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Grass in the Road: The Hidden Risk Motorcyclists Face


Grass in the Road: The Hidden Risk Motorcyclists Face

Look, at some point, you have probably done it.

Your mowing the lawn, and your blow grass clippings straight into the road.

Most people don’t know this but, blowing lawn clippings into the roadways is dangerous!

Grass is a serious road hazard for motorcyclists. 

Discharging grass into the road may seem innocent enough, but it can have real consequences. 

It’s true, especially for unsuspecting motorcyclists who hit a patch of grass in the road. 

It's time to expose the hidden risk that all motorcyclists have to deal with. 
Grass blown into the road.....

The Dangers of Leaving Grass Clippings in the Road

First of all, what's the big deal? It’s just grass clippings, right?

If only it were. Not only does it look terrible in the streets, there is an even bigger problem with dispensing your clippings in the road. 

Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of the dangers of leaving lawn debris in the roadway, specifically grass clippings.

It’s true, grass in the roadway is unlikely to affect the handling of 4- wheeled vehicles (though it can happen).  Wheelchairs and 2-wheeled vehicles such as bicycles, dirt bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles, may experience real safety issues from grass negligently left in the roadway.  

Why Are Piles of Grass in the Road So Dangerous to Bikers?

Well, if you weren’t aware there are a number of reasons that grass clippings in the roadway can be a real danger to motorcyclists. 

Whether it’s a Harley, a Yamaha or a Ducati, motorcycle riders are most at risk when it comes to losing control on grass blown into the roadway. 

Grass on the Road, A Serious Hazard for Motorcyclists

The main reason that grass is so dangerous is that it can reduce the traction a bikes tires have on the roadway. Just like sand, gravel, dirt or oil in the roadway Grass is an obstacle that needs to be avoided by motorcyclists. 

To learn more we spoke with Justin Lovely, Motorcycle injury lawyer and President-elect of The National Academy of Motorcycle Injury. He told us that part of the problem has to do with the fact that most motorcycle riders are often not aware of the dangers of grass in the roadway. 

 Lovely tells us:

“Grass clippings in the roadway can be extremely hazardous to the rider and even deadly. Rider's are taught about potential *gravel* on the road but far too often forget about the dangers of grass. In our area we often see this on the back country rural roads.” 

“Rider's don't think about it because the rider is often on pavement or other city roads where this is really not an issue. The moment the rider decides to go on the secondary roads, he or she needs to be thinking and looking out for grass.”

Here’s the deal, riders often forget or are simply unaware of the dangers that motorcyclists face on the road. Obstacles like grass clippings are unlikely to strike them as dangerous. Until they learn the hard way. 

And, just as many homeowners and lawn care professionals seem to be unaware as well. 

Justin Continued by saying:

“Grass clipping on the road essentially place an additional layer between the bike tire and the road. It is almost like an oil slick. It is not as bad on long straight roads, but on turns where the rider may be leaning into the turn to steer the motorcycle, the bike can easily come out from underneath the rider due to the grass clippings.”

“Rider's simply need to be aware of this, especially in the spring and summer riding seasons. Organizations like NAMIL try and preach safety tips such as this when we meet and speak at motorcycle clubs, rallys and events. We tell anyone who will listen.”

Warm Weather Invites Both Lawn Care And Motorcycle Riding

Worst of all, lawn mowing and motorcycle riding both coincide with perfect spring and summer weather. 

This only raises the likelihood that motorcyclists and grass in the road will meet in an unfortunate event. 

It's simple, the problem is the best days to go out and do yard work like mowing the lawn, are often the best days to take a motorcycle out for a drive. 

What Do Motorcyclists Have to Say About the Issue?

As you can imagine, of all the folks who may be impacted by grass clippings in the road, the motorcyclists get the brunt of it. 

Needless to say, the motorcyclists who are aware of the dangers of blades of grass in the road aren’t happy about the situation. We spoke to a few motorcyclists who gave us their thoughts on the situation at hand.

To learn more we reached out to Andrew Mwanik with AmericanLegendRider.com who is a motorcycling expert and avid motorcyclist, 

He had this to say about grass clippings in the roadway:

"Grass clippings on the roadside and lawn debris are a major safety threat to motorcyclists with a deadly effect. First and foremost, grass is 85% water content which makes it highly slippery. Even when the grass is dry, it is still highly slippery and will cause motorcycle carnage. If a motorcycle rider comes upon a sheet of slippery grass, especially on the turn, he will have no control over what happens next."

Honestly, before I first heard about this issue and really listened to motorcyclists stories, I never realized what a real danger clippings could be. But after listening to motorcycle experts like Andrew, it really sheds light on the dangers grass clippings pose. 

Andrew also had this to say:

"Clippings cause a loss of traction and ultimately loss of control which can lead to a wreck. Just like grass clippings, lawn debris can cause a dangerous loss of traction and hence loss of control of the motorcycle at even moderate speeds."

