November 22, 2000
The long-awaited final version of the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS) is finished. Officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told the Motorcycle Riders Foundation yesterday that NHTSA will unveil the report at the International Motorcycle Show, Long Beach Convention Center, at a press conference December 8th.
Many motorcycling organizations, including MRF, participated in the NAMS working group facilitated by NHTSA. The finished product, NHTSA officials said, will by no means represent a consensus of the views of all working group participants.
While copies of the finished product will not be available until the press conference, NHTSA officials told MRF that motorcyclists' rights advocates will find in NAMS many issues of agreement and disagreement.
Here's what we know:
NAMS tackles 23 issues (e.g., protective gear, road hazards, ITS, etc.) of concern to motorcyclists.
- The agenda consists of 82 recommendations for future action.
- NHTSA officials said they do not see the agency playing a lead role, necessarily, in the critical implementation phase. "We foresee a role in implementation for private citizens, advocacy groups like MRF and public private partnerships," a NHTSA official told MRF.
- There will be many NAMS recommendations, with which MRF and SMROs will agree and disagree. Agency officials, for example, did not disabuse MRF of the notion that one area of disagreement in NAMS would deal with the issue of mandatory helmet laws. "I hope everyone will review NAMS carefully and find ways to work together in areas of agreement during the implementation phase," one NHTSA official said.
- One of the key recommendations will deal with research, and NHTSA officials told MRF that the research needn't be funded exclusively by government but by private parties and joint public-private partnerships.
NHTSA believes they were true to their role as facilitator. While it doesn't necessarily reflect consensus down the line on every issue, it is a product of the working group, officials claimed.
A limited number of copies will be made available to MRF to share with SMRO leaders. If you would like a copy, e-mail HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org , or fax a request to MRF at (202) 546-0986. In the subject line, write "NAMS COPY REQUEST" and provide your name, address, MRF and SMRO affiliation. Copies will be provided on a first-come-first-served basis.
During his visit to the Republic of Vietnam earlier this week, President Bill Clinton called for that nation's sea of motorcyclists to heed the nation's mandatory lid law and don their helmets.
Preferring freedom of the road, most riders there continue to defy openly the requirement.
In its coverage of motorcycling in Vietnam Nov. 8 just prior to Clinton's visit, the Washington Post headlined that riders there are "unsafe at any speed." Not so, responded James Mirasol of the National Federation of Motorcycle Clubs of The Philippines. The Post "failed to mention whether the propensity to ignore traffic rules was limited purely to motorcyclists or if drivers of other motor vehicles as well as pedestrians were just as likely to ignore traffic rules, as is certainly typical here in the Philippines...."
Mirasol, whose presentation at this year's MRF Meeting of the Minds, riveted the attention of American rider rights advocates on the international scene. He asserted that media bias misleads government officials and the public "into enacting band-aide solutions to the problems that result in too many motorcycle deaths in every nation every day. This is certainly the case when motorcycles, at 32% of the population, [are involved in] less than 1% of all accidents, [yet] are officially declared as unsafe by some government officials, banned from use on all toll expressways here in the Philippines [or restricted through enactment of] mandatory helmet laws as is the case in Vietnam now...."
Safety, Mirasol continued, "is achieved not with a helmet law but with rider education and, more importantly, driver education on sharing the road with motorcyclists.... [T]ragically misleading articles ... galvanize the resolve of riders groups such as the 5,000-strong National Federation here in the Philippines, as well as our U.S.-based allies, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation..."
On November 20, the Washington Times reported that Clinton called on Vietnamese riders to don their helmets ("Clinton Gives Heads Up to Unhelmeted Vietnamese Cyclists"). Vietnamese rider resistance to helmets is so widespread, it prompted the Times reporter to observe that "democracy is a much easier sell ... than mandatory helmet laws."
In response, MRF noted to the Times that riders believe their freedom is part of the same deal we call democracy.
"Our streets may not be as frenzied as the corner of Bong Khai and Ly Tu Trong in what is now called Ho Chi Minh City," MRF wrote, "but the same facts still apply. Helmets are no defense against the undisciplined traffic of many nations and no shield against undisciplined motorists here. Worldwide, we can advance safety while safeguarding rider choice regarding helmets.
