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National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)

HELMET LAW PROPOSED IN CHICAGO Motorcyclists would be required to wear helmets when they ride through the Windy City if local politicians get their way. A city-wide helmet law has been proposed by Alderman Edward Burke to combat a rise in fatal motorcycle accidents, and Mayor Richard Daley is backing the measure but wants to extend the requirement to include bicycle riders and skaters.

ABATE of Illinois has cautioned the Chicago City Council to think twice about enacting a helmet law within its city limits, citing a 1999 law that states; “No unit of local government, including a home-rule unit, may enact any ordinance requiring motorcycle users to wear protective head gear.”

Ald. Burke said that if Chicago can mandate that bicycle messengers wear helmets and bright-colored safety vests, then the city can use its sweeping home-rule authority to mandate that motorcycle riders wear helmets.

Mayor Daley stated that the city should do what the state legislature has failed to do, and that it should not only be a law for motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, but that a helmet requirement should be put in insurance policies. "You should not get an insurance policy unless you have it," Daley said. "How do you get insurance to ride a motorcycle without a helmet?"

"We understand that recent tragic events are spurring the city council to 'do something' about motorcycle safety," said ABATE spokesperson Cheryl Pearre. "However, we find it unfortunate that the council has chosen to antagonize the state's many thousands of responsible riders with this proposed ordinance. Excessive speed, reckless driving, and alcohol all factored into the incidents leading up to this proposed ordinance. ABATE of Illinois believes strongly that education and vigorous enforcement of existing traffic laws speaks more directly to the problem of irresponsible ridership than does a helmet law."

"In 1999, the General Assembly saw the wisdom in preempting local jurisdiction over helmet use," continued Pearre. "If the Chicago City Council ignores the preemption statute and passes a local helmet use ordinance, ABATE of Illinois will employ the legal and legislative means necessary to ensure that state law is enforced, and that the rights of responsible motorcyclists are preserved."

NUDE RIDER DIES DOING STUNT It's no wonder that motorcycle fatality statistics are on the increase when you consider the rising popularity of "extreme" street riding, with sport bike riders performing wheelies, stoppies and other high speed antics on public roadways, often hot-dogging for the camera. Holding It Big Entertainment specializes in filming such street stunts, but the company president is now facing charges of reckless endangerment and negligent driving stemming from a rider's fatal wheelie. On Sept 12, 21-year-old Shaun P. Matlock of Frederick, MD died when he was performing a wheelie, riding without pants, and crashed into a tow truck parked on US 340.

Matlock's bike and helmet bore logos reading "Holding It Big", and the president of the Baltimore-based company, Benjamin M. Meacham, 22, of Frederick, was allegedly driving in a nearby vehicle videotaping the fatal ride, and then later erased the tape before police could confiscate it. He was charged under a provision stating that anyone who induces, causes, coerces, permits or directs another person to commit a traffic violation also is guilty of the violation, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle said.

Another bare-bottomed rider, Brandon M. Edwards, 21, of Ijamsville, who also was allegedly doing wheelies for the camera, was charged Sept. 20 with reckless driving, negligent driving, driving on a learner's permit without the required supervision, and indecent exposure.

Trooper David Ward, who investigated the case, said the only explanation he has heard for the lack of pants was "they wanted to do something they didn't think anybody had done before."

MOTORCYCLE SALES ROARING ALONG The U.S. motorcycle industry, spurred by the impressive success of Harley-Davidson, has grown steadily in each of the last 11 years, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. This year, it's booming. "Sales are at an all-time-record high, all brands, all styles," said John Wyckoff, a longtime industry consultant who regularly calls 60 dealers a week and says all are running 10 percent to 50 percent ahead of last year in sales. "It just took off like a flying goose," he told the Associated Press in a recent interview.

"I've been in the business all my life and I keep as close as I can to it," Wyckoff said. "It's a phenomenon I don't really understand. It's just amazing."

According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, a not-for-profit national trade association based in California, sales of new motorcycles rose 6.4 percent to 996,000 in 2003. Overall, the association's latest estimates show the industry generating more than $20 billion in consumer sales and services, including around $7.5 billion in retail sales of new motorcycles.

"This is a generation that refuses to age. That's at the core of this. 'I'm not an old man or woman and here's the proof,'" said Chick Hancock, a Harley-Davidson dealer in Albuquerque, N.M., who initially feared an oversupply when Harley announced it would increase production 8 percent this year. "Even with horrendous weather in the East, things are looking good."

Even for motorcycles that haven't been ridden in a while, the resale value is going up in the used-bike market, according to Frank Wal, who works at trade shows for BMW. "People are looking for cheap transportation, fuel economy, that type of thing. You're seeing a lot more motorcycles being sold that probably sat in the garage the last two or three years. It's putting a lot more bikes on the road."

