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Rowena Crest - Mayer State Park

Rowena Crest – Mayer State Park

“I want to work in a cube behind a desk while my friends are out exploring the world on motorcycles this summer!”

…Said no one ever.

It sounds crazy when it’s phrased that way.  I know this might surprise you, but being a motorcycle blogger has nothing to do with sitting in a dimly lit room hunched over a laptop slowly developing carpal tunnel while eating Cheetos and drinking Diet Coke.  I know… Shocking.

Bikers For Christ Meeting

Bikers For Christ Meeting

It’s about capturing those wind in the face moments from the road.

We’ve had a truly incredible run of good weather here in the Northwest.  Summertime is in full swing and these warm, sunny days have the roads filled with bikers.  It’s possibly record setting for the number of days without rain in July and last Saturday I had the chance to put on 200+ miles riding to Tygh Valley and around Mt. Hood.  Some buddies were headed to Run 21 for a couple of days and I was doing a ride along for the day to get some “seat miles” before I set out on another longer trip to Utah/Nevada in a few days.

Hwy 197 heading toward Tygh Valley

Hwy 197 heading toward Tygh Valley

Run 21 is put on by the SE Portland Chapter ABATE of Oregon.  The event is an old-school biker rally and has been held annually for 14 consecutive years.  There is a great outdoor concert venue nestled in Tygh Valley and according to the rally flyer there was a good line up of music this year.

Our group headed out east on I-84 mid-morning and there was a strikingly white Mt. Hood in the distance against bright blue sunny skies.  We stopped for lunch in Hood River, and as we departed you could take in the scent of peach and pear trees in the warm fresh air.  At Mosier we took the Highway 30 scenic road up to Mayer State Park and the Rowena Crest.  From this vantage you can soak in the wide-angle views of the Columbia River and the Gorge.  There happen to be a “Bikers For Christ” meeting at the crest with 30+ riders in attendance.

Mt. Hood from Hwy 197 looking West

Mt. Hood from Hwy 197 looking West

We headed south at the junction of I-84 and Highway 197.  We stopped in the small farming town of Dufur for some refreshments and walked through the historic Balch Hotel lobby.  Nice B&B if you’re ever in need of a laid back weekend.

We continued on toward Tygh Valley where the rest of the group planned to exit for the camp ground.  Unfortunately at the junction of Highway 197 (The Dalles-California Hwy) and Tygh Valley Road (map HERE) there were two motorcycles involved in an accident.

Tygh Valley Motorcycle Accident

Tygh Valley Motorcycle Accident

It was about 3pm and according to the Wasco County Sheriff department the two riders were side-by-side and somehow got hooked up and went down.  No automobile was involved and no citations were issued.  One rider was taken by ambulance to Mid-Columbia in The Dalles and the other rider was taken by Life flight to Emmanuel Hospital in Portland.  No names or additional information about the riders conditions were reported.  Hopefully all goes well for these riders.

On Highway 26 and Mt. Hood

On Highway 26 and Mt. Hood

I had to backtrack a little around the accident on old US Hwy 197 (Tygh Valley Rd) and then headed west on Highway 216 (Wapinitia Hwy).   This is a nice two-lane road that skirts through a short section of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and into the forest boundary.  I intersected with Highway 26 and headed up over Government Camp and then back into Portland.

It’s an awesome time to be outdoors on a motorcycle, and I hope you’re taking the opportunity to put some serious miles on your bike.

Photos taken by author.

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UO Football Helmet

UO Football Helmet — Go Ducks!

Different helmets do different things. There are hard hats on construction and heavy-industry heads; football helmets on athletes’ heads, Kevlar® caps on military heads and DOT certified helmets on motorcyclist heads.

None are interchangeable.  However, the motorcyclist in this photo might disagree.

On the weekend I was driving on Highway 217 and came upon this motorcyclist flashing some new reflectivity protective head gear – a University of Oregon football helmet!

