A license plate promoting motorcycle safety was part of a bill signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham March 30. It was designed and promoted by Los Alamos resident Richard Sturgeon. Courtesy photo
At the Round House during the legislative session are, from left, Annette Torrez, Cora Anaya, Liz Sturgeon, Richard Sturgeon and Eva Blazejewski. Courtesy photo
Jemez Riders founder and president Richard Sturgeon is the chair of the LANL Motorcycle Safety Committee. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Long-time Los Alamos resident and Los Alamos National Laboratory employee Richard Sturgeon reached the pinnacle of his efforts to promote motorcycle safety statewide when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed HB 287 at the end of March. Sturgeon led the successful campaign to have a special license plate issued that supports driver safety awareness and reminds motorists to “Look Twice for Motorcycles”.
Soon any motor vehicle owner, for an initial fee of $45 in addition to the regular motor vehicle registration fees, can apply for a “Look Twice for Motorcycles” plate, which was also designed by Sturgeon. The initial $45 fee includes $12 that will be retained by the DMV to defray the costs of making and issuing the plate. The remaining $33 of the initial registration fee will be used for the DOT’s motorcycle training fund for driver awareness education and motorcycle training statewide.
“I designed the license plate with safety in mind. Not alone is it eye-catching, but it delivers an immediate safety initiative for everyone who travels New Mexico’s beautiful roadways. When drivers see a vehicle or motorcycle with this plate’s logo and the ‘Look Twice for Motorcycles’ message, they are reminded to share the roads responsibly,” Sturgeon said. “This will save lives. Our goal is to reduce the number of accidents between vehicles and motorcycles throughout the state.”
He said that without the never-ending support from his wife Liz, and the help and guidance from Annette Torrez, Tikashi McConnell, Cora Anaya, Raymond Gallegos, his Jemez Riders RC brothers and sisters, and so many others, the bill would have never happened. He said Rep. Christine Chandler worked really hard on HB 287 and always had the motorcycle riding community’s best interest at heart. Sen. Leo Jaramillo also stepped in and took the bill through the senate.
“We can’t thank them enough as well as all the other folks throughout the state that threw their support behind the bill,” Sturgeon said.
“Motorcycles are everywhere and motorists often can’t or don’t see them until it’s too late,” he said. “Almost every motorcyclist I know has experienced a close encounter or suffered injuries as a result of an accident.”
Sturgeon believes the new plates will be very popular, not only because there are some 67,000 registered motorcycles in New Mexico, but also because other drivers also know the importance of promoting safety on the roads. In a quick survey conducted prior to the bill being introduced at the legislature, 171 motorcyclists requested more than 600 of these awareness license plates for both their vehicles and motorcycles.
“I think this will be the best-selling license plate the state has ever had,” Sturgeon said.
Richard Sturgeon rode his motorcycle to his interview with the Los Alamos Reporter. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Sturgeon has been riding motorcycles since he moved to Los Alamos in 1991. He is an employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory and in 2015, he was asked by the LANL Traffic Safety Group to set up a Motorcycle Safety Committee. That committee gave him his first big opportunity to promote safety tips and reminders for all drivers in a weekly column he writes for LANL staff. Many people who work at LANL who have never met him talk about his column.
The Motorcycle Safety Committee soon led to the establishment of the Jemez Riders Riding Club that attracted members from Los Alamos, the Jemez and Espanola. Under Sturgeon’s leadership the club soon became involved in various community activities. For the last few years, the Jemez Riders have coordinated an annual fundraising event and drawing to benefit a young man in Jemez Springs who suffered life-changing injuries while riding an ATV to do chores on his family’s land. Locals will have seen Sturgeon and other Jemez Riders selling tickets for a drawing for a helicopter ride for three people donated by Classic Air Medical that is held during a fundraising barbecue in Jemez Springs.
In 2016, Sturgeon began his quest to bring the need for motorcycle safety awareness to local governments throughout the state, beginning with submitting a proclamation to Los Alamos County Council and Gov. Susana Martinez declaring the month of May Motorcycle Awareness Month. Sturgeon expanded his reach each year and in 2018 got all 33 New Mexico counties involved. This year, he is working on recruiting mayors throughout the state to sign these proclamations.
The Jemez Riders also became involved in the Adopt-A-Highway program and took on the entire interchange at NM502 and NM4 as well as the area from interchange to Anderson Overlook. They have hauled off pickup trucks of trash and debris from that area over the past few years.
The Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Richard ‘Ghost’ Sturgeon by the New Mexico Motorcyclist Rights Association in March. Courtesy photo
Sturgeon has graciously accepted the appreciation from the community and his LANL colleagues for his work on motorcycle safety, but he is particularly proud of being selected as the 2021 Motorcyclist of the Year by the New Mexico Motorcyclist Rights Association (NMMRA) and in March, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from NMMRA.
The Motorcycle Safety Committee and the Jemez Riders promote safety among themselves. An example is the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edzg4XjDPZY. Sturgeon also coordinated an Accident Scene Management Class at the Elks Lodge in Los Alamos that was attended by more than 25 motorcyclists.
He thanked his wife, Liz, for everything he does.
“She’s the biggest reason I’m able to get things done,” Sturgeon said.