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Photo: A reminder about motorcycle safety on local roadways

By Howard B. Owens

Meet Trooper Mike Niezgoda, who is part of the State Police motorcycle detail out of Clarence.

Trooper Niezgoda was nice enough to meet me one day out in Pembroke for a photo and an interview to coincide with Motorcycle Safety Month. It was a great interview. Unfortunately, my recorder failed me and the interview was lost.

We've tried to arrange a follow-up phone interview, but it hasn't quite come together.

But it's still an important public service message: Be careful out there.

Car drivers, be aware that you share the road with two-wheeled friends. 

One thing Niezgoda emphasized is "look twice." Most car-motorcycle accidents occur at intersections because drivers simply don't see the approaching motorcycle so they pull out into traffic, especially when making turns.

Drivers need to be careful about following too closely behind motorcycles. Hitting a bike from the rear can be fatal for the rider, even if the speeds would have resulted in just a fender-bender for cars.

For motorcycle riders -- get as much safety training as you can, wear DOT approved helmets, and be alert for drivers pulling into your path.

A couple of notes about Niezgoda and his bike. Trooper Niezgoda is also a Marine. He served a tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. He is passionate about motorcycles and rides a Harley in his off-time as well. The Harley he is riding was part of the factory output on Sept. 11, 2001. Harley-Davidson donated that run of bikes to NYPD and State Police.

Elizabeth Downie

It is too bad that the interview was lost, as I'm sure it would've been a good one to read!

I have absolutely nothing against motorcycle riders, but I do have a request that they not ride the center line. That is extremely dangerous and a LOT of them do it. I understand you don't want to ride in the tire ruts or where all the leaked chemicals are, but please then choose to ride along the white line instead. It would be safer for you and make us car/SUV/truck drivers feel safer, as well. Though you may not have to worry about your own driving skills, but you do have to worry about other people's skills.

Those of you who ride crotch-rockets and other types of bikes, just because you are on a speedy little bike does not mean that you can weave in and out traffic because you think you can squeeze yourself in there. You have to follow the rules, just like the rest of us!! You give all of the other bike riders a bad name!!

Regardless of my two cents, please be safe out there... and enjoy your ride!!

May 13, 2013, 12:07pm Permalink
Destin Danser

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you guys. The best place for a bike to ride is in the same place that a car's tires travel, as that's where the most traction is and where the pavement is the cleanest. And It's safest for us to ride in the one closest to the yellow line. There are multiple reasons for this. Just to name a few:

1.) The road is not level, it slopes downward towards the shoulder, with the yellow line being the highest portion. This naturally means that the area near the yellow line is the driest and cleanest. Fluid spills run towards the shoulder. If it's raining, the area near the shoulder is going to be the wettest.

2.) Near the white line, there is a TON of gravel/dirt/lawn clippings and whatever else that can cause a bike to lose traction in a fraction of a second. The center of the road is just naturally much cleaner and safer.

3.) Motorcycles are not very visible. 90% of car vs. motorcycle accidents are from cars pulling out in front of bikes because they didn't see them. Riding on the shoulder makes us even less visible, while riding towards the center of the road allows us to be more visible to drivers who may not otherwise see us, because we are closer to the center of their field of vision.

Remember, that motorcyclists have the right to use the entire lane that they are in. It is the riders responsibility to stay in their lane, just as it is your responsibility to remain in yours. As long as you stay on your side of the yellow line, you'll be fine.

As far as "weaving in and out of traffic," otherwise referred to as lane splitting, it is illegal in NY, however in many other states it is legal, and many motorcycle safety experts agree that it is the safest way for a motorcyclist to navigate through slow moving, stop and go traffic. They cite statistics that show that a majority of motorcycle crashes take place when the bike is sitting in stopped or slow moving traffic, and is rear ended because the driver of the other vehicle never saw them. Lane splitting allows the motorcycle rider to take control of his own safety. It eliminates the possibility of being rear ended, and gives you a better view of traffic flow, allowing you to more easily avoid hazards. Again, it's illegal in NY, and therefore I don't do it, but many experts have done studies that show it is the safest way to ride.

May 13, 2013, 4:44pm Permalink
Michelle WIlliams

After growing up on and around motorcycles and having worked in the industry for nearly 15 years I will agree with all 3 of you. First the complaint raised above is one I too have made many times. My license was obtained through the Harley-Davidson Riders Edge course which is AMA approved. I was taught that a rider should use an S pattern, not weaving, not sticking to either line but making yourself visible out all 3 mirrors for the driver in front of you. I was also taught to maintain a safe distance from the next lane. Unfortunately what I see locally more often than not is riders whose knees are well over the next lane and the left side of their tires is on the lane markings. That is not safe at all. Whether the rider or the cage next to or coming towards them drifts even slightly, the rider will be seriously injured. I lost my fiance in a motorcycle accident and I feel very passionately about rider safety. As Destin mentioned lane splitting has been shown to be a preferred and more safe option in many states. However drivers of cages tend to switch or cut lanes without notice and while attending Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando our casualty rate of students was at least 2 per month. I have ridden and lived in many states across the country and this debate is endless. Destin is correct about the best places for traction, dryness, incline and cleanliness. It is difficult to understand the danger of riding over fluids, gravel, farm debris, etc unless you own a bike yourself. If you drive a car maintain at least 1 car length between you and the motorcycle in front of you at all times, look more than once, listen for motorcycles and be aware that bikes do not stop as easily, safely or as fast as some assume. We all share the road with each other and we all owe it to each other not to endanger each others safety no matter what our chosen method of transportation is