I’m not sure if this “learning moment” is one where we ridicule his fashion faux pas or criticize the multiple color combinations of motorcycle, helmet, shirt, pants, socks and shoes, and how they’ll never pass the Nike-design standard.  But, most concerning is the specific amount of retroreflective material on the helmet and how it may well exceed state standards!

Huh?

Yep, a number of states have exact information on the location and number of square inches of retroreflective material required on motorcycle helmets.  I’m currently researching this fun fact and will report an update when I learn if Oregon has such a requirement embedded in the helmet law.

Motorcycle helmets are very sophisticated and specialized for an activity. They’ve been developed carefully and scientifically over the years and wearing a DOT helmet properly strapped on your head is mandatory in the state of Oregon.  If you want to read more about Oregon helmet laws go HERE.  If you’re interested in helmet standards go HERE.  The NHTSA is proposing to amend several aspects of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets HERE.

But, this is all a moot point, because this “safety-minded motorcyclist” just planted another seed of doubt in the minds of non-riders – some who already question the rationale of motorcycle ownership in general – that wearing a football helmet means motorcyclists are not responsible people; we don’t take ourselves and motorcycling serious and no matter what the law says, it’s about projecting an attitude…

We’ve heard this tune before.  Many call it stupid and other’s will call it living.

Photo taken by author. 

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Random-CheckpointIn Oregon non-DOT motorcycle helmets are ALLOWED by definition under ORS 801.366.  See page #59 (HERE).

Independent of your views on the usage of these helmets, many riders would agree that motorcycle-ONLY safety checkpoints are inappropriate.  Yet in spite of the activism and involvement from the motorcycle community to stop or prohibit federal funds for motorcycle-ONLY checkpoints the progress hasn’t always been favorable.

Case in point is the Court of Appeals for the New York Second Circuit which backed roadblocks for the purpose of issuing motorcycle citations.

The back story is that in 2007, the New York State Police began using federal taxpayer grant money to target these motorcyclists with the stated objective “to detect motorcycle safety violations and ensure proper registration and operator compliance with New York State’s motorcycle license requirements.  The first roadblock was set up on October 7, 2007 to hit participants returning from a motorcycle rally nearby in Connecticut. Signs were posted on Interstate 84 ordering motorcycle riders to “exit ahead” while a uniformed police officer directed traffic into a rest area. From there, a total of 280 motorcyclists were detained and forced to undergo “full-blown inspections” that generated 104 traffic tickets. The most common citation was for improper helmet.

In 2008, a total of 17 roadblocks were held, detaining 2278 motorcyclists who were issued 600 tickets for infractions that had nothing to do with safety. Another 365 citations were issued for use of an unapproved helmet. Several detained bikers sued the state police after they were detained 45 minutes or more.

In U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe rejected the motorcyclists’ argument that the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applied to this case.  To get around the constitutional need for individualized suspicion of wrongdoing before a seizure, courts have created a “special needs” doctrine that allows roadblock programs serving a particular government need.

In this situation, the state produced statistics that showed motorcycle fatalities dropped 17 percent in the same year that motorcycle helmet ticketing increased 2175 percent, and Judge Sharpe agreed this was proof that the roadblock’s primary purpose was safety. The courts then must balance whether the government need to enhance safety is greater than the interference with individual liberty.

The appellate judges agreed with the lower court’s analysis that it was:  “Applying this balancing test, we conclude that the well catalogued public interest in highway safety is well served by the safety checkpoint program and outweighs the interference with individual liberty in this case,” the second circuit ruled in a brief, summary opinion. “Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that there was no constitutional violation.” A copy of the summary order of November 29, 2012 is at: Wagner v. Sprague (US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 11/29/2012).

I choose to wear a DOT approved helmet, but I dislike discriminatory checkpoints.  Have you been to the Laughlin River Run lately and rode out to Oatman, Arizona on the Oatman-Topock Highway?  How about return to the hotel from a concert at the Buffalo Chip during Sturgis week?  Random LEO check points are the norm.  Officers invade your personal space to check for alcohol.

