Traffic fatalities are increasing this year in Portland, including deaths in motorcycle crashes. City officials are hoping to reduce the trend with Vision Zero policies that call for no traffic fatalities or serious injuries in the future.
By coincidence, the State Motorcycle Safety Administrators annual summit meeting is being held this week through Saturday at the Red Lion Hotel at Jantzen Beach. Motorcycle safety professionals from all regions of the nation have come to town to discuss the latest developments in motorcycle safety education and technology.
“The last time we hosted an SMSA summit was in the 1990s,” says Steve Garets of Team Oregon. “So we’re excited to have the association and its members come to Oregon.”
Team Oregon is Oregon’s motorcycle safety program, operated in partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
The program is funded through motorcycle license endorsement fees, Garets says. “Our role is to provide motorcycle training, education and awareness on a statewide basis. We have 22 training sites across the state, and we have over 200 instructors who provide about 1,100 courses to more than 11,000 students each year.”
According to the 2015 Portland Traffic Safety Report, traffic fatalities declined sharply from 1984 to 2000, but recently have been rising as more vehicles and pedestrians share the city streets. Every day, people travel more than 20 million miles within Portland’s city limits.
Portland’s traffic fatalities are still lower than the national average, but the Portland rate is higher than in San Francisco, New York or Seattle. Thirty-two people have died in traffic crashes to far this year, compared with 27 at the same point in 2015.
The city’s Vision Zero program is working to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries over the next 10 years. Activities to help achieve that goal at the summit include workshops, instructor training, and general presentations covering a variety of topics of interest to program administrators, law enforcement, and riding instructors.
“Most states have a motorcycle safety program of some kind,” Garets says. “What SMSA is so good for is that we get all these people together to share best practices and trends in motorcycling and motorcycle technology.”
The summit also includes some hands-on demonstrations of motorcycle safety technology. Demonstrations will include a unique motorcycle safety activity called Skidbike, created by Dane Pitarresi of SkidCar System, Inc. of Las Vegas. The Skidbike is a motorcycle fitted with a stability platform similar to a set of training wheels. The device allows a rider to experience a loss of control without the risk of injury.
“We’re collaborating with Bosch, who is developing stability and traction control and antilock braking systems for motorcycles,” Pitarresi says.
Representatives from Bosch will present information on advanced electronic control assistance, and then Pitarresi will demonstrate the safety features in action.
“We can expose technologies on the motorcycle at 15 to 20 miles per hour, so if riders do make a mistake, they won’t get hurt,” Pitarresi says. “The big deal is to let riders feel what these technologies can do.”
In addition to demonstrations of stability control technology, Team Oregon riding instructors will experience the Skidbike for themselves.
“A huge percentage of injuries are incurred while learning how to ride,” Pitarresi says. “In a car you can slide around and there’s some safety. But how do you show a motorcyclist what’s too much? How do you show what can kill you without getting hurt? We can do that with a Skidbike.”
Skidbike demonstrations are scheduled in the parking lot of the Red Lion from 1:30-
3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Participation is limited to registered attendees at the conference, but the public is welcome to observe.