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Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.34.02 PMThe State of Oregon has more than 74,000 miles of total roads and highways to wander as you set out on your northwest adventure.  The state is known for a diverse landscape including the Pacific coastline, the Cascade Mountain Range, and the flat central/eastern desert. It’s the ninth largest state and with a population of 4 million, the 26th most populous.

Yet, over the last couple of weeks the state is being defined by an alarming spike in motorcycle accidents and rider deaths!  OSP flash alerts are HERE.

  • On Highway 36 on June 24th a 2004 Harley crossed the center line and struck a Ford Ranger head-on. The motorcyclist, 56-year-old Michael R. Lucier of Swisshome, died at the scene.
  • On June 25th there was motorcycle crash on Highway 46 at milepost 7 (Caves Highway near Cave Junction).  The preliminary investigation revealed that a 2001 Triumph motorcycle was eastbound on Highway 46 at milepost 7 when it left the roadway on a corner. The motorcycle struck a tree and the rider, Patrick Michael Daley, age 57, of Cave Junction, was thrown down the embankment and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • On June 26th there was a report of a truck versus motorcycle collision on Interstate 5 at the 235 interchange (just north of Albany). The 1995 Kenworth truck tractor was towing a chip trailer and had been traveling southbound on Old Salem Road. The truck began to make a left turn onto the Interstate 5 southbound on-ramp, but turned in front of a northbound 1995 Kawasaki motorcycle. The motorcyclist crashed as a result of the truck turning into its path. The rider, Kevin R. Argo, age 39, of Lebanon was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.
  • On June 30th near Deadwood, OR, Richard F. Araujo, 68, died when he missed a corner on his 1992 Harley Davidson and sideswiped a Dodge pickup. It was the 2nd fatal motorcycle crash on Highway 36 in less than a week.
  • On July 2nd OSP responded to a report of a motorcycle versus vehicle crash on London Road near the Cottage Grove Reservoir.  Information revealed a 1999 Honda 900 motorcycle was traveling southbound on London Road at a high rate of speed just as a 2008 Chrysler Sebring was pulling out of a private drive northbound. The motorcycle impacted the driver’s side of the Sebring. The rider, identified as Cory Nathan Tocher, age 33, of Cottage Grove, was thrown from the motorcycle and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • Also on July 2nd there was a report of a traffic crash involving a motorcycle rider and an SUV on Southeast 82nd Avenue near Schiller Street.  Efforts to save the motorcyclist, 45-year-old Aaron Christopher Rufener were unsuccessful and he was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.  The driver of the SUV, a 44-year-old man, remained at the scene and was cooperative. Officers learned that he was driving northbound on 82nd Avenue and was turning left into the Don Pedro Mexican Restaurant parking lot when the southbound motorcycle rider crashed into the passenger side rear of the SUV, a 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer. The motorcycle is a 2013 Harley Davidson.

In addition, on July 5th there was a vehicle crash reported on I-5, just south of Ashland.  The crash, involved a BMW motorcycle and a semi-truck going southbound at mile post 10.5.  The motorcycle was from Mexico and was traveling at about 70 mph when it ran into the back of a semi-truck.  The motorcycle driver was transported to Oregon Health and Science University to be treated for his life-threatening injuries.

On July 6th, again on I-5 in northern Josephine County near Wolf Creek, OSP responded to the single-vehicle accident at milepost 80.  David Carl Freiboth, 61-year-old of Mercer Island was riding his Triumph motorcycle in the fast lane of I-5 when a semi-truck in the slow lane quickly signaled and changed lanes in front of him.  Freiboth told OSP he hit his brakes and quickly veered away from the semi, which caused him to hit the median and lay his bike down. He complained of shoulder pain and was transported by AMR Ambulance to Three Rivers Medical Center for treatment.  A motorcyclist behind Freiboth confirmed the incident, but was unsure about the description of the semi – which did not stop after causing the mishap.

Oregon has no shortage of steep grades, tight curves and awesome views that can be fascinating on a motorcycle.  But, please, PLEASE pay attention because we want you to live through your trip here!

If you are new or considering a motorcycle visit to the state I urged riders – to review motorcycle safety information.

