Tag Archives: motorcycle

Manhole cover called a peril to motorcyclists

The in basket; My motorcycling stepdaughter Ronda Armstrong says there is a “pothole” on Myhre Road in Silverdale just north of its intersection with Ridgetop Boulevard that poses a threat to those, like her, who hit it on a two-wheeler.

It’s just past a rise that hides it from view until one is very close to it, she said.

The out basket: It’s actually one of three manholes grouped together at that spot. The cover may have subsided, leaving a distinct bump. It’s not something I found bothersome crossing it in my 2013 Malibu, but once again I must consider how much different the experience would be on a motorcycle.

I asked the county it it’s something they could change.

The out basket: Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “It’s a Puget Sound Energy cover and they have been notified to modify it. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”

How long must a motorcyclist wait at malfunctioning signal?

The in basket: Bruce Brockett of Poulsbo writes, “I ride a motorcycle early most mornings when traffic is light. I travel north through Poulsbo on Highway 305, and make a left turn onto Bond Road from the left turn lane at the traffic light.

“Many times I am the only one in this lane, or first in line, to turn. The traffic control (either a camera or the pressure sensor – both are there) doesn’t recognize me. I sit through several light changes, then finally have to run the red light.

“Fortunately, the traffic is light. I have tried stopping at different positions in the lane. Eventually, sometimes, someone will line up behind me in an auto, but still won’t trigger the turn signal unless they pull up tight behind me, which most are reluctant to do.

“I know it is legal for me to go through the red in some situations, but would prefer that the light be corrected. Also, sometimes I use this signal at times when it is very busy, and it is not comforting to try to guess where the next car is coming from.”

He said he isn’t clear on the circumstances and/or duration of the signal malfunction that permits passing through the red under a change in the state law (RCW 46.61.184) made a year or two ago.

The out basket: The duration is one complete cycle of the light, in which all movements controlled by the signal would have had an opportunity to turn green. That’s not much help if only one direction stays green and no traffic approaches from a direction where it would be expected to trigger the light.

And the law has a vexing condition that makes use of it chancy. It essentially says if it’s an intersection without vehicle detection, or you conclude the light isn’t working, and you’re wrong, that’s not a defense against a ticket for running the light.

The law applies to bicycles and mopeds as well as motorcycles. It also requires the vehicle come to a complete stop before proceeding.

State Trooper Russ Winger said, “I think following the first segment of the law is most important, waiting a cycle. It then amounts to the rider to make a good decision on when to proceed, yielding properly and safely to traffic with right of way. I don’t think this occurs that commonly ‎but it can be done safely.

“Riders could get into trouble if they start running lights because they get tired of waiting for long duration timing signals during peak traffic time.”

I referred Bruce’s complaint to my state contact and asked that she make the district signal shop aware of it.

Motorcycle groups stop traffic at risk of being cited

The in basket: Bob Bronow wrote in June to say, “I encountered something which seemed kind of weird to me.  I was traveling south on Chico Way at the Erlands Point junction when a motorcycle rider turned his bike sideways right in front of me, blocking the lane and intersection.  I noticed another one similarly blocked the northbound lane of Chico Way.  Apparently this was so a group of them could approach from Erlands Point, turn south on Chico Way and all stay together.

“I don’t really care if they are all able to stay together. It seems like only emergency vehicles have the right to stop traffic. What do you think?”

I asked Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office if such a maneuver is permitted or perhaps even encouraged by law enforcement.

The out basket: Scott replied, “No, this type of action is not authorized by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and certainly not encouraged. It is a violation of the state’s motor vehicles rules of the road.

“Only law enforcement agencies are permitted to shut down a roadway. Fire agencies have authority to temporarily close a roadway at the scene of a fire or rescue emergency.

“Authorization for closing a road may be obtained through the permitting process for special events, such as community events or festivals (like)Whaling Days in Silverdale or the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede, etc.  Typically these temporary authorizations are granted by the County Commissioners and promulgated publicly via a county resolution.”

I talked with Jason Rossi, sergeant of arms for the local branch of ABATE, a motorcycle advocacy group, and he says they do it, and call it road guarding, but they do it at their own risk, knowing they might be cited for it.

ABATE hopes to someday get authorization for members who would have to take a special course in doing it safely, but in the meantime they’ll have to take their chances if they use it, he said.


