May 14
Time to Kill
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Toys for Tots run, 2009

Motorcycles negotiate traffic lights along State Line Ave. during the
2009 Toys for Tots run.

Most drivers have had the experience of pulling up to the signal light at an empty intersection, then waiting for the light to change. I’ve sat at intersections, feeling like the last man on earth, waiting for a light to turn. I always get the feeling that if I just pull on through, I’ll discover that the only other survivor of the worldwide apocalypse is an on-duty patrol officer. Right on red helps a little, but what about those times when you want to go straight or make a left? One website estimates average Americans spend two weeks of their lives waiting on red lights.
One possible solution to this problem is the use of “smart” lights. These are signal lights with some way of determining whether there is a vehicle waiting on the side of an intersection that is about to turn from red to green. Most of these use magnetic induction. They are basically big metal detectors buried in the road that detect the metal of a vehicle waiting at the light. Unfortunately most motorcycles either don’t contain enough metal or are too small to register on these devices.
The state of Oklahoma passed the “Motorcycle Mobility and Safety Act” that will allow motorcyclists to proceed through a red traffic light when the signal fails to change, but only after certain conditions are met. The law will go into effect Nov. 1. It will be interesting to see if, or how quickly, other states follow.
As an IT guy, I’m often frustrated when I see people try to solve a social or managerial problem with technology. Instead of buying another expensive filter and writing six pages of code to police Internet usage, just have managers enforce company policy. Technology isn’t always the answer. But sometimes it is.
In this case, we need to get better sensors or a manual bypass. The Oklahoma law only applies to intersections using traffic detectors, and then requires a complete stop. Unless a sign is posted, there is no way to be certain whether a signal light is using a detector. Local riders, who will know, will likely just avoid that intersection. It’s the people passing through who will get stuck and have no way of knowing for sure if the light is using a sensor, or simply defective. This just-drive-on-through solution also fails to resolve the problem of waiting your turn when traffic is going the other direction.
Deploying technology isn’t always the solution and deploying defective technology is rarely the solution. It’s time to step back and determine whether the current state of “smart” light technology is causing more problems that it solves.

— Guy Wheatley

Oct 1
Almost twice as many military personnel died in motorcycle wrecks in the fiscal year ending Sept. 1, 2008, as in the previous year. The number was 124, up from 72. The sad story of a brave soldier surviving a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, only to die in a motorcycle wreck a few weeks or days after coming back to the United States, has been repeated too many times. These are not ordinary citizens. In many cases they are young. They are America’s best legacy for the future. Their recent duties have desensitized many of them to the natural warnings that normally inhibit dangerous behavior.
“We don’t have the luxury of losing people to preventable mishaps, that’s why there’s an urgent need to do something,” said April K. Phillips, a Navy spokesman.
The military is now requiring riding classes, screening riders for risky behavior, and organizing racing events where military riders can more safely relieve the need for an adrenaline rush. They also require them to wear safety equipment such as helmets.
The armed services are acting responsibility by implementing these procedures to protect soldiers, sailors and marines. The benefits will also extend to the civilian population. Not only will they be less likely to cause injury or death to civilians on the highway, but they are setting an example. There are at least a few riders out there who think that taking a safety course, or wearing a helmet is a little sissy. These are the bravest people in the world. Many of them have faced death several times, and continued to do their job. If they can wear helmets and take safety classes, so can the rest of us. The military leaders know it’s not sissy. It’s smart.
Military Motorcycle Deaths.
The Associated Press
In this Sept. 10, 2009 photo, Marine Corps Sgt. Doranda Rodela, left, talks with safety instructor Richard Stampp, during a motorcycle safety class held at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in northern San Diego County. Alarmed by hundreds of motorcycle deaths by off-duty marines, soldiers and sailors over the last several years, the military is requiring riding classes, screening riders for risky behavior and organizing racing events for a safe adrenaline rush.


— Guy Wheatley

Sep 11
HD Phone Home
icon1 Guy | icon2 News | icon4 09 11th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

I ran across an interesting post today. I was lurking on a technology forum and found a post complaining about a specific smart phone. A member complained that the iPhone doesn’t readily interface with his Harley.
Say what? Am I reading this right? Can’t attach your phone to your bike?
I was pleased at the number of responses he got pointing out that motorcycling and chatting on the phone don’t mix. He got little sympathy from either the bikers on the forum, or the iPhone users.
But all is not lost for the iPhone. The MotoCzysc E1pc, an all electric Superbike, uses an iPhone for the instrument cluster. Click here for article at intoMobile
With it’s built-in GPS and accelerometer, the iPhone can calculate and display speed and odometer readings. With it’s handy location at the top of the triple tree, it could easily serve as a GPS as well.
One would suspect the E1′s owners expect the driver to find his way around the track without an electronic navigator. It’s also unlikely he’ll be listening to Enya while tearing up the track. I guess if he gets too far behind, the owners could call him up and threaten to fire him.
Can’t hook you phone to your bike? This ain’t your daddy’s motorcycle.

