By July 8, 2009

Toll Booth vs FJR

I use a toll road to get to work every morning. I have a EZ-Pass transponder mounted on the windscreen of every motorcycle I own. This way I don’t have to carry change or stop to pay the toll.

This morning, there were two things out of the ordinary.

First, the toll booth arm was down. This is almost never the case when I travel between 8:20 and 8:40 AM. When the arm is up people just motor through at 15 – 40MPH and go on about their commute.

Secondly, there was a black 350Z at a full stop in front of the downed booth arm. He had an EZ-Pass, but he was out of funds according to the toll monitor. At this point, I backed up so that I was underneath the toll sensor. Cars started to line up behind us.

The driver of the black 350Z honked his horn, and the toll booth attendant raised the arm. As the car drove through, the alarm went off and the arm began to descend. Normally when a vehicle passes under the sensor, the arm stops at about 1/4 of the way down and then raises again.

This morning, the arm came partially down as the 350Z passed through, went up, and then came down again — right on my motorcycle. I don’t know if this was because the 350Z triggered a violation, but the arm did not behave as normal. I have never witnessed the arm go up, go down, then up, then down again.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/7169-2/IMAG0247.gif

The arm struck my motorcycle with enough force to bend the mirror and cut through the paint all the way to the plastic. Had I been a little more forward, the arm would have struck me instead. I am convinced that I would have been injured, if not knocked off of my motorcycle during rush hour traffic. As I rode through the toll, the arm ricocheted off my bike and slammed into the booth. On the way home I noticed that the arm was a little droopy but still attached. I don’t know if it got bent due to hitting me, or some other unlucky individual.

I emailed the EZ-Pass folks yesterday. I wanted to report the incident and lodge a complaint about the arm being down in rush hour in the first place. There are video cameras in place to monitor vehicles that do not pay the toll in the EZ-Pass lane. There was no reason for the arm to be down, especially since it was normally up at that time of day anyway. If things were set up as usual, the 350Z driver would have gone through the EZ-Pass lane, the alarm would have gone off due to insufficient funds, and they would have captured his car and license plate. I would have motored through and paid my toll, and my bike wouldn’t have a big smash on the mirror from a renegade arm.

I appreciate that the vast majority of traffic that passes through the toll booth are automobiles. However, mistakes like this can be dangerous for those of us who ride motorcycles to work every day. EZ-Pass has yet to respond, but I’ll post any follow up details.

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