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  • Lane Splitting

    2015 has become the year of lane splitting (also called lane sharing and white lining in some places). Riders across the United States have been contacting the AMA expressing their desire to learn more about this somewhat controversial -- yet well documented -- riding technique.

    Several bills in have been introduced this year, including in Oregon, Washington, California, Tennessee and Texas. While some of these bills will undoubtedly fail to be enacted this session (or be amended to the point where the AMA cannot support them), a bigger question remains: How and why do riders often feel so strongly about lane splitting?

    Within the road-riding community, perhaps no single issue (other than helmet laws) provokes as strong a response as lane splitting. Riders typically fall into two camps: Those who are convinced it is dangerous (and often have never done it) and those who see it as yet another advantage of riding, especially in congested urban areas and during rush hour commuting.

    Lane splitting, long employed in much of Europe, South America and Asia, is often misunderstood. We encourage AMA members to review and understand the issue before deciding for themselves. The AMA position on this subject (and other important ones) can be reviewed at: http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/positionstatements.

    However you feel about the subject, we would remind all of our members that lane splitting is simply a choice that some riders will continue to make, and, in those instances where it is allowed (or under consideration), we hope every member will see the value in supporting that decision. Dividing ourselves is a sure recipe for failure and will ultimately result in non-riders making important decisions that will negatively affect all of us.

    Ride Safely!

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  • Sustainable Off Road Means Access Education

    Before joining the AMA staff, I had jobs in land management and powersports retail. An odd mix perhaps, but it was perfect training for my current AMA role.

    Often, I had conversations with off-highway vehicle riders who were buying their first bike after a long break and whose primary thought was where they could ride it. Maybe it was a trail they’d just seen or heard about or, more commonly, the place where they’d last ridden many years years ago. The new or returning riders gave scant thought to whether the trails they had their eye on -- public or private -- were legally accessible or what permits or permissions would be needed to ride there.

    More recently, I swallowed hard when an AMA member knowledgeable about access described the AMA’s advocacy efforts as “western focused” and oriented toward “federal access.” He dismissed our efforts as irrelevant to him on the East Coast.

    Soon after that conversation, another AMA member contacted me for help after he’d been cited for riding illegally on federal land in an eastern national forest. He wanted to better understand the charges he faced and the rules they were based on.

    The lessons for us in these encounters are:

    • East or West, public land or private, land-access realities have changed and continue to evolve.

    • Federal policies affect all riders, especially those using public lands. And, sometimes, decisions made in one locale are cited as precedents or models for future decisions in other jurisdictions, including states.

    • It is important, and admittedly involved, for today’s OHV riders to know all the access rules.

    • Consequences of making land-access assumptions can easily ruin an otherwise carefully planned trip and, much more significantly, cause the permanent loss of a favorite riding area for everyone.

    The AMA works hard to communicate the importance of being aware of and involved in access issues where you ride and beyond. Through our magazine, American Motorcyclist, AMA Action Alerts, the AMA Extra e-newsletters, the monthly AMA News & Notes and our website, www.americanmotorcyclist.com[PT1] /rights, we provide you with the most current information available on the most important issues.

    The U.S. Forest Service’s public hearings, federal and state motor vehicle use maps and “Call Before You Haul” programs are all great ways for OHV enthusiasts to remain aware of access rules.  Local clubs are often the best source of information on legal access to private lands. 

    With the off-highway-riding season at one of its seasonal peaks -- between the cold winters in the North and the oppressive summer heat in the South -- we strongly encourage you to ensure your knowledge is current on land-access rules where you ride. While you are at it, educate yourself on the broader access issues and efforts in your area.

    If you need help with the particulars in your local riding area, please contact the AMA at grassroots@amacycle.org for assistance.


     [PT1]Be sure to hyperlink these

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  • Making Change Happen: Grassroots Advocates and Coordinators

    All too often the idea of lobbying conjures up images of golf outings, steak dinners and the excesses of Jack Abramoff. Fundraisers and events can be a part of an organization’s overall advocacy strategy. But this component represents a small portion of the time devoted to supporting or opposing legislation.

    In reality, the American Motorcyclist Association spends its time educating our members about policy priorities, tracking legislation and working on member inquiries. Direct lobbying is appropriate only when the correct dosage of grassroots advocacy already has been applied.

    Successful grassroots advocacy builds coalitions, bolsters political participation, promotes a variety of causes and fosters a civic-learning environment. By its very nature, grassroots advocacy is a positive social good that helps people communicate with government more effectively.

