The sound of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly cut grass are signs of summertime in Genesee County.
However, those familiar noises and scents can far too often mean motorcycle accidents if homeowners do not properly remove road hazards like grass clippings, leaves and gravel.
“The people most to suffer from these things when it comes to motor vehicles is the motorcyclist, specifically, in a corner,” said Jon DelVecchio, riding coach at Street Skills LLC motorcycling school in Rochester and author of "Cornering Confidence: The Formula for 100% Control in Curves."
“Motorcyclists and car drivers alike, we want nothing between our tire surface and the road surface," DelVecchio said. "That’s how we’re going to get the best traction really in any condition.”
Grass clippings in summer months are reportedly as slippery as winter ice on road surfaces. Yard waste that blows onto road pavement presents safety hazards to motorcyclists whose two-wheeled vehicles speed over the slick grass clippings.
Clearing grass clippings from roadways is not a choice; it is mandated by state and local law.
NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1219 prohibits any substance that is likely to cause injury from being placed on highways. If grass clippings from a lawn mower are either accidentally blown or intentionally deposited onto the pavement, homeowners are legally obligated to remove them immediately.
Also, City of Batavia Municipal Code 113-2 states “No person shall sweep, throw or deposit or cause to be swept, thrown or deposited any ashes, dirt, stone, brick, leaves, grass, weeds or any other debris … into any public place or upon any private property without the owner's permission within the city.” A violator of this law can be fined $250, face imprisonment up to 15 days or be sued civilly if their grass clippings cause a motorcycle accident.
Jesse Underwood is a motorcyclist from Holley who has been riding motorcycles for 40 years. He was shopping at Stan's Harley-Davidson dealership in Batavia on Thursday when asked about encounters with grass clippings while tooling around.
He said it is important enough to him that, if he sees a problem, he stops his motorcycle and informs homeowners of the dangers of grass clippings during his rides with other motorcyclists.
"Every time we go on a big ride, every time we see people blowing grass in the road, we stop and give them a brochure on the dangers of it," Underwood said.
When homeowners receive the information, they are often surprised.
"A lot of them didn't even realize what they were doing is wrong," Underwood said. "I explain to them that wet grass clippings in the road — it's like ice to a motorcycle.
"If you come up and you're on wet grass ... or you're coming into a blind curve, even if you're doing the speed limit and you hit the wet grass, you're going down."
Underwood said that there are already enough dangers, such as texting and driving, that threaten the safety of motorcyclists, so grass clippings just add to the road hazards.
To effectively dispose of yard waste, homeowners are encouraged to leave their grass clippings on their lawns. This solution benefits the environment because clippings act as a natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer and decrease the amount of store-bought fertilizer homeowners purchase. This option also saves time because grass clippings do not need to be bagged after each mowing.
“I would advise homeowners, as a person who rides a motorcycle, to just simply be aware that their grass clippings could cause real trouble for people who ride motorcycles,” DelVecchio said.
DelVecchio encourages homeowners to take preventative measures to clear the roads near their property. He also advises motorcyclists to receive both basic and advanced riding instruction through videos, books or training courses so they can navigate grass-covered roads.
Lost control of motorcycles can lead to injury and death among motorcyclists who cannot regain their traction on grass-covered streets. It only takes a few moments to clean up grass clippings if they blow into the road in order to keep motorcyclists safe.