Archive for March, 2009

Some Progress, Not Enough, On HIPAA Repair Bill

Monday, March 30th, 2009

How is it that bureaucrats can get away with twisting a law to the exact opposite of its intent?

In this instance I’m talking about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which made it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage for customers doing things like riding motorcycles or snowmobiling. At least that’s what Congress thought it was doing. By the time the bureaucrats got done with the regulations they had specifically made it legal for insurance companies to do just that. Huh?

I’ve reported previously on efforts to fix this absurdity by passing another law that would be so explicit that no bureaucrat could possibly twist in such a perverse fashion. That legislation, called the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act, was working its way through Congress last year.

Unfortunately, it appears to have been significantly weakened. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) reported that the bill currently making it way through Congress does not prohibit non-coverage of motorcycle accident injuries, it only requires that if the company is going to deny these claims it must tell the policy holders well in advance that these injuries are not covered.

To summarize the legalese, your health insurance provider can limit payment for an injury sustained on a motorcycle so long as it is spelled out to you in simple terms well in advance of you joining the plan.

In closing, the MRF release states:

Closing the loophole entirely and mandating that insurance companies must cover all injuries sustained while operating a legal motorcycle is still the ultimate goal of the MRF. HR 1253 puts Congress on record that this issue needs attention and is willing to work on it. The MRF will continue to keep you updated on this important matter.

Clearly we all need to support the MRF and other motorcycle organizations in continuing to fight this fight. But how obscene is it that we won this battle back in ’96, only to have that victory snatched away by some nameless, faceless bureaucrats! Something is seriously wrong here.

Biker Quote for Today

If you don’t pursue your dream, you might as well be a vegetable.

Working for Dedicated Motorcycle Parking

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Does your town or city make a point to make dedicated motorcycle parking available? So many people talk about going “green” and riding a bike is certainly greener than driving a car, so shouldn’t cities be promoting motorcycle usage?

dedicated motorcycle parkingBefore I get into this discussion I want to make it clear here what my purpose is. If your city does actively promote motorcycle commuting by mandating dedicated parking I want to hear from you. I’m looking for examples we can use to promote the same thing here.

This is an issue that a reader posted on my Examiner.com site, and which I have chosen to pursue. He suggested that we try to start a grassroots movement to have the city designate dedicated motorcycle parking on every block. I posted his remarks and called for reader response.

Another reader immediately took the initiative and contacted his state representative about getting a bill introduced in the legislature. In Colorado, however, legislators are restricted to introducing no more than five bills per session and everyone had already committed themselves for this year. Time to think about next year, but too late this year.

I also contacted the staff of a city councilwoman I have known for a long time asking how you would go about working for an ordinance to be enacted. I got a reply directing me to an agency set up by the mayor with the express purpose of working for green initiatives. I contacted those folks and got some good information about what the city is already considering, which includes designating the “end-cap” areas at the end of the block that are too small for cars as motorcycle parking. So there’s hope.

My point here is that the readership of my Examiner.com page is more local, while the readership of this blog is more widespread. If any of you have ideas or experience you can offer to give us a hand we would all very much appreciate it. We’re not experienced activists, we’re just some folks who think we have a good idea that we want to try to promote. Thanks in advance for anything you can offer.

Biker Quote for Today

Bikes don’t leak oil, they mark their territory.

Travels with Charley, with Apologies to Steinbeck

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

It’s not that Saturday was a milestone, because we’d already reached this point, but it was nevertheless a day worth noting. Charley and I went riding motorcycles together for the first time.

I know, there’s a lot of background that needs to be filled in here.

Charley on my CBCharley is my wife’s son. Judy and I have been married for 13 years. Charley was 16 when we got married. Thanks to him and his sisters, the first 7 years of our marriage were utter hell. Are you starting to get the picture?

I’m not telling you anything Charley hasn’t heard directly from my lips when I tell you that there was a time when I hated him with every fiber of my being. I spoke those words, however, at a point where I was recommending that the authorities release him from the detention center where he had spent the last year, because I felt that he had grown and changed and was ready to be given another chance.

It didn’t start out like that. Shortly before Judy and I were married I took Charley with me on a camping trip my buddies and I used to go on every spring. At one point I pointed over to him and said to John, who I was standing with, that “He’s probably the closest thing to a son that I’ll ever have.” Things went to hell soon after that.

Charley was approved for release that day and he truly has turned his life around now. We eventually reached the point where I could tell Judy in all honesty that I truly have grown to like and care for Charley. We’ve had a good relationship for some years now. And Charley had a motorcycle of his own for awhile, although we were unaware of that until after he sold it.

