by Bill Hufnagle
Have you ever been pick-pocketed or mugged? How did you feel knowing someone was stealing your hard-earned money? Wouldn’t it feel even worse if they were using your money to fund a scheme to rob you again and again?
You bet it would. If you are a law-abiding, motorcycle-riding American citizen, this is happening to you. A crafty group of self-proclaimed safety advocates, and very likely one or more businesses you write checks to, have aligned themselves to steal your right to ride. They are even trying to eliminate funding for rider safety education programs. You can be certain that if they succeed, those surcharges on your motorcycle license won’t disappear. The money will be spent on something else totally unrelated to true motorcycle safety.
These groups are undermining legislation we propose to make public roads safer and dangerous drivers more responsible for the harm they do. Consider the mere slap on the wrist the ex-congressman Janklow got for killing a motorcyclist in South Dakota. Watch and see what the court metes out to Bishop O’Brien, convicted of a hit-and-run death involving a pedestrian in Arizona. Something tells me the penalty for killing a pedestrian is higher than for killing a biker. While I know that these cases are not identical, there is still no reason in God’s creation that one human life is worth more than another because of a chosen, legal mode of transportation.
Why do the courts, juries, and halls of elected government seem to tilt against us? Why are sensible laws that would increase our safety dead-ended, while laws mandating helmet use or forced organ donation seem to pop up as predictably as crocuses in the spring? The reason is clear. We are losing the public relations battle in the halls of power. Our opponents are simply better funded. Therefore, they are more capable of buying political results. They are also more motivated since they are working against us out of corporate greed.
We just want to be left alone to ride free and enjoy our private lives. Please don’t get me wrong. We have our advocates and many of us spend loads of time and money supporting them. I often call upon my fellow motorcyclists to join and support those groups. But that is not what I want to ask you to do today. I have another technique I would like you to consider.
I suggest that we also fight this battle on another front by hitting them where they will really feel it—their bottom line. As I alluded to before, these companies are taking your money and spending it against your freedom and safety. Let’s work to reduce that funding. Consider these groups of “safety advocates,” and then look at their actions against our rights and where they get their money:
1) Advocates for Highway Safety (AAHS)—The name sounds innocent enough. But, these folks are at the forefront of attacks on our motorcycle rights and our safety initiatives.
2) Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) —Their name says it all: they represent the economic interests of the insurance industry.
3) Public Citizen (PC) —Formed by Ralph Nader and now run by our longtime archenemy Joan Claybrook, this group is another vocal advocate against our rights. Claybrook was the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NTHSA) under President Carter. If you are old enough to remember those days, you also remember the federal highway-funds blackmail of states about mandatory helmet use, the 55 MPH speed limit, and the long waits in lines to buy gas at inflated prices—assuming it was even a day you were allowed to buy gas.
There are more groups, but these stand at the forefront. I suggest you do some web searching on them and see what they stand for, how they are connected, and where they get their funding. You won’t like what you find. Insurance companies directly fund both AAHS and IIHS. You directly fund these. PC claims it “does not accept funds from corporations, professional associations or government agencies.” But, it has a seat on the board of directors of AAHS. These groups are too tightly woven together, too connected in the halls of government, and too supported by the insurance industry—either directly or indirectly. The insurance industry is just looking out for its bottom line. If the companies can take your money and keep you from exercising your right to manage your own risks, they will profit more. A quick review of which insurance companies are using your money against you will no doubt reveal that you might not be able to find one that doesn’t. So what can you do?
Here is my suggestion: Research who your insurance company is and which groups they support. Then take action. Write polite letters to them. Tell them that you are unhappy that they are taking your money and using it against you. Make sure to tell them how much you pay them per year. Ask them to stop it immediately.
Here is where it can get really effective. Most of you own some stocks and or mutual funds or are part of some type of retirement fund, probably invested in some of these insurance company stocks. Further, your employer, union, city, town, county, state, and so on have money in pension funds that are probably invested in these insurance companies as well. Write polite letters to all of these fund managers and stockbrokers demanding that they divest of these stocks. Also send them a copy of the letter you sent to the insurance company. Send the insurance company a copy of the letter to the funds managers and brokers. Civic-minded investing helped end apartheid in South Africa, and it can help change the second-class treatment of motorcycle riders in America.
It is just a modest proposal, but maybe some motorcycling organization can champion this and make it a movement. Then some day we can overcome these injustices and be set free. Ride Free!
My friend Kelly McEnany from Asheville, North Carolina, told me about a dish that used cauliflower like mashed potatoes. The idea sounded so good that I rode home and made it in my own fiery way. The flavor of the cauliflower makes spuds look like duds. I have served this to people who dislike cauliflower and they loved it. It’s a great way to get the little bikers in your house eat their veggies.
1 medium-size head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets and steamed until tender
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1. In a food processor, combine cauliflower, butter, white pepper, salt, cayenne, and garlic powder and pulse several times to break up the cauliflower florets.
2. With the machine running, slowly add the half-and-half through the feed tube and process until the cauliflower is smooth. (If the cauliflower is very moist you may not need all the half-and-half.)
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire”, and has authored three cookbooks. Just released in 2003 is his latest book, “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”. The book includes 200 recipes from HOG members and Harley riders across America and an ample supply of Biker Billy’s own fiery recipes.
The book is endowed with Biker Billy’s unique biker banter. It is sure to bring the adventure and flavor of the open road to your table and family.
The illustrated book is published by Harvard Common Press and is available in bookstores everywhere for $19/95, or on Biker Billy’s web site where you can have it autographed. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.
Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.