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Posts Tagged ‘Spring’

Reminiscent of the sly wizard in Frank Baum’s classic The Wizard of Oz, chances are most people have probably never heard of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) program manager of motorcycle safety and safety standards, Michele O’Leary.

Who is Michele O’Leary?   A person who wants you to wear a helmet and protective clothing.  The person who manages the motorcycle endorsement funds and determines how it gets allocated.  But wait there’s even more…

The Statesman Journal has an interesting interview with O’Leary and it provides insight on the person behind the curtain.

First off, O’Leary came to the job with a motorcycle endorsement and owns a motorcycle!  It’s good to be able to relate to rider issues and in my book this was a step ahead of the Harley-Davidson CEO (Keith Wandell) when he was hired last year with neither.   As a member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on motorcycle safety, O’Leary has the inside track and has been successful in getting legislation changed to increase fines/penalties on certain types of infractions deemed safety oriented.  Is that good?

I became acquainted with O’Leary as part of my safety rants back in April to do anything and everything to encourage the use of the States variable message signs (VMS) for motorcycle awareness. Those neon signs are peppered across the metro area roadways and provide information about traffic congestion and accident reports and in my little world I thought they would make an excellent public safety reminder for drivers to watch out for motorcycles.  My request was promptly denied and I got “schooled” on the ‘correct’ usage of variable message signs by the ODOT traffic engineers. Previous posts related to this subject matter at: Motorcycle Safety TacticsSpotlight On ODOTWanna Be Policy Makers.

Many might debate that we need to ‘just say no’ to the ever increasing attempts by the government to manage every aspect of our lives through increased regulation.  Others will say it’s a noble cause to help make Oregon motorcycle riders safer.  Read the interview, learn who is looking out for you and judge for yourself…

And finally, if the above wasn’t enough to digest… from the edges of the internet come information about a tornado strikes festival celebrating The Wizard of Oz.

Photo courtesy of Picasa.

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May is Motorcycle Awareness Month.

There are so many interests groups out there these days. Sometimes the noise level and the drum beat volume gets so loud that you can’t determine if they’re about discrimination or empowerment.

As a “wanna-be” policy maker I planned to get more involved in this year’s safety efforts and do more than just sit back and pontificate via this blog that May is the celebratory occasion.   But, sometimes making a difference is harder than you think.  You might recall back in February I blogged about reaching out to the various city and state government entities to advocate the usage of the “Amber Alert signs” during Motorcycle Awareness Month.  My ask was they display the words: LOOK TWICE. SHARE THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES or something to that effect.  I wrote the “Gov”, but I suspect he read one of my previous “Lazy Ted” enough with the higher taxes for the working folk posts and…I got a non response, response?!  I even sent a number of emails to Oregon State Police and ODOT in hopes of getting a positive response, but was shot down in a blaze of blogging glory.  Don’t these people know who I am?  Interestingly OSP has time for a cell phone campaign, but has no enforcement effort tied to Motorcycle Awareness Month.

It’s my view that as these type of issues become more complex, these representatives are not empowered or entrusted to make on-the-fly changes and this becomes problematic whenever public servants are ask to make modifications contrary to the initial intent or it is in question with the letter of the law on sign usage.  Oh well…what seems clear cut and logical to me isn’t to them.  So be it.

But, there is good news!   There will be more visibility this year for motorcyclists because the Motorcycle Safety Program and Vehicle Safety Equipment Program Manager was successful in obtaining billboard placements around the state (see above photo). This is a FIRST in Oregon and the messages will be specifically targeted to make drivers aware of motorcycles.

The billboard placements will be on I-84 @238th, Hwy-97 (somewhere – not sure just yet) and I-5 at Keizer. Unfortunately these billboards won’t go up until June due to advertising timing. It doesn’t sync up with Motorcycle Awareness Month, but June works and is better than nothing.

The are other placements too.  They include: Transit in Portland, Salem, Albany, Corvallis, Eugene and Medford. There will be print and radio ads available to all markets and Water Closet media placements will be at “motorcycle friendly establishments” in Portland and Eugene. There is also web banner logo’s available for groups, organizations, bloggers and motorcycle dealerships to use on their website or blog. All of the placements will be up throughout the summer months, starting in May (except billboard).

