Bikers in the Beltway 2017
By Andy Kelly
The 9th annual Bikers Inside the Beltway (BITB), Lobby Day, was held at Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
In prior years a few conflicts arose concerning BITB, therefore a few changes were made this year. Previously, “Police Week was held at the same time as BITB so there was a lot going on like parades, Bagpipe Marching Bands, Mounted Police Drill teams and a whole lot more so the date for BITB was moved this year so as to not have any conflict with it. Another reason the date was moved was to avoid people having to take too much time off work. There was a group that rode in from Wisconsin and I cannot be sure if they rode the furthest but concerned motorcyclists from as far as Alaska, California, and Texas were in attendance to lobby for legislation to keep all motorcyclists freedoms.
This year was Megan’s second Biker’s Inside the Beltway and her first anniversary as Vice-President, Government Affairs and Public Relations. Megan was much more at ease and a lot more familiar with members of the MRF.
The Lobbying Prep Session was held on Monday May 22 at 7:00 PM. The next day’s activities were gone over. Dave “Chubby” Charlebois, Executive Director of ABATE of Wisconsin, started the session by filling everyone in about how we would ride into D.C. and parking our motorcycles. After Chubby answered everyone’s concerns Megan took the microphone. She explained in detail, the six issues that the MRF is working on at the present time. She really stressed the point that you should not overwhelm the person you are meeting with. Try to keep to no more than three of the most important issues to you. If you know your
Congressman or Senator is against a particular issue don’t waste your time on that issue which may turn them off if you press it.
The six issues are as follows:
1. Bikers Across the U.S. are Being Unconstitutionally Profiled
Solution: A federal law is needed to help in working towards a positive solution to end motorcycle profiling.
MRF Position: The MRF worked with federal law makers in getting a national bipartisan and bicameral bill introduced to address this critical issue. In May of 2017, House Resolution 318 and Senate Resolution 154 were introduced to address concerns over the profiling of motorcyclists. Though these are resolutions, they promote public awareness of motorcycle profiling and encourage collaboration and communication between law enforcement and the motorcycle community. Further, the legislation urges state law enforcement officials to condemn motorcycle profiling in writing policies and training materials.
2. Bikers Need A Forum To Voice Safety Concerns Directly To Government Officials.
Solution: The Motorcyclists Advisory Council (MAC) should include dedicated seats for biker perspectives.
MRF Position: Though the MRF is supportive of the reestablishment of the MAC, we were concerned that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) elected to include only ONE dedicated seat to a motorcyclist representing a national motorcycle association on the council. Instead, the other nine seats would be filled by experts in road design, construction and safety. As such, we are concerned that the MAC will not include adequate representation of the motorcycle community. Limited representation for members of the motorcycle community will stifle the full spectrum of perspectives that motorcyclists have, particularly based on where riders live, important conversations seeking to improve roadway safety.
3. There is a Proliferation of Ethanol in the Gasoline Supply and It May Cause Damage to Your Motorcycle.
Solution: Congress must make changes to the renewable fuel standards.
MRF Position: The MRF believes that until higher blends of ethanol can be approved for use by both the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and motorcycle manufacturers, the federal government must guarantee the availability of fuel blends containing no more than 10% ethanol by volume at fuel stations across the United States. In addition, the federal government must work with all stakeholders groups, including motorcyclists, to develop a comprehensive consumer focused set of resources warning about the dangers and legality of using E15 through improving signing and labeling at gas stations and conducting official outreach to small engine consumers like motorcyclists.
4. The EPA is Attempting to Regulate Your Motorcycle!
Solution: Pass the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (RPM) ( S.203, H.R.350)
MRF Position: The members of the MRF along with it colleagues from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and others are not satisfied with the EPA’s response. To ensure the EPA makes no further attempts to erode motorcyclists rights we are advocating the passage of the RPM Act. The RPM act will provide clarity to industry and enthusiasts that the clean air act allows motor vehicles, including motorcycles, to be converted into dedicated race vehicles by affirming that it has always been legal to modify a street vehicle into a race vehicle used exclusively at the track and confirms that modifying these vehicles for exclusive track use would not be considered tampered.
5. Crash & Fatality Statistics For Motorcyclists Are Being Skewed.
Solution: The federal definition of motorcycle should be narrowed to ensure data is truly representative.
