Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lobbying DC for Biker's Rights

Tuesday October 23rd dawned with a heavy rain across Middle Tennessee and the prospect of rain for days. The MRF had issued a call to action for bikers from across the nation to come to DC and meet with Congressmen and Senators regarding the recent short sighted NTSB recommendations of mandatory helmet laws for all states and, while there, to ask for sponsorship of the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Corrections Act. I had just spent a lot of time making appointments with the Tennessee Congressional delegation and the trip was set!

It’s about 600 miles to DC from Nolensville and after picking up my lady Carol at 2PM, we set off for an all night drive, arriving at my brother’s place on Capitol Hill around 3AM. Straight to bed for a few hours then time to start making the rounds.

Jeff Hennie, VP of Government Relations and Lobbyist for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation was waiting for us at our first meeting with TN Congressman Zack Wamp. After a few minutes of small talk we got down to the business at hand and garnered a new co-sponsor for the HIPAA bill.

Next stop was Senator Corker’s office and a meeting with his staff. As is often the case, a planned meeting with a Congressman or Senator changes to a sit down with staff as votes are called on the floor of the House or Senate and this was the case here. The staff are often the key to making sure an issue gets the attention it deserves and we were pleased to meet with the Senator’s Transportation assistant. With so many issues in play at any given time in DC, these staffers are the engine that keeps the wheels turning and the legislators informed.

Senator Lamar Alexander’s office was next and with more votes on the Senate Floor we once again met with staff. While waiting, we were surprised to see recent Nashville Mayoral candidate Bob Clement come in for a meeting with other staffers. From there we hoofed it back over to the House office buildings where we took a quick lunch break before heading off to a meeting with Congressman John Duncan’s staff and the transportation assistant for Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis. It seems Wednesday in DC is a lot like Wednesday in the Tennessee Legislature, the busiest day of the week. The final stop of the day was with Congressman David Davis. He, too, was in the middle of a floor vote so we met with staff then we were escorted by TN State Rep Matt Hill’s brother Timothy to the Rayburn room in the Capitol and a quick photo op with the Congressman.

A quick cab ride had me back in the comfortable surroundings of my brother’s place. There’s nothing quite like having family 12 blocks from the Capitol. We enjoyed a nice evening of dinner, drinks and great conversation with my brother, his wife and Carol’s friend Howard Segermark, an early leader in the history of the MRF who has known my brother and his wife for over 40 years. Sometimes it really is a small world.

After a good seven hours of sleep it was time to hit the concrete again and Thursday morning’s first meeting was with none other than TN Congressman Jim Cooper, the same guy who introduced a national mandatory helmet billwhich became law in the early 1990’s only to see it go down in flames as bikers from across the country lobbied Washington to repeal that law and were successful in 1995.

Jeff Hennie had a conflicting meeting so I handled this one solo. Congressman Cooper was quite receptive to the issues and promised full consideration. He also took the opportunity to defend his position on helmets but took the time to listen to the other side of the story. I believe we opened a new line of communication that may be effective when we deal with the various issues bikers will face in the coming years. My impression is that Jim Cooper won’t be sponsoring any new helmet legislation in the near future.

With a short break in the schedule, I set off to see the Library of Congress and I highly recommend the tour for anyone visiting DC. Next up was my Congressman and current HIPAA bill co-sponsor Marsha Blackburn. After meeting with her Transportation aide we got a quick picture just as Tennessee State Senator Jim Tracy arrived in Marsha’s office. I’m not sure who was more surprised to see the other in DC, me or him. Senator Tracy is a long time supporter of our “Tennessee Freedom” efforts.

A quick meeting with John Duncan’s Transportation aide and a friendly sit down with Congressman Bart Gordon, also a HIPAA co-sponsor thanks to the effort of CMT/ABATE’s Robert “Johann” Forbus, concluded a great couple of days visiting the Tennessee delegation and building relationships that hopefully will serve us well in the future.

By the time it was all said and done my dogs were barking from all the walking but I felt like much was accomplished. I urge all freedom fighters to make the trip and help secure freedom and a safer riding environment for future generations of motorcyclists.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

MI Legislaure PAsses Hemet Bill -Veto Proof?

Motorcycle-helmet bill passes Senate; faces Granholm veto By Amy Lane

Legislation that would allow some motorcyclists to ride without helmets has passed the Senate, after clearing the state House last week.

The Senate on Thursday approved House Bill 4749, sponsored by Barbara Farrah, D-Southgate. The bill would give riders over 21 the option of going helmetless if they pay an annual state permit fee and meet other requirements.

