Bikers Look To November Election
A motorcyclists' group hosted an casual forum with political candidates at Jim's Hideaway Wednesday night. Laws governing helmets and other issues affecting motorcyclists were the hot topics.
Slots didn't make it on the agenda. Preparation for BRAC wasn't discussed either.
But at a forum hosted by the Anne Arundel County chapter of American Bikers Aimed Towards Education (ABATE), an array of candidates running in the November election met to discuss motorcycle-related issues on Wednesday night at Jim's Hideaway in Odenton.
The event had the feel of an informal gathering, far from the stiff candidate forums seen elsewhere. Candidates for the state legislature, sheriff and state's attorney spoke conversationally with the roughly 15 people in attendance.
Talk centered primarily around issues that mattered to bikers.
Perhaps the hottest topic was the Maryland law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets at all times. Members of ABATE were almost unanimously opposed to the state being able to tell them when to wear a helmet.
Most of the candidates in attendance agreed.
"It goes to whether it's personal or public safety," said Eric Grannon, the Republican challenger to Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee. "And it's obviously a personal safety issue, so I don't think the state should tell you what to do."
Weathersbee was not in attendance. Sheriff Ron Bateman also did not attend, but his challenger, Republican Patrick Jameson did speak.
Members of ABATE were also upset that the fine for riding without a helmet is $100, when the fine for riding in a car without a seatbelt is only $25.
ABATE members also asked the candidates their thoughts on motorcycle-related laws that have been passed in other states. ABATE member Matt Eierman, who moderated the event, asked the candidates if they would support a California-like law that prohibits bikers from putting after-market exhausts on their motorcycles.
Delegate Don Dwyer (R-District 31) promised to adamantly oppose any attempt to enact a similar law in Maryland.
"It goes back to property rights," said Dwyer. "You bought that bike, you have the right to change it."
Many of the ABATE members present also wanted to know if candidates would support a law allowing for motorcycle traffic to ride in the shoulder lane in specific situations. With air-cooled bikes, a hot day mixed with traffic will cause the motorcycle to shut down, and can even cause permanent engine damage, members said.
Audience members wanted to know if the candidates would support legislation that would allow bikers to ride in the shoulder at a minimal speed of around 15 miles per hour during traffic jams, to avoid overheating.
While most of the candidates said they would probably support an effort to address the problem, the majority said they needed more information and detail before giving it an up or down vote.
In one of the only heated moments of the night, Grannon, sporting a leather biker jacket, diverted from the topic of motorcycles to criticize Weathersbee's record.
"Five terms is just too long for one person to be in that office, and I think Frank has grown too weak when it comes to plea bargains," Grannon said in his closing remarks. "Frank has a 95 percent plea bargain rate, and that is just way too high."