Commissioner urges bikers to 'get off the yellow line'

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Steven Nedeau, after receiving a brief report on Bike Week from Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin about motorcycle accidents, said Wednesday morning ''I wish they (motorcyclists) would stay off the yellow line.''
Nedeau, a former law enforcement officer, was referring to what he sees as the propensity of motorcyclists to hug the yellow line, or even ride on the line, especially when they are traveling in groups during the annual rally.
Wiggin, who last week attended the Americade motorcycle event in Lake George, New York, said that yellow line riding is ''just an accident waiting to happen. They're bringing it on themselves'' and that he had seen many bikers riding the yellow line while in New York.
The Sheriff said that so far the 90th Laconia Bike Week ''has been very quiet because of the weather'' but there have been fatalities statewide.
He said that local law enforcement has a new focus this year in policing the event in the Lakes Region.
''There's less of a presence at Weirs Beach and we're targeting areas where there have been accidents,'' said Wiggin, who addeed that he still expects a large crowd this weekend if the weather is good.
Fellow Commissioner Ed Philpot, who asked Wiggin for the report, said that from his perspective Bike Week motorcyclists ''are driving too fast and seem to have a vacation mentality where they're not paying attention to road signs.''
Wiggin said the new policing strategy is the result of a report on motorcycle accidents occurring during the rally between 2002 and 2011 prepared by the University of New Hampshire Technology Transfer Center.
The study found that from 2002 to 2011 during Bike Week there were 899 motorcycle accidents with 859 injuries and 28 fatalities. Riders without helmets accounted for 71-percent of the fatalities. Almost three-quarters of these accidents involved more than one vehicle, with crashes of single vehicles representing 27-percent of the total.
During the month of June in the three years between 2009 and 2011, there were 216 motorcycle accidents in Laconia, more than any other municipality in the state. Altogether there were 436 accidents in Laconia, Meredith, Gilford, Alton, Belmont and Tilton during the same period. The majority of accidents occurred between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. with hours of 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. accounting for 37 percent, the largest share. During the rally the average number of accidents rises as the week progresses, from 34 on Wednesday, to 26 on Thursday, to 41 on Friday and 54 on Saturday, the last full day of the event.
The report identified Routes 3, 25, 11, 104 and 106, along with Scenic Road, Roller Coaster Road and Winona Road, as those where accidents occurred most frequently.