WASHINGTON, DC – A petition containing over 5,000 signatures was delivered to the first meeting of the Federal Highway Administration’s Motorcyclist Advisory Council on Tuesday. The document was presented by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and demanded that the Council designate additional seats to represent the motorcycle rider community. Currently, the Council has 10 available seats; only one of which is filled by a motorcycle rider association representative.
Reauthorized in the latest highway bill in 2016, the Motorcyclist Advisory Council or ‘MAC’ was created to coordinate with and counsel the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on infrastructure and other issues that affect motorcyclists. It was originally conceptualized in 2005, and designed to allow the motorcycle community a dialogue with government officials; the only one of its kind. Previous iterations of the group also held 10 seats, however unlike the current parameters, 4 of the 10 council members included representatives from the motorcycling community from various state and federal motorcycle associations. When the MAC was reauthorized, the Federal Highway Administration eliminated all but one of these, only calling for 1 representative from the motorcycling community with the other 9 positions to be filled by experts in roadway data, design and engineering.
“We continue to be concerned that [the MAC], the ONLY group of its kind on a national scale, fails to include adequate representation of the nearly 8.5 million motorcycle riders on our nation’s roadways,” said Megan Ekstrom, Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation in prepared comments delivered at the meeting. “Only ONE out of TEN of these individuals can speak for the rider community at large and has the authority to do so and is here to serve that specific purpose. The MAC should have more of these,” Ekstrom went on to say.
Members of Congress also weighed in. The Senate issued a letter, led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) asking for additional seats for motorcycle riders association. The letter, sent in February, included Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation which has jurisdiction over transportation-related matters.
The U.S. House of Representatives issued its own letter to Secretary Chao, outlining their own concerns and asking the Secretary of Transportation to allow the motorcycle community a strong voice on the Council. The letter stated, “It is critical to allow motorcyclists to have a strong voice on this Council. These are the individuals who have experience and can provide a motorcyclist’s insights on the challenges and benefits of our roadways. Depending on where they live, riders have unique experiences and are differently impacted by roadway and barrier design, and construction, among others.”
Seated in the audience of Tuesday’s meeting was Andy Kelly. Kelly, a rider for most of his life and a member of ABATE of Pennsylvania, which stands for “Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education” made the trip to Washington, DC to attend the meeting after signing the petition. A handful of other motorcycle riders representing various state and local rider associations were also in the audience, allowed to listen, but not officially weigh in on issues that affect them as riders.
“This is an example of government at its worst,” said Ekstrom. “The purpose of this group is to advise on issues important to motorcyclists, how can the MAC identify and prioritize these issues, without adequate rider representation?”
A copy of the petition and Ekstrom’s remarks are below.
P E T I T I O N
We Call on the Department of Transportation to Add Seats to the Motorcyclist Advisory Council for Motorcycle Riders’ Associations
In 2015, Congress re-established the Motorcyclist Advisory Council in the Highway Bill to advise the Federal Highway Administration on “issues of concern to motorcyclists.” This important group would serve as the ONLY official forum on a national scale for motorcyclists to have an open dialogue with the Government to discuss concerns like road and barrier design, the emergence of autonomous vehicles and other areas of the nation’s highways and infrastructure which impact motorcyclists in a unique way.
In 2017, an announcement was made naming 10 individuals to serve as appointees to the Council. Regrettably, all but one individual selected was represent the technical aspects of the Council, including engineering, construction and traffic safety systems as well as roadway data. Only one seat out of ten was designated for a national motorcycle riders’ association and speak for the 8.5 million motorcyclists in the U.S. And though 8 of the 10 appointees have their motorcycle endorsements, their intended purpose for participation on the Council is to represent the infrastructure and technical side of the conversation, not to advocate for riders. Nor do they have the authority to speak on behalf of riders at large, as would other motorcycle riders’ associations at the national and regional levels.
We, the below signed, call on the Secretary of Transportation to add 3 additional seats to the MAC; another seat for a national motorcycle rider’s association dedicated to on-street riders as well as at least two other seats for regional motorcycle riders’ associations.
Adding these three seats will ensure a balanced and fair composition to the Council and will adequately represent the voice and concerns of street motorcyclists across the nation.
Megan Ekstrom, Vice-President of Government Affairs
Motorcycle Riders Foundation
On 5th of December 2017
At the Motorcyclist Advisory Council Meeting
My name is Megan Ekstrom and I am the Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation or MRF provides leadership for states’ and regional motorcycle riders associations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. Through our state partners and affiliates, we have a network of over 250,000 motorcycle riders representing all 50 states.
I’d like to start by thanking the Federal Highway Administration for allowing me to speak. As many in this room already know, the MRF has been critical of the parameters and the process for participation in the Motorcyclist Advisory Council - particularly with regard to the lack of representation for state and national motorcycle riders’ associations.
First, I want to be very clear that our grievances are in no way intended to be an attack or criticism of the 10 current appointees to the MAC. Each one of these individuals (several of which I know personally) bring important areas of expertise to the table. Whether that’s engineering or construction, safety or roadway data, each of their voices is critical to ensuring a successful MAC. I also recognize that the majority of the appointees are motorcycle riders themselves and can speak to their own individual riding experience.
While we recognize and appreciate this effort to be inclusive, we continue to be concerned that this important group, the ONLY one of its kind on a national scale, fails to include adequate representation of the nearly 8.5 million motorcycle riders on our nation’s roadways.
While the majority of MAC appointees have their motorcycle endorsement, only ONE out of TEN of these individuals can speak for the rider community at large and has the authority to do so and is here to serve that specific purpose
We believe the MAC should have more of these.
Associations have the ability to speak on behalf of a larger group of individuals, identifying common ground, areas of interest and prioritization of issues. They can point out different concerns in various parts of the country, geographically identifying where needs are most urgent based on feedback from their extensive member networks.
While the AMA can certainly help to fulfill that role, we are concerned that only one voice to speak on behalf of 8.5 million is enough.
I am not alone in voicing this concern – this year almost 40 members of congress from both the House and Senate, both Republican and Democrat, sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Chao laying out the concerns I have reiterated. Each of these letters stated that in order to facilitate a successful MAC, the Federal Highway Administration should allow more seats for designated motorcycle riders associations in order to ensure a productive dialogue.
I will submit these letters again for the record as well as a petition that I am bringing forth:
This petition signed by over 5,000 motorcycle riders in the U.S. calls on the Secretary to add 3 additional seats to the MAC: another seat for a national motorcycle rider’s association dedicated to on-street riders as well as at least two other seats for regional or state motorcycle riders’ associations. If these 3 seats are added, which is permitted under the discretion of the Secretary, it will result in a more robust conversation, ensuring that the purpose of the MAC, as written under the statute, is fulfilled as it was intended by Congress
Thank you for listening to our concerns - like everyone in this room, the MRF simply wants to ensure that the unique needs, experiences, and requirements of motorcyclists from across the U.S. are being considered and heard.