(Neither snow, nor rain…)
By Brian Lange, Legislative Affairs Officer, ABATE of Washington
Photos by JD Gore
After several days of snow, sub-freezing temps, and high winds, ABATE of Washington’s “Black Thursday” legislative event at the Capitol came off with nary a glitch. The only downside to the event was the reduction in the number of motorcycles participating. This was due to the extreme weather conditions during the days prior. However, we motorcyclists are an adaptive bunch. Those dedicated and yes, hard core riders who made it to the Capitol should be praised for their efforts, and their dedication to the fight for motorcycle rights. The rest of us who were there adapted to coming to the event in our cages just to ensure that we had a presence at the Capitol, even when most there barely expected anyone to appear due to the weather. I must say, that the Lewis County Chapter of ABATE found an excellent way to bring its members, by driving up from Chehalis in a large shuttle bus.
As we gathered on the steps of the Capitol, several legislators stepped out of their caucus meetings to address us. Rep. Chris Gildon, of Pierce County’s 25th Legislative District, was the first, and as a long time rider he stated that if anyone was going to be doing a run in the Puyallup area, to let him know because he would love to ride along. Rep. Kelly Chambers, also from the 25th LD, and also a rider, spoke next and showed her support for our efforts to get our parking bill and others passed. Then Rep. Brad Klippert from the 8th LD came down the steps to give a rousing speech about fighting to protect our rights. Then as he closed he announced that in the past year he had purchased a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster. Maybe if we can get more legislators to ride, we might have an easier effort to get bills passed that support and protect our rights.
Even as we gathered on the steps of the Capitol on that frigid morning, other motorcyclists had already been meeting with legislators for a couple of hours. As the day progressed, there were many successful meetings with legislators, and it was learned that a few others also rode. Senator Joe Nguyen of the 34th LD for example, rides a vintage BMW, and was very supportive of our efforts on the parking bill. As a motorcyclist, he understands that parking with a wheel towards the curb is not only a safe and effective way for motorcyclists to park, but it also helps to reduce the already reduced parking in metro areas by allowing multiple motorcycles into one parking spot along the curb.
Senator Maureen Walsh of the 16th LD also stated strong support for HB1058 (motorcycle parking bill), and even was aware that it had gone on to the Senate Rules Committee before running out of time last session and being sent back to House Rules to await this session. She was very impressed that several of her constituents had made it over the pass from eastern Washington for Black Thursday even with all the inclement weather.
The number of motorcyclists in the legislature will hopefully continue to grow. One of those, Rep. Richard DeBolt, has since announced his retirement, but the meeting with his constituents contained so many motorcyclists from the 20th LD that it had to be held in the gallery above the House Chamber. Another meeting with a motorcycling legislator was with Rep. Andrew Barkis of the 2nd LD, this wasn’t attended by nearly as many people but it was another successful meeting. As the ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Barkis has a lot of influence, and his support of our bills has been solid and steady since his election a few years ago.
It was repeatedly reported back to the Columbia Room where ABATE was located for the event, that many legislators were impressed by the fact there were as many motorcyclists at the Capitol as there were with the weather as it was. This only demonstrated to many how important motorcyclists feel our right to ride freely and without unnecessary restrictions is. “It is all the same wind,” one motorcyclist told me as we discussed her feeling that it doesn’t matter what you ride, as long as we are free to ride. If we can only get the state governmental agencies, and some in the legislature to understand that mentality and not consider us either the same as automobiles, or so different that they exclude and exempt us from policy and infrastructure planning, we will have made large steps forward.
At the end of the event at the Capitol, there was a meet & greet held just down the street at the Red Lion Governor Hotel. Through the evening, about two dozen legislators came down and stayed for a while socializing with the motorcyclists there. One of them, Gubernatorial candidate Phil Fortunato of the 31st LD, even sang a song with the band to the applause of those in attendance.
ABATE of Washington will again hold Black Thursday in January of 2021. We hope that you will come and stand together with your fellow riders, and support efforts to improve motorcyclists’ ability to ride freely in Washington state. It doesn’t matter what you ride. All riders, and all motorcycles are welcome. The only cost is taking a day off work to stand up for your rights. Isn’t that an equitable trade-off?
Catch you on the road sometime…