MEDICINE HAT, AB – After a long winter in southeast Alberta, motorcyclists are finally starting to rev up their engines and hit the open road.
For over 30 years, Rick Look has fired up his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to disconnect himself from the rest of the world.
“It's just the freedom of being out there and riding,” said Look. “People ride horses, I ride a motorcycle.”
However, it’s been a tragic start to the year for Look’s community, with five deaths involving motorcyclists on Alberta roads in less than two weeks.
“We're all a band, we're a group that like to ride,” he said. “It's tough to hear when people get hurt and killed on motorcycles, especially this time of year because summer is just starting. So, it's really tough on the community for sure.”
There were 27 crashes involving motorbikes in Medicine Hat last year, though Medicine Hat Police and Redcliff RCMP reported no motorcycle fatalities in 2017.
According to the Redcliff detachment, their last fatality came in spring of 2014, while there have been three fatal collisions in the ‘Gas City’ over the last decade.
May is ‘Motorcycle Safety Month’ for Alberta RCMP and Redcliff S/Sgt. Sean Maxwell said many riders are getting back on the road for the first time in six months.
“You may have a motorcyclist whose skills are a bit rusty and out of practice,” said Maxwell. “People that are driving other vehicles, they always need to be aware 360 degrees around them what's going on at all times, but particularly this time of year.”
Two of the recent fatal crashes in Alberta involved vehicles trying to make a left-hand turn.
Liane Langlois, president of the Alberta Motorcycle Safety Society, said 40 percent of all crashes involving motorcycles are a result of these improper turns.
“You don't see the smaller things on the road, so you don't necessarily see that motorcycle coming,” said Langlois. “We lose in that situation nine times out of 10, we just ask people turning left to take that second look and be sure before you go.”
Riders meanwhile are encouraged to always wear a helmet and proper protective gear, while keeping a safe distance behind other vehicles.
Despite a few near misses over the years, Look counts himself lucky.
“We always have close calls,” he said. “Thank my lucky stars, knock on wood that I haven't really smashed a bike up, but we've all had close calls.”
Look added all it takes is a little more awareness from both sides, to keep Alberta’s roads safer for bikers and drivers alike.
“We're out there and you're not going to stop us from going out there, that's just what we do,” he said. “So, I want everybody just to be aware that motorcycles are out, and they're going to be coming out more and more as the weather gets nicer.”
With the May long weekend on the horizon, Alberta RCMP will be extending their safety campaign for motorbikes and ATVs, while promoting education on distracted and impaired driving.
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