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  • DC Insider: Capture the moment; earn cash!

    The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials announced this week its ninth annual Faces of Transportation photography contest. The national competition is open to everyone and asks for photographs of people and projects that are making communities better, while emphasizing the importance of transportation.

    According to an AASHTO’s press release, the theme for this year's competition is "A Snapshot of Transportation in America," which includes three new categories: "Building the Future," "Opening Communities," and "Taking the Road Less Traveled." A total of five awards will be presented this year. A $125 cash prize will be awarded to the best photograph in each of the three categories. $500 cash prizes will be presented to the winners of both the People's Choice and the Best Overall Photograph awards.

    AASHTO strongly encourages every submission to prominently feature people designing, constructing, using, and enjoying the nation's transportation systems. All entries should represent the positive effects of all modes of transportation on individuals and communities. Photographs that include recognizable individuals must be accompanied with a model release form and, regardless of category, all photos must include a caption that describes the scene. Failure to meet these requirements may lead to disqualification.

    Riders, this is our time to represent the motorcycling community!

    All entries must be received by July 31. Judging will begin on Aug. 1 and end Aug. 31. The general public will vote for the People's Choice Award at the Faces of Transportation web site, www.facesoftransportation.org.

    The winners of the Faces of Transportation competition will be announced at the TransComm (AASHTO Subcommittee on Transportation Communications) annual meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Sept. 9. Entry forms and contest rules are available at www.facesoftransportation.org.

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  • DC Insider: Is a new federal safety office in the works?

    In a word -- Yes.

    The administration’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal calls for the creation of a new Department of Transportation Integrated Highway Safety Program Office.

    According to the budget proposal, the office will “enable best practices in highway safety, and to streamline highway safety research and data collection and analysis, in order to reduce the paperwork burden of grantees and to enhance the Department’s approach to safety.”

    The AMA spotted this new nugget of information in the president’s budget and decided to send a letter to Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood to address our concerns.

    With the prevention of motorcycle crashes as the utmost priority of the AMA, we wanted to know how this new office will incorporate the safety concerns of motorcyclists? Will the office be a clearinghouse for existing research? Or, will it create an additional bureaucratic layer involving ongoing research (e.g., Federal Highway Administration’s crash causation study, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s naturalistic study)? Will this office initiate new research? How will the new office be accommodated in the DOT’s organizational chart? In addition, will it only incorporate research from agencies within DOT or include research from other federal and/or international agencies?

    Once the AMA receives a reply, we will be sure to share it with you—the rider!

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  • DC Insider: President's Budget Proposal Would Slash Trail Funding

    On April 10, President Barack Obama submitted his proposed budget for fiscal 2014 to Congress. One proposed cut could be disastrous for motorized trail users.  

    Buried in the 1,377-page document is one-half of a page pertaining to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Capital Improvement and Maintenance program. The program funds improvements, maintenance and the operation of U.S. Forest Service roads, trails and recreation support facilities, such as buildings. For fiscal 2014, the CIM has added activities previously conducted under the Legacy Roads and Trails program.

    Even with the added activities, under the fiscal 2014 budget proposal, the CIM program would be cut by $67.7 million from the annual spending levels of fiscal 2013.

    The proposed cut is particularly disturbing in light of the Forest Service’s recent work on off-highway vehicle travel management plans. That is, it will need increased funding so critical maintenance programs are not cut. As these plans were developed, local Forest Service staff repeatedly told OHV enthusiasts that they lacked sufficient funding to maintain existing trails, provide trailhead facilities or to even inventory existing trails.  

    Furthermore, funding for good trail design, construction and maintenance are essential to meeting the Obama administration’s stated goals of erosion control, watershed health and forest restoration.

    In light of all this, why is the president asking the Forest Service to do more with less?

    The OHV enthusiast community has done all it can to assist the Forest Service in funding trails. In addition to consistently asking Congress to provide adequate appropriations, enthusiasts also support the federal Recreational Trails Program and state-level motorized trail programs that provide non-Forest Service funding for trails. The OHV community even supported the Forest Service’s controversial Recreation Fee program for the sake of getting badly needed funds for trail needs. But it is incumbent on the agency to seek and provide a reasonable level of funding for trails in its own budget.  

