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NCOM Biker Newsbytes for January 2020

From Helmet Laws to the Freedom to Race

By Bill Bish, NCOM

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Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)
The National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) and the Confederations of Clubs is calling on all motorcyclists nationwide, from patch holders to independents, to contact their Congressional Representatives to ask for their support of House Resolution 255, a bipartisan anti-profiling measure being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives that is identical to Senate Resolution 154 passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate on December 11, 2018.
H.Res.255; “Promoting awareness of motorcycle profiling and encouraging collaboration and communication with the motorcycle community and law enforcement officials to prevent instances of profiling,” was introduced early in the 1st Session of the 116th Congress (2019-2020), on March 26, 2019 by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), and currently has over 125 bipartisan co-sponsors.
As defined by both nonbinding Congressional resolutions, S.Res.154 & H.Res.255, “motorcycle profiling” means “the illegal use of the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle related apparel as a factor in deciding to stop and question, take enforcement action, arrest, or search a person or vehicle with or without legal basis under the Constitution of the United States.”
Concerned riders can contact their U.S. Rep. by calling the Capital Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and request that they join their colleagues in cosponsoring H.Res.255 to help thwart law enforcement from unfairly targeting motorcycle riders for traffic stops, questioning and citations.
Legislation to protect the right to convert street vehicles into dedicated racecars -- known as the RPM Act -- is "well positioned" to become law in 2020 now that new versions of the bill have been introduced in Congress, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), an industry trade association representing the specialty automotive industry.
U.S. Representatives Patrick McHenry (R-NC), and Raul Ruiz (D-CA), along with 30 bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced H.R. 5434, the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2019 on December 16, 2019, complementing the Senate's version of the bill, S.2602, introduced October 18, 2019 by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
The RPM Act, if passed, would reverse the Environmental Protection Agency's 2015 interpretation of the Clean Air Act that it does not allow a motor vehicle designed for street use -- including a car, truck, or motorcycle -- to be converted into a dedicated racecar.  The bill also would protect the motorsports-parts industry's ability to sell performance products.
The legislation cleared several major legislative hurdles in the previous Congress, including passage by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and hearings in the House and Senate.
The practice of converting street cars into competition vehicles went unquestioned for nearly 50 years until 2015, when the EPA took the position that converted vehicles must remain emissions-compliant, even though they are no longer driven on public streets or highways.
Motorsports competition involves tens of thousands of participants and vehicle owners each year, says SEMA, with most of the vehicles being raced on the estimated 1,300 racetracks operating across the U.S. are converted vehicles that the EPA currently considers to be illegal.
The U.S. spending bill recently agreed to on December 17, 2019 includes extension of tax credits for home EV charger installations, electric motorcycles, and fuel-cell vehicles.  These credits were previously extended through the end of 2017, though that time the extension was retroactive, as taxpayers didn’t know about the incentive during the incentive period.  Now, those credits have been extended retroactively again by Congress -- covering the last two years, since 2017 -- and have been extended forward to the end of this year.
Due to an amendment made to the year-end spending bill, taxpayers will once again qualify for a 30% rebate (up to $1,000) on costs associated with the installation of an EV charging station, a 10% credit (up to $2,500) on 2- or 3-wheeled electric vehicles such as electric motorcycles, and a $4,000 credit for the purchase of a new fuel-cell vehicle.
These credits previously expired at the end of 2017, but will now be available through 2020.  The credits are available retroactively so, presumably, this means that taxpayers can and should file amended returns for previous years.

Since 1966, when Georgia became the first State to require helmet use by law, America has gone through periods of nearly 100% conformity with every state except California passing mandatory helmet laws, through two federal helmet law mandates, both since repealed, to today with only 19 states and the District of Columbia requiring helmets for all riders.
Now, with state legislatures back in session entering the new year, several of those states are hoping to be the next to nix their lid law, following most recently Arkansas (1997), Texas (1997), Kentucky (1998), Florida (2000), Pennsylvania (2003) and Michigan (2012).  Louisiana weakened its motorcycle helmet use law in 1999, but re-enacted it in 2004.
Already this year, West Virginia has introduced bicameral legislation on January 10th, HB 2070 in the House and SB 153 in the Senate, that would allow you to operate or be a passenger on a motorcycle without a helmet, provided the rider is 21 or older and has held a motorcycle license for at least two years. In addition, SB 154 would allow certain out-of-state residents ride a motorcycle in West Virginia without helmet.
Missouri, which last session passed a helmet repeal through both houses of their legislature, only to see it vetoed, once again, by their governor, has introduced another bill on January 9th to exempt persons 18 or older with a valid motorcycle license from wearing protective headgear while riding a motorcycle or motortricycle.
In New York, A6895, introduced January 8th, provides that motorcyclists over the age of 21 shall be exempt from the requirement to wear a helmet when operating or riding a motorcycle, while A3004 “requires motorcycle users to wear helmets that meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards and which have been impact-tested by the U.S. department of transportation, the commissioner of motor vehicles or by an independent laboratory approved by the commissioner of motor vehicles.”
Meanwhile, companion bills A214/S320 authorizes the commissioner of transportation to conduct a comprehensive study of the efficacy of motorcycle helmets.
Vermont’s legislature is considering S203, an act relating to motorcycle helmets, which “proposes to amend the motorcycle helmet law to only apply to motorcycle operators and riders under 21 years of age and creates an exemption from the motorcycle helmet requirement for those operators and riders who are participating in a parade.”
The number of registered motorcycles in the U.S. is near historic highs, with more than 8.4 million registered motorcycles as of 2014, according to the U.S. DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.  This is up from 4.3 million in 2000, nearly doubling over the past two decades.
Effective January 1, 2020, it is now a CRIME for a (grossly) negligent driver to injure a motorcyclist or their passenger. It also requires careless drivers who injure riders or passengers to attend safety school and perform 100-200 hours of community service including driver training and traffic safety.
“I am proud to have written this bill and presented testimony to the Oregon Legislature,” says Oregon Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (AIM) attorney Christopher A. Slater, who also serves as legal advisor to the Oregon Confederation of Clubs (COC) and ABATE of Oregon.  “Hopefully this new law will help drivers to look for motorcycles and reduce rider injuries.”