The measure calls for riders to purchase a $100, one-year permit or a $200, three-year permit. They must carry at least $20,000 in insurance to pay first-party medical benefits in the event of an accident, have been licensed for at least two years to operate a motorcycle, and have completed a motorcycle safety course. Riders who do not purchase a permit and ride without helmets face a fine of up to $300. The Senate amended the bill to put money raised by the new permit fees toward a greater number of law-enforcement purposes than previously listed in the bill, and the bill now returns to the House.The legislation appears unlikely to see approval by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who supports the state’s current helmet law and has vetoed past helmet-law repeal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


MRF E-MAIL NEWS Motorcycle Riders Foundation236 Massachusetts Ave. NESuite 510Washington, DC 20002-4980202-546-0983 (voice)202-546-0986 (fax) (website)
Contact: Jeff Hennie, MRF Vice-President of Government (e-mail)
We Need You In DC!
If you are thinking of taking the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) up on our suggestion to have your State Motorcyclists' Rights Organization (SMRO) make the trip to DC to meet with your members of the House and Senate regarding the recent recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board, please do so prior to November 16th. That's the last day that Congress will likely be in session, barring a few possible days in late December to do some last minute house cleaning before the Holiday break. Please contact the MRF's DC office for further information.

New Guy at NHTSA
James Ports rides a motorcycle. He is also a former member of the Maryland State Legislature and a former Maryland Department of Transportation (DOT) official. He has earned the support and respect of ABATE of Maryland leadership, and he just happens to be the new Deputy Administrator for the US DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Mr. Ports took some time out of his busy schedule recently to sit down with the MRF and ABATE of MD in his spacious new office. At this meeting, which was mainly a meet and greet, Deputy Administrator Ports pledged his support of motorcycling and agreed to work with the MRF as much as he can. NHTSA just continued its recent trend of becoming more motorcycle friendly. Maybe Mr. Ports, whose job is only guaranteed as long Mr. Bush occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, can get a new gig at the National Transportation Safety Board when this one runs it course. That's probably not likely though. Either way he has the support and respect of the MRF.

Thanks to the Mountain State!
ABATE of WV recently made a trip to DC to lobby their members of the House and Senate. The Capitol Hill newbies (it was the first time lobbying DC for the group) put together a first-rate trip and had appointments with every member of the WV delegation. The three-person lobby team allowed the MRF to join them in all of their meetings. It was a successful day to say the least. The high point was meeting with the senior senator from WV, Robert Byrd. Senator Byrd has the distinction of being one of the longest serving Senators in history. He is currently the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, which puts him third in line to the Presidency should something happen to the VP and the Speaker of the House. Senator Byrd welcomed us into his palatial office suite in the Capitol, got up from his lunch of a cheese sandwich and a pickle (this guy is as humble as they come) and chatted about motorcycles for more than a few minutes. Senator Byrd has served West Virginia for over 50 years and has done the mountain state proud. Say what you will about his politics, but he has created a legacy that will stand for decades to come. Keep up the good work Senator and let the MRF know when you are ready for that motorcycle ride. Look for pictures of this meeting in the next issue of the MRF REPORTS.
Motorcycle Vehicle Miles Traveled
Last week the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) held a unique event, the Motorcycle Travel Symposium, a three-day meeting aimed at improving the data used to calculate motorcycle vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

VMT numbers are used to calculate a number of transportation data points. Most noteworthy is the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) used by NHTSA to determine the percentage of fatality rates per miles traveled by any given mode of transportation. Good data is important here because if the number of actual miles traveled is not accurate, then it makes that particular form of transportation appear deadlier than it really may be. You can listen to a detailed presentation on how motorcycle VMT numbers affect FARS data by visiting the archives of the MRF's 2005 Meeting of the Minds at

