Secretary of State rides to Biker Bob’s promoting motorcycle safety
By David Komer
TAYLOR — Secretary of State Ruth Johnson picked Thursday for a colorful entrance.
She pulled into Biker Bob’s Harley-Davidson Motown on Telegraph on a shiny dark red Sportster model.
Johnson, a rider since she was 12, came to promote May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and was the lead speaker on a panel that covered topics like wearing high visibility gear, training, getting a license endorsement and sharing the road.
She said the number of motorcyclists in the state is on the rise, with more than 250,000 motorcycles — an 8 percent increase in the last five years.
“When it comes to riding, Michigan is made for motorcycles,” said Johnson, who rode a loaner from Biker Bob’s with a group of safety advocates and motorcyclists. “Every year we see more and more motorcycles on the road. With the warm weather, we are going to see more and more riders on our streets and highways.
“It’s important to be seen by wearing high-visibility protective vests.”
Michigan has more than 500,000 drivers with endorsements on their license, which indicates that the rider has completed a safety course or passed a certification test.
Johnson is one of 65,000 female riders, or about 12 percent of the state’s total. That number is also going up, with a 20-percent surge in the past five years.
Businesses like Biker Bob’s offer training for beginners up to advanced motorcycle enthusiasts, which Johnson said is a must.
“Thirteen percent of riders in Michigan are not endorsed, even though it is a requirement,” she said. “That group accounts for more than half of our serious injury or fatal accidents.”
Johnson was one of the first women in Oakland County to become endorsed.
Fifty-eight percent of fatal or serious injury crashes are caused by the 13 percent of riders who don’t have an endorsement on their license, she said. The endorsement tag is a small CY notation on a license.
Michael Prince, director of the state Office of Highway Safety Planning, members of Biker Bob’s staff and Kurt Sebaly, director of the Penrickton Center for Blind Children, also spoke.
Prince said 10 percent of the state’s annual traffic deaths involve motorcycles. Last year fatalities rose 18 percent to 129 in 2012 from 109 in 2011.
“Motorcyclists out there everyday know they’re more vulnerable than those in cars,” he said. “OHSP has provided financial support for the department of state’s motorcycle safety training program to Michigan’s many motorcycle riders.
“Basic and advanced rider training is so critical to the riding community. We are working on ways to make more ways of training available. There’s no excuse for not doing that.”
Johnson said experienced riders should know that advanced courses are available; the advanced riding course for endorsed riders and the returning rider course for unendorsed riders, allows them to do so.
“As an experienced rider myself,” Johnson said, “It’s always a good idea to sharpen your skills, no matter how long you’ve been riding.”
Frank Calzaretta, manager of the Rider’s Edge program at Biker Bob’s, spoke about the value of rider safety training and protective gear.
Calzaretta said since he joined Biker Bob’s in 2001 his location has done over 250 classes with over 2,500 students.
He also talked about the importance of wearing the right safety gear. He mentioned when he “hit the ground at 40 mph,” but the only injury he suffered was a nickel-sized red elbow because he wore protective gear.
“One of the greatest honors is when customers shake your hand and relate a close call story they have,” he said, “and how the proper training teaching them to ride saved their life. there’s no value you can put on that.”
Training is offered throughout the state at public and private locations. Visit michigan.gov to find a provider near you.
Sebaly, a 40-year-rider, also spoke of the importance of protective gear and training.
The Penrickton Center has partnered with Biker Bob’s annual Ride for a Reason, which starts at Cabela’s in Dundee and ends at Biker Bob’s. The proceeds go to the center, a private, non-profit five-day residential and day care agency serving blind, multi- disabled children ages 1 through 12.
To sign up for the ride, the largest in Michigan, visit penrickton.com/events/