MADE IN CHINA China is gearing up to become the world's largest manufacturer of sport bikes, with Chinese marque Jialing set to produce two million bikes per year! Jialing is the first Chinese company to work with a foreign motorcycle company, Honda, and has it's own town, Jialing Industrial Town, which covers two square miles and has a population of 30,000.

TRAINING FILM FREE WITH EVERY BIKE Now here's a great idea from across the pond, where the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI) is planning to produce a rider training DVD that will be distributed with new motorcycles in England. The safety DVD will be issued with all new bikes purchased at franchised dealerships to educate newbie riders about safer motorcycling in a modern documentary format.

AMERICAN BIKER With all the biker reality shows, documentaries and travelogues on the air these days, it's refreshing to finally view a video that not only traces the beginnings of modern motorcycling but also explores the rich history of the motorcyclists' rights movement. "American Biker" is a 3 hour tour from past to present, chronicling the history, life style and culture of the American Biker.

This unique documentary features interviews with politicians, authors, law enforcement, celebrities, and motorcycle clubs from all over America, including; Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Easyriders, NCOM, AMA, ABATE, MMA, the Confederation of Clubs, Peter Fonda, Arlen Ness, Jesse James, Chuck Zito and "a cast of hundreds".

American Biker also features original footage from Daytona, Sturgis, Hollister and Rolling Thunder.

VHS and DVD's are available for $19.95 + $2.95 shipping and handling from Guerrilladocs, 4804 Laurel Canyon Blvd. #513, Valley Village, CA 91607, or order online at www.guerrilladocs.com/site/html/american_biker.html.

WEIRD NEWS OF THE MONTH: OFFICER'S DISGUSTING DISGUISE It wasn't too difficult for protesters at the Republican National Convention to figure out that a group of bikers following them around were actually undercover cops, but in a misguided effort to conceal his identity, one officer wore a provocative sticker on his helmet that has led to an even louder protest. "Loud Wives Lose Lives," was the officer's choice of slogan, a play on a popular biker saying, but the crowd wasn’t amused.

According to the New York Times, armed with a photo of the officer, the New York Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to the police commissioner asking that "prompt action be taken" to address the matter, especially given several recent deadly episodes of domestic violence against women in the New York region.

But to the New York Police Department, wearing the sticker was a routine part of undercover work. "It's like saying that an undercover narcotics officer who wears a coke spoon is promoting cocaine use when just the opposite is true," said Paul J. Browne, the department's chief spokesman.

It is the latest episode in the back and forth between civil libertarians and the police as the courts wrestle with the handling of protesters before, during and after the convention.

"It's unfortunate that the Police Department is taking that position," said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Whatever his function, there is no excuse for a police officer on official business to be a proponent of domestic violence or other violence against women. There are other ways to disguise yourself without this hateful message."

In their letter to the Police Department, the civil liberties lawyers asked that the message, and any similar ones, be removed from police equipment and that those responsible be disciplined.

Referring to the controversial sticker, Mr. Browne said, "Undercover officers often adopt personas to include garb that reflects neither their personal nor the department's sentiments but to reinforce the guise that they are not police officers." He added that "offensive as this saying is," it is not uncommon in "misogynistic biker slang emblazoned on clothing, jewelry and equipment."

In this case, though, the attempt to avoid being recognized as a police officer appears to have failed. According to one witness, a high school teacher named Mike Schwartz, the march "was followed by a group of undercover cops on motorcycles who looked like they belonged in a bad biker movie," highlighting the officer with the offensive sticker.

ROBOCOP ON WHEELS The Waukee, Iowa Police Department is looking to purchase a BikeBot. The BikeBot is a robotic motorcycle cop that can be operated by remote control and can speak in-sync with the operator. The BikeBot costs $5,000 and would be used in demonstrations at area schools. A police spokesman said that students react well to the machine as it is used to give safety lessons and other information.

KRYPTONITE NOT SO SUPER, MAN The U-Shaped steel locks that bikers and bicyclists have relied upon for years to thwart thieves has been picked apart, quite literally, by an Internet video that shows how to pick the most secure locks known to cyclists with a Bic pen. Just stick the non-writing end into the cylinder-shaped keyhole and twist. The New York Daily News reported that lock maker Kryptonite is scrambling to reassure customers that it is working on a solution, and they said it will provide free product upgrades for certain locks purchased since September 2002 and urged consumers to visit its company's Website to learn how they can participate in the security upgrade program.

Although the trick apparently works on many locks with tubular cylinder technology including vending machines, some ignitions and other security products, it's the bike industry's best known locksmith, Kryptonite, that's feeling most of the heat. Industry experts say that a recall could cost tens of millions of dollars and would affect riders around the world.

QUOTABLE QUOTE: "Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow."
Edward Sandford Martin (1856-1939) American editor & writer, founder of Harvard Lampoon & Life magazine
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