"In this nation, the next Congress and President can compel the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to embrace, at long last, its primary mission of accident prevention by channeling Section 402 grants to states specifically to enhance rider training and motorist awareness of motorcyclists. Also, NHTSA can better focus on prevention by ceasing a distraction of its own -- its propensity to lobby states to adopt mandatory helmet laws, an activity prohibited by a provision of federal law routinely flaunted by the agency....
Together with our chief ally in the Pacific Rim, the National Federation of Motorcycle Clubs of the Philippines, MRF is working to identify riders throughout the region, including Vietnam, who, without our help, already find themselves at the embryonic stages of an emerging motorcyclists' rights movement.
"The motorcyclists' rights movement is one of many footnotes in the closing chapter of war," MRF wrote. "Returning U.S. combat veterans who took to the road turned to political action when forced by non-riders to ride what they didn't want to ride and wear what they didn't want to wear. Today, this movement may become part of a first chapter on peace that is still being written, as an ABATE of Vietnam -- Asian Bikers Aimed Toward Education -- is now being seriously discussed by our allies in the Pacific Rim and the founders of the motorcyclists' rights movement in America.
"Whether they ride Vespas or V-Twins, bikers of every description and in every nation realize that motorcycling is not merely an expression but a catalyst of freedom."
In Election 2000, MRFPAC, the Political Action Committee of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, endorsed the MRFPAC RIDERS' MAJORITY -- 263 candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives and 1 candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Less the agonizing quest for the White House, which is still undecided, in excess of 91% of our endorsed candidates won their bid for public office. In an election that produced some of the closest contests in U.S. history, American motorcyclists can be proud they helped write that history by voting for the MRFPAC RIDERS' MAJORITY and reaching out to like-minded friends and family.
But our measure of effectiveness is not the lofty success rate we achieved but the fact that political involvement leverages gains in public policy.
MRF has received numerous letters from lawmakers who numbered among this year's RIDERS' MAJORITY who wrote to thank MRF and riders everywhere for our strong showing at the polls and our direct support of their campaigns.
"I value your endorsement and the motorcyclists' vote," wrote one Congressman, "and I look forward to working with MRF and motorcyclists in my district in 2001."
"You supported me, and I appreciate it," said another. "Please count on me."
Politics prepares the beachhead of public policy where the fight for our rights and safety is fought. Riders in Virginia, for example, are making strides in advancing their rider-choice agenda in the state legislature. This state-based legislative progress is helped by motorcyclists' involvement in elections, even in federal political contests. In the race between MRFPAC-backed George Allen and Chuck Robb for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia, riders nationwide responded to and ultimately defeated a pro-Robb advertising attack that sullied the good character and reputation of motorcyclists. Days later, riders, their friends and families went to the polls and delivered the votes that defeated Robb and seated George Allen. Just before the election, Allen wrote personally to MRF asking that we count on him to protect motorcyclists' rights and advance our safety. Now, the Virginia House of Delegates appears responsive and supportive. Our voice in public policy is heeded when our vote at the polls is strongest.
After the election, MRF Member Paul Cotes of Massachusetts observed that the MRFPAC RIDERS' MAJORITY prompted many motorcyclists to get involved in political campaigns for the first time in their lives. "Please express my thankfulness to the MRFPAC Board ... [which] agreed to 'endorse' candidates versus sit on the sidelines," Cotes wrote. "Riders need to be 'citizen bikers'.... I know a lot of riders who never, in 20 or more years, worked on someone's campaign.... MRF put the message out right, i.e., build signs, hold signs, make phone calls, write 'dear friend' letters. That's part of what it takes, it's real easy and you meet great people, even if they don't ride. And we, working on the campaigns, lessen their misplaced fear of us. Good stuff MRF. Keep it up!"
This Thanksgiving, have a happy holiday, as motorcyclists worldwide have plenty of reasons to give thanks and look forward to a brighter, safer future.
Yours for the right to ride,
Thomas C. Wyld
Vice President, Government Relations
Motorcycle Riders Foundation
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