So lately he has suggested that the two of us take my two bikes and ride together. That sounded like a fine idea to me and on Saturday we did it. I rode the Kawi and Charley was on the Honda. I showed him the Palmer Lake to Franktown loop that Judy and I have ridden many times, and the three biker-friendly bars along the way. Business was hopping on such a beautiful spring day. We didn’t drink but we did have some eats.

Altogether we spent about four hours riding and talking and enjoying our time together. The contrast with the bad old days could not have been sharper.

Charley is still the closest thing I’ll ever have to a son, and it’s nice that we’re a lot closer to that than we once were. And what dad doesn’t want to share his passion with his son? Charley wants to get another bike of his own, but he’s scraping financially these days so who knows how soon that will happen. In the meantime, I do have two bikes. No doubt we’ll be riding again.

Biker Quote for Today

Ride Safe, Ride Long, & Have Fun

Why Is That Motorcycle Glaring At Me?

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

An angry face is staring right at you; do you notice it? You bet you do.

the face of the bikeWhat if you’re driving in your car and the angry face is the front end of a motorcycle that you’re just about to turn in front of? Do you see it and stop your turn? Apparently there is a good chance you will.

Time for a paradigm switch perhaps. “Loud pipes save lives” may soon become “Pissed off bikes protect riders.”

What the heck am I talking about? I ran across this article about how Honda researchers are finding that the more a bike looks like a human face, and in particular an angry human face, the more likely it is that other drivers will see it. So they’re starting to deliberately make bikes look more human–and angry.

So welcome to the future. Let’s hear it for pissed-off bikes!

Biker Quote for Today

“I don’t give it a name, but I always speak with it. I don’t know if other riders do the same. This is not only a piece of metal – there is a soul” -Valentino Rossi

Dipping Our Toes in the ABATE Social Scene

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Judy and I wondered if we’d be seen as losers for not showing up at the ABATE of Colorado District 10 Corned Beef Bash Saturday night on a bike. This is my local ABATE chapter and this was our first time at one of their social events since I joined. We weren’t sure what to expect.

Corned Beef BashWe weren’t sure how long we would be there, but we knew it would be getting dark, so the options were to wear a lot of gear and warm clothes or just drive. It occurred to me as we were getting ready that it would have been a really nice day to go for a ride and end up at the bash at dinner time. I wondered if that might be what a lot of people would do. But we drove.

Turns out, so did most everyone else. Sure there were about 15 to 20 bikes in the parking lot but the rest of the lot was overflowing with cars. We felt reassured. Nobody wants to make their first appearance at a new scene looking like a dope.

Walking in, we stood and looked around, not quite sure what the protocol was. Happily, Randy Savely, the District 10 Coordinator, who I had met when I attended my first meeting, came over to welcome us and point out where to pay, where to find the food, and just generally put us at ease. That was really nice and we appreciated it.

So we got some food (good corned beef!) and found a place to sit and took it all in while we ate. And you know what? It was not a whole lot different than any other St. Pat’s Day gathering you’re likely to see. There were kids running around having fun, lots of people talking and eating and drinking, a lot of silly green hats and various other green paraphenalia, and a lot of corned beef and cabbage. They were drawing numbers for door prizes, but although the numbers hit right next to each of ours, we didn’t win anything. And gosh, we didn’t win the 50-50 either.

But we talked a little with the folks at our table and we started getting acclimated. I look forward to being able to walk into this place and say hello to a bunch of folks I know. Not there yet, but you have to start somewhere.

Biker Quote for Today

Ride safe, ride often

Update: Motorcycle Crash Study in Jeopardy

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

This is a sponsored post from Robert Reeves, an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can help individuals with their legal troubles if they have been personally injured on their motorcycle.

I owe this heads-up to Fasthair, who, in response to my post asking “Why Are All These Bikers Dying?,” sent me the link I’ll give you momentarily.

I’ve mentioned here a couple times now that a new motorcycle crash study has gotten underway to update and tell us more about this subject than the 30-year-old Hurt Study can do. What I had not heard is that due to funding issues, it is currently dead in the water.

The study is to be conducted by Dr. Samir Ahmed, who is a researcher in the Transportation Center at Oklahoma State University (OSU). Federal matching money was put up with privately raised money and theoretically the study was underway. I reported previously that selected intersections in Los Angeles were being equipped with recording and sensing devices so as to gather crash information, and it looked like things were rolling.

