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Editorial: Sign idea benefits cyclists

Earlier this year, motorcyclists gathered in Milwaukee for the 105th Harley-Davidson anniversary.

While Pierce County likely doesn't get as many cyclists at one time as the number attending that event, this area often finds itself a haven for bikers. Besides during the spring and fall "flood runs," motorcycles travel roads here most every nice-weather weekend each year.

It's a testimony to this region's scenic beauty and a boost to the economy, but also a concern because of the potential for accidents. In that regard, one Harley enthusiast who's an attorney has come up with an idea which should be considered.

Jason Abraham of Hupy and Abraham SC wants the state to require contractors to erect signs warning bikers when they approach street construction work. Abraham explains cars can simply roll over uneven pavement and loose gravel, but those conditions pose dangerous risks to bikers. Loose gravel is a big hazard, he's quoted as saying, contending even if the most careful motorcyclist in the world comes upon loose gravel on a roadway, it's a flip of a coin whether it will be navigated safely.

The Federal Highway Administration, which sets the baseline standards for construction site signage, reportedly doesn't require anything for motorcycles. However, the administration, in its latest proposed revision to its signage rules, suggested requiring signs having the image of a motorcycle and rider in profile next to warnings for grooved pavement or metal bridge decks.

Such a step won't prevent all cycle accidents, to be sure, but any safety reminder when it comes to these road users might help. A 2006 statistic shows motorcycles accounted for 291,534 of the 5.3 million registered vehicles in Wisconsin. The state's Department of Transportation indicated cycles accounted for 49 of the 3,325 vehicles involved in crashes in work construction zones in 2007.

Motorcycle accidents at construction sites due to uneven pavement or gravel are more common than most assume, according to the attorney. He cited one case he was on where a cyclist went into a construction site and there was a hole. Because the signage wasn't right and the barrels weren't in the right place, the motorcycle went right into the hole.

Of course, safety is a two-way street. Bikers need to be aware of obstacles up ahead and slow down, just as they must watch for other traffic, the presence of signs notwithstanding. Yet, they're often out there in force in Pierce County and any measure taken to signal that fact could help reduce the high rate of motorcycle crashes in this county and elsewhere.