Black Thursday at the Washington State Capitol

By Brian Lange. Photos by Jack Ottoway & Gabriel Garcia

   ABATE of Washington held its annual legislative event Black Thursday again this year on January 18th. What is ABATE, and what is Black Thursday you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. ABATE of Washington is the largest motorcycle rights organization in the state of Washington. We believe that no matter what you ride, the laws created in Olympia affect all of us.

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   Some of the laws ABATE has worked hard to get passed were: the “Sharrows Law” that made it legal for a motorcycle to pass a bicycle in the same lane, the “Red Light Law” that allowed motorcycles that weren’t detected by traffic light sensors to proceed through the red light after one cycle when it was safe to do so.

   ABATE is currently working to pass a law to allow lane-splitting under certain conditions, to change the state’s parking law so that we aren’t issued “illegal parking” tickets for parking with our wheels in towards the curb as motorcyclists have done since virtually the day bikes were invented. ABATE is also working to help pass a law to enhance the penalty for someone who fails to yield or stop and sends a motorcyclist to the hospital.

   This leads to Black Thursday, which is an annual legislative event open to all motorcyclists, and anyone who supports the ‘Freedom of the Road’. During Black Thursday, motorcyclists gather at the Capitol and meet with their legislators to discuss the issues facing motorcyclists. It doesn’t matter whether you ride a touring bike, a cruiser, sports bike, dual sport, or even an off-road bike, ABATE fights to protect your Right to ride.

   The important thing is that this is a day to meet with our legislators. For those who have never met with a legislator, or feel they wouldn’t know what to do, ABATE holds a training seminar during the evening of the night before. Black Thursday is a day for Washington State’s motorcycling community to stand together on common issues that affect us all and be heard with one voice. So if you ride, or if you support the right of riders to be able to ride without undue interference by state agencies, come to Black Thursday. It doesn’t matter what you ride, it matters that you stand-up for your right to ride.

   Although rain was forecast, the sun rose in blue skies after pre-dawn showers. The mass ride-in arrived right on schedule after coming down the freeway from the Hawks Prairie Casino to the Capitol campus. It took several minutes for all the bikes just to be able to roll along the south diagonal before parking and filling three-quarters of the north diagonal with motorcycles.    

   Once the crowd gathered on the Capitol steps, several carrying protest signs and banners, it was reminiscent of an old style protest rally. Within the large group of motorcyclists present were a mix of cruiser, touring and even a contingent of sports bike riders. The speakers consisted of; myself and Scott Robinson (ABATE of Washington Deputy Coordinator), David Devereux of the Council of Clubs, Larry Walker of the Washington Road Riders Association, and Washington State Senators Sharon Brown, Dean Takko, Tim Sheldon, and Phil Fortunato. The legislators who spoke to the crowd on the Capitol steps included members of both parties and all were sponsors of bills that supported the motorcyclist’s rights to ride. The enthusiasm that all the speakers were met with definitely showed a mutual respect that comes from working together over a long period of time.

As of this writing, the Senate version of the parking bill has already received a hearing and had no opposition. The House version is expected to have a hearing quite soon, and the bill to enhance the penalty for hitting and injuring a member of the “vulnerable users of a public way” (read that as; pedestrians, bicyclists, people riding animals, motorcyclists, etc) is scheduled for a hearing later in January. There is even a bill to reduce the $150 registration fee for electric motorcycles to $35 that ABATE is supporting, as well as an amendment to the states motorcycle anti-profiling law. While all of the motorcycle bills that are currently before the legislature may not pass this session, that does not mean ABATE will be giving up on them.

   ABATE has been a 501 c (4) not for profit organization fighting for motorcycle rights in Washington State since 1979. An organization that has been around as long as that didn’t do it by giving up easily. ABATE will be back at the Capitol next January for the 2019 Black Thursday. If you are interested in being a part of the event, you can learn more on the ABATE of Washington website: abate-wa.org.

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