"In these situations, there's nothing much a motorcycle rider can do other than hope he is able to avoid a dangerous crash. Riders should be more keen on the quality of the road surface that they are out riding on. Lawn debris on the road is particularly dangerous to motorcycles drivers. Grass clippings are bad and leaf piles are even more dangerous."

How can Motorcyclists Avoid these Roadway Hazards?

Look, although grass clippings shouldn't be placed in the road at all, the reality is, they likley will be

So motorcyclists need to be aware of these road hazards, and learn to avoid them.

Melanie Musson an avid motorcycle rider, and writer for carinsurancecomparison.com wanted to share some very valuable information about road hazards  which motorcyclists may encounter. 

She had this to say to fellow motorcyclists:

"Grass clippings are very slippery on the roadway because they’re mostly water. Anything that comes between a motorcycle’s tires and the road can make the motorcycle lose traction, but when it’s an organic material, like grass clippings, comprised mostly of water, the loss of traction is compounded. It’s so slippery, it like ice."

As we have been expressing through out this article, grass clippings are a major road hazard. 

But it gets even more hazardous for motorcyclists in the fall months as Melanie explains:

"Autumn is a dangerous time to ride a motorcycle for a lot of reasons, but fallen leaves are a big one. Leaves are slippery, and when they get wet, they’re even more slippery. A motorcyclist could easily lose traction while driving over leaves, especially if they’re turning a corner or going around

a curve."

"Not only can fallen leaves and grass clippings make you lose traction on a motorcycle, but they may also cover up road hazards like potholes."

Unfortunately, there is not much to stop leaves from falling on the road, and they will be a constant hazard for motorcyclists in the fall. 

As Melanie explains, motorcyclists need to be vigilant all year round for seasonal hazards...

"If you were riding your motorcycle in sub-zero temperatures, I wouldn’t have to tell you to watch for ice. You’d spot a patch of ice a mile away and do whatever you needed to do to avoid it. In the summer and fall when the weather is warm and comfortable, don’t let yourself get complacent. Keep your eyes open for lawn debris on the roads, just like you would look for ice in the winter."

Melanie Musson and her husband, who is a riding instructor and technical crash investigator, spend a lot of time together focusing on motorcycle safety and instruction.

Recent Incidents Caused By Grass in the Road

It’s true, lawn clippings in the roadway can be a serious hazard for motorcyclists on the roadway.  Recently a motorcyclist was fatally injured from a wreck which was caused by lawn clippings in the roadway. 

While riding with her husband in on a motorcycle in Bureau County, Illinois, Cheryl I. Zeglen crashed into her husband  after not noticing him suddenly slow down for a patch of cut grass in the roadway. The injuries she sustained in this accident lead to her death in the hospital.

Unfortunately, this is not the only case of grass blown into the roadway which has lead to motorcyclists being injured. There are more:

  1. Aaron Lee (Mayfield Kentucky)

  2. Cheryl I. Zeglen (Bureau County, illinois)

  3. Unknown individual (Franklin County, Indiana)

Here's the deal, many of the cases don't get covered by the news, so the information on accidents and wrecks caused by blades of grass is hard to find. But a lot of folks, including people I know, have a story about wrecking, or nearly wrecking on lawn debris in the road. 

Becky Beach, a Harley Davidson enthusiast and Finance Blogger is one of many folks who have had these experiences. She shared some of her feelings on the issue with us saying:

"I have almost been in a wreck on multiple occasions because of rocks and grass in the roadways. However, I am an experienced cyclist for the past 20 years so know how to steer my bike to avoid a collision."

" I can see a newer cyclist having trouble with road debris. A friend of mine broke her collarbone from a wreck in which she hit a big pile of grass in the road. There really is a need to remove grass from roadways after the lawn is cut. Perhaps they could use a truck that blows away debris while the lawn is being mowed.."

It's true, there needs to be a solution for grass in the roadway, and we have a number of solutions listed below.

Becky finishes with this message:

"People just don’t care about motorcyclist at all! It makes me so frustrated!

"When a bike rolls over heavy amounts of grass in the road, the tires lose traction and it is hard to steer. Think of it as ice in the road for those traveling by car!"

As you can imagine, Becky is not happy with the current state of how grass clippings are so casually chucked into the road without care. And it is certainly a problem which needs to be addressed. 

Fortunately, we have several solutions homeowners and lawn care professionals a like can use! If you want to see them, just keep reading!

Is it Illegal to Blow Grass Into the Road?

Look, whether it is illegal or not it is always a good idea not to. But is it illegal?

It’s true, that there are actually a number of laws which ban depositing grass clippings onto the road. Yet, no law explicitly bans discharging grass onto the road in order to protect motorcyclists. 

Several state laws do indirectly make it a crime to deposit anything on the road (grass clippings or otherwise ) in a manner which may make it a hazard for motorists on the road. But none are specific about blowing grass onto the road.

Lawn Care Companies May Still be Held Liable 

Look, this is something that lawn care companies specifically need to be aware of. If your lawn care crew is blowing grass clippings into the road, and a motorcycle wreck occurs....

whether there is a law or not, your company can be held liable!

