With the tragic accident that happened along the Midpoint Bridge earlier last week, it's enough to make any motorcyclist or motorist shudder. Although it was a typical morning of bumper-to-bumper traffic, tragedy struck as a fast-moving van caused a collision into the rear of a local motorcyclist, causing a chain reaction into multiple other vehicles. Sadly, after a two-day battle, the motorcyclist lost his life, and other motorists involved endured injury.
Yes, this was a single incident, but it puts things into perspective for several who ride locally or who know others who ride locally, wondering if there's anything more they can do to keep themselves as safe as possible when hitting the open road on their steel horses.
Rider services manager and Harley-Davidson Riding Academy instructor of Harley-Davidson of Fort Myers Zak Gibson shares some words of wisdom for motorcyclists and the motorists who share the road with them.
Motorcycle safety goes beyond the motorcyclists – other motorists on the road are responsible for being aware and paying close attention to their surroundings, paying extra caution to those on two wheels rather than four.
"The biggest thing we go through is being seen and being heard being a defensive driver," he said. "Everyone wears black, but when riding, you should wear bright colors orange, yellow. It makes a huge difference on the road for being seen. Also, wearing gear with reflective surfaces really helps you stand out, or using reflective tape on your helmet and other riding equipment."
Another way to help be seen is with upgraded brake lights, which are both brighter and programmable, to flash at different levels/patterns while stopping or slowing down.
"They can really help, and are just more ways to be seen on the road and every little bit helps," he said.
As for being heard, Zak said higher-decibel horns and loud pipes are the way to go, more ways to help your presence be known to others on the road.
"People ask why so many bikers have loud pipes it's to be heard. Yes, they sound great, but they really help let others on the road know you're there."
Upgraded horns of a legal decibel, much louder than stock horns, are often upgraded at the local dealership.
When it comes to slow-moving or dead-stop traffic, Zak recommends leaving your bike in gear, rather than popping it into neutral to roll.
"Lots get in the habit of putting their bikes in neutral to ride their clutch out in traffic, or when rolling to a red light," he said. "But it's safer to keep your bike in gear. That way if there's a situation, you have the ability to already to be in gear and get out of the way quicker."
For those new to the motorcycle world, now to get your two-wheeled license, you have to take a riding course with a private agent. Harley-Davidson offers both the New Rider course, a state-certified, nationally recognized course that allows students the use of a brand new HD Street 500, as well as the Skilled Rider's course, offering exercises on a closed course on your own motorcycle.
"First thing we do at the academy is introduce riders to each department, giving them a tour of the facility, going over all of the safety equipment, going over what a DOT helmet is, the different colors of clothing and what to wear, protection with different armor and other gear," Zak said, who's been riding on two wheels and an engine since he was a little boy. "We're tied into the DMV; once they've passed, we report it to the state."
Motorcycle safety and safety on the road goes beyond the motorcyclists' responsibility it is the other motorists' responsibilities to be aware and pay extra caution when in the presence of a motorcycle during their commute. That means keeping your eyes off of your phones and other in-cab devices and keeping them on the road where they belong!
"Everyone has to share the road. Motorcyclists are a little more vulnerable, being on two wheels, no roll cage. I highly encourage people to take the riding course even if they're not riders. Those who have taken it who don't ride say they're a better driver because of the course: they're now more aware on the road, paying more attention to their surroundings and other drivers."
Classes run from $249 for the New Rider's course, and offered twice a week (Monday through Thursday, along with a weekend course). Harley-Davidson's newest facility called Six Bends, at Daniels Parkway and I-75, close the Southwest Florida International Airport, will boast a two-acre course, along with several other amenities for motorcycle enthusiasts.
Harley-Davidson riding gear with reflective surfaces are available online and in the store, ranging from jackets, gloves and vests to helmets, hats and arm bands, and helps to be seen on the road, as well as horn, light and pipe upgrades, along with anything else you'd like to upgrade on your bike.
For further information on either of the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy courses, to schedule an appointment in the shop, or anything else, call 239-275-4647 or visit HDFortMyers.com.