    In the, AMA, the core of our grassroots advocacy strategy is leveraging the strength of our membership and conveying members’ views through strategic communication, both online and offline.

    It is always more compelling for a lawmaker to hear the story of a citizen-motorcyclist than a paid AMA staff person. On rider education, distracted and inattentive vehicle operation and many other issues, the AMA could not be on the forefront of policy debates without the loud and clear voices of our members.

    While grassroots advocacy must communicate the experiences and desires of our members, how exactly does the grassroots coordinator fit in? Working behind the scenes, the AMA grassroots coordinator is an experienced organizer who wears a number of hats. Such as:

    • Translator — Translating and processing the message of advocates in the proper format to ensure that the information is received and understood by elected officials.

    • Technologist — Updating the AMA website and social media platforms to create interactive content  that ensures members receive accurate and timely information on web, mobile and tablet devices.

    • Civics teacher — Teaching advocates the basics about government and the legislative process; crafting informational alerts, preparing guides, hosting webinars and in-person training to better equip advocates to communicate with elected officials.

    • Cheerleader/drill sergeant — Activating the AMA membership is a core function of a successful grassroots program. Elected officials need to hear from our members and the grassroots coordinator measures and analyzes the reach and effectiveness of their messages. If members are responding to AMA calls to action, the coordinator cheers the results and lets the members know their efforts are successful. If calls to action go unanswered, it might be appropriate for the coordinator to take the role of a drill sergeant and craft a clearer message highlighting the importance of AMA members’ responses.

    • Mentor -- The grassroots coordinator can even go into the field and meet with members face to face at events, town halls or public meetings.

    While there is no clear recipe for advocacy, successful engagement with legislators relies on the willingness and persuasiveness of our AMA members and the organizational skills of the grassroots coordinator. Working as a team, the results can exceed everyone’s expectations. 

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  • R(S)VP: Responding to the misinformation about higher ethanol blends


    Your reservations are justified when it comes to E15, a fuel blend with as much as 15 percent ethanol in your gasoline. E15 represents a 50 percent increase in ethanol, compared to the regular E10 found at most service stations across the country.

    For years, the American Motorcyclist Association has been warning legislators and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the dangers of motorcyclists and ATV owners inadvertently pumping E15 or higher ethanol blends into their tanks.

    In fact, none of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs currently in operation is approved for E15 use.

    But you may say, “I know what fuel to put in my ride!”

    We are sure you do. And yet you may end up with some E15 in your fuel tank anyway, causing costly fuel system or engine damage. Even voiding your warranty. How can that be?

    Because some service stations are using labels on their fuel pumps that can be confusing, at best. And some blender pumps may have E15 left over in the hose when you select your preferred blend. So as careful as you are, you could inadvertently misfuel your vehicle with some fuel greater than 10 percent ethanol (E10).

    According to federal regulations, E15 may be sold legally during the summer months if the pump label meets EPA regulations and care is taken to ensure that the Reid Vapor Pressure does not exceed federal standards.

    The AMA clued you in about RVP in an earlier blog post.

    But, briefly, RVP measurement is used by the EPA to regulate the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season (June 1 to September 15). The goal is to reduce evaporative emissions from gasoline that contribute to ground-level ozone and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems.

    And yet it appears that some fuel retailers have relabeled E15 as flex-fuel. According to a letter from the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and American Petroleum Institute, “The attempt to label and sell E15 as ‘flex-fuel’ is an unlawful attempt to bypass the existing RVP regulatory requirements. If this labeling is allowed, then theoretically, the same logic could apply to virtually any blend of ethanol and gasoline, such as E10.”

    Furthermore, the same AFPM and API letter states that some labels [See Figure1] being used by fueling stations may not meet the current labeling requirements per the EPA misfueling mitigation plan.[1]

    Confused yet?

    Changing the labeling creates even more confusion with an already confusing issue and raises the risk that some of us, no matter how much we know, will unintentionally pump E15 or higher ethanol blends into our fuel tanks.

    It’s bad enough that our engines are not built for E15, but now — adding insult to injury — the EPA says we are violating the law even if we unintentionally pump some of it into our bikes and ATVs!

    The AMA recently sent another letter to the EPA reiterating our concerns and also asked the agency to issue an Enforcement Alert concerning the improper relabeling of E15 as a flex-fuel.

    We will keep you up to date as more information becomes available. Meanwhile, be vigilant when refueling your ride. Be sure you are using the fuel your vehicle manufacturer recommends.


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  • Distracted Driving

    With motorcycles located in the cooler climates coming out of the garage and more riders taking to the roads, we at the AMA are getting more inquiries regarding distracted driving and how to effectively fight back.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes,” and “nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.”

