Here is my Road Signs column for the November issue of QuickThrottle magazine, available at better and lesser motorcycle shops, (including the Evening Magazine Award Winning "Best of Western Washington" motorcycle dealer, Downtown Harley-Davidson of Renton). Warning, I was a wee bit grumpier than usual when I wrote it.
Wanna know what’s wrong with Government? I’ll tell you. We are. We are what’s wrong with it. We voters get what we deserve, we truly do. I mean how else do we explain the current state of political affairs both locally and nationally? Time and time again we see important policy debates and discussions influenced by people who can’t be bothered learning the facts. You have to question just how many of the problems this state and this country are facing have been caused by people who shouldn’t be involved in the process in the first place. And no, I’m not just talking about people who may disagree with me. I welcome that – an honest sincere discussion based on facts and rational arguments is one thing as opposed to people who either make stuff up as they go along, or who want only easy solutions to complex problems.
A perfect example of this – the upcoming vote this month in Seattle on whether or not to apply another $60 fee to renew vehicle license tabs. Only a tiny fraction of this goes to actually fixing roads, the rest goes to “planning” and “studies” and “transit”. And not even to expanded bus routes or hours or things like that, it goes towards things designed to “improve” transit, whatever that is. If you think this goes to fixing roads, think again. Yet the campaign in favor of this says “improve transportation, get Seattle moving”. Ummm, how does do that? Don’t ask them that, you won’t get an honest answer. But the numbskulls in Seattle who seem to think that money grows on trees will likely support this, and more folks will move away or license their vehicles in another county, and less money will come in, the roads will continue to deteriorate, and nothing will get done and I’ll disappear into a sinkhole along Beach Drive while riding my Dyna down to Alki beach for a bite to eat. If I don’t show up in the December issue that’s why – come search the chuckholes in West Seattle.
We as riders deserve better don’t you think? This is why I was a somewhat giddy when in an early Republican Presidential debate, Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah (who has a snowballs chance in Hades of winning), said when asked what he’d bring to the White House, answered: “My wife will kill me, but I’m bringing my Harley-Davidson motorcycle”. This guy’s got guts! Don’t you think we as riders deserve a President who rides and understands what it is all about and why we ride? We’d actually have someone in Government who understands us! I mean think about it! I can just picture it:
- He’d wear chaps to his swearing in on the West font of the Capitol
- The inaugural parade to the White House would sound like Rolling Thunder
- The First Lady would either ride on the back of the black Presidential Ultra Classic (Now named HOG -1) with the Presidential Seal on the tank, or she’d ride her own “First Lady Softail Deluxe”.
- There would be an executive order repealing helmet and noise standards issued by the DOT.
- Highway trust fund dollars would go to highway projects that actually improved roads.
- Motorcycle safety and awareness would be a major national campaign.
- The annual First Family vacation would be to Sturgis.
Actually I don’t think Sturgis is a good idea, all those secret service agents would surely put a damper on the fun. All kidding aside, it would be a great thing to have someone in the highest office in the land, right down to the local mayor’s office who rides and understands just what it is we riders are facing out there and how Government helps and hinders that. I’ve said this over and over in the past: get to know your local elected folks, find out if they ride, talk to them about rider issues.
And for God’s sake don’t make stuff up as you go along and get all tangled up in side issues and nonsense. Don’t be a Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin. Each time one of them opens their mouth I think to myself, “damn those people in Minnesota and Alaska”. After all they didn’t elect themselves. If we want Government to be responsive to us, to take into account what it is we want, we have to be smarter about our choices. Yeah, we are all over the map when it comes to political beliefs, but we surely aren’t a country full of idiots, yet our political and potential political leadership often reflects this.
Now I have a “biker wish list” for things that I’d like to see our elected officials focus on that are both attainable and make some sense and will do some good. I’d hope our rider advocacy groups would agree with me and focus on these as well. All of these don’t require “new” laws, and massive expenditures of tax dollars and are politically doable -- as opposed to pie in the sky things like helmet law repeal.
- Stricter enforcement of licensing laws. You can’t drive a semi without a commercial endorsement, you can’t drive a school bus, or a taxi without one either. You have to at least prove you can operate one safely in order to be granted that privilege. The same goes for riders. We aren’t doing enough to make sure riders have endorsements and have at least a modicum of skill and common sense to operate a motorcycle.
- Stricter enforcement of the cell phone law. On a simple short ride to lunch the other day I encountered five cages all with folks holding a cell phone to their ear, one of which was a mom in a mini van who rolled through a stop sign as I was turning and came close to hitting me. This isn’t a hard one to do, and I think a rash of tickets would remind folks of this law and go a long way to making us safer.
- Get the state to use all those nifty new electronic signs up and down our roads to remind drivers to watch out for Motorcycles. It’s simple, it doesn’t cost squat, and it works.
- Advocate for spending on road repair and maintenance. No more bike lanes, no more “traffic calming”, no more green boxes and “sharrows” until the roads are paved and fixed!
Why do you think that such a small group as the bicycle riders get everything they want and more? They actually pay attention and work to elect people who will push for their priorities. We as riders don’t do that, and it shows. We get hassled – they get money for bike lanes and the expense of car lanes. We could learn a thing or two.
But no, we get what we deserve because we don’t pay attention, we don’t vote, we want simple answers, and we “don’t follow politics”, whether its national or local or even the elected leaders in our motorcycle advocacy groups. No one lives in a vacuum and this is exactly what’s wrong with our government. So we won’t get a Harley riding President, and we’ll get stuck with higher car tab fees and crumbling roads. Yep, we get what we deserve.
Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com