Archive for the ‘Motorcycle Riders Foundation’ Category

Motorcycling Fact or Fiction?

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Motorcycle on Squaw Pass Road

I just want to pass along this information I saw in this month’s issue of ABATE of Colorado‘s Spokesman publication. It’s something they got from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, and has to do with the statistics that so often are used to justify “fixes” for problems. Here’s what the MRF put out.

Possible Errors? When errors, omissions or inaccuracies are discovered in reports or statistics, it calls into question the integrity of results. Additionally, small numbers can be easily skewed by slight or seemingly insignificant variations. Furthermore, numbers may be exploited if uncharacteristic highs or lows are used as a baseline. None of these discoveries are intended to argue against helmet use, but rather to demonstrate that suggesting a helmet law is not the solution to motorcycle safety. Individual states need to maintain the ability to determine what measures best address the needs and desires of their residents as suggested in the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS).

FACT Comparison of studies is complicated due to varying criteria, wherein one report references riders, it is unclear if that includes passengers or specifically operators. Other papers may refer to the numbers of persons, crashes or vehicles intermittently. This can be quite confusing as the numbers are usually very close and are frequently compared in error.

FACT A Minnesota motorcyclist survived a crash only to be struck by a car while standing on the road attempting to flag down a motorist for assistance. This was subsequently counted as a motorcycle fatality.

FACT A Pennsylvania taxi driver, with multiple suspensions,was responsible for about two percent of the state’s total motorcycle fatalities when he caused a crash with three motorcycles and killed five helmeted riders in a single incident.

FACT Motorcycle fatalities dropped by 10% in 2009 and preliminary reports indicate that 2010 numbers will be further reduced by at least 2%. The Motorcycle Industry Council advises that sales of replacement tires were up by 6.1% in 2010, suggesting an increase in motorcycle usage. A decrease in fatalities despite an increase in exposure would suggest that motorcycle safety and awareness programs, specifically rider education courses, have been successful.

FACT The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated over 120,000 airplane incidents, over 60,000 surface transportation incidents, and just 6 individual motorcycle incidents in their entire 44 year history — Apparently enough investigation to warrant adding mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists on their “top ten most wanted list.”

FACT According to preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association, states that have a mandatory adult helmet law had 6 fewer fatalities in 2010 than in 2009, while free choice states saw a reduction of 74. The state with the single largest decline in fatalities (Texas -60) is a choice state and a state which requires helmets on all riders tied for the greatest increase (New York +24).

FACT FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) continues to include “mopeds” in motorcycle crash statistics despite the fact that most states do not require registration of these vehicles. This practice skews the most respected method of measuring the effectiveness of motorcycle safety programs, which is the ratio of accidents, injuries and fatalities per 10,000 registrations.

For more information, contact Jeff Hennie, Motorcycle Riders Foundation, 202-546-0983,

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Creating a comfortable, high-mileage motorcycle that carries groceries

Biker Quote for Today

She pulled out into his path. Classical modus deathus for a biker.

And the Race Is On

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Racers at High Plains RacewayI headed out to High Plains Raceway Saturday for the opening day of the Motorcycle Roadracing Association’s (MRA) 2011 season, and to do my first piece following racer Jon Kuo through the season. The weather was perfect and everyone was definitely jazzed for the season to start. The story and photos are available on

I became acquainted with Jon because he is sponsored by ABATE of Colorado, of which I am a member. This year now, ABATE is sponsoring three racers, as well as the corner crews. To say that this is unusual is an understatement. In many states there is outright hostility between the sportbike crowd and the ABATE organizations. Terry Howard, Colorado’s State Coordinator, was there Saturday and she told me they caused quite a stir at last year’s Meeting of the Minds, the Motorcycle Rider’s Foundation conference, when they showed up with representatives from the MRA and the Colorado Sportbike Club as members of their delegation. Everyone was in awe and eager to hear how this came about. I’ll be doing a follow-up article that really digs into the story.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet Ricky Orlando, a local fellow who is an AMA racing champion and who now runs a riding school up by Frederick. If you’re into the racing scene I’m sure you are familiar with Ricky. I had spoken with him for the first time just a couple weeks ago when I was working on a story for about how kids can come up through the ranks of American Motorcyclist Association-sanctioned racing and become world champions. Ricky was very helpful and gave me some good quotes for the story, so it was an unexpected pleasure to actually meet him. Of course, he was there to race.

