Thursday, October 1, 2009
Fall Motorcycle Safety Tips
Due to the fall color season October is the the month of highest visitation on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is also the month with the highest number of motor vehicle crashes. Every year a large proportion of those crashes involve motorcycles. Research has shown that most of these crashes involve large touring type bikes and experienced riders.
So what is it about the Blue Ridge Parkway that results in significant motorcycle wrecks?
The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed in the 1930s and 40s by engineers and landscape architects for slow moving scenic travel by motor car. One of the elements incorporated into the design were descending radius curves. These were utilized to maximize the beauty of the land while hugging the contour of the mountains. These types of curves are not used in modern highway construction. It is safe to say that even motorcyclists who have been riding for most of their adult lives will encounter curves the likes as they have never seen on the Blue Ridge Parkway and other national park roads. That is why even the slightest distraction or looking off at the scenery at the wrong time can result in disaster.
The Park Rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway conducted analysis of motorcycle wrecks and identified specific areas where accidents were regularly occurring. An example would be south bound at mile post 36 in Virginia where eight motorcycle crashes occurred in one year. At these locations large and more "aggressive" warning signs were placed directed toward motorcycles. Following the placement of the signs there were no motorcycle crashes at mile post 36 for two years.
One theory behind the number of crashes involving large touring style motorcycles is their design with a wide bottom or base of the frame. As motorcyclists enter these deceiving curves they tend to over correct and catch their foot pegs on the pavement. This common factor in many wrecks then causes the motorcycle to spin out of control.
Despite the new signs and an aggressive education program, motorcycle wrecks are still occurring in the park at an alarming level. The Blue Ridge Parkway is often referred to as one of the best roads in the world to tour by motorcycle. I do not doubt that is true. Motorcyclists need to be aware that they are traveling on a road surface that may include challenges they have not seen before. They need to watch both their speed and full attention to controlling their bikes down the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway so they can return home safely.