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Spring tips for motorcyclists

Springtime brings the return of motorcycles, which means it’s high time for some reminders about safe driving – for two-wheeled and four-wheeled motorists alike.
Liane Langlois's Triumph on the highway near Banff

Springtime brings the return of motorcycles throughout Rocky View County, which means it’s high time for some reminders about safe driving – for two-wheeled and four-wheeled motorists alike.

Last year, according to Alberta RCMP statistics, there were 202 collisions involving motorcycles in the provincial detachment’s jurisdiction, with 20 occurring in May alone. The RCMP hopes to reduce that number in 2022.

On May 1, a Calgary motorcyclist was killed in a single-vehicle incident on Highway 22, just north of Redwood Meadows, and on May 7, a motorcyclist was killed in an accident on Highway 22 near the intersection of Township Road 272. 

Craig Oldfield, President and Founder of Ridin’ Alberta, rides his motorcycle in and around Cochrane, and says practice makes perfect.

“Like anything, take some time and a few slow-paced shorter rides to become acquainted with riding your motorcycle again, since for most of us it has been six months without riding,” he said.

“An hour in a local parking lot can help shake off the rust and avoid an early season drop of your motorcycle during low-speed maneuvers.”

He advocates lifelong learning for bikers. 

“Take a rider safety course if you are just getting into street riding and if it has been a while, a refresher course is a great idea too,” he said. “Or even an advanced riding course for those that want to elevate their riding skills to the next level.”

Liane Langlois of the Alberta Motorcycle Safety Society (AMSS) says pea gravel presents an especially dangerous hazard for motorcyclists this time of year, as the snowmelt exposes the slippery substance on roadways.

Some riders wait until road crews have swept up all the pea gravel before hitting the road.

Langlois says avid riders need not wait, as long as they are diligent.

“In the spring, we, as riders, need to be super hyper aware of gravel. It will take you out in an instant,” she said.

The slippery hazards are not restricted to gravel.

“And a lot of riders, especially new riders may not know that the reflective paint, whether it’s dotted lines or crosswalks, if that’s wet or even slightly frosted in the morning, that is like black ice,” she said.

In the spring, roads are not as warm early in the morning as they are in summer, which is another factor less experienced riders may discover the hard way.

“Tires are also colder and need a little more time to warm up to that colder pavement,” Langlois said.

She stressed the importance of automobile and truck drivers remembering their role in motorcycle safety as well.

“Drivers haven’t seen us for a few months. The biggest one is left-hand turn lanes. They’re only looking for cars,” she said.

“We’re a vulnerable community because people’s brains aren’t really [thinking of] us.”

She suggests parents with kids take the old Punch Buggy game, in which kids try to spot Volkswagen Beetles, and turn it into spotting motorcycles instead.

“If you teach them how to spot motorcycles at a young age, then they grow into that habit,” she said.

The AMSS website offers plenty of advice to bikers this time of year, such as continually watching the road surface, scanning your gauges, checking your mirrors, and making a mental note of all the vehicles you’re sharing the road with.

“If there is sand, gravel, garbage, metal plates, potholes, roadkill, tire carcasses, etc, on the road, your constant attention will alert you to these things in plenty of time to take appropriate action,” the site states.

The Alberta RCMP is also reminding bikers of key traffic safety practices before they ride. In a recent press release, they provided a series of tips, such as wearing proper gear, and conducting a pre-ride safety check.

Other tips included inspecting fluid levels, tire pressure, lights, chains and your motorcycle’s overall condition, and maintaining a safe following distance to avoid flying debris from other vehicles.

Being small, it is important for motorcycles to stay in sight of larger vehicles and avoid blind spots,” the RCMP stated. 

RCMP also remind motorcyclists to not speed or weave this season.

Safe motorcycle handling, and sharing the road responsibly, ensures control and reduces the risk of collision,” they stated. 

A motorcycle is a high performance vehicle – just because your bike can do it, doesn’t mean your bike should do it. Slow down on unfamiliar roadways and do not feel that you have to keep up to other, more experienced riders.”

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