February 7, 2017 WASHINGTON, DC - When last year's highway bill passed into law, motorcyclists worked hard to re-establish the Motorcyclist Advisory Council or 'MAC'. By design, the MAC was created to coordinate with and counsel the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on infrastructure issues that affect motorcyclists. So, it came as shock when the FHWA announced in January they would only dedicate one seat out of a possible ten for a motorcyclist on the Council. Instead the other nine seats were to represent experts in road design, construction, safety and engineering.
Riders from across the nation quickly sounded the alarms calling on their elected officials to correct what was viewed by many as not only a misstep by the Agency, but a sharp turn away from the congressional intent behind the statute of the highway bill itself. Officials in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate agreed.
Approximately one month after the announcement about the composition of the MAC was issued, letters were sent to the newly confirmed Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asking her to ensure that a balanced makeup of the MAC be guaranteed to address motorcyclists' concerns. The bipartisan Senate letter, led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) included a total of ten signatories including that of John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation which has jurisdiction over transportation-related matters.
The U.S. House of Representatives issued its own letter to Secretary Chao outlining its concerns with actions by the FHWA, asking the Secretary to go as far as to delay future activity of the MAC until a fair and balanced composition could be reached. The House letter, led by Representatives' Tim Walberg (R-MI), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mike Burgess (R-TX) Donald Norcross (D-NJ) stated,
"It is critical to allow motorcyclists to have a strong voice on this Council. These are the individuals who have experience and can provide a motorcyclist's insights on the challenges and benefits of our roadways. Depending on where they live, riders have unique experiences and are differently impacted by roadway and barrier design, and construction, among others."
In total, over thirty-five lawmakers signed onto the letters representing sixteen different states. Still, other lawmakers including Representatives' Ted Budd (R-NC) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) called the Federal Highway Administration directly speaking with Michael Griffith, Director of the Office of Safety Technologies within the Agency and the contact for the MAC according to the Federal Register notice. Both registered their opposition on the composition of the Council though reported the response from Griffith was "limited."
The Federal Highway Administration is accepting nominations to the MAC through February 23. It is unclear as to whether they will look to increase the number of motorcyclists on the Council despite the concerns expressed from various lawmakers and the motorcycle community at-large.
Leading the charge on the issue is the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, the Washington, DC-based organization for states' motorcyclists' rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. President of the Board of Directors Kirk 'Hardtail' Willard explained the impetus for the organization's strong stance on this issue, "Motorcyclists deserve robust representation on bodies handling issues that affect their community. It's a scary world for riders when this all-important dialogue between the federal government and the motorcycling community may very well take place among bureaucrats who have never swung a leg over a motorcycle."
About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states' motorcyclists' rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. The MRF is chiefly concerned with issues at the national and international levels that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists. The MRF is committed to being a national advocate for the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle and works in conjunction with its partners to help educate elected officials and policymakers in Washington and beyond.
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