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The 21st annual motorcycle Ride to Work Day is June 18th.

Our current culture largely considers motorcycles as “toys” which is unfortunate as they deserve a much larger status as a legitimate mode of personal transportation.

The third Monday in June is an opportunity to highlight motorcycles as a viable, fun and fuel-efficient mode of transportation.  It’s expected that over a million commuters will participate, demonstrating the positive benefits of riding.

Last year the City of Portland, and Mayor Sam Adams proclaimed the third Monday of June as Ride to Work Day, so I encourage you to participate and use the day as a reminder to get involved in the motorcycle community.

Photo courtesy of Ride to Work.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Kearl Module Transport Project

It’s a classic battle.  On one side are the corporations who would inject millions of dollars into struggling rural economies and justify the action as an economic benefit pitted against National environmental groups who state it will pose a threat to public safety and a risk to the environment.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

If you live in the northwest and have ever made it to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally then you’ve likely traveled over Lolo Pass, (U.S. Highway 12).  I’ve ridden this route several times to and from Sturgis.  In fact, last year our group traveled this route from the East going West and were amazed at the high-quality level of what seemed like freshly laid asphalt.  The route hugs the serpentine banks of the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers and road signs bear the silhouettes of the 19th-century explorers Lewis and Clark.  There is a particular interesting segment of the highway where you’ll read signs proclaiming the next 99-miles is nothing but S-curves.  And they are not kidding!  The National Scenic Byway is a treasure and one that should to be experienced by motorcycle enthusiasts slowly in appreciation.

So what’s the issue?  Well it’s complicated… a local issue having global impacts.

It’s not well known, but Imperial Oil and ConocoPhillips are planning to ship hundreds of tons of oil equipment up the Columbia River, destined for the Kearl Lake oil sands project near Fort McMurray in Alberta as part of the Kearl Module Transport Project (KMTP).  Once those shipments reach Lewiston on the Washington/Idaho border they will then be loaded on to gigantic, multi-lane wide trucks weighing upwards of 500,000 lbs (semi-trucks generally max out at 80,000 lbs), and from there, the equipment would inch its way along Idaho’s stretch of U.S. 12, through the Clearwater National Forest, into Montana and points beyond (See map above).  These so-called “megaloads” could be up to 3-stories high, occupy 24 feet side-to-side (the full width of U.S. 12) and be 200 feet long.  The companies will spend more $21 million for permits and hundreds of highway modifications to accommodate the loads.

What we have here is a French company shipping Korean-made products on Dutch trucks to a Canadian work-site, that has the potential to destroy one of our most prestigious scenic byways and flagship motorcycle routes in the northwest!

Emmert "Mega-Load" on U.S. Highway 12

I realize it’s easy for anyone, including myself to lob a dismissive one-liner… but, does anyone think this is a one-time occurrence?  I don’t.  In fact, Imperial Oil, hopes to move 207 separate “modules” to Fort McMurray. For each load it will take the trucks nine nights to cover the route through Idaho and Montana.  Sure there were some modifications made and paid for by the companies, including additional pullouts along the route and raised or buried power lines — so the route could handle the shipments — but, the route is being actively marketed as a gateway to a valuable yet relatively undiscovered oversized shipping corridor—primarily utilizing Highway 12 — that ties the Pacific Rim to Canada and the interior U.S.  The Lewiston port’s website states in a section titled “Columbia-Snake Corridor and Highway 12: The West Coast Alternative.”

“The carbon footprint, transportation, permitting and strategic planning costs of utilizing this route [are] significantly less than shipping through alternate marine routes importing into the United States with the same destination.”

As is always the case in these type situations both sides ‘lawyered up’ and in record time it was run through the Idaho Supreme Court who in January ruled/approved 4-shipments through the “permanent” corridor.  More information is available in a well researched and fact-filled article by Alex Sakariassen (Missoulan News) that provides a great overview of the various factors in this issue that impacts Idaho and Montana residents; now and in the future.

Since the ruling, the second “mega-load” left Lewiston last Thursday night.  And as you might expect, winter weather got worse and the “mega-load” was held in position for, as Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) claimed, “routine vehicle maintenance”.  The short journey is now taking at least 11 days!   And if that wasn’t enough to make you scratch your head, Emmert International is using Idaho State Police (ISP) as escorts for the ConocoPhillips mega-load transports.  Emmert is footing the bill, but Idaho lawmakers still have to give their authorization/approval for overtime and associated costs for Idaho troopers to accompany the mega-loads.

Next up is surely a Discovery Channel series…  chronicles of the “mega-load” where the burly, bearded, sleep deprived, derring-do drivers and swashbuckling navigators traverse Lolo Pass with the threat of activists breaking rigs or plunging into the ice-cold river to haul their indispensable cargo to the Canadian oil mines… An ideological conflict and adventure on Monday nights at 9pm central.  Advertising sponsors could be BP and that would bring an end to a great highway for motorcyclists!

UPDATE: February 28, 2011 – According to this report Imperial Oil confirmed that due to weather delays they will be downsizing the 30 “mega-loads” into 60 smaller loads for the freeways and bypassing the more direct route on Hwy 12 through Idaho and Montana.   So, after telling the public for more than a year there were no alternative routes…suddenly the oil company gets slowed down and they find an alternative route…somethings fishy in Idaho!