May 13, 2013, 8:50pm Permalink
Bob Price

One thing-I'm sick of all the wise-asses on those crotch rockets doing wheelies/wheelstands/excessive speed along Main Street.I for one believe they should be banned-what is the purpose of these 2 wheeled death machines capable of going close to or in excess of 200mph on public roadways??? They should be sold for TRACK or racing purposes only,not to some late teen-twentysomething that are in over their heads. They should require a SPECIAL license in order to operate. I have NO RESPECT for any of these crotch rockets. Case in point-starting from light in front of Applebees last week heading west on Lewiston-a crotch rocket goes flying past me and a vehicle ahead of me on the LEFT in the striped median going into double solid line.Know what I think whenever I see a news story or article saying fatal crotch rocket wreck? Good-one less idiot off the road......they're all "cool" until they get scraped off the pavement.....

May 13, 2013, 8:54pm Permalink
Michelle WIlliams

Bob, I do understand your frustration and I agree that the top speed of some of these imports is ridiculous and unnecessary for street use. I too believe that should be reserved only for race use and governed down for street use. However no one deserves to lose their lives even by their own vices. Losing my fiance was one of the most painful experiences of my life. My fiance was a skilled rider who was test driving a hyabusa before it was delivered to a customer (he was a certified mechanic). On the test ride, he was approaching speeds of 70+ and no one knows if the bike struck something or not but my fiance lost his life while barely into his early 20s. There is simply no such thing as "good" when a rider is killed.....

May 13, 2013, 10:30pm Permalink
Lou Moretti

Bob not everyone that rides a sport bike does wheelies and goes 200mph on public highways nor deserves to die... your comment is completely ignorant....

May 14, 2013, 8:36am Permalink
Kyle Couchman

Bob is a perfect example of the 20% of motorists that have an attitude about motorcycles. Motorists in this town already ignore the state laws and rules of the road when it comes to pedestrians and bicylists. (Not saying all folks but we ALL have seen hits or near misses on our city's intersections of pedestrians) So it's no surprise that people like Bob say and do the things they do behind the wheel. It's the mentality that dictates actions. I hope Bob never get involved in a motorcycle/car accident. But if he does this comment should be discussed again.... just saying.

May 14, 2013, 11:21am Permalink
Bob Price

Knew I'd hit a nerve- damn right I have an attitude. I show respect to those who show it to me. I drive for a living,and see an ENORMOUS amount of stupidity by all drivers each and every day.To Michelle-why was he doing 70+ mph? No roads around here are posted that high. No need for super fast bikes on public roads-track only! Kyle-what did I say I "do" behind the wheel? I'm not perfect,no one is. Family member rides a bike,so I know what they go through-he's had people on double solid lines passing coming toward him,cigarettes hit him in the face,and has been hit while stopped at a stop sign,plus numerous other asinine things. People too busy being distracted by whatever you wish to name-I'll take my chances in a 4 wheel(or more) vehicle anyday.You'll never see me own a motorcycle-just sayin.......

May 14, 2013, 6:32pm Permalink
Bob Price

No,not everyone. I'll put it this way-I see more bad driving by the"crotch rocket" crowd than good driving. Their luck will run out eventually.... I just wish they'd ban the damn things-maybe we can get 20/20 to do a biased report on them....

May 14, 2013, 6:40pm Permalink
Michelle WIlliams

@bob- the accident took place out of state and it is standard procedure to take the bike through all 5 or 6 gears before delivering it to a customer. Unfortunately until these bikes are governed down mechanics lives are put on the line and customers lives are put on the line. Had I wished that my fiance had a dynometer instead of an open road yes but unfortunately the shop he worked in did not which leaves a mechanic to take those bikes out on the road. My fiance was a very experienced rider. 70 is actually slow for a hyabusa and each mechanic assumes a risk each time we go for a test ride. In my heart I feel that the bike had a failure because my fiance was a very responsible mechanic, rider, driver and individual. He never went overboard on a motorcycle, only what he had to in order to satisfy himself that the bike was safe for the customer. I am the same way. Regardless the issue is not about mechanics but about rider safety and education. Certain bikes (not just imports) should not be sold to just anyone. There should be further training by the manufacturer or representatives even if it is for race use only. I am not comfortable delivering a bike to anyone who does not have experience. Over the years I have watched bikes delivered to novice riders only to return for a collision estimate a short time later. Knowing how and where to ride are important but knowing your limits and what is reasonable for the setting you are riding in come first. Again there is never a "good" in a riders death

May 14, 2013, 8:04pm Permalink

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