Let’s Make 2021 A Great Year
With a new administration assuming the helm of our federal government and a new Congress in session, the AMA is seizing fresh opportunities to address the challenges facing motorcycling. We already are in touch with the leadership at key federal agencies whose actions directly affect AMA members and other American riders.
In the midst of the global pandemic, Americans have been buying dirt bikes and ATVs, resulting in an increase in outdoor recreation activities. The motorized recreation community can capitalize on this surge to unify and organize around a collective love of the outdoors.
A unified voice helps ensure our recreational access needs are not forgotten as the new leaders of federal government agencies determine their priorities for the coming four years.
The Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, for example, administer millions of acres of federal land and control access to OHV trails on that land. Every administration has the opportunity to recognize and support motorized recreation, as well as the economic benefits it brings to rural America, by protecting our access to trails and public land. The AMA is already hard at work to make sure the Biden administration does not miss this opportunity.
Here are some of the top 2021 issues for riders and racers.
The Department of Transportation influences every aspect of on-highway motorcycling, from the roads under the Federal Highway Administration to motorcycles under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Perhaps the most pressing issue facing the DOT is the regulation of automated vehicles.
Under presidents Obama and Trump, the DOT only issued guidelines for the development, testing and deployment of automated vehicles, none of which has adequately protected motorcyclists. The AMA will demand the Biden administration, along with a new Congress, commit to crafting true safety regulations for these new vehicles that guarantee the safety of all road users, including motorcyclists. The current “guidelines” on automated vehicles are unacceptable.
In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reinterpreted the Clean Air Act in a way that would forbid modifying emissions control devices on street legal, production vehicles, even if those vehicles would be used solely for competition.
The AMA, racing enthusiasts and the Specialty Equipment Market Association are in our fifth year of this battle, pressing Congress to pass the bipartisan Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports, or RPM, Act, which would affirm the right to convert factory street-legal vehicles into race-only vehicles.
A second way the EPA affects motorcycling is in the administration of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard, best known to motorcyclists as the reason E15 fuel and other high-ethanol blends pose an ongoing threat to motorcycle and ATV owners.
The RFS faces uncertainty in coming years, because the volumes of renewable fuel mandated by the legislation that created the program end in 2022, with the EPA determining the volume afterward.
Pro- and anti-ethanol forces have pushed Congress to address this uncertainty, and we will see that effort revived in a new Congress.
The AMA continues to adamantly oppose the expansion of E15 and other high-ethanol fuel blends to help ensure motorcyclists are protected at the pump from inadvertently misfueling their vehicles and causing engine or fuel system damage, or voiding their factory warranties.
In addition to agency-level decisions, the 117th Congress faces several must-pass bills to reauthorize funding for programs important to motorcyclists.
And the AMA will be lobbying elected officials, as well as agency bureaucrats, to obtain the funding needed for programs that benefit AMA members.
The previous Congress, for example, punted the highway funding bill to this Congress. In addition to providing funding for our roads and bridges, the bill provides funds for state motorcycle safety programs and for the Recreational Trails Program, which grants millions of dollars a year for the maintenance and creation of all kinds of trails. Thirty percent of RTP funds are earmarked for motorized trail projects.
Also, expect a third congressional attempt at passing automated vehicle legislation.
State and local governments face challenges, as well.
Each state whose 2020 legislative session was interrupted by the pandemic faces a backlog of unfinished work.
Motorcyclists must be on alert for state officials who gaze longingly at public money held in accounts earmarked for motorcycle safety programs or trails to patch holes in their COVID-19-tattered budgets.
We are tracking 2021 bills and will alert members about threats to their rights to ride. We also will work with local members and organizations to propose legislation beneficial to motorcyclists.
If you would like to be a more active advocate for motorcycling, email the AMA Government Relations Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, go to americanmotorcyclist.com/rights and subscribe to receive AMA Action Alerts. Together, we can make 2021 a great year.
Michael Sayre is the AMA Director of Government Relations.