    The good news is that state legislators are beginning to understand the gravity of the problem and take appropriate action by increasing penalties for distracted drivers who cause serious injury or death.

    The bad news is this action often comes too late.

    Pennsylvania Rep. Jaret Gibbons (D-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence) has prepared legislation that would create new penalties for drivers who injure or kill other motorists while texting and driving. The legislation, named after Daniel Gallatin who was killed pulling into his daughter’s driveway by a motorist who was texting, already has 39 cosponsors in the state assembly.

    Similarly, legislators in Florida, Massachusetts and Texas have introduced bills that would require motorists to provide minimum clearance to vulnerable road users when passing, essentially increasing the right-of-way for motorcyclists.

    Unfortunately, legislation alone will not fix the problem of distracted drivers. Fourteen states already have a ban on using handheld devices while driving and 45 states ban texting while driving. However, even in states with these bans, motorists are still texting and talking on the phone while driving – not to mention all of the other distracting activities that drivers perform.

    What can you do to make a difference? Ensure your kids and family members are not driving while distracted. Tell your neighbors about the importance of anti-distracted driving campaigns.

    Have you had a close call with a distracted driver? Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper reminding everyone to share the road. Support legislators who support anti-distracted-driving legislation and increased motorist awareness of motorcycles.

    Most importantly, riders need to educate other motorists about the myriad forms of distracted driving. We need to remind everyone that the fact that you aren’t on your cellphone doesn’t mean you are focused on the road. Eating, drinking, adjusting the radio or GPS and engaging in personal grooming all divert attention from the road.

    We have the numbers on our side. Nearly 80 percent of crashes could potentially be avoided if all drivers focused on the road. Let’s tell fellow motorists and other lawmakers about this problem and work toward a solution.

    Ride safe!



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  • Motorcyclists want a choice, too!

    For many years, the American Motorcyclist Association has expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers -- and educated our members -- about possible damage to motorcycle and all-terrain-vehicle fuel systems and engines caused by the inadvertent use of E15 fuel (15 percent ethanol by volume). 

    While we are working to protect motorcyclists’ interests from unsafe fuels, pro-ethanol groups are wheeling and dealing to force retailers nationwide to sell E15, even though its use can be bad news for tens of millions of motorists. Ethanol lobbyists argue that consumers should have a choice in fuels.

    It’s a straw man argument. Here’s why.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not approved E15 for use in any of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles currently in operation, and increasing E15 in the marketplace can decrease the availability of E10/E0, fuels that are safe for these vehicles. Inadvertent misfueling with E15 can cause damage to motorcycle and ATV fuel system and engine components. It can also void manufacturer warranties.

    It is not a choice if an unsafe fuel is mandated for the public.

    Even the EPA has publicly acknowledged that E15 in gasoline can damage internal combustion engines not designed for its use by increasing exhaust temperatures and indirectly causing component failures. In motorcycles and non-road products, the EPA raised concerns about engine-failure caused by overheating.

    In AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member Jay Leno’s column in Autoweek titled “All I want is to be able to choose when to use ethanol-laced gasoline,” he says he wants the ability to choose to not fill his older vehicles and motorcycles with ethanol blended gasoline.

    The AMA agrees and wants our members to have a choice, too. Learn more about the AMA’s efforts to keep E15 out of the marketplace here.


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  • AMA Advocacy Advancements


    Reporting congressional action, state legislation, and local government initiatives has proliferated due to technology advancements. To meet the challenges of innovative technology, the American Motorcyclist Association Government Relations Department is expanding its communication capabilities, so AMA members can obtain and act on information that is accurate and up-to-date.

    I urge you to take time to visit the AMA website to open the door to a wealth of knowledge designed to help riders be more effective when communicating with their elected officials. Go to www.americanmotorcyclist.com and click on “Rights.” This is the Government Relations homepage where, you will see a rotating window that will introduce you to a presentation of federal and state issues. The list first includes Advocacy Center, then areas labeled Counter the Threats, Position Statements, D.C. Insider, Advocate for the AMA and Get Informed.

    The Advocacy Center is about the future challenges facing motorcyclists at the federal and state level. This information is constantly changing. The legislation affects off-highway and on-highway vehicles. The Federal Action Center takes you to legislation that has been introduced in Congress and rules and regulations being considered by federal agencies. It presents an opportunity to address your concerns.

