Bikers 'devastated' after dangerous, deadly season on N.S. roads

The president of an organization that supports injured motorcyclists says there needs to be more public awareness about driving safety following a deadly summer on Nova Scotia roads.

President of Bikers Down calls for awareness campaign to remind drivers to look twice for motorcyclists

Jim Swinamer says he chose to drive his SUV Thursday morning because he didn’t feel safe driving his motorcycle during the busy morning commute in Halifax. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

There needs to be greater public awareness about how motorists and bikers can safely share the road after a deadly summer in Nova Scotia, the president of an organization that supports injured motorcyclists said Friday.

RCMP say there have been at least 10 fatal crashes involving motorcycles so far in 2018, including four this month — a big increase over previous years.  A dozen more accidents this year left people with serious injuries.

Three motorcyclists were killed in 2017 and four in 2016, said RCMP. Those numbers don't includes crashes where municipal police responded, so totals could be higher. 

'Giving, loving' man killed

"It's getting to the point where I think we're all being devastated by it and we're wondering what can we do to try to change this," Jimi Swinamer of Bikers Down told CBC's Information Morning in Halifax. 

Swinamer lost his friend, Lloyd Munroe, after a collision Aug. 11 on Highway 311 near Tatamagouche.

Munroe was in the area attending an annual Bikers Down event. The Eastern Passage man had made a donation to the non-profit and offered to host a fundraiser, said Swinamer, who worked as a police officer in Halifax for 30 years and saw his share of collisions.  

"He was a very giving and loving man," Swinamer said. "His last act of kindness was to give to the biking community."

Munroe was killed shortly after leaving the event when an oncoming vehicle turned left in front of him. RCMP are still investigating. 

'You're open to the elements'

Drivers need to be aware of just how dangerous turning left in front of a motorcycle is, Swinamer said. When bikers don't have enough time to stop, they're hit with an incredible amount of force. 

Swinamer says his friend Lloyd Munroe attended a Bikers Down event in the hours before he was struck and killed on Highway 311 near Tatamagouche on Aug. 11.

"There's no turning back ... There's actually nothing you can do but pray," said Swinamer, who survived a 1982 crash that left him with two titanium knees.

"When you're in a car or truck, you can kind of brace yourself. But you can't brace yourself on a motorcycle. You're open to all the elements, including the tonnage of a vehicle." 

Distracted drivers

Swinamer said he drove his SUV to CBC's Halifax newsroom Friday because he didn't feel safe driving his motorcycle during the busy morning commute.  

He said the amount of distracted driving on roads leaves motorcyclists particularly vulnerable. While bikers need to be aware of that, Swinamer said more can be done to educate other motorists. He said remembering to look for bikers can make a big difference. 

Swinamer also wants the province to do more to promote safety. He'd like to see a weekend event where people who drive for a living connect with people in the biking and cycling communities, and where members of the public can stop by to learn more about road safety. 

In the meantime, his group hopes to circulate safety videos on social media. 

Bikers Down offers financial and moral support to motorcyclists in Nova Scotia. Swiminer said anyone with a driver's licence qualifies for help.

With files from CBC's Information Morning

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia