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Washington State MC bills that passed the 2011 legislature

What the mass media missed and you need to know

Every year motorcyclists go to bat on any number of issues in Olympia. Sometimes we're fighting for blue dot tail lights, lane sharing, special warning signs to be displayed in construction zones and so on. This year a number of bills went through Olympia and two came out winners.

The spoon fed data from the non-motorcycling media was surface fodder at best, but it didn't really tell the whole story about the realities of each new bill. That's our job and that's why we're here and that's one of the reasons you come to Sound RIDER! - to get the whole story.

SB 5242   The biker profiling bill

This bill prohibits singling out bikers for police stops without a legitimate reason. Motorcycle profiling is defined as when law enforcement officers single out people who ride motorcycles or wear biker garb, stopping, questioning, searching or arresting them without legal grounds.

Clubs that feel they have been singled out over the years see it as a victory for them.

But it may be seen as a victory for all motorcyclists in a way the general media isn't talking about. Here's the reality of what the bill can actually stop.

NHTSA recently made funds available to state, county and local law enforcement agencies to run "motorcycle only" checkpoints. The funds were recently applied for and granted in Florida, and wouldn't you know it, during Daytona Bike Week there was a motorcycle only checkpoint in operation and the bikers-as well as the AMA- went nuts.

Under the new Washington State law that cannot happen. WSP states that although they would not have applied for the funds regardless, that would not have stopped sheriffs and city law enforcement from applying. However, under the new bill they cannot ... until someone gets the bright idea to run county or city legislation to override the state law, which is why you can ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in the city of Seattle, but not most of the rest of King County.

SB 5800   Permitting off-road motorcycle to street use conversion

If you owned a dirt bike that at one time or another had been plated for street use and you got a love letter from the DOL last summer advising you that the party was over and you would not be getting a renewal, you already know all about this bill.

The bill was developed to allow owners of off-road motorcycles to upgrade them for use on the street. This provides the ability to legally ride a trail bike on the street or gravel public roads to get from one trail to another. Other states have enacted such legislation, some with full success.

It comes with an equipment compliance specification which includes an inspection. Tod Petersen of WHOVA notes  "The equipment requirement compliance inspection will be accomplished by motorcycle dealerships and the owner of the motorcycle will have to sign a statement that releases the State from all liability and acknowledges that they are aware that the motorcycle was not manufactured for street use and has been modified to be suitable for that purpose."

Here's the problem. While the state has determined its own guidelines, they are not in line with US DOT standards. Plastic fuel tanks are not addressed in this initial bill. If you decide you would like to ride in the National Forest, you still stand a chance of being cited by the USFS for riding a non US DOT bike on US government land.  

The bill does not take effect until January of 2012, so don't get the bright idea you're going to go slap a Baja kit on your dirt bike today and ride it on pavement tomorrow. By next January (when riding season has ended) there may be some amendments that go to Olympia to tighten up the bill and make it work with all agencies in the state.

Prior to the bill, you would have to have an ORV tag to ride a dirt bike on trails. The monies from those tags are supposed to go back into trail maintenance via a built-in gas tax. For the last two years Washington has been diverting those monies to other uses rather than ORV trail maintenance. As a result the state is embroiled in a law suit. By allowing dirt bikes to be plated, the state will win in an indirect way by still getting monies for registrations and spreading the money as they see fit that way. While the ORV community may win their law suit, they may lose the funds needed to maintain trails in the long run.

SB 5141 Maximum Permits Allowable

You know how fun it is to sit at the DOL and get your license renewed. How about going down every three months to get a permit? Believe it or not, there is a small minority of people, who up until now have been doing just that. But no more. SB 5141 puts the kibosh on that. New riders may only get two permits and in order to renew for a third, they must provide proof they are enrolled into a Basic RiderCourse, Intermediate Rider Training, or the Experienced RiderCourse. And no further permits will be issued to that rider - period. This bill passed through the house unopposed, with only 4 members of the Senate voting against it.

SR!/Spring 2011


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