Could Oregon be next to implement similar “safety” initiatives?  Hopefully not, but you might recall that at an ABATE rally in Olympia, WA a few years ago it become a photo op for “profiling” riders and law enforcement writing down license plate information (video HERE).  In 2011, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5242  which outlaws profiling of motorcyclists and earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law California Bill AB 1047 which outlaws motorcycle only checkpoints.

If motorcycle only checkpoints raise your blood pressure then write or ride to the Oregon capitol in February and talk to your state legislators.  Explain to them that there is no reason why anybody in any state should be profiling any particular group including motorcyclists and you want them to stop it.

Photo courtesy Doug Chanco.  The 2012 Biker Rally at the Capitol HERE.

UPDATE:  Added the link to Oregon helmet law history HERE.

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Motorcycle enthusiasts in any given year will lobby and go to the mat on legislation issues that affect their hobby in the Northwest.

In Washington state one such bill was SB 5242  —  known as the biker profiling bill – it recently passed into law.   The bill prohibits singling out bikers for police stops without a legitimate reason. Motorcycle profiling is defined as when law enforcement officers single out people who ride motorcycles or wear biker “clothing,” stopping, questioning, searching or arresting them without legal grounds.

Motorcycle clubs who feel they have been singled out over the years see this as a major victory.  However, it’s a win for all motorcyclists in a way that the media isn’t really talking much about. Let me explain.

You might recall that I blogged about the NHTSA who recently made funds available to state, county and local law enforcement agencies to run “motorcycle only” checkpoints. The funds were recently applied for and granted in Florida, and as you can imagine during Daytona Bike Week there was a motorcycle only checkpoint in operation and the bikers-as well as the AMA- went ballistic.

Under the new Washington State law this supposedly cannot happen. Washington State Police (WSP) has stated that although they would not have applied for the funds regardless, that would not have stopped sheriffs and city law enforcement from applying. However, under the new bill they cannot … until someone decides to run county or city legislation to override the state law…

UPDATE: May 16, 2011 – Interesting and well articulated alternative viewpoint from Brian O’Neill (LEO) on how SB 5242 targets the wrong folks (police officer training) and this will get in the way of disrupting gang activity in Washington state.

Photo courtesy of Photobucket

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Dave Zien

Florida’s warm breezes welcomed the motorcycle community to what most consider the grand opening of the east coast motorcycle season.

I’ve been to Daytona Beach for the Daytona 500, but unfortunately never able to visit during Bike week.  Something to add to my ‘bucket list’ I suppose as Bruce Rossmeyers Harley Davidson at Destination Daytona and New Smyrna Harley Davidson play host to tens of thousands of bikers from around the world.   There are a number of biker venues like, Main Street’s Boothill Saloon, Iron Horse Saloon, Cabbage Patch, Gilly’s Pub 44, Broken Spoke Saloon, and Froggys to keep a person occupied.

The official stats have yet to be released, but antidotal media reports suggest that attendance is a bit mixed.  Some merchants blamed the economy and/or high gas prices for a less than spectacular attendance record this year..  One attendee interviewed by the local paper said:

“People just don’t have as much discretionary money to spend on a bike. And let’s face it, this is a frivolous vacation,” said Phil McAllister, pausing before adding, “But it’s still a lot of fun.”

I’m not sure if this is a predictor of the 2011 riding/rally season across the U.S. or not.  What do you think?  Will you be attending more, same or fewer motorcycle rallies than last year?  I’ll be attending fewer this year due to scheduling issues.

But, there were a couple of other notable items that will mark this years Bike week in the history books.  One was a sonic boom as the space shuttle Discovery began its rapid descent over the Atlantic Ocean and skillful final landing. After 39 missions, the space shuttle Discovery landed for the last time March 10th at Kennedy Space Center, about an hour from Daytona Beach.  The other and one that is most unfortunate was former Wisconsin state Sen. Dave Zien and AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer was seriously injured on Sunday in a motorcycle accident in Florida.