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ambulance with lightsI know there are ongoing activities to promote motorcycle safety in Oregon.

Yet, my observations riding around the Portland metro area is that we just don’t see as much in the way of highly visible – “in your face” – awareness programs this year.  Maybe I’ve missed the billboards while concentrating on and trying to navigate the highway ruts/grooves from all the road construction?

I’ll tell you what I have noticed…   Several motorcycle crash reports from Oregon State Police and articles in the Oregonian.  It’s sad to say, but when I see a motorcycle accident in the paper, that’s increasing awareness!  Some might even debate that reading about motorcycle accidents provides a better deterrent than a motorcycle awareness campaign could accomplish.

What do you think?

When there is an accident, the motorcycle community wants to know what happened.  Why and who caused it?  But, more often than not we’re left speculating about what led up to the accident, or second guessing the police report.  Follow up seldom occurs and accurate conclusions are challenging to get.  I truly dislike blogging about these disheartening events, but over the last 4-weeks we’ve seen a spike in accidents.  All motorcyclists were wearing helmets and below is a brief summary:

  1. June 17 –  John Edward Tomer was eastbound on Highway 26 near milepost 46. For an unknown reason, the motorcycle traveled across the westbound lane where a witness in another vehicle slowed to avoid it. The motorcycle continued off the highway into a ditch and hit a tree bordering the north side.  Mr. Tomer was pronounced deceased at the scene.
  2. June 21 – Terry Brateng stopped his motorcycle with two other motorcycles on the right southbound shoulder of I-5 near milepost 194 underneath an overpass next to a concrete shoulder barrier to shelter from a passing heavy rain shower.  After getting off his motorcycle, Brateng was walking around the front of the motorcycle when he was struck by an automobile driven by Kaitlyn Inman which failed to drive within a lane.  Brateng was seriously injured and remains in Sacred Heart Medical Center.
  3. June 23 –  Stephen Anthony Williams was on Highway 37 about 8-miles southeast of Highway 97 and collided into the passenger side of a dodge van turning into a private driveway.  He was air lifted to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend where he died of injuries.  The van’s driver, Glen Harvey Jr was arrested for criminally negligent homicide and DUII.
  4. June 24 – On Highway 19 west of Spray, Randall Upshaw was found by a passing motorist in the highway along with a dead deer.  Upshaw was deceased and the preliminary investigation indicated a collision between the motorcycle and the deer.
  5. July 3 – Robert Irving Floding died from injuries suffered during a crash on June 10th.  This was the 19th traffic fatality in Portland in 2013
  6. July 5 – An adult male crashed his motorcycle in the 1400 block of SE 10th Avenue in Portland and was pronounced deceased at the scene.  A medical condition was being reviewed.  No names were released.
  7. July 9 – A Roseburg couple, Kenneth and Linda Minshew were critically injured on Highway 138E two miles west of Tokette when the motorcycle traveled off the highway and struck a tree.
  8. July 11 – A fatal motorcycle crash on SE Milwaukee Avenue just south of McLoughlin Blvd.  Damian Gerold Waytt was traveling at high rate of speed on a Kawasaki ZX6 and failed to negotiate a partial right turn and went off the road.  Video HERE.  This was the 23rd traffic fatality in Portland in 2013.
  9. July 11 – Jacob J. Godfrey was found lying in berry bushes several hours after an overnight motorcycle crash off Highway 194 (Monmouth Highway) and 3-miles east of Highway 223.  The Yamaha motorcycle traveled off the highway and when Mr. Godfrey didn’t come to work the next morning friends went looking and spotted the mark on a road side tree, stopped and heard him call out for help.  He was reported in fair condition.
  10. July 16 – A motorcycle and dump truck were involved in an accident on Highway 229 at milepost 21 near Siletz. For an unconfirmed reason the motorcycle operated by John Hausmann and with passenger/wife Angela Hausmann crossed the center line and collided with the truck.  Their injuries are believed to be non-life threatening.
  11. UPDATED:  July 19 — A reckless motorcycle was traveling eastbound on Highway 30 in excess of 100 mph and tried to eluded OSP.  The trooper tried to stop the motorcycle rider, but he failed to yield to the trooper’s emergency lights and siren, then continued on eastbound.  Iosif Savitskiy eventually crashed into a yard in North Portland and was arrested.  Video HERE.  Another idiot giving motorcycle riders a bad name…

My condolences and sympathies go out to the families and friends of these riders.