Not so. As Jeff Cobb with Motorcycle Safety News reports, Dr. Ahmed cannot move forward with the study because Alan Tree, associate dean for research at OSU’s College of Engineers, Architects and Technology, is concerned that there is not enough money, and that his department would be forced to make up the difference if the project ran out of cash before the job was done.

All in all a very distressing situation that Jeff Cobb explains in detail.

Another comment on the same post came from Torch, who said in regard to the questions I was raising, “Very good questions. We could use a compiled list of frequent mistakes, what to watch for, and how to avoid those situations.”

Well, as I noted in that post, I see an unending stream of headlines about biker accidents and deaths, so in the last week I have kept track of them all. The following list is representative but not all-inclusive. I follow the headline with the explanation from the article that tells the story.

  • 1 Killed, 2 Hurt in Motorcycle Crashes — motorcycle rider tried to veer in front of another vehicle but instead impacted the front bumper of the car/veered in front of another motorcycle; motorcycle rider had been racing
  • Buddy Lee Cole injured in motorcycle-truck crash — truck turned in front of him
  • Motorcycle driver dies after colliding with backhoe — driver of a backhoe failed to yield while turning
  • Rogersville Man Injured When Motorcycle Flips — riding veered off Lonesome Pine Trail and flipped – lost control of the motorcycle after swerving to avoid a white car that he encountered on his side of the road in a curve
  • Lafayette Motorcycle Accident Kills One — collision with a van traveling southbound who turned into its path
  • Motorcycles Hit 18-Wheeler; Both Riders Injured — struck an 18-wheeler whose driver failed to stop at a stop sign
  • Motorcycle wrecks claims life of Raleigh man — ran into a Jeep, speeding
  • 3 die in separate biker accidents Saturday — rear-ended by a pickup’s driver; lost control
  • Two killed in motorcycle crash — hit head-on by a minivan (that crossed center line)
  • Motorcycle crash kills Repton man — lost control of his motorcycle
  • Motorcycle accident in southeast Huntsville — lost control of his bike and ran into a deep ditch
  • Tecumseh woman killed in motorcycle crash — crashed into the rear of a van
  • Madison County man dies in motorcycle accident — entered Quarterline Road into the path of a southbound Jeep
  • Biker dies after city crash — collided with a blue Toyota Carina which was trying to perform a U-turn
  • One Dead After Motorcycle Crash — rear-ended rider
  • Wister man killed after crashing motorcycle into wooden post in LeFlore County — running his motorcyle off a LeFlore County road and crashing into a wooden post
  • Fatal Motorcycle Crash in Dallas — speed may have caused him to lose control and slam into a wall

OK, that’s enough. Mind you, that’s only about half of what I collected in one week, pretty much in chronological order. What do we see there?

We see several of the accidents we all know occur, where a driver turns left in front of a bike. The surprising thing we see is that many of them do not involve any other vehicles, they are just cases of bikers who lose control and hit something. In a couple other cases the biker rear-ended someone else.

In other words, it is easy for us to say it’s “those damn cagers” who are killing us but at least in the last week it’s really more that we are killing ourselves. Was alcohol involved? In some cases, probably. Excessive speed was definitely involved in some. These are factors we have absolute control over.

I don’t know about you, but I love riding my bikes. As soon as I die, the fun is over. What choices are you going to make today?

Biker Quote for Today

If you want to get somewhere before sundown, you can’t stop at every tavern.

A Terrific Racing Story I Want to Pass Along

Monday, March 9th, 2009

FasthairYou’ve got to love it when you run across a piece of writing that makes you say, “Everyone ought to read this–it’s great!”

I did just that the other day when I paid a visit to Fasthair, a biker blogger in Iowa whose blog I link to in the sidebar column to the right of this post, under “Favorite Links.”

First off, that’s a picture of him, and yes, he’s on a bike wearing a tuxedo. This is a piece of the photo he uses on his blog, and it’s worth it to go to his blog just to see the whole picture. Then, of course, you need to read the story behind the picture. Fasthair, if you have any problems with me using this piece of your photo just let me know and I’ll remove it.

But, back to my main topic, Fasthair recently posted a story, My First Time, where he tells about his first day wrenching for a nitro-powered motorcycle dragster. I’ll quote just a few lines here, to whet your appetite, but I don’t want to spoil the story. Go read it yourself.

It snorted nitro out the carburetor instead of ingesting it the first time Frog whacked the throttle, it did it couple of more time just for good measure a couple of seconds later.

