^ U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg addresses the crowd at the AMA Family Capitol Hill Climb.
^ Video from the AMA Family Capitol Hill Climb.
Hundreds of young motorcyclists, their parents and concerned riders gathered with several U.S. representatives, including Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), author of the Kids Just Want to Ride Act, in Washington, D.C., Thursday, May 26, at the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Family Capitol Hill Climb. The event was a strong demonstration of public opposition to a ban on the sale of youth-model motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
Families from as far away as Washington state, Arizona and Colorado delivered their message at a gathering in the Rayburn House Office Building. The parents and children then met with their individual lawmakers to personally urge support for H.R. 412, the Kids Just Want To Ride Act.
The bill is intended to exclude kid-sized machines that were inadvertently ensnared in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. The CPSIA was intended to ban small toys with high lead content, but because of broadly written language, it has been interpreted to apply to all products for kids 12 and under, including dirtbikes, ATVs, bicycles, clothing and books.
"It's been clear from the start that motorcycles should never have been part of this ban, and nobody delivers that message better than AMA members -- young riders and their parents for whom off-road riding is an important family activity," said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. "We helped bring them together, but it is their voices, and the voices of thousands of other motorcyclists from across the country, that are crucial to ending the ban."
In response to the outcry from AMA members and others, officials issued a stay of enforcement of the CPSIA, but did not eliminate it entirely. The stay is set to expire at the end of the year. The AMA and its members, as well as many other motorcycling groups have urged passage of the the Kids Just Want To Ride Act to fully exempt kid-sized machines.
Speaking at the rally, Rehberg urged action by his fellow legislators to stop the ban. Not only does the ban hurt small businesses and jobs, but it forces kids to ride motorcycles and ATVs that are physically too large for their small statures.
"I feel pretty confident that we're on the right side of the issue," Rehberg said. "People say to me, 'This just lacks common sense -- what is going on here?' This is what gives Congress a bad name... You're putting our children at risk, and we're not going to allow you to do that."
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) noted that parents, not government, know best how to make sure their kids stay safe.
"This is a great instance of where the government just doesn't get it," West said. "These kids are the responsibility of the parents. If the parents can make sure these kids are safe, and if parents can make sure they go out and enjoy a little bit of something that's part of who we are in America -- enjoying these little dirtbikes -- then let the parents decide."
Motorcycling is a healthy activity that should be encouraged, not curtailed by over-reaching government laws, said bill co-sponsor Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.). "That's what I'd rather have my kids do, to get outdoors and get some exercise...and ride their bikes," he said.
Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), another co-sponsor of the bill, said that stopping a law that shouldn't have ensared dirtbikes in the first place only makes sense.
"It's one of those very simple things to take on," Schilling said. "It's another thing where the government wants to intrude in our daily lives, and this is a simple thing for me to jump on. I just really appreciate that everyone came out here to show support for the bill."
Ashley Nash-Hahn, appearing on behalf of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), spoke in support of the kids and parents who made the trek to Washington, D.C. "I'm so excited to tell her that we have all these young motorcycle riders here learning how to be safe," Nash-Hahn said.
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), an AMA Life Member, said it was time to end the ban.
"For government to step in, in non-common-sensical ways, and not even consider what legislation might do to families who want to spend time together, to businesses that want to provide products and services for them...now, to ratchet that back, is the wrong way to go," Walberg said.
Among the kids and parents attending were Erin, 11, Adi, 7, and Carter, 5, Malcolm of Littleton, Colo., who, along with their parents, Danny and Peggy, won a trip to Washington, D.C., in the AMA's "Kids Just Want To Ride" video contest.
Dingman noted that demonstrations of support like the AMA Family Capitol Hill Climb are vital in making the case to Congress that the CPSIA should not include motorcycles and ATVs.
"It's AMA members like those here today, and the thousands of others who have made their feelings known to their congressional representatives, that help make real change occur," Dingman said. "All motorcyclists owe a debt of gratitude to the people in this room -- kids, parents, congressional representatives who support this legislation, and more. We are making a very real difference here today."
To date, more than 70 members of Congress have signed on to co-sponsor H.R. 412, the Kids Just Want to Ride Act, but its passage is by no means assured. That's why the AMA is rallying motorcyclists in Washington, D.C., and urging others to tell their lawmakers to support Rehberg's bill. Easy-to-use tools to contact members of Congress are available at AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Issues & Legislation.