CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — More than a quarter-million Iowans hold motorcycle licenses and have each year since 2008. The state of Iowa also averages 49 motorcycle deaths over the past decade.
Yet a stretch of three deadly crashes involving motorcycles within the city of Cedar Rapids over the past four weeks has underscored the importance of staying safe and staying visible.
“It’s always something people ask about,” said Taylor Wilkin, a lifelong Cedar Rapidian who is also the owner of Fast Forward Cycles on 11th Street NE. “People watching for motorcycles and accidents are always on the mind. I tell them they’ve always got to be defensive when they’re riding and watching out for other drivers.”
Wilkin said he has been riding motorcycles for nearly two decades, starting when he was only eight. He said the recent crashes have been a point of talk in his dealership.
The most recent was early Monday morning at the Interstate 380 and Highway 100/Collins Road overpass. Investigators say Evan Volkers, 24, of Cedar Rapids, turned west on his motorcycle and crashed with a semi-trailer truck that was traveling southbound on an exit ramp.
Volkers’ death was the third motorcycle death in the city in less than a month.
On July 3, Chase Norton, 23, of Cedar Rapids crashed his motorcycle with an SUV at the intersection of Boyson Road and C Avenue NE. Witnesses on scene said that the motorcycle rider ran a light before the crash.
Two weeks before, on June 24, a Ford Ranger hit and killed David Hannen, 29, of Central City during the afternoon traffic rush at the intersection of 32nd Street NE and Center Point Road.
Back in April, Arthur Fuller, 47, of Cedar Rapids, died after the motorcycle has was riding crashed with a car at 31st Avenue SW and Wiley Boulevard. Fuller’s passenger on the motorcycle survived.
Fred Hadenfeldt, of Cedar Rapids, has been riding motorcycles for “about 45 years”. He said he also works with driver’s education programs to remind younger or newer drivers to watch the road for riders.
“Just be aware that we’re out here this summer,” said Hadenfeldt, outside of his home on the southwest side. “They’re everywhere. My personal pet peeve is things hanging from rearview mirrors that can block the side view of a motorcycle.”
When reached on Wednesday, Cedar Rapids police did not have statistics readily available that could break down information on the number of motorcycle crashes that officers have responded to in 2014. They reminded riders to wear helmets and also consider brighter-colored clothing to increase their visibility on the road.
“You have to ride like you’re invisible,” said Hadenfeldt. “The famous last words, ‘I didn’t see him.’I am not saying that motorcyclists are perfect but texting and eating lunch and doing your hair distracts from watching for people on the road.”
Both Hadenfeldt and Wilkin mentioned the threat of distracted drivers.
“I’ll sit there and look over in the next lane and see there’s someone with their phone up in their face,” said Wilkin. “Do they even know that I’m here?”
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