RICHARD STURGEON BEGAN RIDING motorcycles when he moved to New Mexico, where a Los Alamos National Laboratory coworker encouraged him to learn. An environmental science technician, he now rides his Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited to work every day. “The scenery and the mountains here are really unlike anywhere else,” says Sturgeon, who founded the Jemez Riders motorcycle club in 2021.
After clocking roughly 175,000 miles on two wheels, Sturgeon understands the dangers involved. “Motorcycling is the only mode of transportation where you don’t have to know the other rider at all, but you’re instantly bonded, because you know the risks,” he says.
So in 2014, Sturgeon designed a poster featuring Albert Einstein to promote motorcycle safety for LANL employees. Thanks to the campaign’s popularity, lab leadership asked Sturgeon to create a motorcycle safety committee. He discovered that many states designate May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. In 2016, Sturgeon penned a letter to then-Governor Susana Martinez about creating one in New Mexico. “I actually wrote it, not an email or anything,” he says. “I just mailed it in because I’m old.”
It worked. New Mexico celebrated its first Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month that year; Sturgeon even wrote the proclamation.
He wasn’t satisfied, though. Sturgeon began working on a local Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month proclamation for Los Alamos County and contacted other elected officials throughout the state. “All 33 counties in New Mexico signed the proclamation,” Sturgeon says. “We were the only state in the U.S. that has ever done that.”
In addition to promoting motorcycle safety, Sturgeon and the Jemez Riders are deeply involved in the community. The riding club regularly organizes and participates in charity events and works to raise motorcycle awareness.
In 2017, Sturgeon learned of 14-year-old Wyatt Taylor, a La Cueva junior volunteer firefighter who had been seriously injured in an ATV accident. Taylor was transporting a hay bale to feed his family’s horses less than a mile from their home—a job he’d done every day—when he hit an unseen obstacle that caused him to lose control and tumble down a 25-foot ravine. The vehicle ran Taylor over and trapped him under the wheel with the throttle running. Realizing that passing cars couldn’t see him, Taylor managed to get out and walk a quarter mile to a neighbor’s house before being transported via helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.
Now 19, Taylor has endured years of surgeries, many of which the family paid for out of pocket when insurers wouldn’t help. Last year, Jemez Riders raised almost $6,000 to help pay the extensive medical costs. “It has been a huge blessing for our family,” says Taylor’s mother, Michelle.
Sturgeon has also been working with state officials on a new way to promote motorcycle safety: license plates. Motorists can purchase a special “Look Twice for Motorcycles” plate, with $33 of the $45 initial cost going to help fund the Department of Transportation’s statewide motorcycle training and driver awareness programs.
“None of us are gonna give it up because of those possibilities of an accident,” Sturgeon says. “What I want more than anything is for people to get home safely on their bike.”