Sunday, February 12, 2012

Biker Rally, 2012--where were the bicyclists?

 Its not clear to me whether the bicycling community was simply not interested in House Bill 12, if the notion of being a "biker" or the sound of a big 45 degree V-twin firing at 315 deg intervals put bicyclists off, or if the cold February wind was simply blowing them in the other direction. Bottom line is you wouldn't think bicyclists cared much for increasing driver accountability based on yesterday's lopsided showing. Bikers were everywhere, but most arrived via HOG, aka Harley Owner's Group. To be fair to bicyclists, so-called sport moto turnout was pretty thin too.  I saw a half dozen or so non-Harleys, including my own Bavarian iron. I don't know what it will take to bring the whole two wheeled community together. I'm afraid to ask.

Related: The Traffic Justice Project.
KOAT-TV story

The folks leading with their chin on this effort, Rep. Rick Miera, the New Mexico Motorcyclist Rights Organization and the Duke City Wheelmen Foundation emphatically made it clear that increasing driver accountability has become an ecumenical issue, including bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and other traditional highway safety folks. That's why we need people to turn out and show the flag. But neither BikeABQ nor BCNM made an emphatic, visible presence yesterday and they are the big guns in terms of members. Only the Duke City Wheelmen had jerseys showing and there was precious little in the way of pedal bike at the Roundhouse amidst a sea of Milwaukee Iron. BikeABQ posted good information on its web site and there were a few yellow hats present.  If there were more bicyclists hiding in the woodwork, that's great. But it sure didn't look that way to me or probably to the pols in the Roundhouse.

Mind you, the penalties would not become draconian under HB12 but according to the Duke City Wheelmen, the maximum penalty for injuring or killing someone due to Careless Driving, a misdemeanor, would rise from 300 dollars and ninety days to one thousand dollars and 364 days. I think a year in the County Bed and Breakfast is the maximum you can get for a misdemeanor. Some think that is a bullshit change. I disagree, but that's a legitimate gripe. The laws still suck. This bill is a good start.

Anyway, the motorcyclists have always taken operator competence very seriously and that includes folks like Harley-Davidson USA pushing motorcycle training. Maybe its because on a moto, you have no choice but to ride on the roads, so those roads (and the vehicle operators found there) need to be safer. You need to be safer. The other guy needs to be safer.  By contrast, bicyclists often respond to crashes and hazards by demanding separate facilities rather than tougher enforcement of the rules of the road. Most bicyclists flee from bicyclist safety training.  But you can't put bike paths everywhere, even bicyclists on bike paths have been killed by bad drivers, and we get enough of our own people hurt by bad driving that we need to be pro-active. Be a better cyclist.  More to the point here, see to it that at least a few of those careless operators get to spend a birthday in jail as a way to send a message to the others. Crashes that killed James Quinn, Roy Sekreta, John Anczarski, Heather Reu and Dan Montoya, and most recently, Scott Lane, as well as the crash that severely injured both John and Liz Mazzola illustrate this situation. Not to forget to mention, we need to see the bigger picture, not just the bike path picture. The bodily harm done to the driver of a Ford or to a kid crossing the street by a Careless Driver is the same harm done to one of us.

Well, there is still hope. There is one week left in this legislative session and the bill is chugging along. Please help it out by contacting your House and Senate members.  And do it yesterday. I did.

The Leather crowd packs the Roundhouse

Duke City Wheelmen
DCWF's Jennifer Buntz addresses the crowd

NMMRO Board Chair Annette Torrez

HB 12 Sponsor Rick Miera (D, Albuquerque)
Past BikeABQ President Craig Degenhardt and yours truly, in one of my alternate realities
Bombtown residents have probably seen this one near the White Rock turnoff
on NM-502. I watched JoAnn and Jerry die that day when their Harley was hit 
head-on by a wrong way driver that had Meena and me bailing into the ditch.
Thanks again to Rep. Rick Miera and to the New Mexico Motorcyclist Rights Organization and to the Duke City Wheelmen Foundation for their work on this bill. A huge and humbling thanks to Scott Lane's wife Sheryl and their 19 year old son for coming out in support for others--we don't need more crosses on the road. See Sheryl's comment after this post--it is #1.

