Hundreds of Texas Bikers Lobby Lawmakers in Austin This Morning

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Logo for the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association
A friend of mine works in Austin, doing something or other for state government. Her office is right next to the Capitol building. When she arrived at work this morning, she couldn't help but notice that the whole place was covered in bikers. The Harley kind. "Hundreds of dudes wearing leather," as she told me just a minute ago, some of them trying to park their hogs in the bus loading zones near the Capitol, others getting yelled at by a security guard for idling their engines outside the Capitol library.

As it turns out, this morning the members of the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association (TMRA) are lobbying their lawmakers in Austin. They're there to show their support for a piece of proposed legislation called the "Motorcycle Crash Prevention Act." Also, guns.

"There's about 1,500 motorcyclists here," TMRA secretary/treasurer Terri Williams told me. "They're going to meet with their representative senators. We've been doing it for 21 years, and we have a really good rapport with them." Before entering the Capitol, she added, they have a color guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.

It's all part of Legislative Weekend 2013. Bikers from across the state got together yesterday for workshops on presenting a bill at the Capitol and "Working and Walking the Halls." The TMRA is joined by U.S. Defenders, a.k.a. the Coalition of Independent Riders.

"Unfortunately most people don't bother to talk with their Legislators," the TMRA writes on the Legislative Weekend's information page. "The people the Legislators see all the time are corporate lobbyists who typically don't care anything about us. Since we know Bikers will go to events that they can enjoy the company of their Brothers and Sisters. We decided to have an event that occurs for the very purpose of gathering people and getting them to talk to their Legislators."

The TMRA and U.S. Defenders are there primarily in support of a piece of model legislation drafted by ABATE, a motorcyclist's rights organization with chapters in all 50 states. (ABATE originally stood for ""A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments," and now stands for any number of other things, apparently.) The Motorcycle Crash Prevention Act, the text of which is right here, calls for the creation of a motorcycle education fund account by the state comptroller. The money would come from taxes collected by the Department of Public Safety and would be used in part to create a "motorcycle and three-wheel operator training and safety program."

The bill also proposes that funds be allocated for "motorcycle awareness and safety" classes for beginning drivers, seniors, commercial drivers and state and local employees. It also calls for billboards, literature and the creation of a special "Class T" license for would-be motorcycle and three-wheel vehicle operators.

The TMRA is also concerned about Second Amendment issues, as Williams writes in a legislative update. "Arrogant Obama-supporters have been emboldened by what they perceive to be a massive electoral mandate -- despite the fact that Obama would have lost the election if only 334,000 votes in four critical states had gone differently," the update reads. "But to be sure, these gun grabbers have made their objectives pretty clear." They warn of "sweeping new guns and ammo bans" and "registration" of gun owners.

"And, under rules changes being pushed by Senate Democrats, once you allow the least bit of gun control to go forward, the process will be beyond anyone's ability to stop once it turns really nasty and extreme," Williams adds. "The bottom line: ALL gun control should be opposed in its entirety. We are beyond the point of negotiating our demise with people who have made it clear that their objective is to destroy us. The only solution is to oppose EVERY SINGLE GUN CONTROL proposal. Every single one."

"We work on constitutional issues," William told me. "So any kind of issues involving gun control, we'd be against. The bikers of Texas are for being able to have guns."

Williams says the bikers will support Woodlands Representative Steve Toth's bill that would ban federal gun bans in Texas.

"We support being able to protect yourselves," Williams adds. "When they're on their motorcycles on the road, a lot of people try to mess with you, to be honest with you. They have to protect themselves and they have to be able to protect themselves with weapons."

The TMRA also opposes toll roads, roadblocks and the failed Trans-Texas Corridor, Williams says. "Anything unconstitutional."

bikers at the capitol resized.jpg
Photo courtesy of our prefers-to-be-anonymous Capitol correspondent


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19 comments
oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

If the idea is a good idea the Private sector plan and develop one and has to some extent  . Let folks be free to chose if they want to Pay to take a course. Or is this bunch fronting for the business that will be in place to profit from the rider who gets caught in that web of newly Mandated state  requirements.

