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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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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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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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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.

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red-lightI’m talking about Senate Bill 5141 which was signed by Gov. Inslee and took effect on June 14th.

It states that if a motorcyclist approaches an intersection, including a left turn intersection, controlled by a triggered traffic control signal using a vehicle detection device, and that signal is inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle, the motorcyclist must come to a complete stop. If the signal fails to operate after one cycle, the motorcyclist may proceed through the intersection or turn left after exercising due care.

The Washington legislation provided a legal way for motorcyclists to get through a red light and according to the American Motorcyclist Association, 14 other states have passed similar legislation.

In Oregon, motorcycle detection issues remain a problem at traffic lights in both rural and urban areas.  If you’re like me you’ve experienced the frustration and/or jockeyed around so that the auto behind can trigger the light.  And when motorcyclists encounter devices that fail to notice their presence, most riders will proceed through the red light after taking “due caution.”

I’m wondering when the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety will take up the issue?

Many cagers and law makers believe that motorcyclists are at fault in triggering traffic lights so, in the spirit of reporting both sides… the Oregon Motorcycle Manual and the TEAM Oregon Motorcycle Safety Program offer advice on how to position a motorcycle correctly at traffic stops so signaling devices will hopefully register it.

Photo courtesy of the internet.

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800x400-rebel-reaperThere’s been 19 motorcycle fatalities so far this year in Oregon.  Too many and more than twice the 9 deaths in 2013 during the same period.

ODOT has stated and the facts bear this out that many of the fatal crashes are due to operator error, unsafe riding–speeding, following too close and abrupt lane changes.

And then we have the below idiot…  Speeding, reckless driving, acting stupid and irresponsible on the way to work.

On July 2, 2014 at approximately 6:26 a.m., an OSP senior trooper on patrol saw a black & silver 2003 Suzuki motorcycle displaying a Washington license plate eastbound on Highway 30 milepost 42 traveling 120 mph. When the trooper activated the patrol car’s emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop, the motorcycle sped up faster on the two lane highway passing other unidentified witnesses using the westbound lane and eastbound shoulder. The trooper lost sight of the motorcycle a couple miles later and terminated the attempt to stop it.

At approximately 6:40 a.m., a report was received from a log truck driver that the reckless, eluding motorcyclist pulled into the Dyno Nobel (a leader in commercial explosives) plant parking lot where it was parked. The trooper and officers from St. Helens Police Department and Rainier Police Department arrived at the parking lot and found the unoccupied motorcycle.

Subsequent investigation confirmed the motorcycle’s operator, Michael Tejada Echeverria, age 19, from Longview, Washington, worked at the plant and he was contacted by officers.

Mr. Echeverria was arrested and lodged in the Columbia County Jail for Felony Attempt to Elude on a Vehicle, Reckless Driving, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person. He was also cited for Exceeding the Posted Speed in Excess of 100 mph, No Motorcycle Endorsement, and Driving Uninsured.

Clearly Mr. Echeverria will drive without a motorcycle endorsement.  He must be thinking that the U.S. Constitution guarantees him the right to travel the roads of the land freely, and that state laws don’t apply.

Hey Mr. Echeverria, 1776 sent a telegraph to explain something… There is no constitutional right to drive a motorcycle or a car.  You may have the right to travel throughout the country, but that means walking, taking a bus, taking a taxi, riding a bicycle, hopping, skipping, uni-cycling, kayaking, or using a skateboard.  Since a motor vehicle can be a very dangerous instrument in unskilled hands, the state is fully justified in demanding proof that you can operate a motorcycle without endangering anybody, and in reserving the right to revoke your driver’s license if your conduct shows that you tend to disregard the rules of the road and the safety of the people around you.

It’s okay to wish to be a rebel, but enjoy that skateboard when you get out of jail.

Photo courtesy of Rebel Rockers Skateboards.

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