You know the old saying “S*it happens”. It really should also say “Change happens.” It’s inevitable. In life, in the seasons, and in politics. It’s Fall now, wet and windy and winter on the horizon. In Washington this year will see a new Governor elected, as well as a slew of new legislators, and we may even get a new President. Yes, change happens. It’s how we address it that counts.
The other day a fellow in my Seattle HOG Chapter came up to me as I was getting ready to lead a ride and said “Hey Gary, if you ever need a body on the ground in Olympia, let me know I’d be interested.” Well, contrary to what many may think, I am not, the motorcycle lobbyist in Olympia. I have way too much to do representing my existing clients down there. No, I’m just a guy with a big mouth and a column in Quick Throttle. However, I do know this. The riding community is sorely in need of “bodies on the ground” in Olympia. By that I mean folks making contact with and visiting their legislators, letting them know what issues are important to us as riders, and what impacts legislation has.
My long-time readers must think I sound like a broken record, but I’m going to say it again. It’s crucial that we as riders make our voice heard by talking to our state legislators. Yes, we can and should do it one on one with them, but we don’t always have the time to do that. And we don’t always have to do it ourselves because one of the most effective ways to make our voice heard is by joining forces by joining and getting involved in one of the rider advocacy groups. Without a doubt the most effective of those I believe is the Washington Road Riders Association (WRRA). Their long-suffering lobbyist is Larry “Texas” Walker, and he does a fantastic job representing all of us as riders. But he suffers from two things; a lack of money, and a lack of folks to help him out. Now Larry will be the first to say it’s not WRRA and him alone – there’s others, like ABATE and US Defenders and COIR, and he’s right. But as far as being there when it counts, in my 23 years in Olympia, it’s always been WRRA or a predecessor organization that’s led the effort and been involved in every issue affecting riders.
ABATE and their chapters put together the motorcycle lobbying day in Olympia known as Black Thursday (because of all the black leather folks wear when visiting the Capitol), that is but a one-day event. This coming year its on January 17st, , three days into the session and you should plan on going if you can. And while Black Thursday does a great job of reminding legislators that the riding community is paying attention, it is just a one-day event early in the session that can slog on for 100 or more days. It also tends to focus on a singular issue or two, mainly helmet laws. The real key to making sure our voice gets heard is consistency and constant presence on all issues affecting riders. That’s where WRRA comes in. That’s why it’s so important that we as a community join WRRA or other broad motorcycle riders groups, such as The Motorcycle Riders Foundation and the American Motorcyclist Association.
WRRA is already in the process of developing its legislative strategy for the upcoming session, and will be focusing on a lot of things. One key issue they will be pushing next year is the red-light bill, addressing what to do when our bikes don’t trigger those pesky signal activation sensors. And who knows what else may come up this session, be it noise issues, or brake shoe material or even licensing and taxing issues. One thing I’d love to see happen is something addressing tolling inequities. Why should motorcycle riders be penalized for DOTs failure to find a toll reader that works on bikes, and be charged as much as my Hummer for a toll when I don’t take up as much space? Or maybe even some license and parking incentives for riding rather than driving? How about that for being “green”? But regardless, there will be issues that come up as there always are and the lobbying groups will be there making sure our side is at the table. But like I said, they need your help.
Membership in these organizations is cheap. WRRA is a whopping $25 a year. We all spend that much on coffee a week in this neck of the woods. That little $25 helps a lot, believe me. MRF is $30. AMA is $49 and ABATE is $30. WRRA and ABATE focus mainly in local state issues, MRF and AMA on national ones. Joining is as easy as going to their web page.
Washington Road Riders http://www.roadriders.org
Motorcycle Riders Foundation http://www.mrf.org
American Motorcyclist Assoc. http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com
In my book the local ones are more important since road laws tend to be local and that’s where we all ride most of the time. But pick one – any one, I don’t care. Join it. Get involved. Become one of the “bodies on the ground” when the call comes out for help on a bill in Olympia or Washington DC. In the long run, that’s how change happens, and it’s what keeps s*it from happening.
Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com