MRF JUNE 2021 Update
By Andy Kelly
I am writing this just before the 12th annual Michael “BOZ” Kerr Bikers Inside the Beltway, which is the national lobby day held by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation in Washington D.C. each May. Last year's event was canceled because just about no one was available in Washington due to the pandemic. The event is being held this year while the politicians are in their offices, but getting an appointment to see a senator or staff member from Pennsylvania is very difficult. I was able to arrange a phone meeting with Senator Toomey’s assistant, and after many emails and phone calls I finally secured a Skype meeting with an assistant from Senator Casey's office.
I was very fortunate to secure an in-person meeting with a member of Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick's staff, but there are still hoops to jump through. I have to first send their office a list of everyone who is attending along with their name and address as it appears on their driver's license. On meeting day, I have to wait at the security checkpoint for the Cannon House Office Building before our meeting than wait for someone to come down from the congressman’s office to escort us up to the meeting (hopefully in his office). They also made it clear that the meeting could be canceled anytime for, maybe, security reasons.
I feel very fortunate that Brian Fitzpatrick is on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and a member of the subcommittee on Highways and Transit because of the Transportation and Infrastructure Bill that hopefully will be dealt with this session. It may give us a chance to make sure the Motorcycle Riders Foundation keep all the amendments we fought for.
One of the amendments called for continuing the ban on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration being allowed to lobby in state capitals—we definitely do not want the lobbyists from NHTSA coming to Harrisburg. Another amendment called for continuing to send safety training funds to the states for the sole purpose of safety. The “Motorcycle Only Checkpoint” amendment bans federal funds from being used for motorcycle-only checkpoints. Rep. Balderson from Ohio successfully added to the motorcycle-only checkpoint amendment that states may not use federal funds to “profile and stop motorcycle operators or passengers using as a factor the apparel they are wearing or the mode of transportation”. In a sense, this is stopping any federal money from being used for profiling.
There was also a two-part amendment focusing on autonomous vehicles and motorcycles. The first part requires that when the Department of Transportation conducts safety studies on autonomous vehicles, motorcycles must be considered under the category of "unique roadway users". For example, autonomous vehicle technology must account for factors like lane splitting, something unique that is only relevant to motorcycles. The second part ensures that a motorcycle safety group is included in the Department of Transportation working group on autonomous vehicle deployment. Once again, motorcyclists need a seat at the table so our voices are heard.