‘We want to ensure that everyone enjoys the (Oyster Run) and arrives home safely’

Though they made up just 3% of all registered vehicles on Washington’s road between 2013 and 2017, motorcyclists accounted for 15% of all traffic fatalities, according to data released by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Of the 378 fatal motorcycle crashes during that time, 53% were single motorcycle crashes and 75% were linked to causal factors committed by the motorcyclist, such as DUI, speeding and running off the road.

In an effort to reduce these numbers, law enforcement organizations in Whatcom and Skagit counties announced they will increase safety patrols for the weekend of Sept. 20-22 during one of the largest motorcycle events in the Pacific Northwest — the Oyster Run.

“Motorcyclists are vulnerable road users and continue to be over-represented in deadly crashes across Washington State,” Anacortes Police Chief John Small said in a press release announcing the increased safety patrols. “These crashes are preventable, and our agencies within Skagit and Whatcom counties are working together to ensure riders’ safety during this event.”

The patrols will focus on illegal driving behaviors, not only by motorcycle riders, but all vehicle drivers, the release said, and will be conducted by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol and police departments in Anacortes, Mount Vernon and Burlington.

According to the Oyster Run website, riders are encouraged to choose their own route and a few “biker friendly” stops along their way to downtown Anacortes for organized events on Sunday, Sept. 22. In the past, the event has drawn 10,000 to 20,000 motorcycle riders from throughout the region, depending on the weather.

“These motorcycle events bring thousands of people to our community,” Small said in the release. “We want to ensure that everyone enjoys the weekend and arrives home safely.”

That is particularly important, after annual statewide motorcycle fatalities rose in 2016 and 2017 to 81 and 80, respectively, according to the release. The state averaged 72.3 motorcycle rider fatalities the previous three years.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.