The accident occurred at 6:15 a.m. Sunday on eastbound Interstate 10 near Marianna in Jackson County.  Mr. Zien was driving in the inside lane when a Ford SUV crossed over from the right lane and into the median. The driver lost control of the vehicle and it rolled, flipping onto its side on the interstate facing north.

Zien attempted to avoid the crash scene but was unable to, clipping the back of the SUV. Zien was thrown from his 2009 Harley-Davidson bike where he was reported to have lost part of his left leg, and was airlifted to Tallahassee Memorial Medical Center, where at last report he was in stable condition.

Mr. Zien is best known as an AMA Hall of Famer, for defending motorcyclists’ rights while serving in the Wisconsin Legislature and true to his words he was not wearing a helmet in this accident.  Mr. Zien served as vice president of the Wisconsin Better Bikers Association and was known for riding around on his Harley-Davidson with a full-size American and Wisconsin flags on his bike. In addition, back in 2005, Zien was the main author of the Wisconsin RURA (Roadway Users Responsibility Act) 466.  That bill provides for increased penalties for vehicle operators who violate the right-of-way of other roadway users.  And in my opinion I hope there is a similar law in Florida because the driver of the SUV, Ryan G. Matheny of Marietta, OH., was charged with failure to maintain lane and driving with a suspended license.

Here’s hoping Mr. Zien a speedy recovery.

Photo courtesy of AMA.

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It’s the mother of motorcycle parades and it benefits children.

I’m talking about the Portland, Oregon annual Toy Run this Saturday (December 4th) which benefits children at OHSU’s Dornbecker Children’s Hospital.

The major organizer and motorcycle advocacy group for the event is ABATE and this year will mark 31 years.  In previous year’s turnout there have been thousands of riders, but more important are the toys collected for sick kids.  The Toy Run brings together Harleys, Hondas, clubbers, and even the occasional Vespa scooter.  The ABATE members hold a motorcycle raffle to help raise money for the hospital and shortly after noon the police will escort riders followed by a Tri-Met bus full of toys to the Shriners Hospital.

See you there…

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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Tomorrow, on Veterans Day, my heartfelt thanks is extended to all veterans and their families.

This is not a day of celebration, rather a day of reflection to honor those who currently serve in harms way and have sacrificed on our behalf.

You are not forgotten.

Photo taken at Wanker’s Corner Saloon during Sept 11th celebration.

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About a week ago in Josephine county it was time for the 7th annual Grants Pass Toy Run.

In case you are unfamiliar with toy runs, they are about bikers of all persuasion getting together to help disadvantage children during a bad time in their life.  Or another way to say it is these are children who would have a minimal or no Christmas had it not been for the direct effort of a toy run event.  Most if not all of the toy runs are supported by ABATE members and ABATE of Oregon exists to promote the rights and interests of all motorcyclists, both patch holders and independents alike.

But, there is an unfortunate pattern developing in law enforcement in some parts of the country which was visible in Grants Pass, Oregon on October 3rd.

Officials stated that police and fire personnel would not to take part in a charity “toy run” because members of the Vagos MC were in attendance.  Specifically Deputy Chief Bill Landis told the Daily Courier that the city considers the Vagos MC to be a criminal organization and took what amounts to a “there goes the neighborhood a’tude.”

Motorcycle clubs are often prominent at charity events, such as toy runs.  The non-motorcycle riding public might conclude from the city’s police and fire personnel actions that any motorcyclist attending a toy run is possibly affiliated with a criminal enterprise.  It’s true that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has weighed in on the topic complaining of the bad publicity for motorcycling in general caused by so-called “outlaw” clubs.  They’ve previously stated that the presence of these clubs at charity events has actually harmed the needy by driving down public participation and reducing donations. The shootout’s between rival motorcycle clubs in the midst of a charity toy drive have not helped.  In fact, they have influenced authorities in some states to attempt a ban on certain clubs from charity events, or to restrict the wearing of colors at those events.  This in turn prompted litigation in Pennsylvania on the unfair exclusions.

Before you get the wrong idea… does giving presents to boys and girls make up for bad things that some of the motorcycle club members do?  No.  But, neither should we consider ALL cops bad because some of them instead of catching criminals ARE criminals?