And lest we forget, there was the racing Saturday. When I had spoken with Jon a couple weeks ago he was sounding extremely optimistic about placing very well, maybe even winning a championship. Speaking with him before the race he had toned things down a bit, which I suspect was a result of getting out on the track in practice sessions and seeing other guys out-running him. At that point he said he just hoped to stay up with the fast guys and learn from them.

Jon placed 7th in his first race, the only one I was there for, and he was very disappointed. And this is where I start learning about racing. Jon told me his problem was that he doesn’t have the corner speed the top guys have, and it’s something he needs to learn. Riding on a 250cc Ninja, he said the bikes don’t have enough power to go really fast, plus they’re light, so you can–and need to–carry a lot of speed deep into the corner. The best riders hardly even brake in the corners, he said. And because you can’t make up much time in the straights, races are won and lost in the corners.

As I say, my education begins. It’s going to be an interesting season. It will be very interesting especially to see how well Jon does learning to corner faster. Stay tuned.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Kicking off motorcycle roadracing season

Biker Quote for Today

Motorcycle racing is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.

Gabrielle Giffords Is a Motorcyclist

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

By now everyone knows that Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot Saturday in Tucson, and that a lot of other people were killed in the incident. What many motorcyclists don’t know is that Rep. Giffords is one of us: She rides.

Gabrielle GiffordsGiffords is chair of the United States House of Representatives Motorcycle Safety Caucus. I didn’t know that but you know the folks at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation did. As soon as they heard about the shooting they issued a statement describing her as “a true friend of the motorcyclists of this country.”

I was wondering what she rides and the best I could come up with was a photo of her with some BMW that I don’t recognize, a boxer.

What is far more significant than what she rides, however, is what I found when I went looking. I found a YouTube video she did for the Motorcycle Industry Council promoting Ride Your Motorcycle to Work Day. Not surprisingly, that video has had a lot of viewers in the last 24 hours, and a lot of comments. Some of them are incredible. Statements like, “I hope this socialist c— dies.” And apparently in response to YouTube removing some more outrageous comments, this: “What ever happened to freadom of speach? Only if you support faggots and socialist negros.” Or this: “She was a jew !” And this: “She got what she got! f–kin illuminati whore.”

What is wrong with these people!? Where do these scum breed? These self-proclaimed America-loving patriots wouldn’t understand the values of our founding fathers–or the people of this country today–if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson enunciated it for them to their faces.

I know this is getting off the topic of motorcycles but today is not an average day. If you read the blog regularly you know that for nearly three years I have been writing for as their National Motorcycle Examiner. In my life beyond motorcycles I have been interested in politics but turned off by the style of politics that has become so prevalent, where your opponent is not just someone you disagree with, but the devil incarnate. Someone absolutely evil.

Getting fed up with that, just three weeks ago I took on another title at Examiner, as their National Common Ground Examiner. The intent of my writing on this topic is to promote a return to civility in politics and to making reasonable compromises in order to actually fix some of the problems facing this country. To use a metaphor, there are no Republican potholes or Democratic potholes, there are just potholes and they need to be fixed. Do it! It’s fine to disagree, and work for different ends, but treat each other with civility and respect.

Little did I know that my topic would so suddenly become so relevant. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. As the Common Ground Examiner I’ve been writing about a group called No Labels that is working for this same return to civility. I’ve been reading the comments people make about the group and it is astonishing how negative and vicious many of those comments are. The one that particularly sticks in my mind was a guy who said, “Not all who hate America are liberals, but all liberals hate America.” Is there anyone who doubts that it was this sort of sick thinking that led to the attack on Gabby Giffords?

Oh, and just for the record, I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a registered Independent. But I’m going to quote the words of the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner: “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country.” Do you idiots who cheer this attack just not get the message?