Just Amazed how they don't want some rules but are in Austin with idea of getting more regulations put in place. where it suits them

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

ABATE's stance is that helmets do not reduce fatalities... which is a really irresponsible fallacy to promote. It's up there with saying there is no correlation between HIV and AIDS. 

I'm for their education legislation, but gear saves lives. I harass and chide everyone I ride with to wear a helmet... even going 2 blocks.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

It's a damn shame that the TMRA had to jump into the gun thing. Mission creep like that is the thing that takes the focus off of the motorcycle issues that these people really ought to be concentrating on. If Williams really thinks that he needs a gun to defend himself against other motorists, I don't want him speaking for me. This is the kind of BS that really gives bikers a bad name.


The motorcycle rights organizations that I belong to (ABATE of WI and the MRF) actively discourage their members from being drawn into legislative battles unconnected to the rights specific to motorcycling.


Also worth noting that in WI, all of the funds that were to be used to effectively train motorcyclists and promote MC safety came out of the monies paid to the state in the form of higher motorcycle registration fees that we as riders agreed to in order to finance them. Unsurprisingly, a few short years later those funds were raided by the state for other purposes. Go figure.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RockersvsMods

Just out of curiosity, are you of the opinion that helmets ought to be compulsory? ABATE's stance is that you should be able to choose for yourself whether or not you wear a helmet.


I'm not sure where you get the idea that their stance is that helmets do not reduce fatalities, as that is not primarily what their mission is about. Rather, it is that our government's focus on trying to get people to wear helmets is far less effective in reducing fatalities than comprehensive rider education coupled with aggressive public awareness campaigns.


The head injury / fatality statistics are what they are, and ABATE, at least my chapter and the Motorcycle Rider's Foundation report them just as the NHTSB presents them. Whether or not that reflects the eventuality that helmets do or do not reduce fatalities is kind of irrelevant to that end.


Incidentally, a few years back the NHTSB statistics showed that as a percentage, there were more head injury fatalities in relation to automobile accidents than motorcycle accidents. Do you advise your friends to wear helmets in their cars, too?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk I'm not a motorcycle rider, but that would be my biggest concern with this legislative push.  TX is not averse to raiding a designated account to pay for non-related expenses (like fixing the Gov's manse).  If the TMRA gets the education and awareness fund, I hope the funds go to education and awareness of motorcyclists and not to some other nitnoid project the lege comes up with.

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

@TheCredibleHulk 

http://www.abateofmichigan.org/HelmetLawInfo.htm

"Helmets do not prevent accidents, they haven't reduced fatalities, nor do they do they make for a SAFER motorcycle rider." 

It says right there "they haven't reduced fatalities". I know they've prevented traumatic brain injury, I've seen that first hand. Boots save broken angles, riding jackets save elbows & backs.

As far as head injuries in cars vs bikes, was that more head injuries per capita or whole numbers? There are a hell of a lot more people in cars than on bikes. Figures don't lie, but liar's figure..

I think you should have to sign an organ donor card and have insurance limits before you can ride without a helmet. 

I have two words for you in parting "Indian Larry".

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @TheCredibleHulk 

Yeah, I've definitely got the "once bitten" syndrome as far as this kind of thing is concerned after that experience. I really believe that awareness campaigns and rider training courses are the best bet for reducing injuries and fatalities. There is all kinds of proof of this, but I'm angered that the state in all of its infinite wisdom essentially disregards the actual data in favor of their helmet crusade.

Most people just want to go the band-aid route, take that money and try to force helmets on everyone because "it looks more like we're doing something" that way - helmets are visible, tangible signs of their "progress". Plus that way, their little Johnny or Janey won't see anyone riding around helmetless and get any ideas.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RockersvsMods 

Yeah, I used the term pretty corpses - pretty corpses for poorly trained riders. But that's OK, you are just going to insist on seeing what you want to see rather than what I said. So, feel free to continue to take my remarks out of context. Like I said, it's a free country.


