Is cable barrier a special hazard to motorcyclists?

The in basket: Our three-day dissertation on cable median barrier last month didn’t exhaust the subject, it turns out.
I heard from a number of motorcyclists, whose comments can be wrapped up in that of Steve McDermott. He wrote, ‘Motorcyclists have a different name for these atrocities: Cheese-cutters.”

The in basket: Our three-day dissertation on cable median barrier last month didn’t exhaust the subject, it turns out.
I heard from a number of motorcyclists, whose comments can be wrapped up in that of Steve McDermott. He wrote, ‘Motorcyclists have a different name for these atrocities: Cheese-cutters.”
He continued: “I”d rather like to think you don’t support the dismemberment of motorcyclists, so please let me enlighten you.
“For years, these types of barriers were not installed on state or federal highways in Washington. The last stretch that was removed was on I-5 in Bellingham around 1998. This was due to the efforts of motorcyclists throughout the state.
“A soft mass hitting two wires at 60 mph will become three soft masses. It hasn’t happened in this state recently because (we) lobbied for their removal. Motorcyclists hitting jersey barriers and guardrails have a much higher survival rate.
Ken Amo and Duane Stallings said the same. Dan Wages said he’d seen a “cube van” overturn and slide into oncoming traffic on I-5 near Fife in 2002 after hitting a cable barrier, and Dean Nelson said he thought that kind of barrier was discontinued 30 years ago because of the damage it did to cars and and the peril to drivers when it hit their windshields.
The out basket: Dick Albin, an assistant state design engineer, said cable barrier came back into favor after the “weak post” design was pioneered by New York State and spread to other states. When the cable was attached to rigid posts, damage to cars from hitting the posts or rolling over the top of them was often severe. Today’s posts are designed to give way to avoid those outcomes.
He said though motorcyclists regard them as more of a hazard than other barrier, experience doesn’t support the belief.
Other states that use the cable barrier, including both Carolinas and Missouri, tell him there has been no pattern of motorcyclists being hurt by the wires.
Statistics in this state don’t support the idea that other kinds of barrier are safer for motorcyclists, Dick continued, though the limited amount of cable barrier makes the statistics debatable.
In 2003-4, 115 of the 1,200 accidents involving motorcycles also involved a barrier of some sort, he said. Of 50 in which a concrete barrier was hit, 28 percent were fatal or disabling, he said. Of 64 involving beam guardrail, 40 percent were killed of disabled. The only one with a cable barrier hit resulted in minor injuries.
Most of the injuries probably resulted from the ‘cyclist laying the motorcycle down and sliding into whatever kind of barrier was hit, he conceded.
“I think it’s a perception thing. There is no barrier you want to run into if you are a motorcyclist.”
I ran that explanation past McDermott and a state motorcycle spokesman who had disparaged the barrier as a threat, and they were unconvinced, not surprisingly. But when I asked them for instances when a motorcyclist had been maimed by a cable in the fashion suggested, they didn’t provide any.
In a time when government’s deep pockets are often the first targets in personal injury lawsuits, the state would have to be pretty confident the cable barrier is not an unusual peril to anyone on the highways, I would think.

4 thoughts on “Is cable barrier a special hazard to motorcyclists?

  1. I have a problem being sympathetic to motorcyclists. I hear and see these PSA’s on TV & radio about how I’m suppose to be aware of their presence. However, I never hear or see PSA’s stating motorcyclists should not pass on the outside borders of the highway, go between cars in traffic, or fly down the highway at speeds of excess of 90 MPH. I don’t want to hear the response that this is only a few riders. That is BUNK. It happens day in and day out by more and more riders. If motorcyclists want respect on the road they better start earning it.

  2. I would suggest that you look at the Hurt report, an NHTSA sponsored study on motorcycle riding. I think you would be surprised at the results, which are based on actual research rather than angry self-righteous indignation and hostile generalizations. The majority of motorcycle accidents are caused by inattentive car drivers while the motorcycle is at low speeds.

  3. The original complaint about lane splitting started out by saying the irritated driver was in California where that is legal. The response quoted Washington State law, where it’s not. Woops. Got some apples in with that citrus.

    The simple fact of the original complaint was that the driver was annoyed because he was sitting still in traffic, he tells us right off the bat about his irritation at being stuck, and the motorcycle riders were moving.

    It is an understandable emotion, but not one that any reasonable person would want to use as justification for any kind of law change or for some crackdown on those pesky motorcyclist who are getting home on time while the GOOD people are stuck on the freeway..

    As for being scared by motorcycles going by at 25 miles an hour, I call BS.

    There you sit in your giant Ford Expedition with the AC on, a Coke in your lap, talking to your mom on your cell phone, and you want us to believe you were reasonably afraid for your physical safety because some guys on bikes were passing by?


  4. I am sorry to hear about Frank G.’s experience with motorcyclists while on his road trip. I have been riding motorcycles longer than not, and have over 250,000 miles in the saddle. But let’s examine his story for a minute.

    First off, he mentioned being in a traffic jam in Los Angeles, California. As upsetting as it may seem, lane-splitting is legal in California. So when motorcyclists ride by “legally” while others must wait in the traffic jam, is just something that he, and all of the others, will just have to accept. To loose a person’s respect for doing something that is legal and allowed is pretty shortsighted. Lane-splitting is not legal in Washington and if Mr. Frank G. sees a motorcyclist splitting the lanes, then I expect him to dial 911 and report it. Personally, I ride a touring bike, with a fairing and saddlebags, so my motorcycle is wider than most. Even when I’m in California, I choose not to split the lanes, simply because I don’t think I could clear the other cars safely.

    On his other comment, “I don’t want to hear the response that this is only a few riders.” Unfortunately, the majority of excessive riding really is done by a relatively small group of riders. To prove this, I ask Mr. G. to watch the ‘daily’ offenders and take note of who does and who does not ride wildly. He may find the the offenders are usually the same few riders. The next thing I would ask Mr. G. to do is go to a motorcycle rally. Stop by the “Governor’s Run”, it’s the first full weekend in May every year and 2007 is the 25th anniversary. With well over 1500 motorcycles at this one rally, it’s pretty hard to believe that every one of them are the wild and crazy riders mentioned by Mr. G.. And the proceeds go to benefit Holly Ridge Center, the learning and assistance program for developmentally disabled children. I agree that there are a few riders that ride crazy, wild and very dangerously, but they are not the majority.

    As for earning your respect, again I ask you to visit a rally and see just a few of the local charities that motorcyclists support. You may find that there are several motorcyclists that support multiple events, giving hundreds of dollars to various charities and events every year. Personally, I ride the Governor’s Run, Ride for the Dogs (Guide Dogs of America), Childrens Run (Childrens Hospital), Veteran’s Ride (Retsils Veteran’s house in Port Orchard), plus several others that come up as a last-minute notification. All of the rides that I go on support facilities and/or organizations that depend on donations so that they can help others that are not able to help themselves. And with each ride or rally, I am part of a big group of motorcyclists that have earned the respect of those we help. So Mr. G., to earn your respect… well, what have you done to earn mine?

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