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Coast to Coast NCOM Legislative News for July

Checkpoints down, Cycle Sales Up, and Freedom still rings in New Mexico

By Bill Bish, with photos courtesy of the Bob T. collection

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THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. If you’ve been involved in any kind of accident, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit


Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)

On Friday, July 13, California became the fourth state in the country to oppose roadside checkpoints that target motorcyclists. Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1047 into law, joining with Virginia, North Carolina and New Hampshire in prohibiting law enforcement agencies from using safety grant money to fund motorcycle-only checkpoints.

“Persistence pays off!” said Jim Lombardo, lobbyist for ABATE of California. “It took two years of hard work to get our bill through both Transportation Committees, the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees, passed by both Houses and then returned to the Assembly for concurrence to a stronger amended bill!”

AB 1047, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), passed its final legislative hurdle by a unanimous 77-0 vote in the Assembly. The new law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2013.

“The funding of such checkpoints has made the passage of AB 1047 of paramount importance,” noted a letter of support circulated to legislators by C.O.I.R. through the US Defenders program; calling the checkpoints discriminatory and un-American, they noted that “Across California, law enforcement agencies have been using these funds, not to establish generic checkpoints intended to stop all vehicles looking for impaired operators, or unsafe vehicles. Rather, these checkpoints have been stationed adjacent to motorcycle events and stop only motorcycle riders while automobile drivers are waved on.”

On the federal level, dozens of Congressional Representatives have signed onto House Resolution 904 by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to bar the U.S. Department of Transportation from providing funds to government agencies for motorcycle safety-equipment roadside checkpoints.

Meanwhile, Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) Attorney Mitchell Proner of NYC is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that upheld the constitutionality of such roadblocks, vowing to take the fight on behalf of ABATE of New York and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.


The Highway Bill, HR 4348: MAP-21, has cleared both chambers of Congress and is expected to be signed into law soon by President Obama. The 600-page $120 billion federal funding measure reauthorizes funds for transportation projects through 2014, and extends the motorcycle safety grant program to the states amounting to a percentage of each state's federal safety dollars that must be spent on rider education and awareness campaigns.

Despite considerable lobbying by motorcyclists, language from HR 904 to block funding of motorcycle-only checkpoints was not included in the final passage due to technical germaneness issues, but on the flipside no provisions were adopted in the bill that would negatively impact motorcycling.

Putting E15 (a mixture of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline) on sale in the U.S. has been all but official since April, when the Environmental Protection Agency approved the first applications to make E15. Now, “all but official” has become official, with the EPA giving approval for retailers to start selling the controversial biofuel, which many claim can damage smaller engines such as motorcycles and ATVs and void manufacturers’ warranties.

Four motorcycle clubs that belong to the Southern Nevada Confederation of Clubs (COC) have filed a federal lawsuit against the Metro and North Las Vegas police departments claiming that their civil rights have been systematically violated.

Dozens of club members of the Mongols, Bandidos, Vagos and Stray Cats allege they have been “unlawfully targeted and harassed” by the two police departments for several years, and the 78 complainants are seeking over $75,000 on each of its 15 different claims and punitive and exemplary damages of more than $75,000.

The lawsuit claims that Las Vegas police threatened to revoke the liquor licenses of local businesses if they served certain motorcycle club members or let them frequent their place of business. The legal action cites numerous other incidents of abuse, including police officers purportedly informing members of the Stray Cats that they had “no constitutional rights on the streets of Northern Las Vegas.”

Legal documents detail six encounters that occurred between June 2010 and September 2011 that violated the patch holders’ First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, but attorney Stephen Stubbs and Southern Nevada Confederation of Clubs President Guido Novicelli say the harassment has gone on for more than the two years the lawsuit covers. "All we're really looking for is to be able to meet and have a good time and ride motorcycles without being harassed," said Novicelli.

"Everybody has the same constitutional rights," said Stubbs, serving as legal counsel for the 37 Las Vegas-based clubs that comprise the Southern Nevada COC. "The minute we start disregarding someone's constitutional rights because we don't agree with them, this country is in big trouble."

A New York bill that would improve motorcycle safety by including awareness training in the state Department of Motor Vehicles required courses passed unanimously in the Senate on June 4.

S.7138 would amend the Vehicle and Traffic Law to create a two-hour motorcycle safety and awareness component to the DMV’s mandatory five-hour pre-licensing course for new drivers. Specific requirements would be set by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.

“This is just one more step towards making our highways safer for both motorcyclists and those traveling on four wheels,” said state Senator Patricia A. Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) who cosponsored the bipartisan measure along with Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn). “By teaching people how to properly share the road, we can cut down on accidents and help save lives.”

Now Senator Ritchie is looking for a sponsor to introduce the legislation in the general Assembly.

