May is both national bike month and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. In California, this means Caltrans posts “Watch for motorcycles” messages on their electronic Sigalert highway signs.
What’s the impact of this enhanced safety awareness? Motorcycle groups applaud Caltrans for raising awareness, bicycle groups grumble “What about us?” and drivers continue killing and maiming motorcycles and cyclists around the state, including this nimrod who pulled a u-turn directly in front of a CHP motorcycle officer and sent him to the hospital.
A driver killed a San Jose teen biking to school this morning near East Capitol Expressway. This fatality occurred just four miles from another collision that killed a five year old girl walking to school last week.
It’s not just motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians who are hit and killed, of course. I saw the aftermath of this rollover crash at Camden Avenue and Highway 17 in Campbell, CA over the weekend. And North (Monterey) County Fire Chief Chris Orman tells the Mercury News his views on the number of auto crash fatalities in his jurisdiction:
This county averages 20 to 30 fatalities per year on these roads. If a commuter jet with 20 to 30 people crashed every year, there would be no limit to what our lawmakers would do to investigate and prevent this terrible tragedy. But because the deaths are one or two at a time on the roads, and, well, you’ve seen the roads, right? Well, what are you going to do?
Orman believes State Highway 156 is particularly dangerous. 156 links U.S. Highway 101 with State Highway 1 to provide access between San Jose and Monterey. Orman says he leaves a truck and its crew parked on the side of this highway on busy weekends in order to cut response times for the inevitable collisions on this very congested route. The Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) suggests converting 156 into a toll road to pay for improvements to speed traffic and improve safety. The reader comments following the toll road story are universally negative. I guess these communist welfare liberals who use this highway believe Orman and his paramedics work for no pay.
Monterey County has no local transportation tax, and California’s state gas tax is partially divied out to counties based on the number of registered vehicles in the county. I don’t personally have an opinion on 156 as toll road or not, but it seems reasonable to charge a user fee for the huge number of visitors from out-of-county using this highway and other local roads.
Speaking of road projects, Mercury News transportation columnist Gary Richards comments on a couple of other California road projects. One of interest it the Highway 108 bypass in Sonora: he says the $53 million project will save about five minutes of travel time for travelers on their way to the eastern Sierra Nevada region from the Central Valley.
To recap: Watch for motorcycles, okay? And bicyclists and pedestrians while you’re at it. Because one of them might be the mayor of Portland participating in a crosswalk sting operation. Or, just as importantly, it might even be a neighbor’s kid. Please be careful.