The state of Washington passed some important motorcycle-related legislation that went into effect as of January 1, 2020 in an effort to increase motorcycle safety by making motorcycle endorsement testing more rigorous, and also increased penalties if you’re caught riding without a license.
Previously, the cost of getting caught without a motorcycle license was lower than the cost of actually taking motorcycle training classes, but as of 2020, it’ll now cost you less to obtain the proper training than it will to get caught riding without a license.  The full penalty for riding without a license will now cost $386, with all fees considered.
Part of this has to do with Washington state’s Target Zero highway safety plan, which aims to get serious injuries and fatalities on state roadways down to zero by 2030.  An ambitious plan, to be sure, but one key point regarding motorcyclists is the state’s intention to make the permitting and endorsement process for motorcyclists be a more meaningful evaluation of their skills and also making endorsement testing more difficult for riders seeking to get a license.
As another year comes to a close, it is a great time to reflect on what has been generally a successful year for the Powersports industry, according to Jeremy Jensen, president of the Motorsports Group at Wells Fargo CDF, who reports some consistency from previous years, unexpected strengths, and a few areas of opportunity for next year:
UTVs -- Retail of side-by-sides saw a nice rebound in the second half of the year, some of which was weather driven, and the segment continues to grow in the mid-single digits per year.
ATVs -- Sales of ATVs have been consistently solid throughout the year, and expected to be up by low single digits by the end of 2019, with much of the growth coming in the 400-600cc sector. Given typical cannibalization of ATV by the UTV sector, this is a promising result year over year.
Motorcycles -- Overall, motorcycle retail sales are very similar with 2018 levels, however, different product groups are driving strength and weakness. Sport bikes, which was a successful sector last year (specifically <500cc), has fallen back. Off-road bikes, however, will be up by double digits percentage with dual sport models also posting growth this year. Heavyweight motorcycles remain a key industry challenge as the industry continues to adjust to the preferences of the millennial generation. 
Product innovation continues to be strong with technical advancements, new models, and improved performance and comfort. Whether it’s being able to connect your phone, a more advanced GPS system, or an improved suspension, vendors are leveraging technology and looking for ways to enhance the rider experience.
From a dealer standpoint, a great area of opportunity is continuing to focus on building the local rider community.  Organize events, let people feel and experience the products, introduce diversified groups of people to powersports, and continue to leverage social media as a way to reach new audiences.
Manufacturers have their own unique approach. They’re shifting to smaller displacement vehicles at lower price points and an increased focus on bringing new technological elements to the vehicles.  This allows riders of all backgrounds and experience levels to have access to the industry and feel connected to the broader community.  “In the end,” Jensen advises, “we’re trying to encourage a lifestyle, not just a product.”

The idea of fitting an airbag to the front of a motorcycle has been around for almost as long as the airbag itself, and Honda pioneered the technology on its Gold Wing over a decade ago, but for the system they recently patented, the airbag launches vertically in front of the rider instead of mounting atop the center console.
The main problem for motorcycle designers wanting to incorporate one on a bike is packaging. While cars have plenty of space within the dashboard, side pillars and seats to stash the airbag and its inflation hardware, motorcycles are almost always devoid of such space. The new system that Honda has just registered shows a small, airbag system that is compact enough that it can be mounted within the front-end bodywork of a small motorcycle or even a scooter.
QUOTABLE QUOTE: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes."
~ Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) 1835-1910, American writer, humorist
ABOUT AIM / NCOM: The National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) is a nationwide motorcyclists rights organization serving over 2,000 NCOM Member Groups throughout the United States, with all services fully-funded through Aid to Injured Motorcyclist (AIM) Attorneys available in each state who donate a portion of their legal fees from motorcycle accidents back into the NCOM Network of Biker Services ( / 800-ON-A-BIKE).

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