Skidding on a motorcycle on Narrows Bridge patches

The in basket: Chuck Ryers said he was motorcycling to Lacey one rainy day in May, running in cruise control over the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge when his path took him over one of several strips of tar patching on the bridge deck.

He suddenly lost traction, which kicked it out of cruise control. He reaccelerated to 60, but crossed another of the patches. “Next thing I know I was fishtailing,” he said. “I looked back and saw a four-inch strip of tar. It was slicker than snot  in the rain.”

He wondered about whether some abrasive, like sand, could be put in the black patching material to make it less slippery.

The out basket: The first thing I told Chuck was using cruise control in the rain is a bad idea, for the very reason he encountered – sudden loss of traction.

When I first heard this advice years ago, relating to cars, I couldn’t find anyone to confirm it, but now it’s come to be conventional wisdom. I didn’t know that motorcycles had cruise control, but probably the advice applies to them as well, possibly more urgently, though as I recall the disparity in traction between the two drive wheels of a car on very wet asphalt was supposedly the reason for the danger.

I asked state officials about his idea and while I was at it, what needed a row of narrow patches on the new bridge.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs staff for highways says, “We agree with you that it is not a good idea for motorcyclists to drive with cruise control in the rain, especially when crossing a bridge like the Tacoma Narrows where high winds could also be present.

“The substance to which he refers is a tar-like substance that was used to seal bridge deck patches that were done under warranty.  We will investigate the issue and consider options for making the substance more skid-resistant.

“As far as I know,” she said, “we’ve not done that type of work on bridge decks elsewhere.  Please thank the reader for bringing the issue to our attention.”

Substandard motorcycle helmet can be reason for a ticket

The in basket: I came across an old e-mail from 2011 from the State Patrol warning motorcycle riders that motorcycle helmets have to meet certain standards to protect the rider.

It said to be sure your helmet “is DOT approved.”

“The Department of Transportation sets standards that manufacturers must follow when designing a helmet, it said.  Proof that a helmet meets the standards is “permanently affixed to the outside of the helmet. Beware of DOT stickers – a sticker is not a permanent fixture.” There also will be a permanent label inside the helmet saying who made it, when and out of what material.

“A proper helmet is typically heavier than a novelty helmet due to the one-inch thick inner form lining,” it said. It also will have a thick chin strap that fits well and is riveted to the helmet.

The news release was couched in terms of injuries that might result from having a substandard helmet, but it didn’t say whether you can be cited for riding with one that doesn’t meet requirements.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger said you can be, and can even be pulled over if an officer suspects your helmet doesn’t meet standards.

But as a practical matter, citations of this kind usually result when a motorcyclist is stopped for violating some other traffic law or not wearing a helmet at all.

“If a trooper suspects that a helmet worn by a rider is merely a ‘shell,’ the trooper can (make a) stop and inspect the helmet. Troopers are not going to rely on a ‘DOT STICKER’ on the outer shell as proof that the helmet meets the requirements. Stickers can be removed, painted over etc.

“If a helmet looks very thin and cheaply made, it probably is not conforming to these standards. A citation can certainly be written for violations of the statute,” he said.


Ticketing roaring motorcycles

The in basket: Steve Bartel of Port Orchard e-mailed to complain, “I have written to you several times over the past few years regarding illegal exhaust systems on motorcycles.

“The sheriff department says there is nothing they can do,” he said. “I think they just choose to ignore this problem, not get involved.

Automobiles are required to maintain certain noise levels regarding exhaust sounds…e.g. removing mufflers on a car will usually get the driver a ticket for noise violation.

“But motorcycle owners do this all the time,” he said. “They deliberately remove the stock mufflers, and put on pipes that even make the bike louder.

“We have many bikes that go past our house all day long…..and the racket from these straight pipes is very annoying.

“I am a bike owner myself,” he said, “and my motorcycle retains the original factory exhaust. I think there should be a law regarding this violation of noise level standards.

“The big Harley twin bikes are the worst offenders,” Steve said. “The Harley riders have a saying…’Loud pipes save lives.’ I disagree, loud pipes just annoy everyone not on the bike.”

The out basket: Equipment complaints, mostly about sound and too bright head lights, have been the hardest to draw a bead on during my years of writing Road Warrior. Proving a violation is harder than with many offenses, I think.

But there is a law, and it is enforced, though an oral warning is the most common result, Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the Bremerton State Patrol office, tells me.

