. Armstrong cited it as a reason AOL had decided to change, but later reinstated, its 401(k) match.  One of the “distressed babies” mothers spoke out (HERE). 

And speaking about gaffes and foolishness… we now have the Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby) taking credit for and stating that the TV show “basically saved Harley” to Susan Carpenter of The Hollywood Reporter.

"Sons" co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby) Rides?

“Sons” co-star Mark Boone Junior (Bobby) Rides?

By any measure, “Sons” is a disturbingly violent TV show  that includes a theme of rape, torture, brutal assaults, and bath tubs full of human excrement.  It’s about a 1% motorcycle club — which creator Kurt Sutter readily admits has always traded in “blood and guts” – with “actors,” many of which don’t know how to ride a motorcycle – now proclaiming that he (Boone Junior) and his fellow cast members are the reason that Harley-Davidson recovered from the financial collapse and economic meltdown.

Only in the make believe world of Charming, California.

Let’s get real here. Saved Harley-Davidson?  That is ridiculous!  It’s more than just a bit of a stretch and goes far beyond foolish.  It’s almost as out of touch with reality as the “distressed babies” claim.

Hey Bobby, I’ve got news for you.  Get ready, because it’s an emotional gut punch. The faux outlaw motorcycle gang drama that you co-star and “ACT” in didn’t save Harley!

However, I do wonder how Harley-Davidson management reconciles profiting off violence  as they cozy up and work to be affiliated with an uber-violent TV show.  Basically a TV gang, most of whom are governed by violent criminals.  Sure it’s an imaginary world, but seems out of step.  And, Jennifer Hoyer, (Harley-Davidson Media Relations Manager) explains it well:  “Our relationship with SOA has been mostly beneficial from our side, as we have enjoyed getting many of the cast members all to be real riders — showing them the freedom that Harley-Davidson motorcycles bring to their lives.”

Real riders!  We got the point already. 

Note: To be fair, the Harley-Davidson Foundation does a significant amount of community outreach.  For example, working with the Sojourner Family Peace Center to break the cycle of family violence in Milwaukee, Disabled Vets, Big Brothers Big Sisters, MDA and YMCA to name just a few.

In the spirit of the SOA outlaw I copied the photos from FX Networks without permission.

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Hwy 101 and Redwood Collage

Like many of you I’m accustomed to the routines in life and when August rolls around I’m often thinking about a ride east to immerse myself in all things Sturgis.

Not this year.

This year success would be defined as a slow and meandering journey, not a specific destination. Sure our group had a general idea about riding the pacific coast highway down to the Redwoods and then over to the Sierra Nevada mountains to Yosemite.  But it was left fairly open ended.   There was some thought to traversing back over through Death Valley and then returning to Oregon via the eastern side of the state and what follows is a brief summary of the ride:

Portland to Coos Bay
Oregon offers an incredible diversity of motorcycle road scenery. The state is blessed with hundreds of miles of Pacific Coast shoreline, countless miles of arid canyon and twisted mountain road riding, vast stretches of alpine mountain roads, and some of the most appealing cities in the world.  But we wanted to get to California and took I-5 south to Oregon Route 38.

Highway 38 runs between Interstate 5 near the communities of Curtin to the city of Reedsport on the Oregon Coast.  It’s also known as the Umpqua Highway because the western portions of the road run alongside the Umpqua River.  The road runs by the Dean Creek Wildlife Area, which provides overlooks for viewing regional wildlife and continues on passing through the Elk Creek Tunnel Forest State Scenic Corridor.

We were riding an easy pace and overnighted at Coos Bay.  The next morning we rode down the beautiful coastline on Hwy 101 to the awe inspiring redwood groves.  The road winds along the coast and we fortunately avoided any measurable rain.  Certainly cooler temperatures with the occasional whiff of mist, but very good riding.  The group even took some time for the odd tourist attraction along the way — Ride Through A Redwood Tree — that make this area well known.  Shortly afterward we were on the “Avenue of the Giants” which is well marked and parallels Hwy 101 for about 35 miles.  We stopped at the Forest Service visitor center and took in these amazing works of nature.

With two easy days under our belt we overnighted in Fortuna and made plans to ride NorCal’s ultimate motorcycle ride — Highway 36!  This road is why you own a motorcycle.

California SR 36

140 miles of S-Turns (Fortuna to RedBluff) — Hwy 36 (SR 36) begins in Fortuna at an interchange with Hwy 101. After going through the community of Alton, Hwy 36 continues east through the city of Hydesville. The road continues through Carlotta before paralleling the Van Duzen River all the way to the town of Bridgeville.  We stopped in the community of Mad River which has a small general store, a tiny burger joint built into an old camper or RV, and a gas pump that approached $6/gallon.  We all got off the motorcycle and discussed the unusual nature of Hwy 36 and how it can catch you off guard.