This isn't just an opinion either, Attorney Brad Biren expressed a stern warning to lawn care companies with this scenario as an example:

“A motorcyclist is driving and using due care and while driving past a lawn mowing company, the motorcyclist fails to see a large pile of grass clippings erroneously lying in the roadway.  In that case, the lawn company would be at fault for negligence in failing to maintain safe working conditions (grass should be bagged and not in the middle of roadways).”

Again, as a veteran lawn care professional myself, I want to be clear about the real dangers of this issue. An act as simple as blowing grass into the roadway can have a huge impact on you, your lawn care company, and any biker who may slip on grass you sent into the road. 

Though no law expressly makes the practice illegal, you can still be sued for negligence if an accident occurs!

Discharging Grass onto Road is Illegal For Environmental Reasons

Though there is no state which specifically bans discharging lawn clippings into the road because hazard they pose for motorcycles. Many cities ban the practice because of the hazard grass blades can cause by blocking drainage systems.

More importantly, blowing grass onto the roadway is often illegal due to the effects of the water run-off. Because of the nutrients which are abundant in grass, specifically nitrogen, some cities ban the practice because of the damaging effect on the environment. 

Cities like the city of Davenport, Iowa  have banned the practice of blowing clippings into the road because:

“Grass clippings and yard wastes that end up on the streets and in our waterways degrade water quality and can reduce oxygen levels necessary to support aquatic life”

The problem which grass clippings pose to the environment is simple.  

Grass is made up of mostly 2 things. 

Water and nitrogen.

When nitrogen accumulates in local waterways it can harm the environment by altering pH and O2 levels. It can also lead to algae blooms which will kill off aquatic life. 

Worst of all, if it gets bad enough it can harm humans too

Clippings are Full of Valuable Nutrients for the Lawn!

Here’s the good news, the same nutrients which can harm local waterways and cause environmental complications, are the same reason you should keep them in your lawn!

Seriously, grass clippings are loaded with nutrients that your lawn needs to look its best. In fact, there are a number of great benefits to leaving the clippings on the lawn. 

One of which is keeping or grasscycling all of those nutrients can reduce fertilizing by at least one application a year. 

Even better, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides stay in lawn longer and do their intended job. Leaving the clippings on the lawn helps you get more bang for your buck! To get the most out of your lawn cut we recommend that you mulch the lawn whenever possible.  

Easy Solutions to Avoid Blowing Lawn Clippings into the Road

Fortunately, there are some very simple solutions to the problem at hand. 

Once you are informed on the issue, and why it is important to not blow clippings into the road.

It is easy to correct the problem. 

Here are 3 solutions to keep grass clippings out of the road:

Technique One: Discharge Clippings Away from the Roadway

First and foremost, the easiest way to keep the clippings out of the road is to change up your mowing pattern so that you can blow the first 2-3 passes along the roadway onto your lawn rather than the road.

If you happen to get any clippings in the road, it is always a good idea to have a leaf blower ready to go to blow the debris off the roadway asap.  If it is safe to do so, you can also use your mower to blow them back. 

That way you limit the chances of an unknowing motorcyclists hitting a wet patch in the roadway and wiping out. Granted a few clippings will inevitably go into the road, and they are unlikely to cause a risk to motorcyclists. However it is important to avoid piles of grass in the road.

In my experience, I have often had to cut every other pass backwards when using a side discharge mower alongside the road. On the other hand you could always disengage the blade and loop back around, if you have to.

Technique Two: Use a Grass Bagger

Another easy solution is to install a bagger on your mower to avoid the issue altogether. Although in general .lawn care pros recommend leaving clippings on the lawn, if it is the only way you can avoid shooting lawn debris into the road and endangering motorcyclists, it’s certainly a better alternative. 

You can always compost your clippings and use them as a top dressing on your lawn in the spring anyhow. Using a bagging or mulching system is a great way to avoid clumps in the lawn, and of course on sidewalks, pathways, and most importantly the road.

Technique Three: Mulch the Lawn

Here’s the deal, mulching the lawn is the best way to deal with lawn clippings. A mulching system contains the grass in the deck, and cuts it up into tiny pieces which quickly disintegrate into the lawn. 

In my experience, mulching grass clippings is the best way to handle clippings and leaves

Mulching Grass has these added benefits:

  • Less clumps

  • Cleaner cut

  • Less grass clippings

  • No emptying bags

Perhaps best of all, a mulching system is less likely to hurl a rock through a window or into a car because it closes off the side discharge entirely.

What's The Bottom Line With Grass Clippings in the Road?

The bottom line is that there is no reason to dispense clippings into the road. 

Now that you know the problem at hand, lets work to change it!

There are so many reasons not to blow your clippings in the road. Grass clippings are:

  1. A danger to bikers
  2. Pollutant to waterways
  3. Able to cause flooding
  4. Are great for your lawn!

You can help spread the word by sharing this article with your friends and family, and on your social media platforms. 

Too many people have been injured by such an easy to fix problem. And if you need to learn more about lawn care, GreenPal's Blog has you covered!

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