“In 2008 statewide, troopers stopped 5,952 vehicles/motorcycles for exhaust violations,” she said. “Of those stops, 726 of those stops resulted in infractions being issued (and) 1,220 received a written warning to get the problem fixed. In 2008 in Kitsap County, there were 176 stops made, 31 infractions issued and 13 written warnings.

Generally, original equipment, however loud or, in the case of headlights, however bright, meets federal standards and is legal.

The state law on motorcycle exhaust systems, RCW 46.37.537, reads, “No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motorcycle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the engine of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and it shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motorcycle not equipped as required by this section, or which has been amplified as prohibited by this section.”

Mike Dalgaard of Full Throttle magazine, a motorcycling publication, adds, “Most foreign bikes are much quieter than the American V-Twins. The varying engine technology accounts for part of that.

“Then you have the ‘after market’ pipes. Generally speaking they make the bike louder but they also make it more efficient and it runs cooler.

“Harley, Victory and other American made V-Twins are favored by many for their ability to be personalized. This includes pipes.

“In all candor,” Mike said, ” many do exceed the legal noise limits. Bikers like to say, ‘Loud pipes save lives,’ as you will know where they are by the sound.

“On freeways and highways, they are not offensive. Some, however, do take exception to riders blasting through a residential neighborhood at 2 a.m.. I know I do. Most riders with these type pipes take it easy under this type of condition but you always have a few morons who think irritating others is cool.”

Motorcyclist decries Central Valley Road condition


Central Valley pot holes
Central Valley pot holes

The in basket: Mitch Hailey of Bremerton e-mailed two weeks ago to protest the condition of Central Valley Road, including with his message several photographs of ruts and pot holes left by a sewer excavation between Alexis Drive and Holland Road. 

“While riding my motorcycle on this road and with no warning, I found myself having to dodge one danger after another and coming very close to dumping my bike,” Mitch said.

“Having just survived a crash where an irresponsible dog owner allowed their pet to play in the roadway unrestrained, I am very sensitive to preventable dangers placing others at risk.  Someone needs to be providing oversight of these construction projects for safety’s sake.”

The out basket:  Jacques Dean, Kitsap County’s project manager and the overseer of this county project by Buno Construction, said he sent the contractor copies of Mitch’s photos and ordered that more attention be paid the condition of the road after each day’s work.

The workers are to make a daily patch of the road they disturb that day, Jacques said, but weren’t taking enough time raking out the hot asphalt mix before it was rolled. Rain and traffic produced the conditions in Mitch’s photos.

The work the day after Mitch wrote was a lot better, Jacques said. 

Since then, two readers have disagreed. 

On Oct.27, Sheldon Cherrey wrote, “Well,  I traveled that road last night. The road is worse than the  

last time I drove it. Possibly due to the rain “

And Louis Oliver wrote Saturday to say he found “that a forest service road that has not seen a grader in over two years would be the smoother of the two. If it is the county that is doing the repairs after the pipe is replaced, the job should be out-sourced. If a contractor is doing the job, they should be fined and replaced. Then I wonder who should pay for my dental work? Yes, it is that bad.”


Tina Nelson of the county, filling in for Jacques, who was away from work last week, had this to say about the latest complaints:

“Last week the contractor was directed to spend more time (and money …) on maintaining the patch.  I drove it yesterday, and I thought it was an acceptable patch at the time. 

“The catch is that the patch is only temporary,” she said. “The same trench needs to be dug up again to install the new force main, starting the second week of November, over the gravity sewer that has already been installed.  It is our intent to keep the patch safe, but at the same time be cost conscious. 

“If travelers go slow, allow the extra few minutes, or use an alternate route, we will not be forced to spend additional precious dollars on a temporary patch.  

 “Patience,” she urged. The final product, when the sewer installation is complete, will be like a brand new road surface.  Permanent restoration in Central Valley Road is currently scheduled to start in mid-December, which includes final asphalt paving.  Asphalt paving, of course, is weather dependent.”   




License weight fees and motorcycles


The in basket: Mark Ross e-mailed to say, “I recently received my reminder to renew the tabs, (well, technically, tab), on my motorcycle and was surprised to note a weight-based fee of $10 in the Vehicle Licensing Breakdown.  Now, granted, I am not riding a Vespa, but seriously, how much wear and tear can my fair-weather ride really be causing on the public roadway?”

