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Posts Tagged ‘Highway 217’

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

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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UO Football Helmet

UO Football Helmet — Go Ducks!

Different helmets do different things. There are hard hats on construction and heavy-industry heads; football helmets on athletes’ heads, Kevlar® caps on military heads and DOT certified helmets on motorcyclist heads.

None are interchangeable.  However, the motorcyclist in this photo might disagree.

On the weekend I was driving on Highway 217 and came upon this motorcyclist flashing some new reflectivity protective head gear – a University of Oregon football helmet!

I’m not sure if this “learning moment” is one where we ridicule his fashion faux pas or criticize the multiple color combinations of motorcycle, helmet, shirt, pants, socks and shoes, and how they’ll never pass the Nike-design standard.  But, most concerning is the specific amount of retroreflective material on the helmet and how it may well exceed state standards!

Huh?

Yep, a number of states have exact information on the location and number of square inches of retroreflective material required on motorcycle helmets.  I’m currently researching this fun fact and will report an update when I learn if Oregon has such a requirement embedded in the helmet law.

Motorcycle helmets are very sophisticated and specialized for an activity. They’ve been developed carefully and scientifically over the years and wearing a DOT helmet properly strapped on your head is mandatory in the state of Oregon.  If you want to read more about Oregon helmet laws go HERE.  If you’re interested in helmet standards go HERE.  The NHTSA is proposing to amend several aspects of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets HERE.

But, this is all a moot point, because this “safety-minded motorcyclist” just planted another seed of doubt in the minds of non-riders – some who already question the rationale of motorcycle ownership in general – that wearing a football helmet means motorcyclists are not responsible people; we don’t take ourselves and motorcycling serious and no matter what the law says, it’s about projecting an attitude…

We’ve heard this tune before.  Many call it stupid and other’s will call it living.

Photo taken by author. 

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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HCMR-BakerCityHere is what you need to know.

From June 22nd through July 27th there will be a SIGNIFICANT increase (thousands) of motorcycles on the roads and motorcyclists visiting the state, attending various rallies and riding the famed Oregon highways.

Yeah, those roads.  The ones with bumps, holes, cracks and gravel bits peppering riders.  And don’t forget the lane ridges and rises.  Or the grooved surfaces and mix-matched joints on bridges.  Even the best roads in Oregon have imperfections that a motorist may not feel, but to a motorcyclist these seemingly simple hazards can be dangerous or life threatening.  If you’ve traveled Highway 217 in the last 6-weeks you can instantly relate.  Vehicles bounce and weave around like they are doing the “NASCAR bump.”

Good-Vib09But, road conditions are the least of the concerns. If you’ve driven any local freeway lately you’ve likely notice numerous examples of drivers who are distracted – texting, using cell phones, eating/drinking, talking to passengers, grooming or adjusting the car stereo bass knob.  These are not infrequent occurrences or isolated incidents.  Distracted driving is commonplace in Oregon!

When drivers are not giving 100% of their faculties or attention to the roadways while operating motor vehicles along with thousands of additional motorcycles/motorcyclists on the road – a perfect storm of circumstances for injuries or fatalities exist.

It’s been a while since there have been so many Oregon events all packed into the same date range.  The specific events I’m referring to are:

Harley-Davidson World Ride – Everywhere – June 23-24 – Attendee estimates are 1000+ of motorcyclists state-wide
Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally – Baker City, OR – July 12-15 – Attendee estimates are 1000+ motorcyclists traveling east
Good Vibrations – Salem, OR – July 12-14 – Attendee estimates are 1000+ of motorcyclists in Salem/Keizer area
BMW MOA International Rally – Salem, OR – July 18-21 – Attendee estimates are 5500+ motorcyclists in Salem and surrounding area
Run 21 Rally – Tygh Valley – July 19-21 – Attendee estimates are 500+ motorcyclists
Oregon HOG RallyRiding The Wild West – Pendleton, OR – July 25-27 – Attendee estimates are 1000+ of motorcyclists traveling east

Pendleton-ORMost all of these events have an implied or are specifically being advertised as a celebratory rally and a huge party.  Nobody is supposed to talk about this, but it doesn’t help to avoid it when we know that “bottles to throttle” don’t mix.

Accidents will happen on roadways.  But the likelihood that they will occur shouldn’t be increased by vehicle distracted driving, motorcyclists misjudgments or funding to make the roadways safer for motorcycles.

I’ll get to the point and off my soap box.

If you are an automobile driver then you have a duty to put down the cell phone (one in every 10 fatalities on the road is distraction-affected crashes), set the radio or apply cosmetics in the driveway and keep an eye out for motorcyclists during this high traffic period.

If you’re one of the thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts visiting or attending an Oregon rally – a hearty welcome to our great state – but, you have a duty to ride sober and with the utmost care.  Travel safe.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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