All this is coming exclusively from the hard working folks in the ODOT Transportation Safety Division!  A major shout-out to Michele O’Leary for the efforts on this front and helping make Oregon a little safer for motorcycles.

Important to note is the motorcycle rally on the State Capitol that is being sponsored by BikePac this Saturday, May 1st. ODOT’s role is to read the Governor’s Proclamation that May is declared to be Motorcycle Safety Awareness month. The rest of the event is coordinated by BikePac and ODOT is not affiliated with any other part of the event.

Lastly, there is a Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety and if you have the opportunity I am sure they would appreciate hearing from motorcyclists.  Their next meeting is July 16th and you’ll find logistics and email information HERE.  They always have an open spot on the agenda for any motorcycle group, organization or individual to come and speak.

Photo courtesy of ODOT and used with permission.

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Motorcycle Awareness on Amber Alert Signs

The pacific northwest and Oregon in particular has an abundance of great motorcycling roads.

If you are like me you have a lot of pent up desire to get out there and hit the open highway.  The riding season is always too long in coming due to wet and cold weather, but this past weekend was outstanding for mid-February and brought out the motorcycles.   Light winds, sunny blue sky and a temperature brushing up against 60 degrees.  Wow!  Incredible spring weather two months early so I jumped on the opportunity to get out and enjoy the riding experience.

Financial crises, public debt exploding, taxes rise and unemployment lingers…all a distant memory when you’ve got the wind in your face.

Having said that I noticed a couple of items that I wanted to share my experiences.  There is no substitute for personal experience and this is that time of year I typically wear a full face helmet.  Why?  Not because it’s colder, which it is, but because just a short 5 weeks ago the ambitious ODOT road crews were “sanding” roads for the possibility of icy conditions and those ‘rocks’ are prevalent everywhere.  Nothing worse than gravel pebbles in your face.   Even with a windshield they manage to pepper your body.  Second, is the fact that “cagers” are not aware of or are they use to seeing motorcycles.  And they were out in force this weekend.  As a result,  the less observant auto-drivers make me twitchy when I’m out driving busy freeways this time of year to get to the lone two-lane blacktop.

As I cruised around I remember looking up at the freeway congestion and “Amber Alert” electronic sign on I-5 and thought about how it could be used for motorcycle safety and education efforts.  For example it could display the words: “LOOK TWICE. SHARE THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES.”

The flashing signs across Oregon state would at least put a message out there in the minds of drivers to be aware.  This could be done in the spring when those warming days and sunshine bring everyone out on their motorcycles. Or at minimum during May, which is Motorcycle Awareness Month.  In the interest of being thorough I did a web search to see if the electronic display tactic had been used previously.  It turns out California Highway Patrol uses this technique as part of their campaign to reduce motorcycle-related collisions.

What do you think.  Waste of time or good suggestion?  Either way I’ve sent recommendation email to both ODOT and OSP on using the electronic signs  for motorcycle safety in May.  I’ll provide updates on any feedback or responses I receive.

Photo courtesy of Union-Tribune.

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helvetia_bwYesterday was an awesome day here in the northwest.  Absolutely a marvel for motorcycle riding in early April with the temperature reaching 70+.  And yes there were motorcyclists everywhere!

As many of you know it’s been a long and rain-filled winter with the last 8 weeks being wet every weekend.  For a data point, during the month of March the ski slopes on Timberline received 103 inches of snow!   So, while the day could have been filled with yard projects and other obligations they would just have to slip out as the rumble of bikes were calling and before the weather changed I would roll on the throttle.

I pulled off the motorcycle cover, rolled up the storage gear and smiled in anticipation of great day.  A quick wipe down of some winter dust that slipped under the cover and the shine returned with eagerness.  I threw a leg over the bike and rolled it out of the garage.  A quick check-down of mechanic specifics then the start button was pressed.   The engine roared to life after a long winter hibernation.

april_rideThe bike lurched forward and mile after mile rolled under my feet.  The warm sun pierced the leather as I headed north for a “destination burger” at Helvetia Tavern.  You’ll recognize the place as the rustic building with a baseball cap collection ceiling and friendly staff.  The “two cows and make them cry” lunch is a bit of trek north, but this was more about enjoying the weather with fellow riders than an  intellectual debate over the ground round.  In my opinion, the Helvetia burger is the closest thing to an In-and-Out burger in northwest.

