The popularity of motorcycling in this area is no secret.

Roads in the scenic Poconos and small-towns are filed with riders, especially on weekends. Lehighton Bike Night, which attracted an estimated 20,000 bikers last year, is billed as the premier one-day motorcycle event on the East Coast. Lehighton Fire and Police Departments are the beneficiaries of the 12th annual event, now just two weeks away.

Any person, be it beginner or veteran rider, has a chance to hone his or her skills on the informative PennDOT web site called Live Free Ride Alive. The bottom line is safety and visitors to the site can take the "Be One Less" pledge, in which they pledge to drive safely and thus, be one less crash statistic.

The menu site has six categories including a documentary, driver messages, rider videos, fact and figures, a riders guide and an area for training and testing. Such issues as drinking and riding, speeding, and being properly trained and licensed to operate a motorcycle are covered.

The excellent documentary celebrates the freedom that comes with riding. In the segment, which made its public debut on July 24 at the Carlisle Bike Fest, motorcyclists from around the state got a chance to tell their own stories, good and bad.

PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler says the campaign is a major component of PennDOT's efforts to reduce motorcycle crashes and fatalities on Pennsylvania roadways, reminding riders to "take it easy out there and accept personal responsibility for their actions."

Free training to enhance one's driving skills is also available through Pennsylvania's Motorcycle Safety Program. Courses are free to Pennsylvania residents and are held from March through October at approximately 70 sites across the state. Motorcycle permit holders who successfully complete the course will be issued a motorcycle license.

The 15-hour, Basic Rider Course, consisting of five hours of in-class instruction and 10 hours of practical riding experience is available with certified rider coaches. The course is especially valuable for new riders but can also be a help to the more experienced riders by polishing their biking skills while also correcting any unsafe habits they may have picked up. Motorcycles and helmets are provided for students taking the basic course.

After the basic segment, there's a six-hour, Experienced Rider Course, which helps experienced riders refresh their safety knowledge and hone their skills on a riding range, also under the guidance of certified rider coaches.

Riders can learn more about these safety tools and enroll in a course, at www.pamsp.com.

Under the training and testing category on the web site is a great quote: "Wise is the man who lives long enough to know he doesn't know a thing."

That message is right on target. No matter how much we think we know there is always something more to learn. That even goes for veteran drivers, no matter how many miles they've logged on the road.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com