There are many reasons for the spike in motorcycle accidents and clearly we can’t shove all the blame onto distracted automobile drivers.

Given the high number of riders who will be out this weekend packing the roads for Run21 and the National BMW rally, I wanted to remind riders… please just pay attention and ride safe.

Photo courtesy of lifemoresimply.blogspot.com

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I-5 (S) In Route To Team Oregon – ART

“June Gloom” – It’s a southern California term for a weather pattern that results in cloudy, overcast skies with cool temperatures during the late spring and early summer.

We should be so lucky in Oregon!

Our “May Grey” was followed by a full on rain storm today.  Surprise, the first week of June is heavy rain and to top it off there is the forecast of snow down to 3000 feet in the cascades.

It turns out that I took the day off work and planned to attend the Team Oregon Advanced Rider Training (ART) with some rider friends.  In the paperwork, Team Oregon made it very clear.  Regardless of the weather, rain or shine the one-day course would happen so come prepared.

You see ART is not a high speed, racing-oriented class, but it provides riders a chance to build skills on an enclosed track while getting feedback from expert instructors. It’s designed for the rider who has at least 12,000 miles of current, on-street riding experience and includes 4 hours of range (riding) instruction including cornering, braking, swerving and traction management.

Advanced Rider Training Is Cancelled

So, I put on the rain gear and departed the house in heavy rain to take on the morning rush hour traffic.  Merged onto I-5 with the visible oil sheen and “rooster tails” from semi-trucks while watching a couple of folks on their cell phones – I suppose they had to tell friends just how wet the roads were – to arrive 35 minutes later at the Pat’s Acres Racing Complex and learn that the instructors cancelled the class!  Huh?  And get this… because the track was too oily and wet.

Are you tracking with me here?  It’s Oregon!  Duh.  I just spent the morning on an oil slick I-5 corridor accelerating/braking in stop-n-go traffic, making lane-change transitions, passing semi-trucks while thinking about my traction judgment and then safely existing the freeway and smoothly cornering through the curves of the Canby ramp only to find out that Pat’s “little race track” has an oil sheen and the rain made it slippery when wet!  Are you kidding me?  Really.

Who are these people?!  Isn’t the idea of this course to help riders improve judgment and skills by linking turns and choosing better lines in the rain. To get better in the type of weather conditions that are fairly routine in the Northwest.  And to practice on a closed course vs. on the interstate, right?   So let me get this straight.  The weather is too challenging to learn, but it’s okay for riders to head back home in the very same conditions that required them to cancel?  Worse yet was the fact that several people had called 30 minutes prior to the start of the class and obtained confirmation that it was still on.

I’m sure the Team Oregon office in Corvallis didn’t appreciate my phone call.  But, they did hear my “pull your head out” message and where to send my refund!

Photo taken by author (GoPro Helmet Camera) 

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First Responders at Vehicle Fire on I-5

10-years ago changed everything.

That’s the mantra we’ve heard over and over the last couple weeks on the remembrance run up of the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.  Within 24 hours of the attacks the first newspaper had already labeled the site in New York as “Ground Zero.” If anyone needed a sign that we were about to run off the rails, as a misassessment of what had actually occurred that should have been enough. Previously, the phrase “ground zero” had only one meaning: it was the spot where a nuclear explosion had occurred.

But, in certain areas of our collective lives everything did change.  It was an accurate description. Security increased.  The U.S. went to war in two far-away lands.  Ugly barriers went up around public facilities. Navigating airports became a new kind of nightmare.

And since 9/11, counterterrorism has been the FBI’s No. 1 priority, consuming the lion’s share of its budget—$3.3B, compared to $2.6B for organized crime—and much of the attention of field agents is a massive, nationwide network of informants. After ten years of emphasizing informant recruiting as a key task for its agents, the bureau now maintains a roster of over 15,000 spies—many of them paid $100K per case.