    Both the House and the Senate have already passed separate budget resolutions. As the chambers begin the process of reconciliation, the AMA will keep you updated on how you can tell your senators and representatives know how important the CIM and well-maintained and inventoried trails are to you.

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  • DC Insider: Not In My Backyard

    Now that spring has finally arrived I have the urge to leave the office, house, and cold-weather hangouts to go get some fresh air. I am not alone – many Americans enjoy getting out and enjoying nature.  Sometimes this involves an engine and other times it does not. However, our ability to leave the beaten path and experience nature is constantly threatened at the local, state and, especially, at the federal level.

    Two recent events in Washington, D.C., prove my point.

    First, in early April the federal administration unilaterally declared five new national monuments. Few will disagree that our nation has a rich history that must be preserved. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries areas of great archeological and cultural importance were disappearing at an alarming rate. To prevent this loss, Congress passed the Antiquities Act. The act gave the president the authority to designate an area as a national monument so federal protections could quickly be enforced.

    Fast forward to today. Instead of using the act to preserve areas that face rapid degradation, the executive branch (both sides of the aisle are guilty) uses the broad powers granted under the Antiquities Act to create new monuments that fall outside the original intent of the law. As a result, management policies for huge tracts of public land may change overnight, oftentimes without any input from local stakeholders. The result can create negative economic and social consequences for local communities.

    Currently, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is attempting to resolve this imbalance in power between the executive and legislative branch by requiring that all new national monument designations obtain congressional approval. If his proposal passes, local communities – through their elected representatives and senators in Washington -- will get a voice in the designation of any new national monuments. 

    Second, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced a bill to designate 23 million acres of land in the Rockies as Wilderness. The reasoning for introducing the bill, H.R.1187, is to protect the natural habitat of the Rockies. Their intentions are noble, but their methods are certainly misguided. What they do not understand is that proper land management is more effective at protecting the environment, social and cultural values and local economies than closing off millions of acres of land to almost all activities, including motorized recreation.

    Since the sponsors do not even represent the area in question – a geographic area the size of Indiana – they cannot realistically consider the effects the legislation would have on hundreds of communities in the area. If the bill becomes law, thousands of residents would wake up and find their favorite activities are no longer permitted because a Wilderness designation is so stringent that even bicycles and wheelbarrows are not be permitted.  

    I, too, believe in protecting our nation’s valuable resources for generations to come. I also think Rep. Maloney has the perfect opportunity to do. Since she represents a portion of New York City, I urge her to act locally and introduce legislation that would designate Central Park as a Wilderness area. I can almost guarantee this will never happen (nor would I want it to) because of the adverse economic and social effects.

    The actions of Rep. Maloney and others prove that many are willing to support legislation that affect others, but would rarely support the same policies in their own backyard.

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  • DC Insider: House panel passes E15 bill

    On April 11, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), held a session to make changes to H.R. 875, which is a bill that would repeal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s waiver decision related to E15 fuel (gasoline containing up to 15 percent ethanol), and the authority of the agency to grant further decisions in the matter, until the EPA seeks an independent scientific analysis of the effects of E15.

    During the session, called a markup, the committee adopted several technical amendments offered by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.). The bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), then passed by a vote of 18-17. See how the committee members voted.

    “Time and again, we see instances where American businesses are unnecessarily harmed by the EPA’s regulatory and political agenda,” said Smith. “Mr. Sensenbrenner’s E15 bill is backed by both the American Petroleum Institute and the Environmental Working Group, two organizations that do not agree often. It is also supported by the American Automobile Association (AAA), as well as groups representing everyone from snowmobilers to boaters to motorcyclists.”

    In fact, this bill is supported by a broad spectrum of 35 organizations. The organizations, which include the American Motorcyclist Association, sent a letter of support to Sensenbrenner.

