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ODOT Traffic Volume Report

Did I shower today or was that yesterday?

When did this all start? February? That feels like ancient history.

March ended without March Madness. April started with Arizona Bike Week and the Laughlin River Run being canceled.  May graduations were canceled.  Friday happy hours have been called off indefinitely.  For those who still remain employed, but working from home, daily cues like commuting, rush hour traffic and socializing after work have disappeared

Workdays blur together, and weekends are just weekdays with fewer obligations. I know I’m not going out today so, it’s just, every day is today.

The good news…

On all major interstates in the Portland metro area, traffic is down 46% from levels last year, according to a report compiled by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Interstates 5, 405, 84 and 205 are all seeing significant traffic declines. For example, average speeds on I-5 northbound during what used to be the afternoon rush hour were up to 60 miles per hour in the most recent week of figures. Back during the week of March 1, the average rush hour speed there was 33 mph.

I-5, in particular, is seeing the most significant declines of metro-area freeways. The average weekend traffic was down 64% for the most recent full week of data available (March 30-April 5). State officials compiled the data from 38 traffic monitoring locations across 13 freeways and highways in Oregon.

The number of car crashes has plummeted due to lower traffic volumes.  However, evidence is beginning to emerge that absent traffic jams during the coronavirus crisis, many drivers are getting more reckless.

Speaking of reckless…

Pavel Vasilyevich Krechko

The latest example in Portland, Oregon happened on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at 3:34 p.m., East Precinct officers responded to the intersection of Southeast 148th Avenue / Southeast Powell Boulevard on a report of a traffic crash involving a motorcyclist.

Investigators learned that the suspect, Pavel Vasilyevich Krechko (19-year-old), was involved in a minor traffic crash on Southeast Powell Boulevard just west of Southeast 148th Avenue and was fleeing from that traffic crash when he then crashed into a motorcycle head-on killing Brandon Cody Reid (32-year-old).

Krechko, fled the scene immediately (a 2nd time!) after the crash and abandoned his vehicle.  Investigators responded to Krechko’s residence in Troudale, Oregon where he was taken into custody about an hour later. Krechko initially denied being involved in either crash, and said his car had been stolen a few hours earlier. But, police said he eventually confessed to crashing and fleeing both scenes.

Krechko was arrested and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on one count of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, one count of Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver (felony), one count of reckless driving, and one count of Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver (misdemeanor).

Now for the MOST important part of this post, which should wipe away that stupid smile on Mr. Krechko’s booking photo!

Senate Bill 810 became effective January 1, 2020.  It was signed into law back in June, 2019, and modifies the definition of “vulnerable user of a public way” to include persons operating or riding on a moped or motorcycle.  The law (801.608, “Vulnerable user of a public way”) enhances penalties for motorists who kill or injure motorcyclists, as well as other vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, highway workers or bicyclists.

It is very distressing to write about this type of idiotic negligence.  My hope is that Oregon taking this important step to protect motorcycle riders by significantly enhancing the penalties against careless and criminally negligent drivers will slow down people making bad choices.

Photos courtesy of ODOT and Portland Police Bureau

Oregon Crash Statistics & Reports    |    Invest in yourself and Stay Sharp HERE!

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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lane-split-caSome automobile drivers see motorcyclists as obnoxious and borderline cheaters as they cut and weave through slow freeway traffic to get ahead of others.

The practice is called lane-splitting and only in California has it always been legal, however, state authorities have never told motorcyclists how best to maneuver between heavy and slow moving traffic safely.

cmsp-rules

Until now…  you can read the complete lane-splitting regulations HERE.  The new rules, which the CHP introduced in January after consulting with other state agencies and motorcycle-rider groups, apply to city streets, highways and freeways across the state.

I wonder if we’ll be seeing intermediate and advance lane-splitting courses in the future?

I’ve blogged previously about the possibility of lane splitting in Oregon HERE.

Photo courtesy of Noah Berger.
All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Lane Splitting in California

I’m not talking about bowling.

California is the only state where it’s legal for a motorcyclist to pass between lanes of cars when vehicles are moving slow or stopped in traffic.  The practice is referred to as ‘lane splitting.’  Some believe the practice violates the core safety principles of motorcycle riding while others believe it helps reduce traffic congestion.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the 204,800 endorsed motorcycle riders have an opportunity tonight to attend a public meeting with the Governor’s Advisory Committee who will be discussing a statewide opinion survey on the topic of lane splitting in Oregon.  The committee wants to hear from the riding community about this topic and this is a chance for you to express you views.

The meeting starts at 6:30pm at the Kaiser Permanente Town Hall Ballroom (3704 N. Interstate Ave; Portland Or.)

According to The Oregonian there were 133,800 registered motorcycles in 2009.  Of those 21,000 were owned in Multnomah County and 14,000 in both Washington and Clackamas Counties.  There are very few statistics on crash risks of lane splitting, however, there was a report in 1981 from California called the “Hurt Report” conducted by Harry Hurt which showed lane sharing might actually reduce motorcycle collisions.

I’m of the viewpoint that Oregon legislators would never approve this practice and Governor-elect Kitzhaber has already proven a number of times his willingness to invoke a medically conservative position for protecting motorcyclists.

Photo courtesy of SFO Citizen.

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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Lane Splitting

Lane Splitting

Lane-splitting — most states do not recognize it as legal maneuver.  For those unfamiliar with the “strip-riding” maneuver it is riding a motorcycle between lanes and between automobiles in the same direction as traffic.

It is not legal in Oregon or Washington state.  It is legal in California.

Recently a couple buddies were on an extended motorcycle ride to L.A.  Reluctant at first to try lane-splitting they quickly took up the maneuver after experiencing triple digit heat and traffic-congested freeways.  They returned chatting up the positive merits and ability to move at a faster speed than traffic by way of a “motorcycle-only lane.”  I think most people recognize that lane-splitting is a way for motorcyclists to save time and that it reduces congestion.

In fact, I’ve experienced my share — surprise — of motorcycles zipping by the rental car window.  And yes, I sometimes resent it as I sit in bay area grid lock.  My first reaction was it’s dangerous.  Automobile drivers in CA., don’t typically use blinkers to signal intent unless it’s a latte stop.  They dart from lane to lane distracted on cell phones and I have this visual image of a biker screeching to a concrete halt as part of a lane change collision.

What do you think:

  1. Legal or not — it’s a NOT a smart move to split-lanes.
  2. It can be safe and riders take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.
  3. I’m a native California and consider myself exempt from OR and WA laws.
  4. CHP studies indicate it’s safe so I’m on board with anything the LEO’s say.
  5. It’s so not “fair” to all the other drivers and we all need to stay in our comfort zone.

Photo courtesy of CA State web site.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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