Then there is the heightened “ten year” terror threat.  It was frustrating to search the news for facts. Dozens of stories, all using the same stilted cop jargon, told us to be suspicious of every unattended car and empty milk carton we saw, but to bravely go on about our business. Someone said they heard there were truck searches in downtown Portland. I haven’t seen anything like that, but who knows.   The advice is to be suspicious of suspicous swarthy passers-by. Hows that for being politically correct?!

Some will debate that the event has been used as an excuse for two wars, runaway military spending, and the stripping down of our civil liberties.  For me the saddest thing is that the victims of those suicidal monstrosities have been misused ever since.  While I agree that it’s not a good idea to waste a lot of time nursing hurt feelings. Or is it a good idea to wallow in the past either. Too much of the 9/11 ceremonies seems to be doing just that. That and photo ops for our leaders.  Don’t get me wrong, the morning of September 11, 2001, gave me one of the biggest shocks of my life. It’s right up there with the day Kennedy was shot. I can give you minute details of where I was, what I was doing, how I found out what had happened, and how shaken I was.

But does anyone else find these overdetermined celebration and remembrances troubling.  We do need to remember the day we were attacked and should never forget the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters who lost their lives or the families that lost loved ones on that day.  We should never forget the first responders who rushed to the aid of NY that day.  But, shouldn’t the remembrances be more private?

Independent of how you come down on the topic, the sad truth after spending wasting BILLIONS is that we are not any closer to safety and our way of life in the U.S. is attacked every day in so many ways. From desperate people who believe that guns and intimidation are the only way to maintain their self esteem to the undocumented drunk driver with an attitude that they are above the law.  The one thing which doesn’t seem to change is watching the dishonest manipulation of our politicians by those with selfish agendas and those politicians running with open hands and empty values with delusions of power and greatness toward the highest bidder.  (Latest example: Geoff Morrell goes from the Pentagon to BP)

All of that said, I do want to express the sadness I feel for those who lost special people on 9/11 and in our ongoing wars.

Photo courtesy of OSP… First responders on scene of a truck fire on I-5 this week.

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US342Street Vibrations is a 4-day event that brings two-wheel enthusiasts from all parts of the country to show-off customs, parade the vendor booths and enjoy the entertainment.  Oh did I mention the local rides?  Yes, there are plenty from Virginia City to Lake Tahoe as well as the various poker runs.

The weather (mid-90’s) really made for a positive experience this year.  Our entourage spent time riding out the Virginia City loop, but mostly we stayed in downtown to mingle with the crowds, talk motorcycles with riders and vendors and take in all that the casinos had to offer up in terms of entertainment.  The vendor booths were busy with crowds most all day long.  Of course there was the monster jump at the Grand Sierra Resort by Ryan Capes who broke the (ramp-to-ramp) record on a motorcycle.

Left Of Center

Left Of Center

And there were lots of bands with some top tier talent, but I enjoyed the non-headliners more. There was Saddle Tramps on the Jagermeister Super Stage and most notable was Left of Center who played the Brew Brothers pub at Silver Legacy on back to back nights.  Our group also caught a comedy club act in the Catch A Rising Star lounge which made the $15 per ticket expense seem like a bargain after all the craps table losses!

The motorcycle festival didn’t pass without incidents, however.  There were several motorcycle accidents including one fatality which I posted previously HERE.  In fact, on our ride back from Virginia City we came upon a motorcyclist who lost control and struck a wall on Griner’s Bend, a sharp curve at the south side of Virginia City on State Route 342.  In addition, Police reported there were 72 arrests made at Street Vibrations even though it was considered one of the more peaceful events! Most of the arrests were alcohol related, including 23 for public intoxication.  The police also issued 77 traffic citations and responded to six reports of stolen motorcycles.  It was a busy weekend for LEO, but what I most appreciated was the lack of SWAT teams armed with semi-automatic rifles marching in Virginia City and other areas.

tat_SSBack to the rally.  I missed the roller derby battle between the Rose City Rollers and the Battle Born Derby Demons, but you have to make a call since you can’t take it all in!  The sponsors brought back the firework display which had disappointed many last year when it was cancelled.  And then there was the tattoo expo which put body art on display and inspired one of the posse to get inked.  A big shout out to Randy Burke, owner of Road Shows who puts on Street Vibrations because it was a great event and the rally was kept fresh with some new activities.