One minute you’re rolling along enjoying the marvel of paved engineering, the next minute you’re working to navigate a narrow section with no center line and massively tall trees which are literally in the road.

Arrival in Reno

The pavement is bumpy and constantly changing, despite some attempts at repaving.   You can ride through the area at a good, but slow speed as there are a lot of  S-curves, tight hairpins, blind corners, and even some swoopy drop offs where the road just falls out from underneath you where even a heavy cruiser seems to get air.  As quickly as it started Hwy 36 opens back up to its wider two lane as if that narrow section never happened.

In general there were few trucks or zaney vacationers on Hwy 36 trying to run us off the road so it was an enjoyable experience.  As we dropped down into the Central Valley the temperatures rapidly shot upward and we decided to grab some lunch in Red Bluff.
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Highway 36 heads eastbound out of the Central Valley  to Lassen Volcanic National Monument and over to Susanville.  It’s nothing to get excited about and while a good road it’s nothing more than a main highway from point A to point B road.  We filled up with fuel in Susanville and headed to Reno where we overnighted.
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More Miles and Smiles – Part 2 HERE.

Map courtesy Google.  Photo’s taken by author.
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Over the weekend a riding buddy had a dealer remove the stock exhaust system and along with some engine work he upgraded the bike to a Vance & Hines Pro Pipe 2-into-1 performance exhaust.  The Pro Pipe includes tuned length stepped headers with a highly efficient merge collector that feeds into the stepped megaphone design.  The new Pro Pipe is not a mellow sounding exhaust and although I didn’t measure the DBA’s, it likely pushes the limits on noise-emissions when you roll on the throttle.  The exhaust has no catalytic converter and missing from the new chrome are U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labels/stamps.

Speaking of the EPA…  On Monday the California Senate passed SB 435 by a vote of 21-16 and it’s now on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

The bill makes it a crime to operate a motorcycle manufactured after Jan. 1, 2013, that fails to meet federal noise-emission control standards. Motorcyclists whose vehicles lack the proper U.S. Environmental Protection Agency label would be subject to a fine.

It’s not clear that this bill will do much to address excessive sound or reduce emissions, but it seems to unfairly target motorcycle owners.

For example, it’s not practical in a real world traffic stop situation to locate the federal label due to the inconsistent location of the lable and in turn may well result in unwarranted citations.  In addition, after-market exhaust systems (which are not always louder than stock systems) can be installed for a variety of legitimate reasons. A stock exhaust can wear out over time, be damaged, unavailable or prohibitively expensive.  Motorcyclists would be forced to purchase Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts, while automobile drivers will continue to be allowed to install exhaust components from non-OEM sources.

And what happens if you don’t live in CA and are considering a ride to the State.  Or maybe you’ll be passing through a small part of the state on the way to Reno Street Vibrations 2013.  Will you be unable to ride your motorcycle there because of this law or worry about being unfairly ticketed?

It’s important to note that the state of California often sets the tone for the nation in passing legislation where the other 49 states end up drafting behind.  This bill looks to drive up the cost of ownership and might be punitive for every rider while doing little or nothing to actually address the issue of excessive motorcycle sound.  Governor Schwarzenegger owns multiple motorcycles, but most believe he will sign this bill into law.

Then it’s only a matter of time for other states to follow…

Photo courtesy of Vance & Hines.

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I was up early this morning thinking about the Arizona law, which takes effect July 29th.  I wouldn’t have been thinking about illegal immigrants, but for the fact that a drunk driver hit a family members parked car last night which meant that for part of my evening it was spent with law enforcement observing their DUI process.  I’ve come away with a new appreciation about a suspect’s immigration status.   More on this in a future post.

As I was saying… there I was shaving thinking about AZ when on KINK radio I heard the DJ’s talk about the large motorcycle rallies planned this weekend and for drivers to be on the lookout for an increase in motorcycle traffic.  Cool!  Nice to see the ODOT motorcycle safety program in action.  I still believe the variable message signs would be a good and highly visible option, but with a pesky ‘just-say-no’ traffic engineer controlling the “ON” switch… radio ads will help.  In addition, ODOT provided the below press release to all major media outlets:

“Share the road safely with motorcycles

With two large motorcycle rallies happening in Oregon this weekend, ODOT is urging drivers and motorcyclists to watch out for each other and share the road safely.