We departed for quiet towns in Washington County where the two lane roads had very little traffic.  The beauty of the northwest on a sunny day is captivating as our route took us through the wine and fertile fields of the farm valley.  Motorcycle riding can be rejuvenating for the soul as you get lost in the moment.  Fellow bikers know this and how difficult it can be to express with words.

This first multi-hour trip of the year is a promise of great riding for an entire year.

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 Did You See that Motorcycle?

With warmer spring weather in the NW comes the motorcycles.  And with motorcycles come the accidents. Regardless of who is at fault, the motorcyclists seldom fare well.

Simply put, a lot of drivers DO NOT see motorcycles or the motorcyclist. Yeah, some of those drivers are talking on their cell phone or enjoying a two-all-beef-patty Big Mac behind the wheel, but some pay attention and still don’t see motorcycles. We’re not invisible, but every experienced motorcyclist understands that many drivers don’t see us and rides accordingly. I think we all try and remain outside of any blind spot, and give ourselves enough cushion to make an emergency maneuver – bottom line is that motorcyclists think about accidents all the time. And they think about how to avoid them.

I remember a trip to Reno a few years ago where on an isolated stretch of Highway 31 between LaPine and Silver Lake it was after dusk and difficult to see.  The posse slowed below the 55MPH speed limit in anticipation of darting deer, but out of no where we came up on a large brick sized casing in our tire path.  A couple of us had the thing bounce off the bike frames after the lead rider basically ran over it. At the wrong angle this could have tossed a rider off before they could do anything. A car driver would have just gritted their teeth and hit the object. Whatever happens to their car, the impact will probably leave the car driver unscathed, but it could leave a motorcyclist seriously injured.  We were fortunate to only have some damage to the bikes.  It turned out to be part of an old Chevy Truck transmission which had broke down about 10miles ahead of us…duh, no wonder.

So why do people ride? That’s an interesting question. Many bikers would scoff and tell you that if we had to explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand.  Much of that is true, but let me try to give you some additional insight.  Many riders began riding motorcycles in their youth and now they are returning to the hobby. They’ve worked hard all their lives, maybe raised a family and now it’s time to enjoy something they have not enjoyed in years. Some of these riders even include significant others or their spouse in their hobby. You’ll see them heading down the highway loaded down and equipped with everything from tent trailers to a CB radio to XM satellite players cranking out “Born To Be Wild”.  Or maybe you’ll see someone on a Harley looking like they need a cup of coffee as they find America and are experiencing it the adventures way. Or they are sport bike riders dressed in multi-color leather suits and bent over their bikes looking fast sitting still.

No matter how we’re dressed, or whatever we ride, we all share one thing in common: we want to get home alive that night.

So give us a break. Keep your eyes wide open on us!  When you see us look and then look again for us when you don’t.  Because we’re out there and we’re looking at you.

Drive safe!

Photo courtesy of Fensterbme

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The calendar states it’s Spring here in the Northwest, but it seems more Spring in some places than others.  

We’ve had 4 back-to-back days of morning snow/rain and temperatures in the mid-30’s!  During the day we’ve seen sleet, hail and rain down pours temporarily flooding streets.  What is going on?  This should be the time of year where warmer weather brings out the motorcycles.

I did see a biker this past Saturday.  Some dude (no he wasn’t wearing “colors”) on I-5 riding North bound on what looked like a new Flat Black Cross Bones, but who could see?  Wipers on high, couple of inches of standing water in the middle lane and hail the size of pencil erasers pelting my windshield.  Even with a full face helmet that dude didn’t have to worry about a “blind spot” because no one could see him or anyone else on the freeway for that matter!

I know why I ride, but for the life of me I can’t think of a reason why that dude was riding…at least not on that day!

Photo courtesy of Burnszilla.

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