Many of us are concerned about the direction of our great country and what the future is going to look like for our kids, grandkids and us. The folks that make up the motorcycle industry are likely to be our neighbors, our friends, our kids' classmates, etc. and are dealing with the same uncertainty and fears. Although the reasons for the current economic collapse are a complicated matter we can surely place some burden and blame on our elected government officials. While we might not have much say about out of touch, overpaid corporate executives that have bilked the middle class out of retirement and happiness we surely do have a say as to who sits in our elected seats.
The purpose of this article is not directly related to the US economy but pending government proposals, rules, and regulations that affect how and what we ride and drive. From taking away offroad land areas, to performance modifications, and denial of insurance benefits there is likely a current or proposed law that will negatively impact all of us. There must be a balance between our voice and the often closed-door decisions made by our elected officials. We've put together a brief overview of issues being discussed and debated by our current lawmakers that will have significant impact on our collective freedom and the future of what we can and cannot do with our recreational and commuter vehicles.
This coming November 2 is the national election where we can all step up and be heard. If you haven't registered to vote, do it, please. It's easy and fast-just roll on down to the local post office with proof of ID and sign up. Register at least two to three weeks before November 2 to ensure your vote is counted. Or you can log onto eac.gov/voter_resources/register_to_vote.aspx to get state-specific voter registration forms. Either way, please stand up for your rights and mine. I'm not sure who coined this but please let those who ride decide; we don't need more bureaucracy to creep into our lifestyle.
If you are tired of the status quo and the lack of promised change from the last election please vote. Currently the U.S. Senate consists of 58 Democrats, 40 Republicans, and two Independents. At least 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested and all U.S. House seats will be up for election. It's time to get up and stand up or shut up.
I. "What is a motorcycle?"
Threat: Federal regulators may create unrealistic and burdensome regulations for motorcycles in their effort to control the design and performance of new vehicle designs that fall in between the definition of a car and a motorcycle.
Status: Over the last few years, there has been a progressive increase in the types of vehicles classified as "motorcycles" for purposes of regulation and registration. The federal government recently issued a notice in the Federal Register seeking input on how to re-define what a motorcycle is.
• Is a motorcycle just two wheels, an engine, a seat and handlebars?
• Vehicles that are currently classified as motorcycles do not have to meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) and EPA emissions regulations for passenger automobiles.
• Some manufacturers are making three-wheeled, fully enclosed, two-door vehicles-with steering wheels and open truck beds-and calling them "motorcycles."
• How will motorcycles equipped with sidecars, trikes, ATVs and side-by-sides be reclassified?
• For more information, see ama-cycle.org/news/story.asp?id=1955.
What riders can do: Sign up for AMA Action Alerts (does not require AMA membership) at amadirectlink.com/legisltn/getInvolved/signUp.asp to receive recommended letters/emails to send to the Federal Highway Administration and states' transportation department secretaries.
II . Excessive sound
(i.e. loud exhaust)
Threat: Excessive sound is one of the most challenging issues facing motorcycling and off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding, including dirt-bikes and ATVs. Excessively loud streetbikes are more prevalent now than at any time in memory, owing to the growth in on-highway motorcycle sales over the last two decades.
• The relatively small number of motorcyclists and ATV riders who ride on streets and trails with unmuffled straight pipes or competition aftermarket exhaust systems perpetuate a public myth that all motorcycles and OHVs are too loud and therefore must be eliminated from public places or severely regulated.
• Even a single loud motorcycle or OHV reinforces the stereotype.
• This issue is further complicated by the difficulty that regulators encounter when trying to accurately measure sound pressure in dB(A).
Status: Riders are divided on the issue: in some cases peer pressure is effective, but there are many riders who hold onto the belief that loud pipes are OK.
• Municipalities and local governments, responding to complaints from citizens, have attempted to rein in excessively loud motorcycles. Denver and Boston are two notable examples.
• Ordinances require EPA-compliant exhaust systems on motorcycles manufactured after December 31, 1982. This approach is impractical because original equipment (OE) exhausts are expensive when they are available, and most aftermarket suppliers cannot afford to meet the complex EPA certification process.
• By unfairly singling out motorcycles, municipalities hold riders to a higher standard than other offenders: loud cars and trucks, boom boxes, generators and leaf blowers, etc.
• Even on motorcycles with OE exhaust systems, the EPA-compliance label is often hidden by saddlebags, heat shields, etc., making fair enforcement difficult or impossible.
• In 2009, the SAE announced J2825, a sound measurement standard for on-highway motorcycles. The testing methodology parallels J1287.
What riders can do: Riders should maintain exhaust systems so that they are not excessively loud.
