THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to
Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM),
and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. For more
information, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit us on our website at
NCOM COAST TO COAST BIKER NEWS
Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists
HOUSE APPROVES TRANSPORTATION ACT, INCLUDING MOTORCYCLE SAFETY INITIATIVES
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to approve a
six-year $284 billion transportation funding measure, which includes
provisions to expand state rider training programs and other motorcycle
safety initiatives. H.R. 3550, the "Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For
Users" (TEA LU), was passed by a vote of 357-56 on April 2, 2004.
The U.S. Senate approved a similar measure, S. 1072, the "Safe, Accountable,
Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act" (SAFE-TEA), by a vote of
76-21 on February 12. The Senate version reauthorizes $318 billion over the
next six years to fund highway, mass transit and safety programs, but does
not include language specifically addressing motorcycle safety concerns.
Both bills will now go to a conference committee, comprised of both Senators
and Representatives, to iron out discrepancies between the two and submit a
final bill to the President for his signature or veto. The White House has
proposed an alternative $256 billion transportation package, and President
Bush has threatened to veto the legislation if costs exceeded that amount.
WISCONSIN LAW PROTECTS HELMETLESS RIDERS Wisconsin Governor James
Doyle signed a bill on Monday, March 15, that will ensure that motorcyclists
who choose not to wear helmets do not face reduced awards in personal injury
cases if they are involved in accidents.
In ruling on an ATV accident two years ago, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said
that a jury could consider a person's decision not to wear a helmet if they
received a head injury in a crash involving a "high speed open air motor
vehicle," and reduce the amount of lawsuit damages paid to that person by up
to 100%. Wisconsin only requires helmets be worn by motorcycle riders and
passengers under 18 years old. "What we're saying in Wisconsin is that if
you do something that is in compliance with the law, it will not be held
against you," said Governor Doyle in signing Senate Bill 223.
S.223, which effectively nullifies the court's 2002 decision by dropping the
allowable reduction amount to zero%, was authored by ardent motorcyclist
Senator Dave Zien at the request of ABATE of Wisconsin. Zien, one of the
founders of the bikers' rights movement in Wisconsin and a longtime member
of the National Coalition of Motorcyclists Legislative Task Force (NCOM-LTF),
says the new law prevents discrimination against motorcyclists by courts and
Zien maintains that helmets contribute to accidents by reducing head
mobility, vision and hearing. Helmet chin straps also can contribute to neck
injuries during accidents, he said. "For the motorcycle community, we don't
want to be forced to wear helmets," Zien told the Lacrosse Tribune.
HELMET WEARING MAY BE A TAXING PROPOSITION Safety or protective
helmets will be exempt from Pennsylvania's state sales tax under legislation
sponsored by Representative Allan Egolf (R-Perry and Franklin) and
unanimously approved by the House on March 24th.
"Many children and adults enjoy activities such as horseback riding,
bicycling, roller-blading and motorcycle riding where helmets are either
required or recommended for the safety of the participant," said Egolf, an
avid bicyclist. "I believe it is important to encourage the use of safety
helmets whether they are mandated or not," he said. "I believe that
eliminating the sales tax on these purchases is an incentive to encourage
"What parent would refuse to buy something they believed would help protect
their kids because they didn't want to pay a few dollars in sales tax?,"
queried John Mullendore, ABATE of Pennsylvania's Legislative Coordinator and
a member of the NCOM Board of Directors, adding "It passed 194-0."
Pennsylvania repealed their helmet law for adult motorcyclists last year.
HB-417 will now be considered in the Senate.
BAY STATE RIDERS WIN RIGHT TO LIDLESS PARADES Massachusetts Governor
Mitt Romney signed House Bill 206, an act allowing adult motorcyclists the
"freedom of choice" to not wear a helmet while riding in a parade.
HB 206, sponsored by Representative Demetrius Atsalis, provides an exception
to the state's mandatory helmet law that "No protective head gear be
required if a motorcyclist is participating in a properly permitted public
parade and is 18 years or older," explained Paul Cote, Legislative Director
for the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association (MMA), adding that "This is the
fifth motorcyclists' bill passed in the last four years!"
The new law is scheduled to take effect in 90 days, which lands right before
the MMA's "STORM the State House" lobbying day on Thursday, May 20th. MMA
leaders have already begun securing "parade permits" from the cities of
Somerville and Boston, so the "STORM" could be one of the first helmet
"choice" permitted parades; riding to the State House to thank legislators
and lobby for other bills still pending, including Senate Bill 1363 -- the
full "helmet choice" for all adult riders.
BILL FILED TO RE-ENACT LOUISIANA HELMET LAW A bill that would reverse
a law pushed through the Legislature by former Governor Mike "Big Daddy"
Foster giving adult motorcycle riders the option of wearing helmets has been
filed in the Senate. Senator Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, filed Senate
Bill 29, which mandates all motorcycle riders to wear helmets with padding,
a visor and a chin strap. That was the law until five years ago when Foster
helped persuade lawmakers to allow a choice for riders older than 18 who are
covered by at least a $10,000 health insurance policy and furnish proof of
insurance to police if stopped. Foster, an avid motorcyclist, has always
characterized the law he promoted as one aimed at giving adults a choice of
wearing or not wearing a helmet. No state has enacted a helmet law since
Maryland in 1996, but six states have repealed their helmet laws since then;
Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania, making 31
states that currently allow adult freedom of choice. Let's not go backwards!
