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

Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists

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 insurance companies.

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 helmet use."

"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 from behind.

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 suit claims.

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