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Northwest Motorcycle Community Challenges for 2006

Each year the Northwest motorcycling community is faced with numerous challenges. In years past that’s included retention of funds earmarked for motorcycle safety, helmet laws, construction warning signs and levels of endorsements.

And it’s not uncommon for a year to go by where the typical rider has no clue as to what issues are in play that will affect their rights to riding. If you feel like one of these people and would like to know more, read this article and apply yourself to the solution by getting involved in the outcome. Often that can be as simple as a letter to your local representative or you can take it further and volunteer time with an appropriate organization.

For 2006 there are a number of issues that will be dealt with. Some will be bills in the House, others will be longer-term focused and some may have already gone further than anyone in the community would like to see, thus a reversal tactic needs to go into play.

Fatality Rate Increase

In 2004, 72 motorcyclists died in motorcycle accidents in Washington State, up from a 10 year low of only 28 in 1997. The reasons are many including an increase in the number of riders, types of vehicles involved and overall skill levels of riders. The numbers reflect a nationwide trend. Most of the data that has appeared on this issue, be it from the state, or from the National Highway Transportation Safety Association has been vague or flawed, but the numbers still stand that more people are getting killed on motorcycles. "Lane Error" is a major reason cited in accident reports along with the involvement of alcohol and excessive speed. Because of the work done by Wendy Moon for Motorcycle Consumer News we now know that Light Utility Vehicles (SUVs, vans, pickups) are a major factor in deaths. Used to be you’d hit a Volkswagen Beetle, fly over the top and land in a ditch. Now more than ever it’s more likely you’ll plow into and impact a larger-size vehicle.

35% of the fatalities note that the motorcyclists involved did not have the proper endorsement to operate their bike.

The mandate of Washington State Governor, Christine Gregoire, is ‘Accountability’ and Liz Luce, the Director of Licensing for the State, has been given the task to reduce that 72 by about 15%. Luce held meetings this fall with a number of top people from the community to gather ideas and will develop her strategy in 2006. While Luce is not currently a rider, she will be taking an MSF course in early 2006. If Luce has changes for the books you can look for those to appear as bills in 2007. It’s too soon to know what exactly will be changing, but it’s not too late to send a letter to her in Olympia with your own thoughts.

Incidentally – the number of motorcycle fatalities on the books in 2005 will surpass the 72 mark of 2004.

Off-Road Land Grab

The land grab continues as various feet-only organizations pressure the Forest Service and DNR to shut down more roads and trails to motorized vehicles. In 2005 a major blow came to the off-road community when DNR shut down the P5000 road in the Pilchuck region. All over the Northwest we’ve seen roads and trails disappearing at an alarming rate.

In Washington State, Dave Hiatt of the Northwest Motorcycle Association has created a program called CLOUT. It’s a call to action system that will alert a subscriber to contact their local representative and let them know if they support or do not support pending legislation and changes in land usage.

Other organizations exist throughout the Northwest to help protect motorized trail and road access including the Blue Ribbon Coalition and the American Motorcycle Association’s local district branches.

You can do your part to protect your right to ride off-road by joining a local organization, attend the rally in February, volunteer a few hours each year for trail maintenance and, by all means, never ride off-road with a loud pipe which only further incites tree huggers to shut down trails and roads from motorized usage.

Lane Sharing Round 3

It’s back for the third year in a row, the Lane Sharing Bill. This bill would allow motorcyclists to slip though traffic by sharing areas around four wheel vehicles when the traffic is moving at a crawl. The practice has been in play for decades in California where it’s commonly referred to as lane splitting. There are no laws on the books allowing it or disallowing it in that state.

The current legislation being drawn up is based on Massachusetts law and would allow motorcyclists to use shoulder areas for passing traffic moving at 10 mph or less. The trouble with those zones is that that’s where a lot of road debris collects such as blown truck tires, nuts and bolts and other car parts. Thus if it passed, motorcyclists would be taking a risk riding in those zones.

More details at www.laneshare.org

Sweet & Sour: The Chinese Product Glut

Click to view enlarged imageImagine this, today any parent can purchase a motorcycle for their child through a Schuck's Auto Supply. But when they get the bike home and discover warranty issues, Schuck's does not provide any support and refers the buyer to a dealer down the street – who also does not offer any support. The end result is an unhappy buyer who gets a bad taste in their mouth about motorcycling.

The Washington State Motorsports Dealers Association is working on ways to shut the practice of selling non-warrantied product into the market. Should they succeed in their quest we’ll either see this product vanish from Schuck’s, or find them creating their own service departments. The latter has not been the case in other states where they have been shut down for selling the product.


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