Thursday, May 26, 2011
Failed anti-sportbike bill offers important lessons to both sides of the fight
Those of you who saw this post and followed this Facebook page throughout the entire Texas HB 2470 ordeal are well aware of what we Texas motorcyclists recently put ourselves through to defeat a highly discriminatory and poorly drafted bill aimed solely at sportbikes –– the proposed law based on nothing more than prejudiced and ignorant public perceptions. I'll spare you the details, as I have a bad case of tired head right now from the whole experience. If you need to catch up on everything that happened, make yourself a pot of coffee and click the links. To summarize in a single sentence, HB 2470, a.k.a. "Malorie's Law", was a proposed law that would've made it illegal for certain riders of certain types of bikes ("sportbikes" specifically, which the bill defined extremely poorly) to carry passengers, resulting from the death of 19-year-old Malorie Bullock, who was killed while riding pillion on the back of a sportbike piloted by 18-year-old Tanner Burnett.
Anyhow, I'm happy to report that as of this week, we've officially received word from the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee that HB 2470 is dead, at least partly due to our actions and opposing involvement as an organized group of Texas motorcyclists. Along the way, we pulled the American Motorcyclist Association, the Motorcycle Industry Council, and even Cycle World Magazine into the melee, all of whom fought on our side to kill the bill. To those entities, I say thank you sincerely for your assistance and involvement.
But now that it's all over (for the moment, anyway, as the bill can be easily re-introduced during the next legislative session), I'm left with more of a bad taste in my mouth than anything else. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the bill failed and everything, but I fear that HB 2470 was simply a harbinger of things to come. And for both sides of the fight, I fear there were important lessons which will go unlearned and misunderstood for years to come by many.
What supporters of HB 2470 should've learned from the situation, but likely didn't:
1.) When existing laws aren't enforced (or aren't even enforceable at all), more laws heaped on top of them certainly won't help. In fact, in the case of "Malorie's Law", it would've made things worse. HB 2470 essentially attempted to rewrite federal regulations already on the books which mandate motorcycle passenger safety equipment. It also attempted to effectively usurp the motorcycle licensing system in Texas for the sole purpose of demonizing one type of motorcycle. As I said in forum discussions, people screaming "There ought to be a law!" every time something bad happens is the road to societal collapse and eventual total government. That's not good for anyone's happiness or well-being.
2.) It doesn't have to be about race or religion for discrimination to be immoral. The intent of HB 2470 was to paint sportbikes as something they aren't, based on prejudices and ignorance. Sportbikes are not inherently the most dangerous motorcycle type, nor are all sportbike riders squidly teens who stunt on the freeway and block traffic. There are many of us in Texas and America at large who ride sportbikes skillfully and responsibly, and do not deserve to have our liberties aggressed upon.
3.) It's counterproductive to honor the memory of the deceased by naming a law after him or her which will generally be disliked. My friend Kurt Brown said it perfectly: "I hope they find a more positive way to memorialize their daughter. A scholarship, rider education program or other similar type program seems more appropriate than 'I got a ticket because of Malorie'." I couldn't agree more.
What opposers of HB 2470 should've learned from the situation, but likely didn't:
1.) When the rights of all motorcyclists are threatened, we should never turn on our own. The first thing that started happening in motorcycle circles after HB 2470 passed the Texas House was cruiser guys pointing their collective finger toward the sportbike crowd and generalizing them all as being irresponsible hot-rodders who are losing motorcycledom its rights at the pen of ignorant, non-motorcyclist legislators and citizens. Likewise, the sportbike crowd pointed squarely at the cruiser crowd and accused them all of being bar-hopping, helmetless drunks who swerve headlong into telephone poles by the dozens. All sides were wrong, both in accusation and principle. A house divided cannot stand, and we need solidarity more than ever.
2.) The best way to protect our rights as riders is to be good representatives and ambassadors of motorcycling every day. Think about the damage we do to motorcycling every day by doing things like riding wheelies in heavy traffic and running baffleless straight pipes on big-bore V-twins. We have an opportunity every time we ride to do things which endear others to our lifestyle. Yet so many of us are content to simply shoot the general public a figurative finger and leave them startled, rattled, and with their ears ringing.
3.) Sputnik is gone now, and we don't have the luxury of relying upon someone else to be the watchdog anymore. If you don't know who Sputnik was, Google him. Suffice it to say that, despite being a sometimes controversial character, he was a champion of motorcycle rights in Texas. He passed away not long ago at 70 from a heart attack, and I think we all kinda forgot that no one was minding the store. That is, until we discovered that HB 2470 had made it through the Texas House almost unopposed. That event should be our wake-up call. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Sputnik understood that fact, and I hope someone of his caliber will step up to fill the void.
Finally, I realize now some of the mistakes I made personally along the way, specific to this fight.
First off, I offer an apology to the family of Malorie Bullock for how I initially entered the fray. My first act of opposition to HB 2470 was to post a guns-blazing piece of editorial onto the the pro-HB 2470 Facebook page, not realizing (or even stopping to consider) that it was being run and administrated by the family of the young woman whose death was the catalyst for the bill. Though I made no insults or personal attacks by any stretch of the imagination, it was an angry, frustration-filled manifesto based largely on the ire I'd developed though similar past experiences. I should've presented my position in a different way, and I'm sorry for being such a dick at the get-go. I also regret the rather contentious email exchange I subsequently shared with Malorie's sister, Natalie.
Lastly, I regret that I conversely employed some of the same stereotyping in which I accused the other side of engaging. It's easy to get mad when you feel your individual sovereignty is been aggressed upon and, by the same token, difficult to remember that everyone involved is a human being working for what they think is right. I know I have some polishing to do in how I disagree with others at times, and I'm always working on improving. Unfortunately, I feel pretty confident that I'll have many more opportunities regarding motorcycle-rights threats throughout which to practice.