Up until now it has been optional for states to report any VMT for motorcycles, but that has changed. Starting in June 2008, motorcycle data is no longer optional for states to report to the feds. Remember hearing that no motorcycles travel in South Dakota? The MRF and SMROs have questioned the inaccuracy of motorcycle VMT numbers for several years, and the feds have finally put a stop to that nonsense. You can read more about the MRF's research into motorcycle VMT numbers on the MRF's website at
So why did the FHWA need to have a three-day meeting to address this issue? What is the real problem with collecting accurate VMT numbers for motorcycles? Apparently everything. Let's start with the technological issues. The actual technology used to collect data was designed for cars and trucks, not motorcycles. The small signature of motorcycles is difficult to capture using the tube or hose capture methods. Often times the tubes are only stretched across half a lane giving ample room for the motorcycle to simply go around the foreign object in the road. Some of the newer laser technology may be promising, but it's expensive and easily thrown off calibration by weeds, snow or curious animals. Some of the video collection technology shows some promise, but it too is expensive and difficult to maintain. With dwindling money at state DOTs, new purchases of pricey video cameras and lasers just is not a widespread option.
Then there's the human factor. It is common knowledge that a large number of motorcyclists spend more time on the road from Friday to Sunday. This intuition is backed up by the National Household Transportation Survey, a phone study conducted by the feds that surveys 20,000 plus households on their respective travel habits. Questions include what type of vehicles you own, when and where are you using those vehicles, how many licensed drivers are under your roof, and so on. This study reported that almost 40 percent of all motorcycle travel occurs on the weekends. That becomes a problem because most of the state employees hired to physically collect the data only work Monday through Thursday, so any weekend travel goes unmonitored. Seasons also skew the data, for most northern states see very few motorcycles during winter months and the state DOTs don't adjust for that.

Another major problem is where the VMT data is collected. Most of the states collect data on roads that see the most use by cars and trucks. Think of major interstates, multilane highways and other heavily traveled roads, bridges and tunnels. Now think of where most motorcycle rides occur, on back roads, scenic byways and other out-of-the-way streets. Most motorcyclists purposefully avoid the heavy congestion of an urban environment in favor of lesser-traveled roads with less heavy truck traffic. The statistic commonly used by the states is that they survey just 23% of the roads and leave the other 77% that are generally the responsibility of smaller entities such as townships and villages alone. That's a major discrepancy and a fatal flaw of the VMT data for motorcycles.

It's refreshing, to say the least, that the federal government is finally taking a good hard look at the validity of the motorcycle VMT data. Now the hard part, committing precious resources toward improving the data collection. Simply mandating that the data be reported next year will not automatically ensure accurate numbers, and some argue just the opposite. Now that the states have to do more with the same amount of resources, it may have the effect of fictitious numbers reported just to comply with another federal directive. A lot of serious research is occurring, but until that research is easily translatable to real world situations it's doubtful that the VMT numbers for motorcycles will be believable. Much work remains, but this is with out question a tremendous step forward, and the MRF will continue to monitor and report any progress.

Headed to DC

Next Wednesday and Thurday I will be in DC to lobby the entire TN delegation regarding the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Corrections Act and the recent NTSB recommendation that all states implement mandatory helmet laws.

YOU CAN HELP.... call your US Congressman and both US Senators from TN and ask for their support on the HIPAA bill, HR 1076 and that the single minded approach to motorcycle safety presented by the NTSB is not the silver bullet for saving lives.


I will post the results of the visit on my return October 29.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

CMT/ABATE at Meeting of the Minds 2007

Mike Hays Accepts AMA Award
Carol SImpson Accepts MRF PAC Award

MRF Call to Action RE: NTSB


For the past several weeks the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) has been actively working on a multi-tiered strategic initiative to counter the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) program to pressure states into enacting mandatory helmet laws. We are prepared today to launch the program beginning with a Call to Action to our State Motorcycle Rights Organizations (SMROs).

The MRF's Call to Action is to encourage our SMRO partners to send their top lobbying teams to Washington D.C. in late October and early November to visit with their members of Congress to voice opposition to the NTSB's lobbying efforts. It is our position that the NTSB is proposing to directly lobby the states with federal tax money based on poorly-drawn conclusions, using a very narrow scope, and not employing the rigors of research to which they normally hold themselves. This is simply not acceptable to the MRF and our SMRO partners. A clear message was sent by the Senate in the 109th Congress when they voted 69-28 to defeat the Lautenberg Federal Helmet amendment, which would have pressured states into passing mandatory helmet laws, based on the fact that this issue is clearly a State's rights issue. Accordingly, we will be asking members of Congress to write a letter to the NTSB reminding them of this fact.

During these SMRO visits we will also be presenting a bullet point statistical fact sheet developed in conjunction with the MRF Legislative, Motorcycle Safety, and Statistics Committees that clearly shows that the answer to motorcycle safety and reducing fatalities is, in fact, an aggressive approach toward CRASH AVOIDANCE and NOT safer crashing. In addition, we will be educating members of Congress on the many points contained in our Motorcycle Safety Action Plan, pointing out to them that states with the highest reductions in motorcycle fatalities and states with low fatality rates per registered motorcycle are not those with mandatory helmet laws, but rather states that utilize the many tools in the motorcycle safety action plan. Additionally, we will thank many of them for their belief in motorcycle safety shown by the creation of the 2010 motorcycle safety grants and the creation of the Motorcycle Advisory Council in TEA-LU. We will take advantage of this time to inform them as to how these programs are being used effectively.