Posse Dinner

Posse Dinner

On Sunday morning we were up early because it was all about miles and putting on as many of the 546 miles we needed to do before the heat baked the day.  From Susanville we took CA-44 through Lassen National Forest.  We headed up toward Old Station and then took CA-89 toward the town of Mount Shasta.  I like riding this route. The road is good and traffic is moving fast for a two-lane road.   It has a varied and interesting scenery.  About 60 miles south of Mount Shasta there was a forest fire in early August that raged through the area.  I believe it was the Hat Creek Complex.  More photos HERE.   We didn’t know it at the time, but there was another forest fire filling the air with smoke.  A thin layer at first, but it increased through-out the day.  It was from the Boze fire, an 11,000-acre fire near Tiller, OR and with the southerly trade winds blowing it meant we rode in it nearly all day long!

I-5_SunsetWe entered the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, rolled onto I-5 and pressed on through beautiful scenery.  Arriving at the Oregon border we crossed the 4300 foot mark at the Siskiyou Summit which is the highest point on I-5.  We then dropped down in the Rogue River valley through Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass.  Occasionally, I’d catch a whiff of toasted brake lingering in the air, proof that not everyone enjoyed the ride as much as we were!  We traversed the three passes of the Umpqua Valley and after Roseburg it was back to rolling hills.  We continued to deal with forest fire smoke.  There was a small mechanical delay which baling wire fixed in short order with a shift linkage, but otherwise we were all about miles and stops were limited to fast food and fuel.  It took just under 12 hours to make the trip home.

It was a good and safe Street Vibrations trip!

Road Trippn’ to Street Vibrations 2009 — Part 1 HERE; Part 2 HERE.

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LifeflightA while back and I don’t recall now how, but I subscribed to an Oregon State Police newsflash service.  I don’t forward OSP news, but this is rather significant and involves multiple motorcycles.

At 2:54 (Pacific) there was an OSP report of numerous motorcycles northbound on Interstate 5, near milepost 282 south of Wilsonville who were involved in a crash.  One lane northbound is now open following a multi-vehicle crash involving 26 motorcycles.  The accident was on I-5 near the Baldock Rest Area and involved two motorcyclists taken by LifeFlight with critical injuries and eight others transported by ground ambulance to area hospitals.

Preliminary information indicates a group of at least 26 motorcyclists were northbound in the left lane on I-5 following a passenger vehicle when traffic ahead began slowing.  The car and motorcyclists all tried to slow but collided with one another.  A vehicle in the middle northbound lane was reportedly struck by one of the motorcycles. All northbound lanes were closed until about 4:00 p.m.  Traffic is reported slow but getting through in one lane.  Southbound lanes are open but also very slow.

Let’s hope for only the best to those injured.  I’ll provide updates as I learn more.

Brothers Speed Motorcycle Club Accident on I-5

Brothers Speed Motorcycle Club Accident on I-5

UPDATE 1: Video and still shots taken by Sky8 indicate some of the motorcyclists were members of the Brothers Speed Motorcycle Club.  See HERE and HERE (Source: KGW News).

UPDATE 2: KATU and Jet Ranger 2 provide video coverage HERE and confirmed motorcyclists were BSMC members.

UPDATE: September 19, 2009 — The official report is that ten were injured, two critically.  Several others involved in the crash were attended too on site by medical personnel, but declined transport to a local hospital.  Herbert Sinclair, age 48 (Heyburn, ID) and David Bowyer, age 44 (Coeur d’Alene, ID) were transported by LifeFlight to OHSU and Emanuel Hospital respectively.  Names of three others injured in the crash were identified as Jaun Ramon Mata, age 60, Christian J. Gankema, age 40 and Gary Pawson, age 38 all from Idaho.   Cause of the accident: was reported as a group of 26 BSMC motorcyclists traveling in a formation of two columns on the inside left hand lane (I-5 North) came upon slowing or stopping traffic.  The two front motorcycles maneuvered to avoid a collision with the stopped vehicle, but the rest of the group did not react in time and crashed into the vehicle and into each other.  The total number of motorcycles that actually crashed was not confirmed.  On scene photos provided by OSP HERE, HERE, and HERE.  The group was heading north to take part in the Portland Chapter annual birthday bash and weekend demolition derby.