I’ve participated in a number of toy runs and find this maneuvering and attempt to cast a guilt by association on what otherwise would be acts of kindness for kids very disappointing.

Previous posts about the Vagos MC in Grants Pass are HERE and “Operation Everywhere” HERE.

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger


Recently California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed SB 435 into law (without comment).

Sure, I’ve got an opinion.  I’ve got thoughts, but I decided not to write anything at the time because I just wasn’t in the correct mood.  Content is important, but feel is key.  How do the words flow together, I’m I overly biased, is the reader gripped?

All good questions, but back to the main point… SB 435 requires all street motorcycles built after 2012 to have EPA-labeled exhausts and includes rising penalties for noncompliance.  Interestingly is that ABATE took a neutral position on this bill.

Isn’t this how it always happens.  You’re having a grand old time, enjoying the moment and then someone announces their child peed in the shallow end of the pool as you watch everyone exit the water and wonder about the level of chlorination.

The fact is that laws which regulate the motorcycle aftermarket have been in place for many years and specifically on aftermarket exhausts, the Feds mandate (in the Code of Federal Regulations Part 86, Subparts E and F) that new on-road motorcycles are required to meet limits on specific chemical emissions and that all motorcycles built after 1985 meet a stationary noise limit of 80dB. Furthermore, under Section 203 of the Clean Air Act, it is illegal for any person to remove or bypass (“tamper” with) any piece of equipment that helps a vehicle meet the above standards. To eliminate confusion, manufacturers are required to use matching standardized labels on both the frame and exhaust of any motorcycle to meet these requirements.

It’s true that the aftermarket exhaust manufacturers are quite adept at including detailed disclaimers with their products as being “closed-course-only” use and clearly stating that installation would violate federal law. But, I’m not aware of any dealer in the northwest who has discontinued selling and/or installing aftermarket performance exhaust/parts.  It seems there is this entire segment of the motorcycle industry operating in a gray area of the law that now have their days numbered.

Harley-Davidson 2012 models will launch in 10 months (August 2011) and this new law does not bode well for riders across the country.  Why? Historically, California emissions laws developed by the California Air Resources Board tend to become federal law (for example: EPA New Emissions Standards).

Laughing photo courtesy of Mr. Schwazenegger.

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The history of mandatory Helmet Laws in Oregon is a convoluted yet interesting journey back in time.

The year was 1966 and the Interstate Highway System was under construction with massive amounts of federal funds from gasoline taxes.  Each state had to pony up only 10% in matching funds to participate in this huge construction project and all the jobs it created.

Then in 1967, to increase motorcycle helmet use, the federal government required the states to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and the above highway construction funds.  The federal incentives or rather the threat of a reduction in construction funds worked!  State after state fell to the federal “blackmail” threat.  In Oregon the legislature first instated helmet use laws on January 1, 1968 where they remained in place until 1977.

As an aside, in 1971 the Easyriders Magazine Editor, Lou Kimsey started A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments (ABATE).  The acronym fit at the time as unelected federal bureaucrats were in fact using coercion on state legislators to have specific laws enacted within the states.

In 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws and shortly thereafter began a pattern of repeal, reenactment, and amendment of motorcycle helmet laws.  Specifically in Oregon, on October 4, 1977 the helmet law was repealed for age 18 and over.

Then twelve years later on June 16, 1989 the mandatory helmet law in Oregon was reinstated for all motorcyclists by voter referendum.   By all accounts this was one of the lowest turnout elections in Oregon history and it had become a fairly common trend in the state,  where-in off-season election years — which typically had low voter turnout — legislators worked to jam through bond measures, tax increases and other unpopular measures on residents.

Then in 1997 the federal government (NHTSA) reported that although helmets were the principal countermeasure for reducing crash-related head injuries and the leading cause of death among unhelmeted riders, motorcyclist deaths were at a record all time low.  Along the way a funny thing happened — any federal funding tied to state motorcycle helmet laws seemed to evaporate.