    “After examining the basis for the EPA to grant its waiver decisions in 2010 and 2011 to allow the introduction of E15 fuel, it is clear to me that this decision was wrong, rushed and based on incomplete science,” said Sensenbrenner.  “Numerous tests and warnings highlight the harmful effects of E15 fuel blends on engines and their components, but they have all been dismissed by the EPA.  Therefore, we must force the EPA to stop the use of E15 fuel as we cannot responsibly allow the approval of mid-level ethanol blends until the serious safety, fuel efficiency, engine damage and environmental concerns are addressed.”

    To view an archive webcast of the markup, go to http://science.house.gov/markup/full-committee-markup-hr.

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  • DC Insider: Health Insurance Discrimination – Are you covered?

    My dad always told me, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When you’re young, you don’t really get it. What is there to prevent? What could possibly happen to you? You’re invincible, right? It’s not your intention to tempt fate; it’s just a normal part of being young. We all have moments though, when we are abruptly woken from our youthful dreamland and reality hits us like a freight train.

    As the first week’s theme of Freedom Friday --“Health-Insurance Discrimination”-- comes to a close, I was reminded of just such an incident that forever changed the life of a friend of mine. It was the weekend of July 4th in Salt Lake City several years ago. My friend and her new beau were on his motorcycle, enjoying their second date. As they were leaving the fireworks display they had just attended they were hit from behind on the freeway. The couple was thrown from his motorcycle. My friend hit the asphalt with such force that it actually shook her right out of her helmet and left her unconscious in the middle of the freeway. Somehow in the ensuing chaos, her brave beau, ran back into traffic and pulled her to safety. While this action prevented her from being hit by oncoming traffic, she was seriously injured. She was rushed to a local hospital and surgery was performed. Her life was spared.

    As fate would have it, this young couple later married and recently welcomed their first child.

    While this story has a happy ending, my friend faced a challenging recovery and expensive hospital bill. Being a single young woman, working as a waitress part-time, she didn’t have health insurance. The driver who hit them fled the scene. He was never apprehended.

    As adults, we are cautious and take measures to prevent situations like this. But what if you thought you had done everything you could do to protect yourself and found out too late that you were wrong?  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was meant to protect workers from being denied health-care coverage based on their participation in legal activities such as motorcycle riding. Unfortunately, the intent of Congress was reversed when rules were written to implement the law. As a result, health-insurance benefit discrimination against motorcyclists and others continues.

    Do you know that you are covered if injured while riding, or do you just think you are?

    Don’t find out too late. Make sure to read the “Exceptions” section of your health insurance plan’s benefits. This will tell you exactly what your plan won’t cover. It’s better to be certain before something happens than to find out as a result of an accident. The AMA has been fighting health-insurance discrimination for years and is now on Capitol Hill lobbying to change the law so that this form of discrimination no longer exists. In the meantime, being prepared and exercising some prevention will protect you from the panic that comes from trying to figure out the cure.

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  • DC Insider: The AMA’s latest efforts to educate lawmakers on E15

    On March 20, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce initiated a bipartisan review of the Renewable Fuel Standard by issuing the first of a series of white papers. The goal of the white papers is to examine a number of issues emerging with the current fuels available to motorists and solicit input from interested stakeholders.

    The first one examines the “Blend Wall,” which is the limit at which ethanol can be readily added to the gasoline supply in order to comply with the RFS. The AMA did so, and provided comments to questions pertaining to E15 fuel, a blend of gasoline that includes up to 15 percent ethanol by volume.

    We explained how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow E15 into the marketplace would impact every American who owns motorcycles and ATVs, not to mention cars, lawnmowers, boats and snowmobiles. Manufacturers have stated that the use of E15 may void warranties. In off-road engines, the effects can even be dangerous for users.

    Moreover, we indicated to the committee our concerns about E15 being mistakenly used and damaging engines and how the EPA’s initial misfueling mitigation plan was to require four-gallons of gasoline to help dilute the residual E15 left in the blender-pump hose – not a very practical solution for motorcyclists and ATV riders!

    At the time, the AMA objected to this plan because our members’ fuel tanks’ capacities are normally two-to-three gallons on average. We also objected to the concept of any fuel purchase mandate whatsoever.

    So, on Feb. 7, the EPA posted its new misfueling mitigation plan.