With what I’m sure was a surprised look on my face I said matter-of-factually “it needs more fuel.”

opening the crankcase drain so what oil is there can drain and I drain the oil tank of what looks like a babies diaper on a bad day

“I’ve got a little trick for that” he replies pointing to the little can hanging off the front of the carb.

OK, now go read the rest yourself.

Biker Quote for Today

The nasty little bugger looked like it was going 90 miles an hour when it was standing still in my garage. — Hunter S. Thompson

Why Are All These Bikers Dying?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

I am struck by the number of bikers being killed. If you search the web, as I do, for motorcycle-related news items, the reports of biker deaths are endless.

Jason on his HarleyOn most days there are several. Of course, today, when I planned to copy in the headlines here to make my point, there are none. Today is not a typical day.

I try not to take it out of proportion. If you did a similar search for automobile-related stories I’m sure you would be buried in accident reports. And being more conscious of these fatalities does not make me feel more at risk, as it might some people. If anything, I feel perhaps less at risk because my awareness keeps me vigilant.

Nevertheless, the daily barrage can’t help but make me think. Why are these people dying? What mistakes are they making? What mistakes are other motorists making? How can these deaths be prevented? What can I learn from this?

I’m not the only one asking these questions. A new motorcycle accident study began recently that promises to update and expand on the understanding derived from the Hurt study of 30 years ago.

In a recent issue of American Motorcyclist magazine there were a couple letters from readers arguing that another study was a waste because thanks to the Hurt study we already know the reasons for the crashes. The AMA responded saying “. . . the traffic environment has changed dramatically in the 30 years since the data were collected . . . a new study of U.S. motorcycle crashes can have far-reaching effects on how we teach motorcyclists and drivers, and shed new light on exactly how to reduce the number of crashes.”

But it will be several years before this new study yields its wisdom, so in the meantime we ought to at least make use of what we know already. And that includes these three points:

  • Untrained riders have more accidents
  • New, inexperienced riders have more accidents
  • Riders who have been drinking have more accidents

Now, there’s only one remedy for being a new rider, and that’s to get out there and ride and gain experience. The other two are simple–get some training and don’t mix booze and bikes.

I’m no pollyanna, I know people will have a beer at a stop on the ride. I’ve done that myself. But don’t have four. We all need to remember that “Live to ride, ride to live” presupposes one crucial point: You’ve got to stay alive or you can’t do either.

Biker Quote for Today

Don’t argue with an 18-wheeler.

Rounding the Curves at High Plains Raceway

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

We had the opportunity to do a lap at the yet-to-open High Plains Raceway today. Yeah, OK, we were in a pick-up and I wasn’t even driving but it was still a blast.

High Plains RacewayYou may recall my last post about this new racetrack, just a few weeks shy of a year ago. I’ve been checking the website periodically but it had been awhile, so I checked again this morning.

Well, blow me away, they’re set to open! Like in about one month. I had to see this so Judy and I climbed on the Kawi and scooted on out there. We saw a truck going around the course, and the gate was open, but we were hesitant. Then a car came heading out and I flagged the folks down to ask. They said to just go on in, that the track manager would be happy to see us and would give us a ride around the track. We went in.

Pulling up at the office, there were two bikes parked there and the silver pick-up. Doug Shaffar is the track manager and he was telling two other bikers about the place at the end of their cruise around. We joined in the conversation, the other two were ready to take off, and Doug said “Get in. Let’s take a ride.”

On the 2.5-mile loop he stopped frequently to explain the lay-out of the track. Early on you come down a nice straightaway right into what he said is called “Danny’s Lesson,” a decreasing radius right-hander that would get your adrenaline pumping just fine if you went into it too fast. On around and up what he called the “High Plains Drift” and through the others of the 15 curves.

We hadn’t counted on anything like this when we headed out. I just figured I wanted to go see it and shoot some pictures. I had dim hopes that I’d find someone I could ask some questions of, but to actually get out on the track and get a full-blown tour was way cool. And guess what? You can do it, too. I asked Doug specifically if it would be OK for me to tell folks they can come out and get the same treatment and he said absolutely. Now, he’s not always there, but if he is, you’re welcome. If you want to call ahead the number is 303-769-4771.

You might want to do it soon, though because in just four weeks racing starts. This may be a brand new track but their weekends are booked from the first of April all the way through November. This track will host both auto and motorcycle events and the first race will be put on by the Sports Car Club of America. The second is a Motorcycle Roadracing Association event. That will be April 11 and 12.

Maybe I’ll see you at the races.

Biker Quote for Today

Thou shalt explore the outer limits of engine-braking, backfire, and hurl fireballs from thy tailpipe.