The BMW Motorcycle Owners of America are holding their 2010 international rally in Redmond July 15-18. The Good Vibrations Motorcycle Rally will take place in Salem and Keizer July 16-18. Both rallies are expected to attract hundreds of motorcyclists from around the state and the nation.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re on four wheels or two, we all have to do our part to share the roadways,” said Michele O’Leary, ODOT’s Motorcycle Safety program manager.

A motorcycle is one of the smallest vehicles on our roads, often hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. It’s crucial that drivers always make visual checks for motorcycles by double-checking mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes, merging and at intersections.

Motorcyclists have responsibilities too. They should follow the rules of the road, be alert to other drivers, never ride while impaired or distracted, and always wear a helmet and full protective gear.

Although Oregon is far below the national average for motorcycle fatalities, in 2008, 46 motorcyclists lost their lives in crashes in Oregon. That’s far too many family members, friends and neighbors lost in often preventable incidents.

ODOT offers safety tips for drivers and motorcyclists:

Drivers

  • Remember, motorcycles are vehicles with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane.
  • Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Remember that road conditions, which are minor annoyances to passenger vehicles, pose major hazards to motorcyclists.
  • Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Don’t tailgate.

Motorcyclists

  • Always wear a helmet and protective clothing.
  • Allow time and space to react to other motorists or changing road conditions.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Motorcycle rider training and education save lives. TEAM OREGON offers classes for beginner to advanced riders.

For more information on ODOT’s motorcycle safety program visit www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/motorcyclesafety.shtml.”

Oregon state will have a kaleidoscope of motorcyclists traveling over the roads the next 72 hours.  Drivers might notice our tattoos, leathers and even winch at the exhaust noise, but most of all the riders will appreciate the fact that you took notice and we’ll get home safe!

Update: July 19, 2010 — A early scan of the motor vehicle accident reports suggest that this past rally filled weekend was relatively safe for motorcyclists.  The exception being where OSP was dispatched to an accident involving two motorcycles on Highway 20 near milepost 14. The incident was the result of a bucket which blew out from the back of a pickup onto the roadway.  A 2001 BMW K1200LT motorcycle, operated by BENJAMIN JONSSON, and passenger CARA JONSSON, both age 54, from Spruce Grove, Alberta Canada was westbound on Highway 20 near milepost 14 when they came upon the bucket. BENJAMIN JONSSON was able to successfully swerve and miss the bucket.
However, a 2003 BMW R1150T motorcycle, operated by FREDERICK HERZOFF, age 61, and passenger  as ANNETTE HERZOFF both from Paradise City, California were also westbound traveling some distance behind JONSSON’S motorcycle.  FREDERICK HERZOFF attempted to swerve around the bucket and in doing so crashed into the back of JONSSON’S motorcycle. JONSSON and HERZOFF were not traveling together.
All four riders were transported by ambulance to Saint Charles Hospital in Bend. BENJAMIN and CARA JONSSON sustained minor injuries. FREDERICK HERZOFF sustained serious injuries and ANNETTE HERZOFF critical injuries. All four riders were wearing helmets.

Photo courtesy of ODOT.

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Screen Shot From Site - Bend Area (Cascade Lakes)

Whatever kind of motorcyclist you are — day tripper or world explorer — mapping software can help start your next adventure in the right direction.

Fortunately FX Development, Inc., a Seattle-based early stage startup recently launched myscenicdrives.com.  It’s a new website to help motorcyclists find that cool scenic drive.  The site offers cleaver features that will help riders find new things to explore. Each scenic drive provides an overview, interactive map, recommended stops, weather forecast, and GPS directions.

Initially the company was focused on the Pacific Northwest, but recently listed rides for Idaho and California as it expands.  The site provides both a rich, user-friendly web interface for PCs as well as a mobile web version which is great for smartphones like the iPhone.  Once the user selects a drive, phones with GPS capabilities and software (such as Google Maps) will easily get you on the road.

The website currently features more 40 scenic drives in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho with more States coming.

An item I would find useful is something like what the “Directory Assistance” service does today for convenience by sending an SMS text-message to the rider.  If I’m on the road mobile users are eager to get information and directions on the go especially if there is limited web access in a remote area.  A text message of the route along with pertinent details saved via a text message would provide me the extra convenience and functionality that I like.  With virtually 100% of handsets in the US capable of text messaging, it would be smart to leverage this channel and deliver additional value.

One word of caution for the site builders… I’ve seen a number of these type sites fall victim of having a preoccupation and interest in $$, not riding, and therefore have put the focus on advertising at the expense of the consumer experience.  Don’t do it!!

Photo courtesy of myscenicdrives.com

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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