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Thread: Gauley Bridge motorcycle accidents

  1. #1
    Slash Trash DonS's Avatar
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    Gauley Bridge motorcycle accidents

    A large number of motorcycles crashed at the Gauley Bridge rail road crossing on Highway sixty, east of Charleston, during the MOA rally. There is rubber matting for six or seven feet surrounding the tracks as they cross the road. It is located on a curve and a rise. When wet it is a motorcycle trap. My wife and I went down while going slower than the twenty five mile an hour recommended speed. Our RT was totaled. The road was wet from a light rain. In the coarse of ten minutes three bikes tires went out from under them and they went down. The local sheriff that came in response to our 911 call was tight lipped regarding the crossing other than to say there was nothing his department could do because the design met the West Virginia DOT standards. There was something that he wouldn't say. A young man at our crash told us he had camped and fished near there during the memorial day weekend and a dozen bikes went down when the rain wet the rubber. When we got back to BMW of Grand Rapids for an insurance estimate, I was put in touch with another BMW rider that went down there with the story of yet another Michigan LT that went down and a passengers broken arm. I would like to compile a list of victims of this stupidity. The policemen wouldn't write me an accident report, only a "accident information exchange" . No report, No numbers. As far as the Gauley bridge police department records go it didn't happen.
    I am angry and fearful that another motorcyclist will be hurt on this foolish engineering mistake. The rail road owns the crossing and is responsible for it's relative safety. I have owned and ridden motorcycles for over thirty years. I am a careful and responsible rider. We stayed and slowed bikes for over an hour until the rubber dried. At least half the bikes slipped crossing the rubber even at very slow speeds. Please help to compile a list of names and contacts so we can get this situation changed.
    I don't know how to proceed but I know that numbers talk. I am no fan of litigation, but sometimes it's what needs to be done to make a large organization take notice of a bad situation. DonS

    I have attached a photo to illustrate this danger to motorcyclist
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  2. #2
    Registered User Fred Jernigan's Avatar
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    Chills

    Don,

    Thanks for the photo, I think. Just looking at it gives me a stomach ache.

    I hope you can get that list together. We should send it to the CSX web address that Stacy gave in response on this situation.

    Hope to see you around GR someday. I'm taking my bike in this coming Monday evening. Can't afford to fix all of it, but we all pick up a few scars in life, even beautiful motorcycles.

    Ride hard, ride safe,

    FJ

  3. #3
    Registered User beemerron's Avatar
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    As a former Maintanence of Way employee for a railroad I'm somewhat aware of these situations. Over the course of my employment (20years), I attended many railroad crossing saftey inspections. In Michigan, there is a Railroad Saftey division of MDOT that does on site inspections at crossings where this type of incident occurs. It appears from the photo that there are physical constraints i.e. river on one side mountain on the other. Nothing can be done about the angle of the crossing. There are however concrete panel crossings that would improve this situation. Flange fillers that fit between the indide of the rail and the crossing panels are available also. Addtional signage warning of the condtions would help also. Considering the number of incidents that occur here something needs to be done. Since these things cost money, nothing will be done until a stink is raised. The AMA state chapter may be a starting place.
    Ron R

    #39306

  4. #4
    Registered User 41107's Avatar
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    re:gaul bridge crossing

    been riding for many,many years and never came acrossed one of these crossings.their was no way in approching these tracks from any angle never mind oncoming traffic as in my case.I felt the rear break loose on the wet road but managed.Had myself one heck of a shook-up passenger afterward.I had no idea as to how many riders had their challange at this spot till i saw this post.If I can be of any help let me know. karlheinz

  5. #5
    Subzero Scooter Idiot oldcarkook's Avatar
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    You might consider writing this story up and submitting it along with the photo to AMA. They are headquartered only one state away and AMA will certainly take an interest in this situation.

    It raises a number of issues. If nothing else, they should put up a sign leading to the crossing that motorcycles must slow to 10 mph to cross due to conditions or something along those lines.

    I always read with interest any "rider down" stories because sharing these experiences and dangers is the best way prevent others from being injured.

    The fact that the police were not forthcoming with the information about other accidents is a little curious and I would think that AMA might want to look into this further for the benefit of all motorcyclists.

