We love powersports.
And we don't really like it when government steps in turning our passion into something unacceptable or even illegal.
However, there's a right way and a wrong way to help legislate change in your city, county or state in regards to Off Highway Vehicles (OHV). Breaking the law and putting others in danger is not the way to do it as a protest in Atlanta last month evidently did.
A video posted on YouTube shows a parade of dirt bikes and ATVs disrupting traffic and another video posted on the local CBS affiliate shows a similar disruption through residential streets. Additional information can be found on Dealernews.com.
Thinking you're above the law, disrupting traffic, putting lives in danger and essentially angering everyone else puts a negative spotlight on the rest of us who respect the sport and our rides. We recognize there's a segment of the population that do not like dirt bikes and ATVs and would want nothing more than to ground us permanently. When protests like the one in Atlanta grab headlines it's pretty hard for any one of us to convince our legislators that we're really a good bunch of people, who follow the law, respect the environment and simply want to ride.
What's the best way to get unfavorable laws changed?
Of course the first thing to do is let your representatives in the local, state and federal levels know you ride and how you feel about whatever law that affects you. It always helps to back your argument up with facts.
Now, don't think we're so naïve to believe a few emails or hand written letters will get the job done. It's a start - so are letters to the editor of your hometown newspaper. Let your voice be heard.
The best way to help overturn bad laws is to join a group or club, like for instance, the Oregon Motorcycle Riders Association and Emerald Trail Riders Association. We've profiled ETRA and OMRA. Both clubs regularly join the fight to keep OHV trails in Oregon open to the public for recreational use. Their membership numbers speak volumes so when an Oregon state representative hears from one or both clubs, he or she usually listens.
If you're a rider affected by laws you don't agree with then join a club like OMRA or ETRA and see what their take is. You may find out there are some good reasons for those laws or they might just get involved in your cause. These groups cannot survive without members. Undermining the rule of law and denigrating our sport by holding illegal rallies just makes it that much harder for the rest of us to convince everyone else that all we want is to enjoy our machines.
OMRA successfully stopped a proposal requiring large license plates on all vehicles riding trails in Oregon's OHV network. Representatives successfully lobbied that the law, if passed, would have cost millions of dollars with little to no benefit. Club representatives check legislation daily in order to protect residents riding rights and privileges.
The CBS news affiliate in Atlanta reports receiving an anonymous email from one member of the rowdy group of riders promising more similar traffic disrupting protests on city streets until an understanding is met between city officials and riders who want to use their equipment. Additionally, the Atlanta Police Department is now researching new methods to step up patrols and efforts to respond to and curtail the illegal rides.