The second phase of the MRF's strategic initiative involves the MRF holding a press conference in the first week of November in one of the office buildings of the United States House of Representatives in Washington, DC. The press conference will feature a prominent member of Congress. Expect another Call to Action encouraging our members, our SMRO partners, motorcyclists in general and other concerned citizens to attend.
At that time we will be issuing a formal letter to the Chairman of the NTSB asking him to reconsider their proposed lobbying of the states and asking that he consider the statistical facts related to our Motorcycle Safety Action Plan and its effectiveness with regard to Crash Avoidance and NOT Safer Crashing as the goal.

For strategic reasons, third phase of our initiative will be announced once we complete the necessary research and sufficient discussions have taken place. We will go on record, however, as stating that we will not rule out asking Congress to take action against the NTSB, as we have done with NHTSA in the past, should they continue to ignore the spirit of previous congressional mandates against federal agencies lobbying states on mandatory helmet laws.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Harley's Worst Nightmare?

Harley Davidson's Worse Nightmare?

Harley Davidson's Worst Nightmare? The Electric Motorcycle by Guest Blogger, October 06, 2007 Our Guest Blogger, George Delozier, is from Pennsylvania and recently joined the U.S. Air Force. Growing up with all types of machines, George wanted to share the newest innovations on all things motor with the readers of

Here's his article:

* * * * *

As a nation shifts toward more fuel efficient cars, will the motorcycle industry be able to keep up? With recent improvements in battery technology, companies are now producing electric-cycles. They carry the same qualities and benefits of an electric car, but can they deliver the same exhilaration and sense of freedom we are used to? Some companies think so.

Motorcycles get extremely high gas mileage, that is undeniable. However, they also lack emission controlling components, which makes them produce more pollution by most larger Sport Utility Vehicles by an astonishing 95%. Even though most are getting upward of 50 miles for every gallon of fuel, this comes at the price of clean air. Switching to an electric powered motorcycle would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would also be cut into the demand for oil in the US.

Electric motorcycles are practical today because of advances in battery technology. The traditional Lead-acid batteries, are very heavy, do not provide adequate range, and tend to last for only a couple of years, making the idea of an electric vehicle impossible. With the creation of the nickel metal hydride and the lithium-ion batteries, all that has changed. These batteries are lighter, and can last up to 10 years. They have become more durable and a lot more versatile.

Currently, there are only a few companies offering these electric powered motorcycles, one of which is Vectrix of Newport, Rhode Island. They offer the fastest to date clocking in at 65 mph. This can be improved by reducing gear-ratios which has been the topic of discussion with Vectrix. Costing only $11,000, it is also highly affordable to most of our the Nation and with no annual fuel purchases, cheap to run and easy to maintain.

These motorcycles are also becoming popular with the sport-bike world as well. In Scotts Valley, CA, a company known as Zero Motorcycles offers an off-road motorcycle capable of a jump in excess of 20 meters. There are plans to feature it on the X-Games in the coming months. They plan to release a street version soon. Electric power has also made its debut in drag racing. A123 Systems, of Watertown, MA currently holds the record for the fastest electric drag-racing motorcycle finishing the quarter mile in 8.17 seconds and reaching 156 miles per hour.

Will this be the end of our loud cruisers and our quick crotch-rockets? Only time will tell, but one this is for sure, electric power is the new and upcoming movement in new-age power. This may be the alternative that the world has been searching for since the realization that using fossil fuels was outdated, but will avid riders be ready for the change?

Sources: TechnologyReview and Gizmag

George Delozier Guest Blogger

Friday, October 5, 2007

Motorcycle Awareness PSA

New Video - Motorcycle Awareness by the AMA

Thursday, October 4, 2007

US House Forms MC Caucus


Contact: Jeff Hennie, MRF Vice-President of Government Relations (e-mail)

U.S. House of Representatives Forms Motorcycle Safety Caucus

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) has learned that the U.S. House of Representatives recently formed the first official motorcycle safety caucus. The group is open to all sitting U.S. Representatives and will focus only on motorcycle safety, and more specifically what Congress can do to support motorcycle safety.