Also, I've met the pavement, once, about 30 years ago - when I had a lot less experience and training than I do now. Still not kissing helmets.

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

@TheCredibleHulk My very first post, if you look all the way up there said that ABATE says helmet's don't reduce fatalities and you came to represent yourself as, what I would call, an ardent member of ABATE and their viewpoint on helmets. Why else would you respond to my initial comment?

You have been quoting stats and making comments about helmets just making for pretty corpses which would make any reasonable person think you probably don't agree that helmets are effective. 

Spend a little time sliding across the pavement after your motor seizes up and you'll kiss a damn helmet. I know I did and I know they would have been drilling drain holes in my melon without it.

As far as legislation mandating helmets, democracy is an ugly process but it is the only one we have. The state puts this type of legislation up for a vote, which I think is reasonable, and the citizens of that state make the decision. I can live with that. 


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RockersvsMods 

We're talking past each other, here. You like helmets, good for you. Wear one. There is no attack on the effectiveness of helmets, at least not by me. The statistics say what they say.

I need to take issue with this, though, as you are continually attributing things to me that I haven't said. I never said a poorly trained rider is more likely to stay alive without a helmet than with one. If you can find that assertion in any of my posts, I'll eat my words. As a matter of fact, I'll heartily agree that poorly trained riders would be far better off with a helmet. They'd be better off yet with proper training, No? (Your Indian Larry example being exhibit "A" of how NOT to ride a motorcycle.) All things being equal, rider training saves more lives than helmets do, so if it's an either or, (and for a lot of gov't types pushing this, it IS that way. See: Sen. Frank Lautenberg) I say concentrate on training and let people decide for themselves on the helmet issue.

Facts are facts, with limited resources, we (the people that want less fatalities) are better off initiating training programs, encouraging safe riding practices, (including proper gear), and promoting public awareness than we (the people that want less fatalities) are trying to take on the lobby that is fighting against mandatory helmets. 

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

@TheCredibleHulk How much funding does it cost to pass a law that makes people wear helmets? If anything it's a revenue stream for the police with tickets.

Most accidents to happen because of poorly trained riders riding above their abilities and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Poorly trained riders are a bad thing. But your assertion that a poorly trained rider is more likely to stay alive without a helmet than with and  that is just silly. It's the old "I don't wear a seat belt because I want to be thrown clear of the wreck" argument with cars.

At the heart of the issue we agree - I am for funding more training with my tax dollars, but if you ride long enough you are going to come off your bike. Riding a bike is more dangerous inherently than driving a car. A helmet is safety gear and safety gear is good.

Whether helmets should be mandatory or not is a state's rights issue and appears to be sorting itself out and you guys seem to have some slick lawyers churning out your party line.

My whole problem is attacking helmets effectiveness as a legal maneuver does not change the fact that helmets save people from traumatic brain injury, death and getting their pretty faces smashed in.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RockersvsMods 

Oh, please. Where did I insinuate that people that wear helmets are poor riders? If anything, I insinuated that a poorly trained rider with a helmet is far more likely to end up dead than a well trained rider without a helmet. Do you disagree, there? Do you disagree that most motorcycle accidents involve poorly trained riders or riders operating above their abilities? Because I think that that is a ridiculous position to take.


My entire point was made above. We would be better off using existing funds and resources promoting rider training and public awareness as opposed to mandatory helmet use. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that most rider education programs do stress the importance of proper gear.


In my humble opinion, the vast majority of people operating motorcycles AND automobiles are vastly underqualified for those tasks. Which makes rider training and public awareness that much MORE important.

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

@TheCredibleHulk @TheCredibleHulk Helmets are considered safety gear and you are arguing the efficacy of it's value in keeping you safe, correct? 

And I suspect if there was a law mandating bikers wearing riding jackets or gloves, ABATE would conjure some statistics saying that jackets impede mobility and gloves remove your tactile response to the throttle or somesuch. 

ABATE started with the problem of not wanting to wear helmets and have cherry picked facts to support their cause.