— Guy Wheatley

Aug 21
Laying down the law
icon1 Guy | icon2 News | icon4 08 21st, 2009| icon31 Comment »

Several new laws go into effect September 1 that affect motorcycles. Here are some of the Highlights:

HB 537 includes the provision that prohibits a motorcycle operator from carrying a passenger under the age of 5 unless the child is seated in a sidecar attached to the motorcycle.
Full version of HB 537

HB 2012 increases the penalty by making it a Class A misdemeanor if the person driving
without insurance or a valid driver license has an accident and someone is seriously injured or dies as a result of that accident.
Full version of HB 2012

SB 129 defines some smaller electric scooters as “not” motorcycles and exempts them from licensing and helmet requirements.
Full version of SB 129

Senate Bill 1967 makes several motorcycle related changes including changes to helmet requirements, licensing requirements, and penalties for failure to yield right-of-way.
Full version of SB 1967

Several blog sites mention that riders caught without an “M” endorsement on their drivers license will have their bikes impounded until they get the endorsement. I’ve been unable to find the specific bill that references this. It’s possible that it’s not a new bill, merely an increased emphasis on enforcing licensing. Either way, those riding without the endorsement may have their bikes impounded.

— Guy Wheatley

May 19

With the beautiful weather, bikers are hitting the road in increasing numbers. Unfortunately, the number of biker related accidents is also going up. A man on a motorcycle was killed in Texarkana Monday. This is the second motorcycle accident in a seven day period.
Early reports indicate that the driver of a 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander stopped at a stop sign, but didn’t see the biker and pulled out in front of him. The biker wasn’t wearing a helmet. It is believed he was killed instantly.

Staff photo by Megumi Rooze Texas-side police officers investigate the scene where a collision killed a Texarkana man Monday at Pine and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Staff photo by Megumi Rooze Texas-side police officers investigate the scene where a collision killed a
Texarkana man Monday at Pine and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

There is a lot of venting on several forums I belong to about the carnage caused by careless car drivers. There seems to be the perception among some bikers that “cagers,” as drivers of cars and trucks are called, are out to get us. That somehow the life and safety of a motorcyclist is not as important to them as that of other drivers.
As both a biker and a cager, I know how hard it is to see motorcycles. The internet is full of studies about how physics and human perception make it more difficult to spot something the size of a motorcycle moving at speed. If science doesn’t prove it to you, then statistics should.
If you’re going to ride a motorcycle you must take responsibility for your own safety. You need to understand and believe that you are invisible. Right of way and right or wrong simply do not enter into it. Every motorcycle will lose every argument with even the smallest car. The most effective thing a biker can do for safety is wear a helmet. I’m frequently dismayed at the number of bikers who insist that “Loud pipes save lives,” while turning their noses up a helmets. Neither statistics nor studies indicate that loud pipes contribute to safety while countless studies, statistics, and common sense tell us that helmets do.

— Guy Wheatley

May 18
A New Division
icon1 Guy | icon2 News | icon4 05 18th, 2009| icon31 Comment »

2002 92 ci Victory Touring Cruiser

2002 92 ci Victory Touring Cruiser

Polaris Industries announced on their website the creation of a new division called the On-Road Vehicle Division. (Polaris web site.)
The site then goes on for about a page listing the shuffling of executives in an organizational restructuring. The site also says that Victory Motorcycles will be a strong component of the companies drive to “Establish a strong on-road presence.”
The thing is, as far as I know, Victory Motorcycle IS Polairs’ on-road presence. They make Snowmobiles, quads, off road utility vehicles, and even some military hardware. There is nothing else on their website that rolls out of the plant street legal. So if Victory is only going to be a part of their on-road presence, what is the other part? Are they going into the automobile business? If so, this is an interesting time to start a car company. Or maybe they’re just going to pick one up at fire sale prices.
From my personal stand point, the best thing they could do to improve their on-road presence, is bring a dealership back to Texarkana. There was one here when I bought my V92TC. (Victory Touring Cruiser. 92 cubic inches.) I wouldn’t have bought it if there hadn’t been a dealer in town at the time. I’m even considering selling it for that very reason. It’s been a good bike, but I don’t relish the thought of trailering it 120 miles to Hot Springs for something I can’t fix myself.
It will be interesting to see what Polaris has up it’s corporate sleeve. I just hope it gets me closer to a dealership.

— Guy Wheatley

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