    The federal legislation includes the fuel mandates forcing marketers to offer more E15 (15 perent ethanol), a fuel blend that fails to meet the warranty requirements on your motorcycle engine and, if misfueled, can damage your engine and fuel system. Other federal legislation includes public-land access issues, mostly in the western part of the United States, funding for the Recreational Trails Program and issues related to discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints.

    The State Action Center contains a state map that brings you within a click of viewing legislation in each state. In addition to the legislative updates, the state pages offer a calendar to track meetings within the state and various action tools. The pointer is an image of a motorcycle!

    Most of the issues at the state and local level deal with distracted driving, helmet laws, fuel mandates, the right to ride on private property, and insurance discrimination. Chicago, for example, is considering a mandate requiring retail service stations to carry E15 fuel. The proposal, if it becomes law, could become a model for other cities. The Advocacy Center also contains a section on the AMA’s official position statements and key issues, and a social media page where you will be able to directly Tweet @ your elected officials. The Advocacy Center also contains a legislative scorecard to show you how your members of Congress score, based on their support and involvement with issues facing motorcyclists.

    Because the AMA is constantly updating the Rights section, I encourage members to frequently visit this section to maintain familiarity with the services and issues on the political action section. The AMA’s Washington, D.C., office uses the latest technology to bring you the most recent and most valuable information.

    Modern technology allows the AMA Government Relations Department to provide you with more services and information. We urge you to join the AMA if you are not a member and — if you are a member — encourage your riding friends to join. Then get active. Use the tools we make available to you and help your fellow motorcyclists protect the right to ride.

    We value your suggestions. Please share them with us by sending an email to grassroots@ama-cycle.org. We will also showcase positive testimonials from AMA members on our state pages in the Advocacy Center.

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  • Highway Bill or No Highway Bill

    MAP-21, the acronym for our nation’s current surface transportation bill, is scheduled to expire at the end of May. Since Congress has yet to determine how the next highway bill will be funded, it is more than likely that MAP-21 will be extended for a short period of time. This will allow Congress time to determine the length and funding sources for the next transportation bill.

    In the meantime, the administration released its preferred version of the highway bill—the Grow America Act 2.0. It is basically the same bill the administration introduced in 2014.

    It includes some items the American Motorcyclist Association strongly supports, such as the Recreational Trails Program. The RTP was created on a bipartisan basis in 1991 to provide funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for motorized and non-motorized recreational trail users.

    However, the administration’s proposed bill does not include language to prohibit federal funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints. These checkpoints are discriminatory and the funds being used to operate them should be used to implement proven strategies that help prevent a crash from occurring in the first place, such as rider education and motorist awareness programs.

    It also includes language to allow the federal government to “…engage in activities with States and State legislators…” to change state laws. The AMA opposes this language because we do not believe the federal government should use federal taxpayer dollars and politically charged studies to influence the creation of state laws. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services in a letter to the AMA, “We used a wide body of research from various organizations to identify/define evidence-based interventions. We include studies conducted by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the World Health Organization [Part of the United Nations], and other organizations.”

    Of course Congress will soon have their versions of the next highway bill too. To ensure motorcyclists’ rights are protected, the AMA has been very active on Capitol Hill monitoring proposed legislation and regulations. In the past three weeks, the AMA has met with more than two dozen congressional offices to make sure your voices are heard. Be assured, the AMA is working diligently to make sure Congress includes the interests of motorcyclists in the next highway bill.

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  • AMA Expands Social Media Communication with Government

    You may have noticed that the AMA’s Government Relations Department has ramped up social media communications and now provides more online advocacy tools for riders, such as the new AMA Social Media Portal. The power of social media to facilitate political discussion and encourage action is a valuable resource to any grassroots program.

    Although the immediacy of using social media to communicate with government is alluring, it still requires careful planning and consistent message development to be successful. With the widespread adoption of social media by legislators and regulators, the AMA emphasizes social media communication as an important part of its advocacy efforts.

    Social media has redefined how organizations, advocates and individuals communicate with government. Now, people can present real-time opinions, arguments and information to elected officials and program administrators. A 2013 study by the Congressional Research Service reported that 83.4 percent of members of Congress had a registered Twitter account and 90 percent had a registered Facebook page.[1]

    The bottom line: Congress and federal and state agencies are online, so advocates need to be there, too.

     Members of Congress and their staffs also use social media to gauge public opinion. A 2010 study by the Congressional Management Foundation found that “nearly two-thirds of senior managers and social media managers surveyed think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents. 42% say Twitter is somewhat or very important.”[2] A robust grassroots program must include sending messages through social media channels to influence this growing audience and reinforce email campaigns, press releases, magazine articles and other long-form communication.

