Keeping a look out

As Doug Smith and a group of his fellow motorcycle riders gathered at his home before a short ride recently, one of the hazards they frequently encounter made an appearance a few homes up the street.

A car backed out of a driveway into the street, apparently without looking.

Almost everyone noticed it with a well-practiced shake of their heads and a grumble or two.

“That’s the type of stuff you have to watch,” he said.

Smith, coordinator for A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education District 10, sees a lot of potential danger.

“You have to drive defensively,” he said. “You basically have to drive for everybody else.”

As the temperatures warm, the motorcycles come back out onto the roads, many motorists in cars are simply not prepared for them.

“It seems to be people aren’t aware,” he said. “It’s been too cold.”

Smith said he often sees drivers that are distracted, frequently with cell phones that they are either talking on or sending text messages with.

D.L. Peterson, the ABATE state coordinator for their Share the Road campaign, has a simple message for drivers encounter motorcycles again.

“Take a second look, look twice,” he said.

In addition to drivers still getting used to sharing the road with motorcycles, Peterson and Smith both said that riders encounter a lot of other hazards.

Sand and gravel left on the road from the winter’s snow melting efforts, potholes that have opened up during the thaw, cracks in the road and strips of sealant that have been torn out of road joints by snowplows all make for some dodging and weaving that a motorist needs to be aware of.

Stay back.

“Most motorists set too close of a following distance,” Smith said.

In addition, a vehicle in front of a bike can easily kick those loose objects up onto the rider.

While a pothole is usually only a nuisance to a driver in a car, to a motorcyclist, it can be a health hazard.

“It can throw you off the bike,” Smith said.

“We will swerve around them,” Peterson said. “You’ll drive over them.”

In spite of riding defensively and doing everything they can to make themselves visible. Almost all of the gathered group has had a close call or two.

For Smith, it was sitting at a stop sign waiting to leave an event.

“An elderly lady missed the front of my bike by an inch,” he said.

For Mark Loots, state trustee, it’s gone beyond that.

“I’ve been hit twice,” he said. “Lots of close calls too.”

Sheila and Mick Evans, of Fort Dodge, have been riding together for years. They said that many riders are older individuals that have gotten back onto a motorcycle after a long hiatus.

They recommend two things, making sure the bike they are riding is set up properly to fit them and taking a rider education course.

“If it’s been 20 years since you’ve been on a bike you need to refresh yourself,” Mick Evans said.

She agrees.

“Even as an experienced rider it’s a good course to take,” Sheila Evans said.

ABATE offers several of those courses. They can be signed up for through their website.

Mark Loots has one last request from the motorists he will be sharing the road with.

“Just watch for us,” he said.