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For Immediate Release

19 November 2008

Contact: Jeff Hennie, MRF Vice President of Government Relations
Email: boz@mrf.org

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation attends Fifth Federal Highway Administration Motorcycle Advisory Council Meeting.

Last week the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) held the fifth meeting of the Motorcycle Advisory Council. The Council convenes twice a year to discuss infrastructure issues of concern to motorcyclists. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation Vice President of Government Relations, Jeff Hennie, is one of the nine seated council members.

"This council meeting was significant because it was the first meeting since the charter was extended past its initial two year trial run" said Jeff Hennie. He added, "The likelihood of keeping this council intact well past the congressionally mandated 2 years is very good and gets better with each accomplishments of the council".

This meeting began with a review of the results of the online motorcyclist road conditions survey that was opened for comment this summer. The survey was designed to get a national snap shot of what motorcyclists think about the state of the roads they ride. Some areas that the 10,000 respondents overwhelmingly agreed needs improvement are construction zones, slippery pavement markings, stuck at red lights and harsh road edge drop-offs. The areas that received positive marks were ample signage and plenty of lighting of the road. A follow-up survey is in the works for spring 2009.
The MRF will let you know when that is available.

The next agenda item was a presentation by the leading expert of intersection design at Federal Highway Association (FHWA). Intersections are notoriously the most dangerous part of any traffic pattern. The standard four way cross intersection may very well be a thing of the past, not in any hurry though. Traffic control experts are working feverishly at making intersections safer. Some designs have been shown to significantly reduce crashes. For instance, adopting traffic circles or roundabouts has been shown to effectively reduce crash occurrences. It doesn't stop there though; the experts are designing and implementing even more involved intersections that essentially eliminate a left hand turn through the intersection. It's a complicated system of lanes and stoplights that in theory will be safer. Few exist today, but Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, New York and Missouri are experimenting with some of the European concepts. Bigger, more complicated intersections may be safer but they will also need more and more slippery striping that remains a concern to motorcyclists.

The council then had a lengthy discussion on Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Essentially a PPP is any venture that involves the leasing of traditionally public services to a private entity to run, build or maintain. Historically PPPs have been found in services such as waste water treatment, garbage removal and disposal, even law enforcement. Now we are seeing an influx of PPP’s in the transportation world.
Municipalities are leasing off sections of toll road to private, sometimes foreign, companies. This poses a lot of questions. Take the Chicago Skyway for example, this heavily traveled elevated toll road provides a way in and out of the windy city for millions each day. The 7.8 mile highway was recently leased to a Spanish company for 99 years to the tune of 1.8 billion. The Spaniards are responsible for maintenance of the road but get to keep any and all tolls. Can the new owners invoke a helmet law for their road despite the fact that Illinois doesn't require a helmet? Can they raise tolls as high as they want? The answers to those questions vary agreement to agreement, but it's also difficult to overlook the issues involved with putting a foreign company in charge of our infrastructureNot only does it send profits overseas - it reeks of an anti-American ethos.
The 1.8 billion that Mayor Daley got his hands on was spent on back debt the City of Chicago was carrying. It also constitutes another 1.8 billion removed from the transportation world. What happens to the next generation of Americans when they need to get out of debt and there is nothing left to lease? PPPs are here to stay but they need to be carefully regulated and observed.

The Council drifted off its charter of focusing on infrastructure for a bit when the topic of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) came up. For years the MRF has been asking for a better VMT and recently the feds started listening. They admit the motorcycle VMT numbers are highly suspect at best. They held a three day meeting in DC last year on the very issue of improving motorcycle VMT accuracy. They had a test day for vendors of traffic counting devices at a Department of Transportation (DOT) research facility this past spring. They know the numbers are extremely inaccurate yet they continue to use them to exacerbate the number of fatal motorcycle crashes. After a slightly heated exchange the Federal government refused to give a timeline for a better VMT number, they did agree that at the very least, a strong footnote indicating the frailty and gross inaccuracies of the number should be present when using the motorcycle VMT number. While that's not good enough, it's a good start.

The meeting concluded with a brief presentation on what the State of Texas is doing to reduce pavement slab spreading which leaves a gap between lanes in the pavement large enough to capture a motorcycle's front tire.
The presenter informed the council on how the State of Texas can identify a potential road hazard like this and have it repaired that day or with in the next few days. A lesson that many municipalities should note.

This meeting was the last for the Council's Designated Federal Official, Mike Halladay of FHWA. Halladay is fully retiring from Federal service.
Mike has done a great job keeping the sometimes cantankerous group on time and topic over the past two and half years. We here at the MRF wish him the best and encourage Mr. Halladay to go buy a bike and ride out his retirement.

For those of you who aren't aware this council was created by the motorcyclists of this country who lobbied Congress along with the MRF to include the authorizing language in the last highway bill, SAFETEA-LU which was passed in 2005. Congress is expected to begin the drafting process for the new highway bill in 2009 and the MRF will need the help of the motorcyclists of America once again to engage their federal elected officials on the importance of motorcycle safety. You've been warned.

For more info on the Council visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/mac/

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(c)All Information contained in this release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, incorporated in 1987, is a membership-based, national motorcyclists' rights organization headquartered in Washington, DC. The first motorcyclists'

rights organization to establish a full-time presence in Washington, DC, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation is the only Washington voice devoted exclusively to the street rider. The MRF established MRFPAC in the early 1990s to advocate the election of candidates who would champion the cause of rider safety and rider freedom.

 

The MRF proudly claims state motorcyclists' rights organizations and the very founders of the American riders' rights movement among its leading members. The MRF is involved in federal and state legislation and regulations, motorcycling safety education, training, and public awareness. The MRF provides members and state motorcyclists' rights organizations with direction and information, and sponsors annual regional and national educational seminars for motorcyclists rights activists, as well as publishing a bi-monthly newsletter, THE MRF REPORTS.