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Arizona motorcyclist Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot in head

Biker Quote for Today

Ride fast, life is short.

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.

Clarifying Issues from Meeting of the Minds

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I discussed the recent Meeting of the Minds conference that was held recently here in Denver by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. At the time there were a couple issues I was unfamiliar with that I wanted to learn more about. I now have more to report.

Cruising along Trail Ridge RoadFirst off, I was apparently a little off in my description of the issue of mandatory rider training. I said that MRF members “are concerned about a move to make such training mandatory, because they fear that the capacity does not exist to offer that training to that many people.” That was what I thought I had heard, and maybe to some extent that concern exists.

However, I spoke last week with Terry Howard, State Coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, and she gave me a totally different take on the topic. Speaking strictly for ABATE of Colorado, Terry said the only issue she has with mandatory training is that it apply to motorcyclists AND to motorists. That was really a “Doh!” moment for me. Of course. It would be totally discriminatory to require motorcyclists to have rider training while not requiring drivers to have driver training. We’re both operating motorized vehicles on the same roads and highways. And lord knows we all know that those folks in their cars need better training on avoiding those of us not enclosed in steel cages.

But it occurs to me as well, that as much as we talk about how many motorcycle accidents are caused not by the biker but by the rider, the same is actually true of car on car accidents. Probably in most two-car accidents, only one of the drivers is significantly at fault. The other is probably just as much a victim of the other driver’s carelessness as we are when it’s a car on bike accident. So absolutely, if our legislators want to impose mandatory training on bikers, we have got to ensure that ALL motor vehicle operators have the same requirement. Of course, then we really get into the issue of training capacity, as I mentioned originally.

The other unclear issue from MotM is something Terry was not as able to clear up. That was the idea of tiered licensing. She said she doesn’t really know the issue because Colorado doesn’t have it. The only thing she could tell me is that she thinks it is possible Colorado could move in that direction because of the upswing in popularity of scooters. Anyone on a scooter bigger than 50cc has to have motorcycle validation on their license, but below 50cc there is no requirement. Terry told me that some ABATE members have raised the issue because they see these low-maximum-speed scooters as hazards slowing down traffic on busy arterials. But there is no such proposal currently and ABATE is not pushing for it. So I guess for now tiered licensing will remain an issue for other states, not Colorado.

Biker Quote for Today

Bikes parked out front mean good chicken-fried steak inside.

Rider Training Funds Still Threatened

Friday, October 17th, 2008

What Mary Peters started, others seek to continue. I’ve given considerable coverage to the proposal by U.S. Sec. of Transportation Mary Peters that funds earmarked for motorcycle rider training be diverted to lobby for mandatory helmet laws.

Experienced Rider cardPretty much all major motorcycling organizations have opposed that, and I reported in a report from the Meeting of the Minds that Peters has backed off on that proposal. Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) President Kirk “Hardtail” Willard cautioned me that despite her statements in that regard, he was still waiting to see her send the letters to that effect to the states.

Well, now the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports in the latest issue of American Motorcyclist that a group called the Governors Highway Safety Association has now taken up the issue. American Motorcyclist says:

Christopher Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety agencies, made the request in testimony to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit this summer.

The opposition to this misuse of funds stems from the conviction that the key to lowering fatality rates is not in having safer crashes, it is in avoiding more of those crashes in the first place. As Doc Ski noted at the Meeting of the Minds, you will die if you get in a bad enough accident, regardless of whether you’re wearing a helmet.

So Mary Peters may have heeded the outcry and reversed her stance, but now that the genie has been let out of the bottle it may not be that easy to put it back in. This is why we need to support organizations like the AMA and the MRF.

Biker Quote for Today

Thin leather looks good in the bar, but it won’t save your butt from road rash if you go down.

Report from MotM: Is Highway Privatization a Threat to Bikers?

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Hoosier Pass“Welcome to Colorado Interstate W-470, brought to you courtesy of the Northwest Parkway Authority.”