AUSTRALIAN RIDERS MOUNT FRONT PLATE PROTEST The Motorcycle Riders
Association (MRA) of Victoria is up in arms over a proposal to require
Aussie bikers to affix license plates to the front of their motorcycles so
that they can be identified from the front for tolls and for speed cameras.
MRA Victorian president Alex Money said the group is planning a protest to
alert the general public as to how much money the government would waste in
the move. "We just want the public to know the Victorian government is
spending $14 million to introduce motorcycle front number plates," he
explained, noting that speed cameras in New South Wales take photographs
Tollway operator Transurban has said it would consider introducing
motorcycle tolls if bikes could be photographed from the front.
CELEBRITIES IN THE NEWS Daytona Harley-Davidson is crying foul
against Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Shaquille O'Neal, claiming he
reneged on the purchase of a custom motorcycle. The dealership filed a
breach of contract suit recently in circuit court seeking at least $15,000
in damages against the Orlando-area resident. Because the bike was built for
someone of the 7-foot-1 Shaq's size, the Harley dealer claims it is stuck
with a motorcycle it can't sell. The Beach Street-based company claims in
its suit that the Lakers star center, who started his NBA career with the
Orlando Magic, agreed to pay the company to build him a "custom motorcycle,
with the design specifications requested by defendant being that the
motorcycle be 'out there' and 'blow everything else away.'" The motorcycle
was delivered to O'Neal on Sept. 12, 2003, but he refused to pay for it, the
AIMING FOR JUSTICE Justice was finally served to 26 bikers who had
been ticketed during a "routine" traffic stop for running a stop sign last
October while on their way to the Concerned Bikers Association (CBA) Swap
Meet in Charlotte, N.C.
All the ticketed bikers were represented by North Carolina Aid to Injured
Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) Attorney Robert A. Donat, who's courtroom strategy
was to show that it is common practice for riders to do a "stop and go" when
traveling in large groups. The Assistant District Attorney was also informed
that no one was going to plead guilty to the charges and that each and every
rider desired a trial (there were four different trial dates, as four
different officers wrote tickets that day). Furthermore, that this "routine"
stop was nothing more than a harassing intelligence operation, and there was
evidence that the whole operation was pre-planned, including statements made
by one of the ticketing officers, and the fact that a DMV inspector appeared
at the scene. Mr. Donat also found an eyewitness passerby who could confirm
that there was a person wearing a ski mask at the scene, and that the bikers
were videotaped. The DA finally agreed that this was not worth prosecuting,
and every one of the charges was dropped.
Robert Donat ("RAD") serves as legal counsel for the Concerned Bikers
Association and the North Carolina Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs. "The
N.C. COC is currently considering its options now that the charges have been
dismissed," said Donat.
WEIRD NEWS OF THE MONTH: SADDAM'S MOTORCYCLE LOOTED The man who swung
the first blow when Saddam Hussein's infamous statue was toppled from the
middle of Firdos Square in Baghdad has been arrested for looting the
tyrant's motorcycle from a museum.
Armed with a sledgehammer, Khadom Sharif Hassan -- Iraq's weightlifting
champion -- started pounding away at the statue last April, to cheers from
the jubilant crowd and praise from President George W. Bush, who watched the
action unfold on the White House television. "They got it down," the
president said approvingly.
But today the beefy hero is languishing in jail, accused of looting
Baghdad's National Army Museum of one of the former dictator's most
treasured exhibits: the 50-year-old black Norton motorcycle on which the
young Saddam claimed he fled to Syria in 1959 after a botched
American-sponsored assassination attempt on Iraq's then prime minister, Gen
Abd al-Karim Qasim, who a year earlier had overthrown the British-backed
monarchy to seize power. Though the plan failed, it sparked the Ba'ath
party's rise to power.
Mr. Hassan explained that he felt he had a legitimate claim to the bike,
which until the looting frenzy had stood on a pedestal in the museum, but
was later found in his workshop during a raid by Iraq's special crimes
squad. As the chief motorbike mechanic for Saddam's elder son Uday, Hassan
had spent countless hours lavishing care on the Norton. What's more, he
said, Uday used to cherry-pick the best motorcycles that he imported into
Iraq, paying him just a fraction of their value.
Hassan, 50, who is married with three children, said he had looked after
more than 100 motorbikes belonging to Uday for 16 years, working on them
round the clock. "I would be ordered to tune a bike at 3 a.m. if Uday
decided after a night out that he wanted to ride the next day," he said.
"His favorite was a red Honda 750cc bike which he used for jumping because
he was tall and strong enough to drive a big bike."
Uday preferred Japanese models to American Harley-Davidsons, Hassan said,
but also liked a BMW that was a present from King Abdullah of Jordan. When
Uday was hospitalized from an accident, he ordered scores of his motorbikes
to be lined up outside his window so that he could admire them.
Officials from the serious crimes squad have described the case against
Hassan as "open and shut," but from the special police headquarters in
Baghdad, he denies stealing the bike. "I bought the Norton from a looter,"
he said. "I knew he had stolen it, but I had a duty to take it and look
after it. I love that bike. Of course, I hate Saddam, but what he did wasn't
the bike's fault. It is a special thing in Iraq's history."
QUOTABLE QUOTE: "How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a
leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States