The Lion’s Den: Hazardous Road Conditions

The unpredictable behavior on the roads of motorists in cars, trucks, vans and SUVs is no big secret or even news to us but these risky maneuvers are even more hazardous when you add potholes into the mix.

Few things are as predictable, as dreaded and as stifling to a motorcyclist as a harsh winter. Fewer things still frustrate a motorcyclist more than cabin fever, Parked Motorcycle Syndrome (P.M.S.) or the winter blues. We two-wheel enthusiasts who happen to ride and reside in the northeast United States have had to endure the offseason, garaged and staring out the window like a child with a new kite on a rainy day. I myself, who prides myself on my year ‘round riding, have spent more time behind the steering wheel as of late than I have at the controls of my motorcycles. As if the seemingly never-ending series of polar vortex powered winter storms wasn’t enough to drive a biker crazy, for days even weeks after the last snowflake has fallen there are salt-covered roads all around, patches of compacted ice and snow almost strategically placed at intersections and under overpasses and not to mention those land mines of the right and left lane known as potholes.

Ah yes, the potholes. Perhaps substantially more dangerous to a motorcyclist than the loss of traction due to snow and ice or even the cold temperatures that rob us of comfort while battling all the other opponents we encounter when riding are the inherent and potential dangers of potholes, deteriorating asphalt, cracks in the road and sinkholes. While many of these “black holes of death and destruction” are easily seen in advance and may be avoided (as if we need another reason to flick the bike from one side to the other) it’s the other motorists doing the same that scares me most. The unpredictable behavior on the roads of motorists in cars, trucks, vans and SUVs is no big secret or even news to us but these risky maneuvers are even more hazardous when you add potholes into the mix.

A victim of the “black holes of death and destruction”?

Now a motorcyclist’s familiar out in the event of a cage encroaching on our lane can be taken away in an instant by the unlucky placement of a pothole. Many metropolitan centers and rural areas alike will have unaddressed potholes lingering in their streets long after the spring like temperatures start to coax the fair weather riders out from their garages and storage units. Roads that were in disrepair before the harsh winter’s effects will be even worse off than before and it will take every drop from the proverbial April showers to wash away that ugly and corrosive salt residue that chalks up the streets so severely. We northern and northeast motorcyclists have endured and persevered through a full-on assault from “Old Man Winter.” Jack Frost is pissed and Mother Nature is on her period because the winter weather, polar vortices and the overzealous response by the areas’ respective Departments of Transportation have been fierce and on-going. With no end in sight for the foreseeable future, some of my two wheeled brothers and sisters have ventured out on two during some of the nicer days and have been met with threats of all sorts on the street. We could be well into April and May before we see the mercury poke its head above the comfort level and plows or salt trucks get parked for the season. With that in mind folks please be careful as these hazardous road conditions we’ve seen this winter shall continue to plague our rides long after the snow melts. Be mindful and vigilant when venturing out from under the blanket of cold and 1st quarter weather. Watch out for not only potholes but also for those motorists who do not expect to see you out on the road. Prepare yourself for the motorists who are concerned more with avoiding wear and tear on their tires than they are with your safety as they swerve to avoid potholes only to invade your personal space.

I imagine that some of you, both those who dare to come out from motorcycle hibernation into the streets early and those who never stopped, will experience near misses, replace wheels and tires, touch ass to asphalt and worse before the weather warms and motorcyclists take to the streets en masse. In the areas of these wonderful United States of America that recognizes an end and beginning to the “riding season,” we usually see the first few motorcycle fatalities around the end of March and beginning of April and it breaks my heart to know that the calendar is bringing me closer to the inevitable bad news phone calls and text messages.

Be careful bikers, stay frosty and mind the road. The roads are still cold, there are potholes and patches of ice everywhere and the ride can be unforgiving when hazardous road and weather conditions exist. As the weather starts to turn I encourage you all to be mindful that motorists are no more acclimated to our presence than we are to the spring temperatures outside. It may not be a road or weather condition but just as hazardous is cabin fever or more specifically the desire to get out and ride after a long winter of motorcycle-less days and nights. Overly anxious motorcyclists eager to feel the wind in their hair have placed themselves in harm’s way because they simply couldn’t or didn’t wait just a little while longer before getting out on two. Let the road warm up, make sure your machines are in proper operating condition and give those we share the roads with a chance to expect motorcycles out in the streets once again. The ride isn’t going anywhere and neither are the roads. Give your local municipality the opportunity to fill and patch those aforementioned “black holes of death and destruction” and give Mother Nature a chance to calm her crazy ass down and wash away the salt. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a race and there are no trophies or contingency points to be gained by being the first among your peers to throw a leg over this year. With that said, spring weather may not be a prerequisite to ride right now but it sure helps.

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