Motorcyclists celebrate helmet law repeal…
Michigan motorcyclists celebrate helmet law repeal at annual rally
June 06, 2012
By Melissa Anders – firstname.lastname@example.org
LANSING, MI — Michigan motorcyclists’ annual rally at the Capitol took on a different tone this year: celebratory.
Bikers from throughout the state gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to exalt the recent lifting of Michigan’s mandatory helmet law, an issue that many cyclists have been fighting for more than 30 years.
“It isn’t about wearing helmets, it’s about choice, it’s about our freedoms,” said Tom “Jinx” Rahn, board member of the Michigan chapter of American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE.
Rahn joined more than 130 other bikers at the Capitol before taking a group ride to the Harley Davidson dealership in Dimondale.
The group has been pushing for helmet reform since it formed in 1976.
Rallies and protests of years past drew larger crowds and more ire. Some years, several hundred cyclists would show up, and would even set fire to helmets.
In fact, former Capitol facilities director Jerry Lawler used to bring his own hibachi grill for the protestors.
“We had to protect the building, and if this was the form of protest they wished, we’d make it as safe as possible,” said Kerry Chartkoff, Capitol building historian.
Each year, the motorcyclists’ would fail to get the helmet mandate repealed. But they kept up the fight.
Former MLive capitol reporter Peter Luke opined in a 2008 column that “however it has evolved, the annual exercise likely remains the most sustained unsuccessful special interest effort in the annals of Michigan legislative lobbying.”
That is, until April 13, 2012, when Gov. Rick Snyder signed Senate Bill 291 into law, allowing motorcycle operators 21 or older to ride without a helmet if they meet certain qualifications and have additional insurance coverage.
AAA and other groups have criticized the law, saying it will result in more injuries.
There were three fatal motorcycle accidents in the month after Snyder signed the law, and two of the victims were not wearing helmets.
“Whenever you ride, you take a risk, whether you’re wearing a helmet or not,” said Vince Consiglio, president of ABATE of Michigan. He added that in the case of some of the non-helmeted crashes, it was the car driver’s fault and there’s nothing that could have been done.
ABATE’s largest goal may have been reached, but the group said it plans to remain involved in advocacy. For example, the organization plans to address vehicle-sensing traffic signals that don’t respond to motorcyclists. ABATE wants legislation to allow bikers to pass once traffic clears, Consiglio said.