    Thanks for the heads up. I know RR tracks at odd angles are extremely dangerous on dry roads, but I don't understand the installation of rubber matting on the aprons. Wonder why it's not black topped?
    Experience is the comb that mother nature gives us when we are bald

  6. #6
    Registered User Fred Jernigan's Avatar
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    AMA Involvement

    Lots of folks suggested the AMA route and I'm a little ashamed to admit that I hadn't joined yet - but now I have and I just wrote a note the other day to Eddie James at AMA and gave him the short version of this story referring him to this forum for details.

    Like you, I'm hoping someone can make a difference.

    I must admit that the rail road crossing warning about 300 feet before these tracks has a small sign that says: " Slippery when Wet". NO LIE.

    It's also worth noting that the natural beauty of the waterfall is a distraction, at least it was for me. I understand my obligation to watch the road, but distractions do exist in life and in this case, the falls is between the warning sign and the crossing.

    There is a lot to do under the best of conditions to cross this track - for many of us, it was more than we could manage successfully.

    OK, I'm done with this. It's on the record, you guys know about it, the AMA knows, my bike is going to be ready Saturday and I'm gonna quit bitchin and start ridin.

    See ya,

    Freddie

  7. #7
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    Hey Fred,

    Nicely done. Let us know if the AMA follows up with you. It would be interesting to hear what they have to say.

    dave
    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

  8. #8
    Slash Trash DonS's Avatar
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    Fred I'll take your word for the sign. I never saw one and we looked for such on the way back to Charleston. We were going away from the rally when we went pavement surfing. I was trying to catch a glimpse of the falls as we motored along. It's nice when your passenger says " Did you see the..." and you can at least say "well, sort of". I was hoping the forum would turn up some names of others that went down. I know from conversations many others did , but there not getting my message. I made a phone call to an AMA ambassador's answering machine, but have not gotten a call back. I have written others up the food chain from us street level types, with no response. I am frustrated, but will stay with this in hopes of changing that particular crossing. The concepts from allof you are good. I will coast for a bit and gather information. Some insurance company adjuster is supposed to come and look at my bike. I dread the battle.It's his job to pay me as little as possible and my job to hold out for what I think is a fair settlement. When I know the outcome of my bike I will get my knee looked at. In the mean time we're supposed to work and pay bills. I did take my slash two for a spin the other day. It's funny how my first BMW can take me away from the real world and to a place where everything is just cool. Don
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  9. #9
    MT State of mind
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    We have rubber apron approaches to RR tracks, but there are little bumbs all over, like the floor mats in an elevator. They get slick with morning frost in the spring, but at least you know there's something to give you traction if you just ride straight and don't touch the throttle or brake.

  10. #10
    Subzero Scooter Idiot oldcarkook's Avatar
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    I honestly don't understand the benefit of a rubber surface on these approaches. It doesn't make sense to me since they are MUCH more vulnerable to plow damage in winter and now as we have all learned are like greased glass in rain.

    It seems that the conditions of this particular crossing are such that they contribute to the dangers; a scenic waterfall view to the left pulls your eyes off the road and the right turn sweeper with the tracks crossing at an angle such that you can not cross them at 90 degrees. Is this crossing as bad going out as it is coming in?

    I think that this problem rises to a level that demands AMA involvement to prevent others from going down.

    The apparent limited records of any accidents is a mystery and only can contribute to the lack of attention and correction of the problem. We could be losing a bike a week at that crossing but if there is no record of that then how do you prove that this is a problem requiring a solution?

    As I said above, it seems that at a minimum they should have a large sign in bold letters cautioning vehicles and bikes especially to crawl over this crossing when its wet. I would also expect that accidents here are not limited to bikes, but bikes probably account for the majority of the crashes.

  11. #11
    Registered User Fred Jernigan's Avatar
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    /2

    Don,

    Cool bike and picture. Hope the knee is ok. I'm hopeful about getting something done. I plan on giving the AMA a couple of weeks to look these over and maybe see then what they think about it. I'm guessing the state of West Virginia has looked this over long before any of us came along. There is just too much local knowledge and information about all the bike accidents for that not to be the case.

    Good luck with the insurance adjuster - miserable folks.

    Ride safe,

    FJ

  12. #12
    Slash Trash DonS's Avatar
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    Hi Fred I got a call today from an AMA ambassador. His name is Randy and he was at the rally. he left on hwy 60 . He crossed on sunny and dry, but remembers the spot. He was very supportive and helpful. He took one crash report from a survivor of the Gauley Bridge crossing at the rally and delivered it to AMA HQ in person on his tour back home. He gave me a phone number and a name to call tomorrow. I am hopeful and will let you know where we stand as it develops

    One more view of the site. This is my poor war horse, with her undoing in the background. This about where she stopped sliding. I picked the bike up and pushed her off the road. This fine old 1989 RT has never let me down. Even after using her as a highway surfboard, she still got us home to Northern Michigan. I had given the bike a cosmic paint job that was a big hit at the last couple nationals. The Dupont Crome-illusion paint actually changes color with the angle and the light. Flip out driving lights and a few other custom details always get a crowd around the bike. Now I'm afraid she is totaled.

