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 2019 issue

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We are one month away from our annual Motorcyclists Rights Rally at the state capitol on June 3.  I have been organizing these rallies since 1985.  I decided to share something with you that is public knowledge; anyone could look it up by checking out some old newspapers at the library or these days if you are computer savvy you can do it right from home.  Before I go any further read the following article that was clipped from the Carlisle Sentinel dated May 22, 1984. 

Bikers Rally Against Helmets

Harrisburg (UPI) A leader of a Pennsylvania motorcycle organization faces several charges stemming from his arrest before the group’s annual rally at the Capitol against the state’s mandatory helmet law.  Clarence “Bud” Cole, 38 Uniontown, state coordinator for ABATE of PA was charged with attempted aggravated assault, resisting arrest, failure to wear a helmet, fleeing a law officer, having an invalid inspection sticker and improper license classification.  He was arraigned before District Justice Samuel Magaro and released after posting $2000 bail.  A preliminary hearing is set for May 31.  State Police said the incident occurred when some motorcyclists headed for the Capitol, two of them not wearing helmets, refused to stop at a roadblock near Harrisburg.  Later, about 200 demonstrators carried signs on the Capitol steps and heard from organization leaders and two lawmakers.  ABATE maintains the safety value of helmets is unproven and adults should be given the option of wearing them.  The helmets are optional in 30 states leaders say.  They point to ABATE’s support as a reason for recent enactment of legislation that increased J motorcycle licensing fees to provide expanded safety courses.  During the rally, ABATE legislative coordinator Richard Bower, Mechanicsburg, accused state police of using intimidating tactics by having a helicopter circle above them and issuing warnings about helmets over a bullhorn.  Police said the helicopter was in the air for surveillance but no other incident besides Cole’s arrest occurred. 

1984 was one of the most turbulent years in ABATE of PA’s history.  However, I am going to keep this article focused on the Rights Rally and not some of the other history of that time.  Want to know more about that, you will have to wait until I finish my book. 

1985 through a series of actions by the state board I wound up getting appointed to the position of state legislative coordinator, a position that I really did not want because at that time I was not a registered voter and I did not know much if anything about the state legislature.  However once I accepted the position I made a commitment to myself that I would do it justice and prove  all of the naysayers wrong that said that PA would never change their position on the mandatory helmet law.  I was just a kid that grew up on the streets of Harrisburg and had no formal education past being a high school graduate so I had a lot to prove that someone with so few credentials could be successful just as a legislative advocate. 

It took onto 2003 after some setbacks and one veto in 1998 of a helmet repeal effort but finally Governor Ed Rendell signed Senate Bill 259 on July 6, 2003 modifying the 35 year old mandatory helmet law.  So since then we have had 16 years of riding free in the Commonwealth of PA. 

So the way things look this will be the last Rights Rally that I will organize and speak at. 

This is why I am just asking all of you for your support, rain or shine, to show up and fill the capitol rotunda to capacity.  With the right leadership you can continue to ride another 16 years with free choice but that really depends on everyone of you doing your part to see that ABATE of PA survives and continues to hold the attention of our legislators and also continues to have their respect and support. 

OK the ball is in your court, what are you going to do?  Ride in with the group from Fort Hunter Mansion located on Front Street in Harrisburg right along the river or ride in with a group from your chapter or friends or just ride in by yourselves.   Hope to see all of you there.  I promise you a good rally and one you won’t forget.