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January 19th Edition
In This Issue:
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The Little Weather Quickie for the Greater Charlotte Area
for Week of January 19-26, 2016
Wednesday 40h & cloudy, Thursday 47h & m-cloudy, Friday 39h & 100% rain, Saturday 43h & 50% rain/snow showers, Sunday 51h & sunny, Monday 56h & p-cloudy, Tuesday 57h & cloudy (as per weather.com on 1/19/16)
Helmets or No Helmets?
Boda (and the Concerned Bikers Association) brings back the eternal question - should we wear helmets when we ride? That question is then tied to a host of other queries ... should it be a law or a choice? who should decide? what's the diff?
Let's hear from you!
We'd like to open the discussion and see what kinds of responses come out. WRITE ME! We'll publish answers sometime in February and continue to explore motorcycle safety throughout 2016. Let us hear from you ... ya hear?
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Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Concerned Bikers Association (CBA), its chapters, and district carried out a relentless series of Helmet Law Protests and Freedom Runs in North Carolina. Literally thousands of bikers took to the highways in support of freedom of choice.
At the same time, CBA lobbyists and members were active in the legislature in both North Carolina and Washington, DC. We learned many hard lessons.
I remember testifying before a committee hearing in Raleigh one spring. It was beautiful day and I rode my new Harley-Davidson to the legislature dressed in a three piece suit – dressing to impress. When I entered the committee chamber, I noticed a large group of men in suits similar to the one I was wearing clustered in the right front of the chamber. A much larger group of leather clad bikers filled the rest of the room. All those wearing suits, except for me, spoke in support of mandatory helmet laws.
When it was my turn to testify, I pointed out the people assembled in the chamber and asked “who was being paid to be present and testify, and who was present at their own expense.” You would think I had mooned the Chairwoman by her reaction. She told me in no uncertain terms that my questions were inappropriate and “we do not ask such questions in this chamber.”
The Chairwoman did not appreciate my follow-up question – “which the witnesses actually owned and rode a motorcycle?” That question was “totally irrelevant to a discussion of motorcycle rights and safety.” Over the decades, I have come to realize that our legislators pay very little attention to what the voters want except just before the election.
Politicians are known for their speaking ability and are especially known for using familiar themes that appeal to the voters. Politicians usually become expert users of the media. Politicians in the 19th century made heavy use of newspapers, magazines and pamphlets, as well as posters. In the 20th century, they branched into radio and television, making television commercials the single most expensive part of an election campaign. Today, they use social media based on the Internet and smart phones.
An elected politician becomes a government official and deals with a permanent bureaucracy of non-politicians. A subtle conflict exists between the long-term goals of each side. Historians argue that there are two types of politicians: career politicians, who work in the political sector until retirement, and "political careerists", who develop a reputation for controlling bureaucracies, then leave politics for a well-paid career in the private sector making use of their political contacts.
Both provide little value to a minority viewpoint, be it belief, faith, gender, lifestyle, or race. Their focus is usually on re-election and pushing their own agenda and pork barrel projects. One tactic that does work is supporting a new candidate for office.
In 1989 Senator Chaffee and Rep. Cooper introduced legislation to withhold 10% of a state’s federal-aid highway funds if they did not mandate helmets and other safety programs. In order to get the bill passed, they changed the penalty to 3% in the major highway bill of 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA.)
After our failure to stop the penalties, most State Motorcycle Rights Organizations (SMROs) like the CBA realized they needed to put more effort into federal legislation. Between 1991 and 1995, more SMROs sent members to Washington every year, until 37 states had delegations Washington. This combined with bikers doing more with Congressional and U.S. Senate campaigns lead to the repeal of the Section 153 penalties in 1995.
(1995 Rick and Myra with Ben Nighthorse Campbell)
Motorcyclists had established more friends through this campaign work. Several legislators that opposed freedom were defeated, including Rep. Cooper who ran for the Senate and several members of the House committee who had voted against the Petri Amendment.
In the fall of 1994, at MRF’s annual conference, Meeting of the Minds, representatives from almost every SMRO in the country committed to supporting MRF led effort both in the state and by sending representatives to Washington in early 1995.
Included in the new coalition was the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the world's premier and largest member-driven motorcycling organization. The mission of the American Motorcyclist Association is to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling. The roots of the AMA can be traced to two organizations that preceded it, the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) founded in 1903 and the Motorcycle and Allied Trades Association (M&ATA) founded in 1916.
AMA’s Washington Representative’s Rob Dingman (later AMA President) committed to repealing the helmet mandate. In addition, the AMA helped to fund trips to Washington for over 50 motorcyclists’ rights activists in 1995.
But, most important of all was the commitment of AMA, CBA, MRF, NCOM and other State Motorcyclists’ Rights Organizations working on a coordinated agenda. This provided the personnel and financial resources it took to make repeal of the Section 153 penalties a reality. Unfortunately, North Carolina State Law still mandated helmets.
The North Carolina helmet issue came to a head again in 1999 in Craven County when Superior Court Judge Clifton Everett dismissed charges against 11 bikers who were ticketed the year before during a Protest Run. The 11 were represented in court by attorney by Bob Donat, an attorney for CBA and for Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (AIM.)
He successfully argued that the state's law was unconstitutional. Judge Everett dismissed the charges, saying that law and the technical specifications for helmets to be approved by the state Department of Motor Vehicles are "so vague, indefinite and uncertain that a person of ordinary intelligence cannot determine how to order his behavior and has not been given fair notice of what is forbidden or required.''
Judge Everett's ruling did not change the law and the state appealed the decision. But the CBA was fighting on two fronts, first, through the courts and secondly, through a proposed Motorcycle Safety Act, which was introduced during that year’s session of the state General Assembly.
The proposed legislative changed the helmet law to give freedom of choice to bikers 21 years old or older who have had a motorcycle endorsement on the driver's licenses for more than 12 months. Additionally, the bill increased from $3 to $5 an additional tax on private motorcycle registration to fund the Motorcycle Safety Instruction Program.
"It's what you put in your head, not on it, that is important,'' said Rick Nail, past State President. "An experienced (motorcycle) rider's driving skills are 100 percent better than someone driving a car. Most riders believe that experience and biker training are critical to safe riding.”
Even today, many who protest the mandatory helmet law actually choose to wear helmets, while others argue that they limit vision and hearing and can actually increase injuries in some crashes. But all were united in their belief that experienced riders should be able to choose for themselves.
A Teaser ...
The Carolina Rider is giving away a 2016 calendar to the first 500 to come by The BIG RIDE 2 and ask for it ...
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The Carolina Rider Weekly Magazine
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