• Check state laws to ensure compliance. See amadirectlink.com/legisltn/laws.asp.
• Riders should exert peer pressure on this issue whenever prudent.
• The AMA has a grant program to provide riding clubs with sound meters and test procedures so that members can check their machines.
• Riders should act now before unfair legislation is enacted. Approach your local elected officials and encourage them to adopt J2825 for motorcycles as part of a larger strategy to address excessive noise from all sources.
III. Performance and equipment modifications
Threat: The federal government has banned riders from making modifications that can render a motorcycle incompliant with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards. California also has stringent regulations.
Status: The ability of a rider to alter the emissions of a street motorcycle is already highly regulated. Starting in 2006, a new EPA rule made it legal to build and own a "kit bike" motorcycle subject to the following conditions:
• One emissions-exempt kit bike is allowed in the owner's lifetime.
• An owner may not sell an emissions-exempt kit bike for five years after its final assembly.
• The EPA regulations only apply to motorcycles built for model year 2006 and later.
• For EPA regs, see epa.gov/oms/roadbike.htm.
In California, street bike and OHV emissions are also regulated by the Calif. Air Resources Board (CARB), and therefore riders must also comply with CARB regulations.
arb.ca.gov/msprog/motcycle/onrdmc.htm and arb.ca.gov/msprog/offroad/orrec/orrec.htm.
What riders can do: If riders intend to modify a motorcycle in a manner that renders it incompliant, they should be aware of the requirements placed upon them under the current federal law and state law where applicable.
IV. Alcohol content in fuels
Threat: Efforts to increase the ethyl alcohol content in fuels pose the risk of serious damage to engines not designed for this fuel source.
Status: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation are considering the introduction of E15 (a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent petroleum gasoline) into the nation's fuel supply.
• Political forces, including the Governors' Biofuels Coalition, have urged quick action.
• The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), together with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and others, contend that mid-level ethanol blends can affect engine durability, and that engine deterioration can trigger engine controls to react in a manner that leads to catalyst damage.
• The MIC, AAM and others, who have expressed concern that EPA may decide to allow E15 based on limited or inadequate data, have urged the Department of Energy to help provide the necessary science, and have asked that any decision on introducing E15 into the national supply be made slowly.
• The AMA is concerned that the use of E15 in motorcycles and OHVs not designed for its use could result in engine damage and also void owners' warranties.
What riders can do: Contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to fund the scientific studies necessary to determine the appropriate uses for E15. Contact information can be found at americanmotorcyclist.com/legisltn/rapidresponse.asp.
V. Mandated rider education
Threat: Some states have enacted or are considering a requirement that all street riders complete a rider education training class prior to obtaining an operator's license or motorcycle endorsement. Some state legislators are also considering compulsory training for OHV riders.
Status: The majority of states today offer voluntary training utilizing curriculum developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). These programs are frequently promoted by the motorcycling community and are frequently supported by user fees. The AMA believes that voluntary motorcycle rider training should be available as an incentive to increase licensure, however, mandates pose the following complications:
• State programs are already overextended with the demands of voluntary training.
• Compulsory training for riders of all ages would require a state to dramatically increase the number of training sites, qualified instructors, training motorcycles and equipment, and training schedules to meet increased demand.
• Mandatory training may require additional revenue and higher user fees, which can be a disincentive to licensing.
• Riding instructors who are forced to train students who don't want to be trained may become disenchanted and discontinue teaching.
• If training is not readily available to potential riders, new motorcyclists are discouraged from going through the necessary procedures to obtain the proper motorcycle endorsement.
• The AMA does not oppose laws requiring training for minors (under age 18) for on-highway motorcycle riders, believing that minors may lack the maturity to make wise decisions regarding proper riding strategies.
• AMA position statement: amadirectlink.com/legisltn/positions/ridered.asp.
VI. Mandated helmets
Threat: Renewed interest for a national mandatory helmet law can bring unintended consequences for riders.
Status: In the 1970s, the federal government linked the disbursement to states of federal highway funds with a mandate for helmet use. This strategy was later determined to be unconstitutional by the courts.
• States have since been allowed to determine whether or not helmets should be mandated.
• On March 25, 2010, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland suggested before a Congressional subcommittee that anything Congress could do to get riders to wear helmets was welcomed, including possible penalties. The AMA immediately sought clarification of Strickland's comments.
• The AMA opposes mandates but strongly encourages the voluntary use of personal protective equipment, including gloves, sturdy footwear and a properly fitted motorcycle helmet certified by its manufacturer to be DOT compliant.