What’s that? Aren’t interstate highways owned and operated by the federal government? Well, that’s the way it used to be, but in this age of trying to reduce spending and cut budgets, more and more of the public infrastructure is being handed over on long-term leases to private, for-profit entities. The Northwest Parkway Authority is not one of these; it is in fact a creation of several local jurisdictions, but this is a variation of the same theme.

The issue is whether these private operators will have to ability to impose different restrictions than those for federally operated highways. This was one of the concerns voiced last weekend at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation‘s Meeting of the Minds here in Denver.

What might happen? Well, in Chicago, for instance, several years ago the city council passed an ordinance banning motorcycles from Lakeshore Drive after a certain hour of the night. The issue was excessive noise from bikes disturbing the folks living nearby. The problem was that that stretch of Lakeshore Drive is a U.S. highway, and federal law prohibits the kind of restriction Chicago wanted to impose. The ordinance was overturned.

But what if Lakeshore Drive were operated by a for-profit “Lakeshore Drive Agency”? Would they have gotten away with it?

There really isn’t a clear answer but that’s what the MRF is concerned about. They want to make sure that there is a clear answer enacted into law, and that that clear answer holds that federal policies DO apply and cannot be ignored. It takes relationship building with legislators and congressmen, lobbying, and a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work.

Just figured you needed to know.

Biker Quote for Today

The battle for bikers’ rights is not about patches, parties, or poker runs. We fight to protect the freedom and promote the interests of American motorcyclists … to defend our right to choose our own modes of transportation, attire, and lifestyle … to deter and defy discrimination against us … and to vanquish those who violate our rights or right-of-way. — Bruce Arnold

Report from MotM: Issues We Will Soon Face

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

A big part of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation’s Meeting of the Minds, which took place here in Denver last weekend, is looking ahead to the issues we as motorcyclists are likely to face in the near future. Rather than simply react, the MRF wants to be proactive. Rather than scramble in a disorganized fashion for responses when new legislation is proposed, the MRF wants to have its position and its talking points already determined and disseminated to its membership.

So just what are the issues that appear to be on the horizon? Here are the ones I gleaned from my discussion with MRF President Kirk “Hardtail” Willard, from the various speakers, and from the audience during open discussion.

  • Rider and motorist training
    The MRF and the state motorcyclist rights organizations (SMRO) that are its constituent groups strongly advocate for rider and motorist training. However, they are concerned about a move to make such training mandatory, because they fear that the capacity does not exist to offer that training to that many people. This looks like it could be a balancing act.
  • Health insurance
    Not so much on the horizon as current, this issue has to do with efforts to pass the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act, and end the legal ability of insurance companies to refuse to provide benefits when someone is injured while engaged in legal but so-called “risky” activities. I’ve written about this before.
  • Protecting 2010 funds
    The so-called 2010 funds are the dollars earmarked by government for rider training programs. You’ll recall that I’ve written about U.S. Dept. of Transportation Sec. Mary Peters’ efforts to divert some of this money to promote mandatory helmet legislation. There are other threats to this money as well. When states run into budget difficulties these funds are attractive to politicians as a way to balance the budget, regardless of the fact that they are often paid solely by motorcyclists for motorcycle-related purposes.
  • The Transportation Equity Act
    This pending bill will have major influence on highway spending in coming years. The MRF wants to ensure that motorcyclists are included in the planning and not just an afterthought.
  • Graduated licensing
    From what I understand, graduated licensing is very common in Europe. This means that you start out on a small bike, learn to ride, and as you demonstrate competency you earn the right to ride bigger and bigger bikes. Frankly, I’m not clear on the issues here, or the concerns the MRF has about this. I’ll try to find out more and address this issue again.
  • Right to repair
    This issue was raised during a panel discussion on Saturday, with two Harley-Davidson representatives on the panel being addressed. Speakers from the floor expressed their unhappiness with computer chips that shut down the bike when non-H-D mechanics work on them. The reps replied that the computer chips do allow some modification, whereas some governmental agencies are pressing for simply welding carburetors and exhaust pipes on permanently.