Now for you others, and especially the BCNM and BikeABQ, its definitely time to take a pull at the front. And finally, thanks so much to those bicyclists who did show up. Sometimes it seems like time wasted when stuff goes slowly if at all, but it takes a long time and a lot of dedication to make sure that legal sausage gets made.


Sheryl Kearby said...

Dear Khal,

I want to apologize for not introducing myself at the Biker Rally yesterday, but I did not know who you were until I read your blog today and saw your picture. I am (Scott) Dwane Lane's wife, and my son and I were there sitting almost directly across from you on the other side. I was also surprised that there were not more bicyclists there, but I thought that might be the norm since we have never attended that event before. We were not aware of the incredible lack of punishment for hitting a cyclist until my husband was killed, so I think there is a total lack of knowledge within New Mexico about careless driving laws. I also want to thank you for writing to the Journal about the offensive comment posted on the internet shortly after my husband died. I think that I saw the comment you were describing and was really sad about the insensitivity and lack of compassion for my husband. We appreciate your words of sympathy and concern. Yesterday was my son's 19th birthday-the first without his Dad- and he wanted to show his support for the legislation and honor his Dad by spending his birthday in Santa Fe in hopes that other children will not have to go through the sadness and loss that all of our family has suffered. It was a very moving ceremony. This law may not be as severe as it could be, but it is a start. Thank you for keeping cyclist safety a priority in your writing and I appreciate your remembering Dwane. He was a really nice guy to know, and would have been a friend of yours in a heartbeat. Ride safely, Sheryl Kearby

Steve A said...

Thanks to you and Sheryl. I think "February" had a lot to do with it, though where I work, the moto population is more variable than the cyclists.

Khal said...

God bless you and your family, Sheryl, and please let us in the cycling community know if we can help you.

Jennifer Buntz said...

To all the cyclists who were at the Roundhouse Saturday, thank you for being there. Biker Day at the Capitol, 2012 had some of the most important DCWF people there participating. I was there with some of the most important people in my life. These are the folks that have contributed to DCWF the most. We don't have a lot of money, any full time staff or any powerful political connections.

All I really have to say is that the more people who participate, the further we get.
Jennifer Buntz

Jackie said...


Several of us cyclists were stranded in the lobby of the Roundhouse because we were not permitted to bring our bikes inside and did not have bike locks with us. We took turns watching the bikes, but simply had a difficult time getting past the black leather. The cyclists and the motorcyclists may be strange bedfellows, but it's a worthwhile bill. Sorry I missed getting to chat with you in person.

Khal said...

Hi, Jackie

Craig and I saw you and waived! But its gotta be more than the same die-hards!

Little Jimmy said...

Hi Khal,

Thanks for your post and everything that you do.

I will be candid and blunt here. We did not go to the rally because I don't support the notion that murder is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,000 and a stint in the county lockup.

The proposed bill doesn't do anything substantive to the law to make people think twice about killing a cyclist (or pedestrian or other drive) because of texting, or simply running over a bicyclist because they "didn't see him/her." One thousand dollars, 30 days (suspended) in jail, and some tearful apologies before the judge and everything is okay again—except for the victim and the victim's family.

Harsh as it sounds, but this is how most of these cases will play out in the courts, mark my words. Most of the murderers won't even need to hire a lawyer for these hearings. The bill is a travesty in the most literal sense of the word.

When the lawmakers decide to get serious and decide to put the law on par with a manslaughter rap, then we've got something real. The current bill is only window dressing. The people represented by all those ghost bikes out there deserve much, much better than what's currently on the table.

My two cents.

Khal said...

Regardless of whether this bill does or does not go far enough, and perhaps it doesn't, we have to start somewhere. Sometimes hitting someone should be a felony, but we gotta get there. This sort of bill puts the state of New Mexico on record as marching in the right direction. Don't trivialize small steps--it took decades for people to take DWI seriously, too. I was once hit head-on by a drunken New York State Conservation official, mashing the front of our car. The conservation official got an offer of a ride home from a county sheriff. No ticket. That would not happen any more in most if not all places. As Neil Armstrong once said, "that's one small step for a man, and a giant leap for mankind". We gotta start somewhere.

open face helmets said...

This bill is a good start. And it will really change people desires with their acts.