As we edge closer to the end of 2016 and begin to look towards 2017 and all that we want to achieve on behalf of bikers’ rights, it’s important to reflect on the successes we’ve achieved this year. Below is a partial list of some of the victories realized in the realm of motorcycle rights nationally in 2016. In addition to these “wins” there is also commentary about next steps and what we can expect to see in the future regarding each of these issues.
The Enactment of the FAST ACT - Major updates were included in the nation’s highway bill that took effect on January 1 of this year. Not only did the FAST Act address the nation’s surface transportation issues and specifically address challenges facing the U.S. transportation system, including improving safety, maintaining infrastructure condition, reducing traffic congestion, improving efficiency and reducing delays in project delivery, but the law allocated over $4 million dollars to go towards states programs addressing motorcyclist education, training and safety.
FUTURE ACTIVITY: The FAST Act will be in effect until 2020 and therefore conversations about the next highway bill won’t pick up speed until 2018. However, President-Elect Trump has committed to a multi-million-dollar infrastructure package calling for improvements to roads, bridges and airports. Undoubtedly, public safety advocates will try and use this package as a vehicle to insert language surrounding perceived safety issues potentially affecting bikers.
The Prohibition of Federal Funding for Motorcycle Checkpoints – Your MRF and its partners in Washington fought for years to attempt to end this often-used strategy by law enforcement that was employed to harass and conduct searches of motorcyclists. A section in the highway bill that went into effect in January helped to prohibit this practice by stating clearly that federal funds could not be used to conduct these checkpoints going forward.
FUTURE ACTIVITY: Your MRF will remain vigilant to ensure similar language is included in future iterations of highway bills. However, many states are now using non-federal funding to continue to conduct these checkpoints. If your organization is interested in passing a bill at the state level to end this practice, the MRF can help prepare you with talking points and suggested legislative language. In addition, if you think you have been the victim of a motorcycle checkpoint paid for by federal dollars, contact the MRF for help in pursuing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to ensure your rights are not being violated.
The Reestablishment of The Motorcyclist Advisory Council – Since 2009, bikers have lacked a formal mechanism to engage with officials within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to discuss motorcycle-related issues. In 2016, with the enactment of the FAST Act, there was a provision that reestablished the Motorcyclist Advisory Council, ensuring bikers a seat at the table and a ‘direct connect’ to our nation’s top highway safety officials when it comes to issues like driverless cars, road barriers and general highway safety issues and how they impact motorcyclists.
FUTURE ACTIVITY: Though the Council has been directed to be reestablished, the formalized process for doing so has not yet been initiated. The FHWA is likely in 2017 to call for volunteers to serve on the Council and conduct its first meeting. Your MRF will be closely monitoring this process and work with its SMRO partners to ensure motorcycle rights’ advocates are included as a part of the Council.
The EPA Rescinds Its Regulation Affecting Racing Bikes and Racecars – In 2015, the EPA published a rule that would disallow individuals to modify their motorcycles or cars for track racing due to concerns over air emissions. After pressure from industry and Congress, in April of this year the EPA withdrew the section on modified racecars and racing bikes within the proposed regulation. Though work remains, this was a major victory over this ‘regulation happy’ agency.
FUTURE ACTIVITY: Despite withdrawing the critical section of the rule affecting racing bikes and racecars, the EPA has continued to verbally maintain that it is illegal to make emissions modifications needed to convert a street-legal car or motorcycle into a racecar used solely on the track. Consequently, any business that makes or supplies these parts or services to modify the emissions systems is subject to enforcement. As a result, the RPM Act was introduced that would provide clarity to industry and the racing community that the Clean Air Act DOES allow cars and motorcycles to be converted into dedicated race vehicles and that doing so is not “tampering.” Despite 148 co-sponsors in the House and 33 co-sponsors in the Senate, the RPM Act was not taken up for a vote in 2016. Bikers and the MRF are hopeful that, with a more industry-friendly EPA under President-Elect Trump, this issue will be swiftly dealt with and passage of the RPM Act will be realized next year.
Introduction of a Federal Bill to Address Motorcycle Profiling – Increasingly, bikers have voiced complaints over incidents where they have felt profiled or singled out by law enforcement because of their appearance, apparel, or because they are simply riding a motorcycle. This unjust and unlawful practice has led to activity at the state level, but in 2016 federal authorities took notice and introduced a bill addressing the issue and promoting public awareness and urging state law enforcement officials to condemn the practice in written policies and training materials. This was a major step in making this issue a national discussion.
FUTURE ACTIVITY: The MRF will be working with the 19 co-sponsors of the bill to quickly get another bill introduced in the 115th Congress. As with all federal bills, on December 31, 2016 the congressional clock gets “reset” and all pending legislative proposals expire and therefore must be reintroduced. Your MRF is committed to getting the bill reintroduced in 2017 as well as introducing a companion bill in the Senate. However, we do anticipate obstacles as chatter from law enforcement in some states has already resulted in several Senators and Congressman withholding their support. The MRF will need help from you and our partners to ensure this bill goes ‘all the way’ in the 115th Congress.
Despite all we have accomplished together in 2016, next year is sure to bring its own set of challenges as well as opportunities to advance the cause of biker rights. In addition to all of the commentary above, together we must remain diligent and steadfast on many, many other issues including the increasing amount of ethanol-blended gasoline at the pump and the effects on our engines, ensuring that fatality statistics are separated between motorcycles and other classes of vehicles such as autocycles, advancements in self-driving cars and effects on motorcyclists and our seemingly never-ending uphill battle to force policymakers to focus on education and crash avoidance instead of “safer” crashing.
Whatever the future brings, your MRF looks forward to maintaining its status as the ONLY national motorcycle rights organization dedicated to on-street riders and its reputation as the leading expert when it comes to bikers and the freedom to ride.