There’s more, but this gives you a bit of an idea about what’s going on. It is inevitable that you’ll be hearing more about these issues.

Biker Quote for Today

The biggest problem facing motorcyclists today is that we live in a nanny state, and if people think you can “save just one life” by banning motorcycles, they’d do it. — Jay Leno

Report from MotM: A Failed Safety Paradigm

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Let’s start with two statements that I think we can all agree on:

1. Helmets would not be an issue if motorcycles did not get in crashes.

2. It is crashes, not the failure to wear a helmet, that kills motorcyclists.

Speaking Friday at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation‘s Meeting of the Minds here in Denver, “Doc Ski” Wasileski, Ph.D., addressed the issue of rider safety in a talk titled “A Failed Safety Paradigm.” And the point Doc Ski made can be summed up as such: “If you get in a bad enough crash, you’re gonna die. Crashes kill bikers. Crash prevention saves lives.”

Doc Ski argued that ever since the Hurt Report, “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures,” the government agencies involved in transportation safety have followed the approach of working for crash mitigation. That is, safer crashes. In cars that means seat belts and air bags and other clearly effective means. When it comes to motorcycles, however, the idea of safer crashes does not work as well. As Doc Ski said, you will die if you get in a bad enough accident, regardless of whether you’re wearing a helmet.

Thus the failed paradigm. Doc Ski, who serves as the MRF’s resident statistician, quoted his own studies that show no statistical difference in fatality rates between states with mandatory helmet laws and states with no helmet laws. And he echoed the MRF’s position that rider training, motorist share-the-road training, and impaired riding programs are what lower fatality rates, not stricter protective requirements and vehicle design modifications.

Nevertheless, as many speakers stated repeatedly over the course of the conference, stricter regulation is coming. The form that that regulation takes will be determined at least in part by how effectively the motorcycling community’s voice is heard. One purpose of the Meeting of the Minds is to ensure that that voice is heard, and effectively.

Issues the MRF is expecting to address in the near future include mandatory rider education, graduated licensing, and restricted access for motorcycles on some roadways.

Be grateful that someone is out there fighting for your rights. Consider joining them in the effort. You’ve got nothing to lose but your rights.

Biker Quote for Today

We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man. — Peter Fonda, The Wild Angels, 1966

Report from MotM: Update on Sec. Mary Peters

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Meeting of the MindsI’ve been at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation Meeting of the Minds, which is currently in progress here in Denver, and I’ll have a lot to report over the next several posts. I figure I’ll start with U.S. Dept. of Transportation Sec. Mary Peters considering that I’ve written about her here on several previous occasions.

The word is cautiously good. As I’ve stated before, Peters is a biker herself but, having had a bad spill and escaping more serious injury due to her helmet, she had become somewhat of a helmet zealot. More specifically, she was urging that funds designated for rider training be diverted to efforts to pass helmet laws in all states. I won’t go into all the issues that raises, I did that earlier. Go read that post to get the details.

Her proposal was met with solid opposition from the various biker organizations, including the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the MRF, and numerous ABATE groups, to name several. Speaking today with Kirk “Hardtail” Willard, the MRF’s president, I asked about the status of this dispute.

As Hardtail tells me, Peters first backed off saying that the rider training money should not be spent to promote mandatory helmet laws but rather to promote voluntary helmet usage. That was an improvement but still evoked some of the same issues as her original proposal.

After further discussion, Hardtail said, she backed off further, apologizing for the whole misguided proposal and promising to send letters to all state governors explicitly nullifying her proposal.

The reason the word is cautiously good is that those letters have not been sent yet. “We want to see those letters,” said Hardtail. He added that Sec. Peters is planning a press conference today or tomorrow and the MRF is interested to see what she plans to discuss.

As for rider safety, the MRF president reiterated the organization’s position that the goal of lowering motorcycle fatality rates will be accomplished more successfully by working to reduce accidents through rider training, share the road programs for motorists, and impaired riding programs, rather than increasing helmet use. Fewer accidents, not safer accidents, will save riders’ lives.

Biker Quote for Today

Well-trained reflexes are quicker than luck.