Richard Sturgeon: Easy riding

Lab employee advocates for motorcycle safety

By David Moore | April 6, 2021

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Richard Sturgeon enjoying the New Mexico landscape on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Unlike the main interstates, this state road has little traffic on it, enabling Richard to cruise safely at a comfortable speed. “It’s easy to lose yourself traveling down the road with the mountains as a backdrop—there’s a sense of freedom out there, especially when you have the road to yourself,” says Richard. “When there’s nothing between you and the environment, it’s a completely different feeling than when you‘re within the confines of a vehicle.”

Richard never really thought much about riding motorcycles until he moved to Los Alamos in 1990. “A buddy of mine talked me into taking a beginner’s motorcycle-riding class because he wanted me to go out riding with him,” he explains. “I’ve been into motorcycles ever since.”

Promoting motorcycle safety

“Cruising in open spaces is much better than riding in a city or along an interstate, where you lose the sense of freedom and basically fear for your life,” Richard notes. “Almost every motorcyclist I know has experienced a close encounter, and some cases, suffered injuries as a result of an accident. Safety is paramount when riding along with other motorists, as the level of distraction is often high—and it’s compounded with the low profile given off by motorcyclists.”

In 2014, Richard learned first-hand the perils of motorcycle riding. He was traveling down the Los Alamos Truck Route on his way to work, with the bulk of the traffic headed the other way to the Laboratory’s main technical area. “Things were pretty sketchy that day,” Richard notes. “Some of the vehicles traveling along those tight curves started to veer into my opposing lane, which really shot up my adrenaline. Luckily, I made it to work okay, but the incidents got me to thinking about road safety. That’s when my boss and I, after some discussion, came up with what I like to call the ‘Einstein poster,’ which has the motto ‘Look Twice Save a Life.’”

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Richard’s first motorcycle safety poster.

The poster proved so popular at the Lab that in 2015 the Laboratory’s traffic safety group reached out to Richard and asked him to start a motorcycle safety committee. In 2019, Richard was invited to Lawrence Livermore and Idaho national laboratories to start motorcycle committees patterned like the one he founded at the Laboratory.

Enter the Jemez Riders

As part of the committee’s work Richard worked with a graphic-designer friend to come up with a logo that would serve as a symbol for motorcycle awareness and safety. The logo used the words “Jemez Riders,” which Richard found was pretty catchy. As months went by, Richard and many of his friends, some from the Atomic City and nearby Jemez communities, came together and formed a crew that they dubbed the Jemez Riders Riding Group.

“The Jemez Riders emphasize motorcycle awareness and safety,” says Richard. “Every year, we author state proclamations for the state governor, state legislatures and county councils to promote May as Motorcycle Awareness Month throughout the state.” In addition to advocating motorcycle and motorist safety, the Jemez Riders organize benefit runs, perform community service and adopt highways to keep them litter-free.

“Motorcycles are everywhere a motorist is not looking. We are in your blind spot and are difficult to spot if you are even slightly distracted. As much as motorists must keep an eye out for us, we as riders must also be vigilant of motorists—both must always look twice. Together, we can make safety a priority on the road.”