There was interesting story in Sunday’s Oregonian about a rise in motorcycle fatalities in Oregon. The headline read, “Beware the thrill of the open road” and as I read it I couldn’t help but think how motorcyclists and bicyclists share common concerns and experiences.
Like cycling, motorcycling is on the rise and there are many newbies out there without tons of experience riding in traffic. The result is that fatal motorcycle crashes are up 29% from 2004-2005.
Portland is definitely seeing it’s share of these fatalities. While at the station prior to my ride-along last week, I heard the officers talk about at least one recent fatal crash that likely involved a newbie rider.
ODOT and law enforcement personnel are baffled by the increase. They are encouraging all new motocycle riders to take safety classes. Good advice for sure but I have no doubt that much of the problem is from those other, four-wheeled vehicles.
It’s interesting to see how ODOT and police officials talk about this problem; that is, whether they seem to put the responsibility on motorcyclists to be safer, or on other motorists to be more aware of their presence.
Here’s the quote from ODOT:
“It’s not always the motorcyclists fault either. You have to be a better driver because car drivers often don’t even see motorcyclists. They’re thinking pretty much that they’re sharing the road with other cars.”
This quote really struck me because I have been saying this exact thing in response to the Mike Wilberding tragedy.
The driver in that case obviously didn’t purposely kill Mike, but he was careless because he could only see well enough into the intersection to know that there were no approaching cars…he never considered there might be an oncoming bicycle.
And again back to the Oregonian story, here’s a quote from an Oregon State Police officer:
“We’re seeing more people out there with less experience. And with that comes the jump in crashes. Whether it’s increased speed or motorcycles not being visible to other motorists. Things have shot up.”
How do we make visibility more visible? Maybe we should change “share the road,” to “see the road.”
I wonder if there’s an opportunity for cyclists and motorcyclists to join forces? There’s no doubt both groups would benefit from more outreach and education not only amongst themselves but to others motorists as well.