It seemed as if no part of the US was immune to the whims of Mother Nature. From flooding on the West Coast to weekly snow storms on the East Coast, we were inundated with extreme weather. It would be bad enough being relegated to waiting just a little longer before donning the riding gear. But if you managed to get out at all this winter, albeit in the heated comfort of your family vehicle, you may have noticed what dear Mother left behind.
While pot holes, divots and bumps in the road can be at least annoying and, at the most, damaging to cars, they can be fatal to motorcyclists. In 2009 in Bordentown, New Jersey, two motorcyclists were killed in separate accidents at the same place just two days apart when road crews cut corners and, while repaving I-295, did not spread a transitional ramp to the exit.
The country’s interstate system turned 50 in 2007 and its deterioration and obsolescence is obvious. Many interstates, like the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) have outgrown their four- or six-lane configurations, and the states are scrambling for solutions. In the meantime, potholes and deterioration are adding to the problems. With budget woes in so many American towns it is unlikely we will see any real fix anytime soon. And as President Obama and the Houses go head-to-head about how to fund and spend his $50 billion infrastructure plan, Mother Nature continues to do her thing.
One of the ways to see at least a small amount of change is to become active in your community’s political forum. While planning boards and mayors are talking about cars and trucks, the odds are against us that they are even considering the plights of motorcyclists as they discuss their local infrastructure and what to do about the damage this winter has wrought. In addition to the dangers of potholes, we face the added hazard of loose gravel, either from the remnants of the potholes themselves or the material used to fill them. Make your town leaders aware of these dangers. Until our state and national leaders wake up and realize that this nation’s infrastructure needs serious attention, we are at the mercy of their budget constraints long after the ravages of Mother Nature have gone. Maybe we should vote in more riders.
You can tell when a problem becomes so commonplace that sites and alerts are all over the internet warning citizens of local potholes and rough roads. Seek them out and make a mental note when out riding so you know what roads to avoid. Stay away from strange roads, especially at night. If you see a major pothole or road damage, report it immediately to the police. The cost of an accident or damage to a car or bike may be recovered from the town or county where they occur, but only if they are aware of the road damage, so notifying them before something happens is important for that reason as well as for getting repairs done in a timelier manner.
We are our own best advocates. In addition to keeping abreast of your community’s current events, keep your fellow riders informed as well. Let them know of damaged roads or dangerous conditions. There is power in numbers. If you belong to an RC or MC, getting them involved in the politics of your town will go a long way into getting things done. Mother Nature, aging infrastructures, and lack of revenue might have wreaked havoc on our roads, but they are our roads. We should be just as vigilant about our own safety as we are about our children’s.
By Louise Reeves