    I think you can see from this view that as we came to the track we were still in a turn and probably leaning a few degrees. The bike just went out from under us. I wish I could play you this slow motion video I have in my head. The detail is vivid... Then after we watched it I could push rewind and stop it just before the crossing, pull off and have some pie and head back to Charleston. Now there's an accessory I would like for my next ride. Don
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    Last edited by DonS; 07-24-2003 at 05:45 AM.

  13. #13
    Registered User Fred Jernigan's Avatar
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    Pie

    Don,

    I had pie at that little joint west of the crossing after I crashed. Nothing like a little comfort food to make the bad crash demons go bye-bye.

    I've seen DuPont paint like this and it is cool. I hope you can patch the old girl back together.

    Glad to hear about the AMA guy/ambassador as well. I'd like a number I could call and talk to someone as well. Not that it would make a bit of difference but I'd really like to know how many of us went down there that week. I realize it is hard to admit, but I'm sure we were in the company of some decent riders that got the surprise of their riding lives.

    Hey, I used to live near Cadillac in the corner of Missaukee county near a little town called Lucas. Where are you? I was there for about 4 years and it was great. I didn't have a bike then but I sure enjoyed living north of Clare.

    How is the knee?

    Later,

    Fred

  14. #14
    Dum vivimus vivamus ted's Avatar
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    Posted to the IBMWR list in May of this year:

    Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 10:51:04 -0400
    From: "rich roberson"
    Subject: BMW: Down in Gauley Brdge, WV

    My much-anticipated week of riding with wife and son on his last summer before leaving for the Marine Corps ended prematurely and on a sour note at a CSX rail crossing east of Gauley Bridge, WV. It was misting rain, and the crossing is on an upgrade and curve leaving town. I was going only about 35-40 and could not view the actual crossing until I was almost upon it because of the upgrade. It was at a nasty angle to the road, and squaring up to it would have put me toward oncoming traffic, so I leveled the bike and tried not to accelerate or decelerate as I crossed. As soon as I reached the track, the rearend shot out, I lowsided and found myself sliding down the road next to my wife and the bike. Broken footpeg, ruined left side w/s, faring, exhaust system, etc. Bike slid off the road into gravel shoulder. Aerostich did its job, as did my wife's bmw pants and firstgear jacket. Sore place at the bottom of my left rib is my only problem, wife not quite as lucky, thinks she may have cracked a rib....lots of pain and "clicking" sensation when she moves. SHe apparently hit face first, as her full-face HJC has an abraded faceshield and ding just over the left eye. Knee worn almost thru on my roadcrafter, but absolutely no pain in that area...hats off to Aerostich...

    Upon revisiting the scene and talking with the policeman who responded, I realized that the crossing had no ties or concrete, with which I am familiar, but some sort of extremely slippery rubber compound between the rails....the officer said there are 6-8 motorcycle accidents on that crossing each riding season, all due to wet weather...his superior told me this morning that he has seen 5-7 in one day in the rain.., and that he had written CSX and asked them to do something to no avail...

    Anyway, I am thankful nobody was seriously hurt, and mad as hell that that crossing with that sort of track record still exists there...guess I will have to see if railroads indeed spend millions in defense and nothing in tribute, or whatever..

    Rich Roberson
    Columbia, SC
    95 K100RS (temporarily c/o Holt BMW)
    '78 R100RS (main ride once again)
    Ted
    "A good stick is a good reason"
    1994 K75RT
    Moto Pages

  15. #15
    Beemerdude
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    Hi, My wife and I are the AMA Field Reps that had the booth at the rally. As Don said, we did turn one report in at Pickerington on our way to Vintage Motorcycle Days.

    For those of you that would like to talk to someone with the AMA about this problem I can provide you with a phone number and a couple of names.

    AMA phone #:1-800-JOIN (800-262-5646) ask for Cathy Brown in the Government Relations Department.

    I would also encourage those of you who are not AMA members to become AMA members.

    2 Wheels 1 Voice!

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