    Social media presents a great opportunity for the AMA and its members to:

    • Expand the reach of a message
    • Target influencers with that message
    • Motivate advocates to spread this message

    We have a clear opportunity to send our message to elected officials through social media, but we must send that message as an organization and as individual AMA members in full-force.

    Whether it is sending email alerts to activists, posting information to the website or developing Tweet-to-Congress campaigns, the AMA is committed to providing a variety of digital channels to deliver a clear message to government.

    Has this digital initiative worked?

    Last year, AMA advocates sent 58,591 letters to elected officials. This year, the AMA already has sent 42,912 messages with the alert on the Wi-Fi Innovation Act producing 7,058 messages.

    The AMA understands that our online and other advocacy efforts can be successful only if they are supported by motorcyclists, like you, who are willing to take action.

    Thousands of riders like you join the AMA to unite for a common goal – to protect our freedom to ride. Please follow the AMA on Twitter @AMA_Rights and like us on Facebook. And sign up for AMA action alerts here.


    [1] Glassman, Matthew E., Jacob R. Straus, and Colleen J. Shogan. "Social Networking and Constituent Communication: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Week Period in the 111th Congress." Congressional Research Service. http://www.politico.com/pdf/PPM138_twitter.pdf.

    [2] Congressional Management Foundation. "#Social Congress Perceptions and Use of Social Media on Capitol Hill." https://www.scribd.com/embeds/60974277/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-1241fgf3lzksrknnibiv.

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  • All Motorcyclists Feel the Impact of Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

    We hear feedback from members all the time. Feedback helps us do a better job of serving the AMA mission and we welcome it.

    One of the many issues you have sounded off on is the AMA’s interest in motorcycle-only checkpoints. “What are motorcycle-only checkpoints?” you ask. “I have never experienced them. What is the big fuss?”

    This is what AMA member Brian LeSchander thought until he encountered one in New York.

    “I was directed by a trooper to pull off the main road into a dead end road that was less than 50 yards long with at least a dozen bikes parked in every direction. The area was covered with rocks , stones and debris. I have a 850-pound motorcycle with a passenger aboard and would not choose this as a stop point if I wasn’t directed to. I was ordered to shut down and get off the bike, produce my license, registration and insurance ID card. The officer held my documents and said he would return them to me after we do a lights, horn and tire check, in case he had to write me a citation. I have a current NYS inspection sticker on this bike, and that apparently wasn’t sufficient. My paperwork was also in order. He still insisted that we proceed with the check. He did the check and with a smile handed me my paper work back and released me.”

    It is true that, currently, only a few states implement these checkpoints. And with your help, we have pushed back to prohibit them from appearing in many areas.

    However, New York state still routinely targets motorcyclists with motorcycle-only checkpoints.

    New York budgeted $490,000 in the past two years alone for these discriminatory stops. Even more troubling, the state used motorcycle safety funds from Section 402 of Title 23. These funds should promote programs like rider education to prevent motorcycle crashes from occurring and not be used to arbitrarily pull over riders and randomly subjecting them to roadside inspections.

    We know New York spends much more. It states in its highway safety plans that it has conducted motorcycle-only checkpoints “officially” since fiscal year 2009, but conveniently fails to mention its costs for fiscal years 2009-11.

    I hear you still saying, “But that is New York, I don’t live there”

    The problem is, the funds New York uses to operate motorcycle-only checkpoints are federal dollars. Federal dollars that your state can use in the same way. When we pay our taxes, we should not have to worry the funds will be used to target us with discriminatory checkpoints.

    Still not moved to act to end motorcycle-only checkpoints?

    There is a report soon to be published from an international organization with a long name and broad influence on motorcycle safety: the Joint Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Transport Forum. Buried in the initial report is a section on use of law enforcement. According to the draft report, “A mix of traditional visible enforcement (with on-the-spot roadside checks by police) and automated enforcement for offences such as speeding or red light has the biggest deterrence effect” (emphasis added).

    Now, not only are we fighting how our federal dollars are spent, but also an international body that supports the use of checkpoints.

    Fed up? You can do something about it.

    The AMA supports S. 127, federal legislation that would prohibit federal funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints. Doing so would severely impact the implementation of these discriminatory checkpoints nationwide. In addition to S. 127, we are pushing for support of H.R. 1861, a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives..

    Act today by letting your federal lawmakers know that you oppose motorcycle-only checkpoints and support this legislation.

    You — the motorcyclist — can count on the AMA to guard your freedoms while you enjoy the ride.

     

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