A new Rhode Island law will require all state and municipal buildings to provide designated parking spaces for motorcycles from April to November. The legislation, sponsored by Senator John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Smithfield) and State Representative Peter John Petrarca (D-Linclon), was recently approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Lincoln D. Chafee (I).

The legislation dictates that city and town officials create parking plans by this November for parking areas at municipal buildings and mandates that the new parking spaces, marked by appropriate signage, be made available by April 1, 2013. All state, city, or town buildings must establish a motorcycle parking plan by November, with the number and placement of the motorcycle parking spaces varying by building, and to be determined by the number of employees who use motorcycles. The law does not apply to state airport parking lots.

A new provincial law announced by the Ministry of Justice requires motorcyclists in British Columbia to wear helmets that show proper industry certification, such as Snell or a U.S. Dept. of Transportation sticker.

The law takes effect in July on Canada Day, and until now motorcyclists could wear anything that was sold as a motorcycle helmet, including so-called “novelty” models that are smaller, lighter and lack protective inner padding. “Many members of biker gangs and their followers wore such helmets,” noted the Maple Ridge News in announcing the policy change.

“A lot of the Hells Angels guys…they will wear the fake helmets, as well,” RCMP Constable Tom Sparks told the newspaper. Once the helmet law is enforced, $138 tickets will be handed out. In addition to a ticket, riders also will be required to park their bike if they’re caught using an illegal helmet. “You cannot continue.”

Sgt. Dale Somerville added that police aren’t targeting any particular segment of riders, but if there’s a group that uses non-legal helmets more often, they’ll get stopped more often.

The European Commission proposes to include all types of powered two wheelers into a regulation on periodic roadworthiness tests and calls for annual inspection intervals for all vehicles more than six years old, according to the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA). The measure would cost riders over 1.2 Billion Euros extra per year, with no clear benefits for anyone, says FEMA in criticizing the proposal as unnecessary and ineffective and calls for its withdrawal.

On Friday, July 13th, the European Commission published a proposal for a "Regulation on periodic roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers". In comparison to the previous regulation (Directive 2009/40/EC) powered two wheelers (PTWs) are now also included (motorcycles, scooters and mopeds) and the Commission proposes to increase the testing frequency to four years after the date on which the vehicle was first registered, then two years and thereafter annually for all vehicles.

Although the Commission claims that “8 % of all motorcycle accidents are linked to technical defects," FEMA doubts the accuracy of such figures and cites in-depth studies showing technical failures only account for 0.3% of all primary accident contributing factors. “In addition the countries in Europe with periodic testing regimes for PTWs do not show improved accident figures,” according to FEMA.

"This is nothing less than a tax on poverty for those who cannot afford a new vehicle every three years" says FEMA General Secretary Aline Delhaye. "In terms of time and money, the cost for citizens is going to be astronomical, with no benefits in return.”

New Mexico is one of 31 states that do not require adults to wear helmets, and that’s not likely to change says KRQE-News13, noting that “Motorcycle rider rights organizations are working diligently to keep it that way not because they don’t want people to wear helmets but because they want people to be able to decide for themselves.”

“Too many people are dying on our roads and all I’m asking is for people to look out for motorcyclists,” said Annette Torrez, Chair of the NM Motorcycle Riders Rights Organization. “I don’t want legislation telling me whether I should or shouldn’t wear a helmet,” said Torrez, who was recently recognized for her efforts at the annual NCOM Convention with a Silver Spoke Award.

It’s been about a decade since an adult helmet law was last introduced in the state legislature, and lawmakers told the news agency that is because the idea is always met with angry opposition not only from motorcycle groups but other lawmakers too. “There’s always individuals that you’re seeing here that come up to Santa Fe and institute their rights and say you know what, we really don’t want to see it and these are individuals who wear helmets on a regular basis,” said NM State Representative Rick Miera (D-Bernalillo County), a longtime rider and member of the National Coalition of Motorcyclists’ Legislative Task Force (NCOM-LTF).

Cycle sales have fired up since the recession’s effects have waned, according to new data from Sageworks Inc., a financial information company. Sales at motorcycle and ATV dealers are up nearly 16% over the last 12 months, including used bike sales, and profitability has improved from near-breakeven in 2009 to nearly 3% profit margins, Sageworks’ data shows.

Sageworks analyst Robb Granado said sales are stronger at both dealers and manufacturers. “The fact that we see the retailers doing well shows it is actual end-user demand,” he said. “That’s a positive story for both the future of both the retailers and the manufacturers.”

Their analysis is bolstered by Motorcycle Industry Council numbers that reflect first-quarter industry sales of new units rose 8.8%, aided by higher gasoline prices and unseasonably warm weather across much of the country.

QUOTABLE QUOTE: "There are four boxes to be used in the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury and ammo. Please use in that order."
~originally attributed to S.C. Senator Stephen Decatur Miller, c. 1830


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