A.B.A.T.E. and Black Thursday

A special day for all motorcycle enthusiasts

By JD and Jody

We received a request from our Editor asking us to cover an event at the Washington State capital on January 16th. I checked my schedule and Jody rearranged hers, so we agreed to head north despite reports of severe winter storms. We were curious about what was going on so I called Scott Robinson. Scott, a friend of ours, is Senior Deputy Coordinator of ABATE of Washington, and he clued me in as to the importance of that Thursday. It’s not just any Thursday, it’s Black Thursday.

Let me make sure and try to answer a couple questions right now. Whats ABATE? Well ABATE stands for, A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments. ABATE is a non-profit organization dedicated to the freedom of choice. Black Thursday is a yearly event on the 2nd Thursday of each legislative session, this year it was January 16th. It is an extremely important day for motorcycle riders’ rights. The reason I say motorcycle riders is because it’s not just for Harley, Indian, etc riders. ABATE represents anyone who currently rides and even those that don’t ride yet, as the laws don’t just apply to the typical biker family. The laws are for anyone on two wheels or three wheels who you see going down the road.

Now that we cleared some dust, here is what took place. Jody and I arrived Wednesday early evening to a slightly snow covered Olympia, to attend a meeting with members that was led by Louise Bently, Washington State ABATE Legislative Affairs Officer. Louise brought the members up to speed on what to expect on Thursday. Louise was going to be in meetings with legislators from 8am until the late afternoon. She went over what bills are in consideration for this session.

HB 1125-2019-20, concerning helmet use.
Sponsors: Blake, Griffey, Walsh and Young
SB 5007-2019-20, concerning helmet use
Sponsors: Rolfes, Sheldon, Braun, Brown, Fortunato, Kuderer, O’Ban, Short, Takko, Wagoner, Warni. SB 5254-2019-20, Modifying the operation of motorcycles on roadways laned for traffic.
Sponsors: Sheldon, Conway.
HB 1058-2019-20, Establishing permissible methods of parking a motorcycle.
Sponsors: Irwin, Blake, Van, Werven, Berquist, Walsh, MacEwen, Shea, Jinkins, Wylie, Goodman, Barkis.
SB 5653 2019-20, Establishing permissible methods of parking a motorcycle.
Sponsors: Fortunato, Hasegawa, Takko, Brown, Becker, Padden, Wilson, Schoesler, Short, Holy, Warnick, Sheldon, Honeyford, Saldana, Hobbs, Palumbo, Randall.
The Helmet Choice pilot bill, allows those who ride to decide what gear they feel is necessary. A five-year plan to study effects of helmet choice in relation to fatalities. A provision to require motorcycle insurance for non-helmeted riders.
The Parking bill, allows motorcycles to park safely along roadways, including angle parking. It allows for parking congestion relief by allowing multiple motorcycles per spot. Motorcycles cannot receive violations for slant or angle parking.
Lane Sharing bill, a form of congestion relief on roadways for virtually no cost. Allows motorcycles to negotiate position on roads to increase safety. Only legal when traffic is stopped or crawling, 10mph over traffic flow.

After that education, we called it a day. Thursday we were met with much clearer skies. As we walked towards the Capitol building, we were admiring the setting and the way the sun was shining after a blustery day the day before. We found Scott in the Columbia room and quickly met Kathi Bolton. She shared her schedule and she was almost as busy as Louise with meetings. She invited Jody and I to tag along to sit in on her 2pm meeting with Matt Boehnke, State Rep for the 8th Legislative District. We quickly agreed and then headed out to catch the traditional ride-in.

We could hear the bikes before we could see them. They intentionally enter the area via a tunnel. Which is like an amphitheater for a biker. ABATE had an area reserved for those brave enough to ride in and this particular January day was great for a ride. The snow the day before was enough to keep some home, but there was a good showing of brave souls rumbling into position a short walk from the Capitol steps.

As we walked to the steps in front, many of the motorcyclists had unfurled banners to show their chapters, and flags showing support for their freedoms. A few dignitaries spoke to the large group on the bikes and on the steps, referring to the work ABATE does for all on motorcyclists and helping them in understanding their rights. As the speeches were ending, a gentleman who had parked right out front stepped up, and said he didn’t need a microphone. His name is Brad Klippert. He had a strong voice as he asked the crowd if they love the USA; cheers roared. He then went on to share that he had gotten his own Harley-Davidson and is now part of the family. More cheers and whistles. He ended by saying, “God bless you, God bless your family and God bless the USA!” He definitely warmed and excited the couple hundred standing on the steps and surrounding area, within earshot.

With Brad having pumped up the crowd, we all went inside to the Columbia room to fresh donuts and coffee. From there, members went in several different directions to meet legislators. Jody and I took a slight break for lunch knowing we would be attending meetings with Kat later.

Kat took us to 122 Legislative building where Matt is located and shared the protocol. Jody and I arrived at 122B and met Dinah, the Legislative Assistant to Matt. Kat soon showed up with Ada Mae and Allen Acosta, we all went into Matt’s office. After introductions, Kat shared with Matt the status and understanding of the bills in session. Matt was very aware of the bill as he listened to Kat. Questions were asked and answered by both. After the allotted time we stood. Matt shared more of his background in the military and thanked Allen for his service. As we walked out of Matt’s office, Brad was in the next office and we couldn’t miss capturing the photo opportunity before us.

It had been a whirlwind of a day. That evening ABATE had a recognition dinner for the members and any legislators who wanted to attend. There was live music after we ate. It was great to see that Brad, Matt and Phil Fortunato had taken ABATE’s invite as well as several Legislative Assistants. Phil kept the member at his table entertained with stories, then to everyone’s surprise, got up with the live band and led the entire room in the song by Garth Brooks, “Friends In Low Places.” To say we had a fantastic time would be an understatement.

When all was quiet, I couldn’t help but think of something I heard Kat say many times over. The good times will be remembered but I believe this one lesson may stay with me the longest. Kat said, “The laws about the helmets or lane sharing are not saying you must ride without a helmet or you must share a lane. It’s about you having a choice, as a rider, to decide for yourself. It’s about if you choose to ride without a helmet, for whatever reason, perhaps be less restricted in your vision, it’s up to you as an individual. As for sharing a lane, it is only for those who have experience and abilities. It is entirely about those on motorcycles making choices for themselves.” I ride in a state that requires a helmet, and I’ve ridden in states where there isn’t a law, I still rode how I chose. That’s the American way. That’s freedom. That my friend, is what ABATE is all about.