UPDATE: October 5, 2009 — Sadly it was reported today that David “Detroit Dave” Bowyer from Coeur d’Alene, ID passed away at Legacy Emanuel Hospital where he was being treated since the crash on September 18th.

UPDATE: October 8, 2009 — Detroit Dave’s sister set up a memorial site HERE with information on the funeral services.  The BSMC have been posting updates HERE along with information about how you can contribute to a crash fund.  The AgingRebel blog has comments posted by “Not Surprised” which provides more detail on the SUV drivers (Leslie D. Schultz — Toyota 4 Runner and Kayla D. Knight — Nissan Pathfinder) which has not been previously released by the media to the public.  There were rumors circulating about ATF personnel in the SUV’s, but this was not the case and although the accident continues to be investigated at first glance nothing sinister jumps out about this accident.

Photos courtesy of Lifeflight.org and OSP.

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ambulanceA couple years ago just after dusk several of us were returning to Las Vegas after a busy day in Laughlin, NV at the River Run.  Hwy 163 is a long windy road at night in the desert.  Black asphalt runs like a ribbon through the mountains near Pipe Springs Canyon where we came upon motorcycle pieces scattered all over the road. Flashing emergency lights blinded us and in the center divider was a white tarp covering someone’s remains.

I won’t speculate if the accident was the result of inexperience, poor judgement or equipment failure, but it was obvious the motorcyclist slid out on a curve and ended up in the wrong lane beneath a SUV.  It was a sobering reminder of riding risks and left a lasting impression.

Economic issues notwithstanding, motorcycle ownership is on the rise in Oregon.  The state has more than 131,200 registered motorcycles and scooters. That’s twice the number from 1999 and at an all-time high.  But what is alarming is that nearly 30% of the 14,268 people who received motorcycle licenses in 2008 hit the highways without going through a single motorcycle-safety course to learn basic skills, according to state statistics. 

I thought about that accident when today I learned there have been 6 motorcycle fatalities for 2009 as of April 10th and 5 were from the first two weekends of spring!  Three of these happened in the Portland area.  In the northwest the reality is that when the sun comes out, so do the motorcycles. And sometimes tragedy follows.

sb546According to police, inexperience, is the most-common cause of motorcycle fatalities.  It’s just not about motorcyclists losing control.  In past week 463 inspections were made in a truck driver operation. More than 1-in-10 vehicles and 20% of the drivers were placed out-of-service for equipment and driver-related safety violations at the southbound Interstate 5 Woodburn area.  Arrests/ticketing for everything from false urine test kits, possession of meth, marijuana, illegal handguns, suspended licenses and DUII.  These statistics are most worrisome and something to remember the next time you decide to throttle around a truck hoping they don’t reach for a breakfast burrito and run you over!  All this underscores a sobering reality that Oregon’s roads are dangerous.

And if the above truck driver information wasn’t enough of the dumb acting dumber… there is the Bend motorcyclist Anthony Suratt who was westbound on Hwy 126 riding his 2003 Suzuki motorcycle and clocked at 135mph on radar.  While trying to eluded police he failed to negotiate a sweeping right hand corner and crashed.  His jail mates will likely enjoy the “almost got away” story. 

Later this week the Salem legislators are considering SB 546 (.pdf) sponsored by Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) which directs the Department of Transportation to include on driver license examinations at least two questions pertaining to practices necessary for safe operation of a vehicle around motorcyclists.  I’m told this bill  also includes mandatory training provisions, but I couldn’t locate the actual text to confirm.  The bottom line is that motorcycle accident statistics suggest we need to be intellectually honest with ourselves… more and more of the most preventable hazards facing a motorcyclist is their own poor judgment.

Please beware and ever diligent as you ride.

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