    Under the new option, retailers who use a blender pump to sell E15 and E10 fuel through the same hose must also have a separate E10/E0 fuel pump. Those retailers would be required to have a label on the blender pump that reads: “Passenger Vehicles Only. Use in Other Vehicles, Engines and Equipment May Violate Federal Law.” Retailers would also be required to have signs indicating the location of the dedicated E10-or-lower fuel pump. There would be no minimum-fuel-purchase requirement at that pump.

    Given the growing controversy over E15, the AMA can only imagine how many motorists and motorcyclists will be lining up at that single pump to get E10-or-lower fuel! That’s why we continue to push for common-sense solutions and, in the case of E15 fuel, we want an independent scientific study that documents the effects of this fuel on motorcycle and ATV engines. That’s being proposed now in Congress, and we’ll report on that in another blog post.

    Just another example of the AMA looking out for you—the rider!

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  • DC Insider: Keeping Trails Open for All

    With spring underway, riders across the country will start to notice more restrictions placed on access to trails on federal land. This is no coincidence. Federal land management policies across the country have been becoming more restrictive and less friendly to off-highway vehicle riders.

    A recent study found that up to 4,500 miles of multiple use trails in Colorado – a whopping 50-70 percent – are slated for closure under resource management plans that are currently being implemented and/or devised. This is terrible news for the OHV community because it means fewer opportunities to leave civilization behind, experience a change of scenery, and explore the great outdoors.

    There is positive news.  All resource management plans introduced must be released to the public by being published in the Federal Register, a publication that our very own Rick Podliska, AMA deputy director of government relations, reviews daily. Most notices published have at least a 30-day comment period. By being aware of comment periods, the OHV community has the opportunity to submit comments to federal agencies and have our voices heard.

    More good news: Our voices matter! By being aware and proactive the OHV community has successfully defeated proposals to limit access on federal lands in the past, and we will continue to do so in the future.

    Unfortunately, several federal agencies have adopted policies which limit what gets posted in the Federal Register. Recently, we received word of a comment period for a new trail. However, this was never mentioned in the Federal Register. In fact, without our extensive network of AMA members across the country, we may have missed this opportunity to comment.

    Our response from the agency in charge was, because this trail opening did not have a “significant impact on the human environment,” the notice was not legally required to be placed in the Federal Register. We are now investigating where the line is drawn between “significant” and “less than significant,” but I know I do not like the idea of someone else determining it for me.

    Contrary to the official position, I am supremely confident that the opening, or closure, of a trail would constitute a very significant event for those nearby. It certainly would have made a big impact where I used to ride.

    I hope that as we all enjoy riding – either on- or off-highway – we remain vigilant to the threats to our chosen pastime. When the motorcycling community works together, we can ensure that on- and off-highway motorcycling will not only remain an exhilarating American pastime, but also an important an economic driver in our communities. In other words, a truly inspiring enterprise.

    If you happen to notice activity in your area, please contact us at grassroots@ama-cycle.org.

    Have a safe and adventurous April.

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  • DC Insider

    The AMA has launched a blog, DC Insider, on our activities in Washington, D.C. to protect your right to ride. The blog ranges from covering a serious topic one day to not-so-serious banter on other days. Regardless of the issue, we welcome you to our blog! 
     

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  • Paying from both ends to support ethanol

    As of now, we know the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring all consumers to buy at least four gallons of gasoline when they use certain E15 ethanol-gasoline blend pumps.

    That’s the EPA’s solution to the effects of E15 on our motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle engines. 

    We also know that ethanol production is subsidized by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

    What folks may not know is that the USDA provides grants to gasoline storeowners to purchase these special ethanol blender pumps.  

    That’s right.  

    The USDA subsidizes the growing of the corn on the front end, and then subsidizes the cost of special ethanol blender pumps to sell the finished product on the back end.

    Check it out, just search the Internet for “USDA accepts applications for blender pump installations.”

    If this is the new norm, the AMA should request the U.S. Forest Service -- part of the USDA -- give the OHV community millions of acres of land, and then pay us to ride on it!

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