MRF Position: The MRF has been working with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in an effort to advocate for the review of the federal definition of motorcycle. We support terms such as: operated with handle bars; having a single up front seat or saddle for the operator; hand or foot controls; and having not more than three wheels; as originally designed. This would appropriately separate motorcycles for auto cycles. As we work towards this long term solution, the MRF is also in communications with Congress and NHTSA to ensure that crash and fatality statistics for the purpose of Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) are being separated from auto cycles going forward. This guarantees that this important data is not diluted and continues to lead a responsible strategies and funding to reduce motorcycle crashes and fatalities. Furthermore, the MRF is working with its States Motorcycle Rights Organization (SMRO) partners to ensure any state efforts to address this issue is done in harmony with a federal approach to ensure continuity.
6. Autonomous Vehicles Are Already In the Nations Roadways and Will Likely Become More Prevalent
Solution: The safety of motorcyclists must be a key priority in regulating this new technology.
MRF Position: For motorcycle riders, there is acceptance that self driving vehicles will be on the road in the future. However, there are concerns regarding the motorcycle community as it relates to these vehicles. The MRF maintains that federal authorities must require robust testing for manufactures of autonomous vehicles, guaranteeing they must have accounted for motorcycle recognition and responsiveness. In addition, the MRF insists DOT must insure that electronic security systems have strong standards to ensure cyber security in order to eliminate risks to motorcyclists. In addition, clear liability of fault must be established when it comes to crashes, and in doing so, the motorcyclist should not fact unfair advantages.
Megan also informed everyone that Abate of Iowa had purchased a Motorcycle Simulator and brought it to Washington for Lobby Day for Legislators and their staff to try it out. She suggested when visiting the Legislators and their staff to invite them down to the room were the Simulator was set up to try it out. What a great way for you to spend time with the staff and a great way for the staff or Congressmen to remember us.
The next morning everyone from Pennsylvania met in Arlington VA for the ride into Washington. In attendance from Pennsylvania were Frank Carbone, Lenny Young, Mark (Radar) Mitchell, Corey Harris, Mary Dixon, Bert Kelly and myself. I would like to take a moment, to say how proud I am, that all three Assistant Representatives from Pennsylvania, Lenny, Radar and Mary, came all the way to Washington D.C. to lobby and represent Pennsylvania.
At the Capital we split up into two groups, Lenny, Radar and Frank in one and Corey, Mary, Bert and myself in another. Each group covered two buildings.
My first appointment was not until 9:30 AM so we decided to do a few cold calls on the offices of the Congressmen from Pennsylvania. Among them was the office of Congressmen Glen Thompson, who is Corey and Mary’s Representative. Since Mary had not made an appointment we were just going to stop and say hello. When Mary walked into the office, and told the receptionist who she was, and that she was a constituent of Thompson’s and a member of ABATE of PA., the Chief of Staff in Thompson’s office Matt Brennan’s office door opened, and he walked out and welcomed us all back. Mary explained that she did not have an appointment and Matt asked the Receptionist if there was a spot that day to fit us in to see the Congressmen. There was an opening at 2:30 PM that afternoon, and if we could come back. Of course we said yes.
After leaving Thompsons we were walking down the hallway and I will say one thing it is easy to spot a member of the MRF in the hallways of a congressional office building. We came across two members from Texas and stopped to talk for a few minutes. In our conversation we came to find out the one of the two people from Texas is originally from Coudersport, PA which is right near where Corey and Mary live, small world.
I had an appointment with Congressmen Fitzpatrick’s assistant, Anthony Nisivocia, Legislative Correspondent, and it was just my luck that he was sick that day and was unavailable. Instead, we met with Joseph Knowles, Legislative Counsel, and he promised to pass the information on that we discussed. This does happen sometimes so you just deal with it and move on.
We continued on with our cold calls and before we knew it it was time for our appointment with Congressman Thompson. We arrived a few minutes early and met with Congressman Thompson right at 2:30. Mary talked to Glen GT Thompson and his Assistant, Erin Wilson about two of the issues important to her. She talked about motorcycle profiling and the Motorcyclist Advisory Council. When Mary was done Congressman Thompson said he would sign onto HR318 and would send a letter to Michael Griffith (Federal Highway Administration, Office of Safety) asking for more Motorcyclists on MAC.
After the meeting the Congressman said he wanted to try out that motorcycle simulator so we all walked down to the room but regrettably the wait was to long for him. We will have to see if we can get the simulator back east again.
Please, if you live in Congressman Thompsons’ district contact his office and thank him for his support.
Lenny, Radar, and Frank had the opportunity to meet with two Congressmen, Congressman Scott Perry and Congressman Keith Rothfus. Representative Rothfus met with them and listened and Congressman Scott Perry was very supportive of the ethanol issue and the profiling issue.