The caucus does not have any funding from the government, nor does it have office space, official staff or anything else designated for official committees of Congress. In other words, this group was created simply because the co-chairs thought it was time to address this important issue and dedicate precious staff time toward the cause. The caucus is co-chaired by Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Michael Burgess (R-TX). Mrs.
Giffords is a freshman member of Congress and an avid motorcyclist herself. Mr. Burgess is a longtime supporter of motorcyclists, most notably as one of the lead sponsors on the legislation to close the discriminatory HIPAA loophole (HR 1076).

Congressman Burgess had this to say about his role with the group, "As co-chair of this first of its kind caucus, I look forward to working with motorcyclists across the country as we address important motorcycle safety, education and awareness issues."

"We are pleased that Congress is searching for ways to assist the organizations like the MRF and motorcyclists nationwide in continuing to improve motorcycle safety and awareness," said Jeff Hennie, MRF Vice President of Government Relations. "All of the motorcyclists of this country owe the co-chairs of this important new caucus a debt of gratitude for drawing attention to these important issues, and the MRF looks forward to working with them."

This isn't the first time Congress has addressed motorcycle safety. The most recent highway bill, SAFE-TEA-LU (PL 109-59), contained a generous 4-year / $25 million grant program, as well as funding for a comprehensive motorcycle crash causation study. The grant program, initially authored by the MRF and state motorcyclists' rights organizations across the country, is the first of its kind in history. The crash study is a follow up to the Hurt report, a 27-year-old study named for its author.

Congresswoman Giffords went on the record as a serious motorcyclist saying, "I have enjoyed riding motorcycles for many years. One day, I hope to fulfill my dream of going by motorcycle to Argentina. Those of us who ride know that it is an incredibly enjoyable way to travel." She continued, "We know from national studies that in almost two-thirds of fatal car/motorcycle crashes, the fault was with the driver of the car.
We can do more to address this critical problem, and public education is a key to bringing about awareness and a reduction in such accidents."

Please connect with your U.S. Representative and ask him/her to join the motorcycle safety caucus today. They can officially join by contacting either of the co-chairs' Washington DC offices.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

CMT/ABATE Response to NTSB


Contact: Mike Hays, 615 469-2567

CMT/ABATE Response to NTSB Helmet Law Recommendations

On September 11, 2007, the NTSB issued the “most wanted” list of safety improvements, including calling for mandatory helmet laws for all motorcyclists in all states. Just hours later the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) released a supporting position.

President Judith Lee Stone says “The single most effective measure to reduce the number of motorcycle fatalities is the use of a helmet”. She goes on to say “Critics of helmet laws cite motorcycle education programs as the answer. However, there is no scientific evidence that motorcycle rider training reduces crash risk and is an adequate substitute for an all-rider helmet law.”

Mike Hays, Legislative Director for CMT/ABATE encourages closer examination of the facts. “One look at the states with the lowest fatality rates will show a direct correlation between outstanding rider education programs, motorist awareness campaigns and lower fatality rates. The NTSB, AHAS and others would have you believe the helmet is the silver bullet to stop the carnage of motorcyclists. Those who actually ride know better!”
The NTSB has investigated 124,000 aviation crashes, 10,000 surface transportation crashes (including rail, pipeline and mass transit) and, get ready for this, a whopping six motorcycle crashes. That's a half dozen motorcycle investigations over the past 40 years or just .15 motorcycle crashes a year to put it in government statistic speak.

--The three states with the lowest fatality rates in the country per 10,000 registered motorcycles: Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, do not have mandatory adult helmet laws.

--Of the ten states with the highest fatality rates per 10,000 registered motorcycles, seven of them have universal helmet laws.

--Since Louisiana reinstated their helmet law in 2004, fatalities in that state have climbed to the highest levels in that state's history.

The NTSB has missed a giant opportunity to make a real contribution to the safety of America’s motorcyclists. They failed miserably. Crash avoidance, not safer crashing, is what really saves lives. The only thing a call for mandatory helmets does is obscure the underlying problems and give these “safety” organizations more reason to justify their very existence.

CMT/ABATE State Director Tom Quaranto says “No one is more concerned about motorcycle safety than riders. Listen to us!”

CMT/ABATE, Inc. is a non-profit, political organization that was formed to preserve freedom and safety for all Tennesseans who enjoy motorcycling. Our major goals are to modify existing laws that are detrimental to motorcycle safety and enjoyment, and to enact new legislation in support of all motorcyclists who ride in Tennessee.