Photo’s courtesy of Boise Weekly (Emmert); NY Times (Map).

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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It’s not a radical idea.  It’s just one day where everyone can agree to ride a motorcycle.

It’s called Ride To Work Day and the annual event is Monday, June 21st.

The Ride to Work Day was inspired by “Work to Ride – Ride to Work‘” marketing materials created between 1989 and 1991 by the Aero Design and Manufacturing Company, a Minnesota based manufacturer of motorcycle riders clothing. In 1992 these items inspired motorcycle magazine editor Fred Rau to write an editorial calling for a national ride to work day.  The first annual Ride to Work Day event was proposed in Road Rider magazine (now titled Motorcycle Consumer News) in the May 1992 issue.

The Ride To Work organization is a non-profit group advocating and supporting the use of motorcycles and scooters for transportation, and providing information about everyday utility riding to the public.

See you on the road…

Photo courtesy of Ride To Work.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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On occasion I’ve used this blog as a method of outreach to foster and/or promote motorcycle safety.  Full disclosure here — I don’t work for any motorcycle group, the MSF or a state agency, but I do try and represent concerns relating to motorcycle safety and help bring a “voice” to interested parties.

Did you know that motorcycle crashes in Oregon have risen from 443 in 2002 to 736 in 2006? There were 51 motorcyclist fatalities in 2007; 200 motorcyclists have died from 2002 to 2007. Oregon’s motorcycle fatalities are higher than they have been for 20 years.  I’ve written previously on motorcycle safety HEREHERE and on alcohol related accidents HERE

To help address motorcyclist fatalities the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety (GAC-MS) was commissioned and consists of members appointed by the Governor from throughout the state. This committee is charged with the responsibility to advise the Governor and the Transportation Safety Division of ODOT on motorcycle safety. They developed the 2008 Safety Strategic Plan which has the following 6 objectives along with a number of tactics to help decrease motorcycle fatalities:

  1. During 2008, the GAC-MS will hold public “listening” meetings not only in Salem but also around the state in the Portland, Ashland, Bend and Medford areas.
  2. Provide motorcycle operator training to all who need or seek it; increase motorcyclists’ knowledge of methods to increase their safety on the road, including awareness of hazards, motorcycle operating techniques, and conspicuity.
  3. Reduce crashes in which motorcyclists are impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
  4. Ensure that all motorcycle operators riding on public roads are properly licensed.
  5. Increase motorists’ awareness of the presence of motorcycles on the road.
  6. Education, Enforcement, Engineering and EMS issues pertaining to motorcycles will be identified.

View the full strategic plan is HERE (PDF file).

If you have an opinion or want to voice any concerns there are meetings planned on October 19th and November 21st.  The next two meetings are:

Sunday, October 19th at 4:00PM
7 Feathers Center, 146 Chief Miwaleta Lane, Canyonville, OR 97417

and

Friday, November 21st at 6:30PM 
Transportation Safety Division Office, 235 Union Street NE , OR 97301

If you can’t attend the meetings send written input to –

Michele O’Leary
ODOT Motorcycle Safety Program Manager
Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety
235 Union Street NE
Salem, OR 97301-1054
Email

Image courtesy of Texas Department of Safety.

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Unless you live under a rock you already know it’s the 105th Anniversary at Harley Davidson.  If you’re unfamiliar with Harley then you’ll be stoked to learn that they throw a great party at the “factory”.  This year will be especially grand because Harley opens a new museum and the Harley Owners Group (Club H.O.G.) turns 25 years old.   

As is the case this year (and every fifth year celebration), there are several rides that converge on Milwaukee, WI. from all points across the U.S.   

In the Northwest, Paradise Harley Davidson (Owner: Mike Durbin) was selected as the Portland area departure point for the “Ride Home”.  The official Northwest departure point is from the Cascade Harley dealer in Bend, OR, but maybe every Harley dealer throws a name in the hat to participate and make a claim as the “departure point”?  Not that it matters because there are no special event pins or patches or new motorcycle discounts.  Just the fun of claiming you started at a departure point and made the ride home. 

So what’s a Ride Home?  Basically you join up with a bunch of riders who enjoy motorcycles and caravan to Milwaukee, WI.  If you start at the departure point with a dealer there is potential in coordinating motel rooms for the over night stops.  Or you can just get on your bike and head out solo…stopping where ever your want.  There is merit to both options. Once you’re in Milwaukee and arrive “Home” the festivities include music, street parties, vendor booths and refreshments. 

Above is a map of the riding route from Paradise Harley.  The dates and stopping destinations are: 

A. August 20 – Tigard, OR – 0 miles

B. August 20 – Boise, ID – 425 miles

C. August 21 – Idaho Falls, ID – 285 miles

D. August 22 – Cody, WY – 250 miles

E. August 23 – Rapid City, SD – 400 miles

F. August 25 – Sioux Falls, SD – 350 miles (+ day in Black Hills)

G. August 26 – La Crosse, WI – 310 miles

H. August 27 – Milwaukee, WI – 225 miles 

If you’re interested in joining this group stop in at the dealer and talk with Jason Ross.  If not then maybe we’ll see you on the road.

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