• The AMA believes that programs that can prevent crashes from occurring in the first place, such as rider education, motorist awareness, proper licensing, and alcohol awareness should be the focus of legislators. Protective equipment mandates divert precious state resources from these programs to enforcement.
•The AMA does not oppose laws requiring helmets for minor (under age 18) motorcycle operators and passengers, believing that many young motorcyclists and/or their passengers may lack the maturity to make an informed decision regarding the use of motorcycle helmets.
• AMA position statement: amadirectlink.com/legisltn/positions/helmet.asp.
What riders can do: Seek clarification of Administrator Strickland's comments using nhtsa.gov/Contact. Also, contact U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them not support any efforts to mandate helmets.
VII. Distracted driving
Threat: Advances in mobile technology have made it easier than ever to become momentarily distracted by operating the controls of a cell phone, PDA, stereo system, a global positioning unit, or some other device. Motorcyclists are being injured and killed resulting from the distracted and/or inattentive driving behaviors of vehicle operators.
Status: Landmark research by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) revealed that nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.
• Most states do not have laws and penalties that discourage this behavior.
• AMA supports legislation that includes enhanced penalty options, as determined by the courts. Examples include: Enhanced fines, operator's license suspension, points assessed on the operator's driving record, community service, and/or imprisonment.
• The AMA supports the prominent placement of signage that notifies roadway users of specific sanctions for those convicted of moving violations while operating a motor vehicle in a distracted or inattentive manner.
What riders can do: Organize in support of state legislation for enhanced penalties for distracted and/or inattentive driving that results in injury or death to other roadway users.
VIII. High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access
Threat: Motorcyclists may be ticketed for riding in an HOV/carpool lane.
Status: The U.S. Code governing HOV lanes-Title 23, Section 166 (23USC166)-states that agencies that govern HOV lanes must allow motorcycles to use the lanes unless they prove motorcycles pose a safety hazard in the lanes, and that proof is accepted by the U.S. Transportation Secretary following a Federal Register notice and public comment period on the ban. Nevertheless, some jurisdictions have ignored the law and ticketed motorcyclists in HOV lanes.
• The most publicized incident involved Karen Perrine and New York City, see amadirectlink.com/news/2008/NYC.asp.
• Perrine's challenge was finally resolved in 2008, but the New York City Department of Transportation did not revise its traffic rules to specifically permit motorcycles in all HOV lanes until the spring of 2009.
• The AMA has also assisted riders in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania in overcoming improperly issued HOV lane citations.
What riders can do: Remain vigilant to violations of the law by enforcement authorities, and report such cases to the AMA when they occur.
IX. Health insurance discrimination
Threat: Following the passage of the original HIPAA legislation in 1996, bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services created a loophole that allowed insurance companies to deny benefits (known as "source-of-injury" exclusions) to people who are injured while participating in legal transportation and recreational activities, such as riding motorcycles or off-road vehicles.
Status: In March 2009, the House of Representatives passed AMA-supported legislation that requires insurance companies to disclose activities that policies will not cover at the point-of-sale.
• H.R. 1253 was passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 422-3 before being passed to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
• The Senate has yet to consider the legislation.
The ease of passage for H.R. 1253 demonstrated a willingness from Congress to consider the issue of source-of-injury discrimination in health insurance policies. However, many Members of Congress are not yet able to support a bill that would close the loophole on these kinds of benefit exclusions without examples of discrimination from their constituents.
What riders can do: Contact their U.S. Senators and urge them to pass H.R. 1253 to bring attention back to the issue of insurance benefit discrimination. If riders have been denied coverage for an injury sustained while legally operating a motorcycle or OHV, contact the AMA immediately to help make the case for passing legislation that closes this HIPAA loophole. Also, riders should contact the AMA if they have a policy that would deny coverage for a motorcycle- or OHV-related incident.
Contact: AMA Government Relations Department, Sheila Andrews, (202) 742-4303, email@example.com.
X. Mandated ABS
Threat: A recent call by the insurance industry for mandated ABS (anti-lock brake systems) on all motorcycles can bring unintended consequences for riders.
Status: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that fatal motorcycle crashes could be cut by more than one-third if all motorcycles had ABS.
• On May 6, 2010, the IIHS petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to mandate ABS for all motorcycles.
• The AMA supports the optional availability of ABS but points out that requiring ABS on all motorcycles could increase the risk of a crash under certain conditions: such as riding an off-highway motorcycle on a trail, or riding an on-highway or dual-sport motorcycle on a dirt or gravel road.
• Mandating ABS on motorcycles could increase the cost of a new bike by $1,000 or more. This is especially alarming for entry-level machines that could increase in price by as much as 20 percent.
• For more information, see ama-cycle.org/news/story.asp?id=1958.
