United States – Down through the years whilst representing riders at various level of governmental representation, we have always been facilitated by having a position at the table, enabling riders to speak and thus engage in dialogue on motorcycling issues.
We, or rather, the organisations we have represented, have never been denied a place at the table even when other rider organisations and those with a special interest on motorcycle issues have all been welcome to the table.
From mainland Europe to the UK to Northern Ireland as individuals, or representing a coalition of international motorcycle organisations, only once has our exclusion been sought by another rider organisation, but this was rejected by government officials, who welcomed the input that all rider groups bring to the table.
If as a rider organisation you become faced with exclusion from rider representation at a nationwide motorcycle advisory council, despite support from your political representatives to allow the motorcycle community a strong voice on the Council, what do you do?
Failing Adequate Representation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) in Washington DC is the rider organisation facing this exclusion. The MRF provides leadership at federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders, a network of over 250,000 motorcycle riders representing all 50 states.
The MRF is chiefly concerned with issues at the national and international levels that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists.
While the MRF is committed to being a national advocate for the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle and works in conjunction with its partners to help educate elected officials and policymakers in Washington and beyond, the MRF this discourse simply wants to ensure that the unique needs, experiences, and requirements of motorcyclists from across the U.S. are being considered and heard in the Federal Highway Administration’s Motorcyclist Advisory Council.
The Motorcyclist Advisory Council
Reauthorized in the latest highway bill in 2016, the Motorcyclist Advisory Council or ‘MAC’ was created to coordinate with and counsel the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on infrastructure and other issues that affect motorcyclists.
It was originally conceptualized in 2005, and designed to allow the motorcycle community a dialogue with government officials; the only one of its kind. Previous iterations of the group also held 10 seats, however unlike the current parameters, 4 of the 10 council members included representatives from the motorcycling community from various state and federal motorcycle associations.
When the MAC was reauthorized, the Federal Highway Administration eliminated all but one of these, only calling for 1 representative from the motorcycling community with the other 9 positions to be filled by experts in roadway data, design and engineering.
On Tuesday of last week at the first meeting of the MAC, Megan Ekstrom, Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation was able to deliver “Prepared Remarks” along with a petition of 5,000 signatures demanding that the Council designate additional seats to represent the motorcycle rider community.
The MRF called on the Secretary of Transportation to add 3 additional seats to the MAC; another seat for a national motorcycle rider’s association dedicated to on-street riders as well as at least two other seats for regional motorcycle riders’ associations.
Stating that, “Adding these three seats will ensure a balanced and fair composition to the Council and will adequately represent the voice and concerns of street motorcyclists across the nation.”
Support for this position sees Members of Congress weighing in. The Senate issued a letter, led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) asking for additional seats for motorcycle riders association. The letter, sent in February, included Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation which has jurisdiction over transportation-related matters.
The U.S. House of Representatives issued its own letter to Secretary Chao, outlining their own concerns and asking the Secretary of Transportation to allow the motorcycle community a strong voice on the Council. The letter stated, “It is critical to allow motorcyclists to have a strong voice on this Council. These are the individuals who have experience and can provide a motorcyclist’s insights on the challenges and benefits of our roadways. Depending on where they live, riders have unique experiences and are differently impacted by roadway and barrier design, and construction, among others.”
Ability To Speak
Other rider groups attended this first meeting in the audience, this included Andy Kelly. Kelly, a rider for most of his life and a member of ABATE of Pennsylvania, which stands for “Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education” made the trip to Washington, DC to attend the meeting after signing the petition. A handful of other motorcycle riders representing various state and local rider associations were also in the audience, allowed to listen, but not officially weigh in on issues that affect them as riders.
In the MRF prepared remarks, Megan Ekstrom stated that, “First, I want to be very clear that our grievances are in no way intended to be an attack or criticism of the 10 current appointees to the MAC. Each one of these individuals (several of which I know personally) bring important areas of expertise to the table.” recognising, “That the majority of the appointees are motorcycle riders themselves and can speak to their own individual riding experience.
Megan also stated that associations (like the MRF) have the ability to speak on behalf of a larger group of individuals, identifying common ground, areas of interest and prioritization of issues. They can point out different concerns in various parts of the country, geographically identifying where needs are most urgent based on feedback from their extensive member networks.
While the AMA – American Riders Association – mentioned in the MRF remarks, with a seat at the table as one association which may help to fulfil this role, the MRF are concerned with others – almost 40 members of congress from both the House and Senate, both Republican and Democrat, that only one voice to speak on behalf of 8.5 million riders is not enough.
Megan Ekstrom from the MRF stated, “This is an example of government at its worst,” adding, “The purpose of this group is to advise on issues important to motorcyclists, how can the MAC identify and prioritize these issues, without adequate rider representation?” Megan finished that the, “MRF simply wants to ensure that the unique needs, experiences, and requirements of motorcyclists from across the U.S. are being considered and heard.”
With our past experience and now on the fringes of representation and meetings, we can only offer our simple but strong support for the MRF getting their riders voices heard and being able to draw up a seat to the table.
Original Source – Motorcycle Riders Foundation
Website – mrf.org
Facebook – bikers.rights