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Motorcycle Leather Jackets Albany NY

Brutal spring for motorcyclists

Police investigate a motorcycle crash on I87 between Albany and Bethlehem on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (Thomas Heffernan Sr./Special to the Times Union) Photo: Picasa
Deaths remind riders, drivers to be alert at all times

By Tim O'Brien

Police investigate a motorcycle crash on I87 between Albany and Bethlehem on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (Thomas Heffernan Sr./Special to the Times Union)

Photo: Picasa

It's been a brutal spring for motorcycle riders, with five Capital Region residents killed since May 26, including one on the state Thruway Thursday in a collision with a tractor-trailer.

Last year, 13 motorcycle riders were killed in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. That's the same number as in 2009, but up from the nine killed in 2014.

Based on miles traveled, the risk of death on a motorcycle is 26 times greater than for a car passenger, according to federal highway statistics.

On Friday, police identified the man killed when his motorcycle collided with a tractor-trailer Thursday on the Thruway in Bethlehem as William A. Walsh, 43, of Cairo. That 12:15 p.m. crash left the northbound lanes between Exit 21A and 23 closed for more than five hours. Police on Friday had not yet determined the cause of the incident.

More Information

Deaths, year by year

These are the number of fatal motorcycle accidents in Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties in the last several years:

2015: 13

2014: 9

2013: 5

2012: 12

2011: 9

2010: 10

2009: 13

Source: Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research

The motorcycle was mangled, and the back cargo door of the truck, which was carrying Adirondack Beverages, was almost completely sheared off. The truck driver, who was unhurt, was Randy W. Hilliker, 62, of Scotia.

There are 27, 541 licensed motorcyclists in the Capital Region, the largest number — 9, 102 — in Saratoga County.

Maggie McNally-Bradshaw of Princetown, chair of the board of the American Motorcyclist Association, said drivers and riders need to be more cognizant that they share the road.

"A lot of it has to do with awareness, " she said. "The rider needs to be aware that not everyone is going to see him or her and to do everything they can to be visible or out of the way of blind spots."

Splittgerber said riders often need to readjust when they take their bikes back out for the new season. "It takes a while to get you re-acclimated to riding again, " he said.

Positioning the bike to be visible is extremely important, he said.

"You don't want to be hugging the curb, " he said. "You want to be in the left center of the lane so you're visible."

Car drivers have to be more conscientious, too, McNally-Bradshaw said.

"Mobile communications has been pretty catastrophic to motorcyclists, " she said. "We are not asking you to go out of the way to go around us. You're supposed to look in your mirror, look to check your blindspots. Texting or talking on the phone, you're not focused on the important work at hand, operating a 2, 000-pound vehicle. A lot of people are relying on the new technology in cars rather than using their own eyes. The blindspot indicators are a great tool, but they don't replace turning your head."

Mark Katlin of Schenectady, regional chairman for the motorcyclist association, said riders are trying to change state law to make killing a motorcyclist by failing to stop a crime and not just a traffic infraction.

"For us to be invisible and for us to pay for our lives with it is something we have to deal with year after year, " he said. "In years past, if you killed a motorcyclist, the answer was 'Oops, sorry.' "

He strongly advised motorcyclists to take some of the classes. There is a seven-hour course for experienced riders and a two-day course for novice riders. Schedules for both courses can be found at

For motorcyclists, Archambault said, the key is to continually search while on the road, looking behind, in front and from side to side. Riders need to learn how to evaluate their circumstances and then do what they can to stay safe.

"We teach stopping, swerving, lane position so you can be seen by motorists, " he said.

If a motorcycle accident occurs without another vehicle involved, Archambault said, speed is most often the cause.

In crashes with cars, he said, the most frequent cause is a motorist cutting in front of a motorcyclist to make a left turn.

In a May 26 accident at Albany Shaker Road and Old Wolf Road in Colonie, Jude P. Marzano, 44, of Rexford was killed after being struck by an SUV. While the accident is still under investigation, Colonie Lt. Ken Pero said, it appears the SUV driver made a left in front of Marzano and never saw him. Other fatalities since May 26 were in Edinburg, Albany and New Baltimore.

Splittgerber said riders should assume any driver looking to make a left might cut them off. "You should prepare for the worst, " he said. "You can't just presume you have the right of way."

McNally-Bradshaw said tires and brakes should be in good working order. "You lose traction in a motorcycle, you're down and maybe down hard and under a truck, " she said.

"You can have a black leather jacket with retro reflective coating, " McNally-Bradshaw said. "It's much harder to miss."


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