In the same year along came Oregon House Bill 2454 and the first real opportunity to change helmet laws.  The intent of HB 2454 was to repeal mandatory motorcycle and moped helmet requirements for operators and passengers over 21 years of age.  The measure required the Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services to investigate whether the elimination of the helmet requirement for those 21 years and older increases the need for and feasibility of personal injury protection insurance for motorcyclists.  There was concern based on the cost of the Oregon Health Plan system that medical expenses would rise for un-helmeted motorcycle accidents and the state would foot the bill.  At the time failure to wear a motorcycle helmet was a Class D traffic infraction.  The violation was reduced from a Class C traffic infraction back in the 1995 legislature.

The House and Senate unanimously passed the HB 2454 bill, yet then Governor John Kitzhaber (D) on the last day (15 August 1997) before it would have automatically become law vetoed the adult pro-choice bill under the guise of it being a “threat to the health and safety of Oregonians.”  Below is the Governor’s Veto Message:

I am returning herewith HB 2454, unsigned and disapproved.

The bill would repeal the motorcycle helmet law for riders 21 years of age and older. While I respect motorcycle riders’ desire to choose whether to wear helmets, maintaining the current law is clearly in the best interests of the citizens of Oregon. This is consistent with the public position I have held on this issue for almost 20 years. I am vetoing this bill, based not only on my experience as an emergency room physician, but also because the research clearly demonstrates that motorcycle helmet laws save lives, prevent injuries, and save public dollars.

Helmeted riders have 28-73% lower death rates than un-helmeted riders and helmet usage reduces the incidence of severe head injury by 46-85%. States with helmet laws have death rates 20-40% lower than states without such laws. Helmet usage is 90-98% in states with mandatory laws, and only about 50% in those without. Un-helmeted riders have higher medical care costs

than helmeted riders in crashes, and the majority of the costs are paid by the public rather than by the injured motorcyclist. If our helmet law were to be repealed, Oregon Medical Assistance Program estimates an increased expenditure of over $6 million of public funds per biennium to pay for additional health care costs.

In addition, Oregonians showed strong support for mandatory motorcycle helmets when they overwhelmingly approved the 1988 referendum by a 2 – 1 margin. The measure passed in every county. A recent poll conducted by an independent research firm has shown that the people of this state continue to support the helmet law by a wide margin.

I will continue to oppose repealing the motorcycle helmet law based on my concern for the health of Oregon motorcyclists and my commitment to the judicious use of public funds. As I have stated in the past, the only way I would consider signing such a measure into law would be if those who are advocating freedom of choice for adult riders would also ensure that those exercising such a freedom also accept the full economic responsibility for their actions.

Now after seven years of being out of politics John Kitzhaber (62) wants a do-over and says he’ll be a better governor…this time.  I’m betting not for motorcyclists.  Disregard that as an emergency room physician he just knows what’s best for the people of the state.  Never mind that he voted so many times for higher taxes that it earned him the nickname “Taxhaber” or that he vetoed so many Republican bills that they called him “Dr. No” or that in his last term he publically announced in frustration that the state was “ungovernable.”  He was right.  He couldn’t.

In fairness, the ex-Gov. Kitzhaber did sign on June 11, 2001, the HB 3885 bill where motorcyclists won the right to pump their own gasoline.  Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states that prohibit self-serve gas pumps and after going into law motorcycles were the only class of vehicle allowed to dispense fuel into their tanks.  Prior to this law going into effect on January 1, 2002 it was an arm wrestling match with the local high-school pump jockey about who was the fuel expert for your specific brand of motorcycle.

There you have it.  The helmet law history in Oregon.

Full Disclosure:  I support the choice to wear a motorcycle helmet and do. However, I also have opinions on government intrusion in my personal freedom and my right as an adult to choose and make bad choices.

Sources: The Motorcycle Riders Foundation; Insurance Institute For Highway Safety; Oregon State Legislature; Oregon Catalyst; NHTSA; Oregon Watchdog

Photo’s courtesy of Internet.

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