I hope it never happens, but you get into an accident the delusion that you have some control over the situation will melt away. It happens faster than you can respond and you're at the mercy of physics.

My bike was my daily ride for a year and I hung it up for my car. There are too many stupid asses using the camera on their phone to put on makeup (true story). I would promote our car drivers license process to be as rigorous as motorcycles. People don't take driving as a serious activity any more.

The insinuation that people who wear helmets are poor riders is bollocks. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RockersvsMods @TheCredibleHulk 


Who is making the argument that gear isn't safe? Certainly not me.

And, no, I'm not a racer but reacting isn't luck at all.

Reacting properly to dangerous traffic situations is what rider education is all about. Admittedly, there are certain situations that cannot be controlled such as riding through a blind intersection, but more often than not a motorcycle accident is a product of a poorly trained rider reacting improperly to a bad situation.

 That poorly trained rider will look nice in his open casket, though, if he wears a helmet, I suppose.

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

@TheCredibleHulk Mmm hmmm. Safety classes are admittedly a good idea but when the shit hits the fan I'll take a little leather and carbon fiber between me and the road. 

Being free to do what you want is one issue, arguing that safety gear isn't safe is another. I might like Thai prostitutes and autoerotic asphyxiation, but I ain't going to tell anyone that it's safer than being married to a fat girl.

I can guarantee neither one of us is a moto GP racer and reacting to some jackass careening through a red light is more luck of the draw than any skill set. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RockersvsMods @TheCredibleHulk

 Maybe you ought to look up the word propaganda.

 The link you posted accurately presents the data from the DOT and the NHTSB. ABATE merely presented it on their own website.

I've never even said whether or not I wear a helmet, and that's not really relevant. Rider education and public awareness do far more to mitigate fatalities than any amount of helmets ever will. You can disagree, but you'd be wrong, and the numbers bear that out.

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

@TheCredibleHulk 

The link I posted was ABATE's own propaganda. 

We can throw statistics around but what it really comes down to... what all your facts, figures & legalese are really getting at... is you guys don't think it looks "cool" to ride around with a helmet on. But you will never admit that.

In the state of Texas that is your right to ride with your curly hair in the breeze. I choose to wear highly engineered & tested safety gear for the activity I am engaging in. I love me some science!

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@RockersvsMods @TheCredibleHulk 

You know, ABATE may make the statement that helmets haven't reduced fatalities, and statistically, that statement is true. That, however doesn't make that their "official stance". It is just a data point that they use. Their "stance" is choice, boldly stated in the first few lines of the link you provided from ABATE of MI. So, if I'm a figuring liar, you are just a plain old liar.


If you read my post carefully, the qualifier "as a percentage" is in place, meaning that per the latest NHTSB study, a larger percentage of auto drivers in accidents have fatal head injuries than motorcycle riders do. You do understand how percentages work., don't you? It's a neat little tool that helps us do "apples to apples" comparisons when the volumes of the things we are comparing differ.


Check the statistics from the NHTSB in your own link. States that require helmets actually have a higher percentage (theres that word, again) of fatal head injuries due to motorcycle accidents. That may be a statistical anomaly, but that doesn't make it untrue. So, empirically, helmets haven't reduced fatalities. And it goes without saying that they DO NOT make for safer motorcycle riders, either. Comprehensive training and diligent practice are the only things that make safer motorcycle operators, helmets or not.


Whether or not helmets prevent traumatic brain injury is another matter altogether. I'm not saying that they don't, and as a matter of fact, I don't see anyone making that argument.


As far as insurance goes, everyone that operates a motorcycle ought to carry as much as they can afford, and I personally don't condone forcing people to do anything such as donating organs, but, if you do, go ahead and lobby for that cause. It's a (mostly) free country.


Lastly, Indian Larry was a trick rider that killed himself because he was operating a motorcycle in an extremely dangerous fashion and fell off of his machine at speed. I'll agree that Larry probably should have worn a helmet if he wanted to stand on the seat of his bike while it was in motion, but it's hardly a fair comparison.



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