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Posts Tagged ‘Public Safety’

The Japan earthquake (9.0) rates in the top four with the 1952 Kamchatka quake, the 1960 quake in Chile with 9.5, the Alaska quake in 1964 with 9.2 and the Sumatra quake in 2004 with 9.1.

I’ve visited Tokyo and the surrounding areas a number of times and want to express my sympathy to those affected by this tragedy during what can only be described as very painful times.  Faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.  Or if you prefer something different (I’m not making this up) someone set up a well-intentioned “Socks for Japan” drive.

I’m not insensitive to the nuclear dangers, but the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami will likely dwarf the damage caused by the problems associated with the nuclear plants, however, the media is now doing a “Charlie Sheen” minute-by-minute obsession with these plants.  According to a number of reports (including the more negative HERE) the Japan situation isn’t going to be another Chernobyl.  And speaking of Chernobyl, next month marks the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl (April 25, 1986) accident.   Back in 2009 I blogged about the Chernobyl Motorcycle Ride and due to recent events in Japan it seems to be getting a lot of hits. Unfortunately.  But I’ve digressed.

There will be repercussions in the Worldwide motorcycle community as the economic impact and stories of the prices we pay and heavy losses are just beginning to ratchet up.  All the motorcycle manufactures are cooperating with electricity conservation efforts and the rolling blackouts to help in the prioritizing of the relief and recovery of affected areas.  For example the motorcycle production facilities at:

Honda: The company reported on some of the more serious damages including the death of a 43-year old male employee at its research and development center in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, as the wall of a cafeteria crumbled. Honda said that more than 30 employees at several facilities in the same prefecture were injured.   The company also decided the following:

  1. As of March 14, all production activities are suspended at the following Honda plants: Sayama Plant at Saitama Factory (Sayama, Saitama), Ogawa Plant (Ogawa-machi, Hiki-gun Saitama), Tochigi Factory (Moka, Tochigi), Hamamatsu Factory (Hamamatsu, Shizuoka) and Suzuka Factory (Suzuka, Mie).
  2. From March 15 through 20, Honda will suspend all production activities at its plants listed above as well as at Kumamoto Factory (Ozu-machi, Kikuchi-gun, Kumamoto).
  3. From March 14 through 20, Honda will suspend regular operations at all Honda facilities in the Tochigi area, where damage was more serious, (including Tochigi Factory, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. R&D Center (Tochigi) , Honda Engineering Co., Ltd., etc.), and focus on the recovery of each operation. Honda associates will not come to work during this time.

Yamaha: reported one employee injured and sections of the roads surrounding their Motor Sports facility had collapsed.

Suzuki: shut down all of its plants (including Takatsuka and Toyokawa facilities) and will consider re-establishing operations after March 17th

Bridgestone:  reported no serious damage to five of its production facilities in the affected regions, however the company has a number of sites in the Tochigi Prefecture, including the Nasu tire plant. The Nasu facility is the sole motorcycle tire production site for Bridgestone worldwide. The production at these sites was stopped, pending safety evaluations and Bridgestone plans to resume production “based on electricity restrictions and other issues.”

Wild Road Choppers: the owner Souji Abe is located in Sendai City and while he personally is safe the damage to the area where his shop is located is clearly extensive.

Motorcycle Show Cancellations: Osaka Motorcycle Show and the 38th Tokyo Motorcycle Show (March 25)

In addition there is unofficial word about the Japanese Grand Prix which was to be held April 24th at Motegi is being reviewed and dependent on the Mobilityland complex and physical structure may get cancelled.  For reference, Motegi is about 110miles from Sendhai (near the epicenter) and Fukishima, where the damaged nuclear reactors are located is about 75miles north of Motegi.

The area of Japan affected by the earthquake and tsunami produces around 4.1% of the country’s GDP, suggesting that first-round economic effects could be limited, yet at this stage, with the fate of the Fukushima nuclear reactors still unclear, it’s too early to come up with any meaningful estimates of the overall impact to the motorcycle community.

My thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and the families.

UPDATE: March 25, 2011 – A couple of weeks after all the destruction in Japan some of the motorcycle manufactures have reopened with limited production.  A good report HERE at Power Sport News.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Previously I posted an article about motorcycle safety and the idea of leveraging the States variable message signs (VMS) for motorcycle awareness.

These neon signs are peppered across the metro area roadways and provide information about traffic congestion and accident reports.  In addition they’ve been used as public safety reminders for drivers to buckle up, DUI driving and about the new cell phone law enacted earlier this year.

I submitted a request to ODOT, OSP and sent a letter to Governor Kulongoski’s office asking for their support and consideration in use of the message signs during Motorcycle Awareness Month (May).  I’ve received no response from OSP or the Governor’s office.  I’m sure they are busy.  My request to ODOT did receive a quick response (thank you Janice!) as well as the request by an ODOT employee (Motorcycle Safety Program Manager – Michele).  We were both promptly DENIED by the State Traffic Engineer.

The reason?  They don’t want drivers to “tune out” the signs and stop paying attention to them.  Huh?  I get that message signs have a fundamental requirement to assist drivers in finding their anticipated destination in the most economical, reliable and safe way.  And having a marketing background I totally understand the “tune out” factor, but a concern about message saturation is clearly “fuzzy logic!”

The exact response was:

“We have decided not to post safety messages on our traffic variable message signs unless they correspond with a targeted enforcement and media campaign.  Educational safety messages don’t fit well into our Variable Message Sign Guidelines of something that requires an immediate decision (what – where – when).  It might be a good approach for something like a massive motorcycle rally, along with some basic info on the rally, but not for general shotgun purposes.

If just general purpose safety messages become common, the impact of the signs is reduced – meaning people tune them out more.  We really want to keep the messages on these sign to issues with immediate impact on travelers.”

Let’s see.  If I’m following all this signage logic correctly then it would be valid for drivers to assume that when the VMS sign is blank it is disabled or broken too, correct?!

Not understanding the inner workings of ODOT, OSP and the Governor’s office, I ask via email if there was something the motorcycle community could do for ODOT to reconsider this decision and was informed the State Traffic Engineer decision is final.

It would’ve been so easy and convenient at this point to slide into a rant about “Why Government Doesn’t Work”, and use this ODOT example as the poster child.  Then I could drone on about the overt power that one individual – a traffic engineer – wields over the state.  I won’t.  I’d like too, but I won’t.  They undoubtedly have spent millions of tax $$ on studies about driver attitudes and through advanced mathematics know the optimum number of messages per driver that can be displayed in a precise timeframe which can be remembered by the ‘average’ human brain.

I’m aware of the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) and I’d like to see this memory analysis and how ODOT’s “intelligent transportation” signage system has been optimized across the entire range of safety initiatives and driver demographics.  I researched the U.S. Dept. of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration, Traffic Control Systems Handbook: Chapter 10, Traveler Information Systems — and a quick scan clearly indicates there are a number of appropriate applications for use of electronic signage around public service messages such as motorcycle safety, DUI or reminders to buckle up.

I haven’t given up on this, yet.  Anyone interested to join me in emailing ODOT or the Governor to “Watch Out For Motorcycles?”  Maybe I’d get more attention if I propose renting these electronic signs out to advertisers as a way to raise money for the state?!  I can see a “Commuter Special Happy Hour” message now.

Photo courtesy of FHWA.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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