What riders can do: Contact NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and explain why an ABS mandate is a bad idea. The fastest way to reach Strickland is to send an email to him at nhtsa.gov/Contact. Also, contact U.S. Senators and Representative and urge them not to support any efforts to mandate ABS.
AMA resources and recommendations:
• A summary of motorcycle laws by state can be viewed here: amadirectlink.com/legisltn/laws.asp.
• AMA position statements can be viewed here: amadirectlink.com/legisltn/issues.asp
• Sign up for AMA Action Alerts (does not require AMA membership): amadirectlink.com/legisltn/getInvolved/signUp.asp.
• Current AMA Action Alerts: capwiz.com/amacycle/issues.
• Join the AMA (amadirectlink.com/join/index.asp) and other advocacy organizations such as ABATE or MRF.
• Participate in the political process.
• Register to vote.
• Voting alone is not enough. Riders should be encouraged to seek out and identify candidates that share their philosophies and ideas, and look for opportunities to support them long before Election Day.
• The AMA has numerous suggestions and ideas on its website as well as specific suggestions about how to get involved with the political process, see amadirectlink.com/legisltn/getInvolved.
• The AMA maintains an Election Guide at amacycle.capwiz.com/election/home.
• There is a Congressional Motorcycle Caucus. It's members are:
United We Stand: Finally, its important to caution riders that anti-access forces are not all from one political party, and that the motorcycling community cannot afford to further divide itself by calling out one party or its leaders. The battle to preserve riding rights has been taking place for many decades, no matter which political party has been in power at the national level. The issues of safety and land-use are dynamic and quite complex, and involve regional, economic, and power interests as much as environmental or social policy. Motorcyclists represent a small percentage of Americans. Therefore, we have to stay issue-focused and recruit as many riders as we can-Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, etc., to the cause of protecting riding rights and opportunities.
Lobby for your rights!
"We the people of the United States" are not just words from the first line of an old document. We are the people who love baggers, choppers, diggers, rat bikes, antiques, muscle cars, hot rods, street rods, tuners, replicas, off road trucks, and many other varieties of automotive pursuits that are as diverse as the country in which we live. We are also the people who have to work to protect our motorized passions from unnecessary, unfair, or well intentioned but poorly written laws and regulations. Fortunately, we the people live in a country where we can still make a difference in how we are governed.
Our greatest tool in making that difference is our voice. By speaking out on issues that concern our interests, contacting our representatives, and working constructively with government officials, we have the power to protect our passion and keep it safe for future generations of moto and auto hobbyists and enthusiasts. When legislatures are out of session, representatives are in their home districts and typically have more time to meet casually with their constituents. They are also planning for the next legislative session and deciding which bills to introduce. Contacting them now can have a tremendous impact by raising their awareness of issues that could impact our lifestyle and hobby during the next session. That is what makes right now the perfect time to get involved and build relationships with your legislators, so hit the starter and twist the throttle!
To get you started, here are 10 tips you can use when contacting your representatives:
1. Develop and Maintain Relationships with Your Legislators and Their Staff
Make contact and develop productive relationships with individual legislators. It is the most effective form of grassroots lobbying. It's also important to develop a relationship with their staff who monitor ongoing legislative and community initiatives.
2. Educate Legislators About Our Hobby and Our Issues
Educate your legislator about motorcycling and emphasize the positive impact it has on the community.
3. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Develop a positive relationship with your legislator. The next time an enthusiast-related issue comes up, that same legislator may be needed to support your cause.
4. Stay Informed
Keep up-to-date on the legislative issues that affect the hobby in your state. Share this information with fellow enthusiasts.
5. Get Involved in the Community
Join with other community groups to build positive exposure. Holding charity runs and fundraisers provide a great opportunity to show local residents and politicians that auto clubs are a positive community force.
6. Build Relationships with the Local Media
Contact local newspapers and radio/TV stations to publicize bike and car shows, charity events, etc.
7. Invite Officials to Participate in Your Events
Give legislators a platform to reach an audience of constituents.
8. Build an Automotive Coalition
Create coalitions to add strength in numbers and ensure that the rights of all vehicle enthusiasts are represented. Actively participating in regional and statewide councils will develop a unified message to lawmakers. These types of pro-hobbyist groups can be an influential political force.
9. Spread the Word
Take this information to your next club meeting, bike night or post it on your online forums. Share this information with other enthusiasts who are willing to help lobby for the hobby.
10. Register to Vote
Exercise your right to support pro-moto and pro-auto candidates. Constituents are an elected official's number-one priority. Without you and your vote of support, they would not be in office, so make sure you're registered and get out and vote.