Terry Miller was more obviously annoyed in another recent e-mail on the subject of the growth in the cost of renewing tabs. 

“As the economy gets worse,” he said, “our state and local government keep adding to our burdens of increased taxes. If you have recently renewed your tabs you should know this.

“A foot in the door that worked was ‘tonnage’ fees for larger vehicles and trucks— most people said they understood and kept quiet.”  Now all vehicles have a tonnage fee, even motorcycles, he added.

The out basket: I was surprised to learn that the weight fees were assessed against motorcycles, but I guess I shouldn’t have been.  The law that imposes the fee sets it at $10 for vehicles weighing 4,000 pounds or less, and doesn’t exempt two-wheel vehicles. 

Examples the state chose to include in its “Making Every Dollar Count” brochure on the impact of the fee don’t mention motorcycles, but do show that vehicles up to a Jeep Grand Cherokee at 3,900 pounds fall into the lower tier.

It goes up from there to $20 extra on vehicles of 4,001 to 6,000 pounds, (Lincoln’s Town Car and Navigator and Buick’s Roadmaster are the examples chosen) and $30 more for 6,001 to 8,000 pounds (Hummers and Ford Excursions, for example).  All motor homes pay $75, whatever they weigh. 

It was part of the 2005 transportation revenue package that also bumped the state gas tax by 9.5 cents over four years. The weight fee has been added to the cost of tabs for the past 3 1/2 years and has contributed to the revenue that paid for Highway 16 HOV lanes and the changes at the Highway16-Interstate 5 interchange in Tacoma, among other projects statewide.

The upward pressure on tab fees continues to increase, with Bremerton’s city council debating whether to use a local option authority the Legislature has provided that could add $20 to the fee for city residents. They don’t have to put it to a citizen vote, but might  The money would head off the growing deterioration of city streets. 

And a subtle change is coming this summer in the optional $5 tab fee add-on to support state parks. That’s the subject of the next Road Warrior.

Why are motorcycles allowed in HOV lanes?

The in basket: Shirley Sweetland said she was heading past the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton on Highway 304 the other day heading toward Gorst when a motorcycle passed her in the HOV lane with only just the driver aboard. 

“Can motorcycles go in that lane?” she asked.

The out basket: Yes, motorcyclists can legally use any HOV lane whether they are alone or have someone riding with them. Federal law makes it so on any highway for which federal money was used, which I imagine includes all highways in all states with enough traffic to warrant HOV lanes. 

Why this is true is the subject of some discussion on the Web, but it appears to be rooted in the belief that motorcyclists are safer if they don’t have to do a lot of start-and-stop driving.

I think there may even be signs along the Highway 304 HOV lanes reading, “Motorcycles OK.”

What do ‘cycle endorsement fees pay for?

The in basket: Larry Blain of Poulsbo writes, “I just renewed my Washington State driver’s license on-line – a great service, by the way.  The cost was $25 for the license renewal – and $25 more for renewing my motorcycle endorsement!  “Naturally,” he said, “I have some questions about that second fee.
“Where does the money go?  What do I get for the money, or what does the state do with the money?  My suspicion and hope is that it is used for educating new motorcycle drivers.
“What is the penalty for operating a motorcycle without an endorsement?
“How many motorcycles are registered in Kitsap County, and how many licensed drivers in Kitsap County have motorcycle endorsements?”
The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing replies that motorcycle endorsement fees go into the state’s Motorcycle Safety Education Account and are spent on motorcycle safety, education, and licensing. 

“These include subsidizing state-approved rider education classes and promoting motorcycle rider safety through events and public awareness campaigns,” he said. “In 2008, 11,564 citizens took advantage of state-subsidized motorcycle rider safety courses which can cut the cost of this important training in half or more.” Federal grants also support the program, he said.

The fine for operating a motorcycle on public roads without the endorsement is $124 and the motorcycle can be impounded. State Trooper Krista Hedstrom says the citing trooper often will try to find someone with the proper endorsement to remove the motorcycle from the highway, but it that fails, the bike will be impounded.

He said that as of January, 14,375 of Kitsap County’s 177,134 licensed drivers – about 8.1 percent – had a motorcycle endorsement on their license. There are currently 10,942 motorcycles and mopeds registered in Kitsap County, he said, so endorsements out-number the licensed vehicles considerably.