Charles Umbenhauer

"It was never about the helmet, it was about choice."
—Charles Umbenhauer

Charles Umbenhauer

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politics—BIKER STYLE
Between the Lines May 2017 issue

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Going to the Rights Rally? 

Here it is fourteen years since Governor Rendell signed SB 259 giving PA bikers a choice in helmet use.  Many states that repealed or modified their helmet laws did not do the necessary work following their success and have since seen their helmet law reinstated or threatened. 

I went back through the ABATE archives and found one of my favorite articles that I want to share with you here and I hope that you will understand why ABATE continues to be so successful when it comes to working with our state legislature. 

Here is a message I received back on July 5, 2003 from Representative Sam Smith, Speaker of the House. 


Many of us feel a little sad in that we are afraid you and BIKEPAC will fade from the capitol scene.  You have been walking the halls for a long time and you have helped to raise the image of bikers in this world.  You have helped us all to see that bikers are just regular people who like to ride.  To you, I want to say, thank you. 

I hope you will stay involved even though your most unifying issue is now resolved.  Whatever the future of BIKEPAC and you as Lobbyist, I want you to know that you have my respect and appreciation. 

To that end, I have one suggestion:  Lots of folks come to the Capitol to protest for or against things, as you are aware.  And while we do get some “thank you’s” from constituents, you would be surprised how often those we help seem less than thankful.  If you were to plan one last bike ride to the capitol, with a massive turnout, as a thank you, it would have a very positive impact.  I know that takes work to do, and I will not be disappointed if it does not happen, but we do love Bike Day around the capitol. 

Good luck to you in the future and above all, enjoy a safe ride.

Cordially, SAM. 

Well to our credit we have never forgotten the years of battle with the legislature over the long standing mandatory helmet law.  And we have never forgotten those legislators from both Houses who supported ABATE’s effort to change the law.  There were critics and many of them that proclaimed we would never be successful in changing that law. 

So Sam if somehow you are reading this you know that we did return to the capitol to thank those who supported us and we continue to this day to do that.  It is true that in the past few years the crowds have grown a little smaller and for those of us who were actually involved at the time of the passing of the bill, our hair is a lot grayer than it once was. 

So my hope is that everyone in ABATE today, whether you were there or have joined our ranks since, understand how difficult a challenge we faced but that we never waivered in our effort even despite a veto of our bill in 1998 by Governor Tom Ridge. 

We invite you once again to come to our annual Motorcyclists Rights Rally set for this year on Monday, May 22, 2017 at Noon.  If you haven’t been to the rally in several years you will be pleasantly surprised at how many legislators join us in the rotunda to show their continued support of ABATE and for riding free in PA.  Can we count on you to make an effort this year to come out and do what we do best?  Fight for our freedoms.   There are several important issues presently before the Legislature and we need to once again show them who we are and that we will not be denied our liberties.