Pay because you ride: The Iowa Legislature hates bikers

by on February 1, 2008
in Blowing a Gasket

iowa state capitol in winterIn researching a state legislative bill on a non-motorcycle-related topic, I found out that last year’s Iowa Legislature introduced two biker bills that could come back for debate this year: one was the obligatory helmet law, requiring motorcycle riders under the age of 18 to wear helmets (HF465). The other proposed a “safety helmet surcharge” (appropriately, HF666) on motorcyclists – $5 or $10 per year of license validity.

That’s right, a tax on being a biker.

I was livid. For years the argument for requiring helmets on all bikers was that “the public” shouldn’t have to pay their medical bills if a rider has a helmet-less accident and happens to be uninsured. (“Why should we have to pay for your stupidity?” has been the cry, as if helmets were the key to preventing all death or serious injury on a motorcycle.) So, our state apparently wanted to charge $5 extra per year of license validity if the biker declared s/he and all passengers on her/his bike would always wear helmets. $10 per year if they wouldn’t make such a guarantee. Point being, as a biker you were going to pay extra whether you wore a helmet or not.

This is absolutely an unfair proposal that singles out one group of legal vehicle operators for no reason. Except for this: the state of Iowa offers a deep discount on vehicle licensing fees to people who drive pickup trucks. In the old days, when pickups were used as farm vehicles, lawmakers of this largely agricultural state thought it would be helpful to offer this price break to poor farmers who couldn’t afford to pay the standard annual registration fees on their “working vehicles.” These days, of course, Iowa’s urban areas are large and growing. All kinds of people drive pickups for all kinds of purposes – even as family vehicles. But the state doesn’t have the balls to reinstate the normal registration fee because the ag lobby is still very powerful. So they’re looking for any and every way to force other vehicle owners to cough up more money to make up the difference.

Which is chicken-shit, especially because bikers get the short shfrift when money goes out, too: another bill in the 2007 session would have offered tax credits to individuals who purchase “fuel-efficient vehicles.” But guess what: motorcycles, which typically get anywhere from, what, 30-50 mpg? – are excluded. So bikers get hit with the helmet surcharge, but they don’t get the benefit of the tax reduction for riding a 40-mpg vehicle. Nice.

When you put this with the disturbing trends in road repair I reported on last summer, it adds up pretty quickly: Iowa legislators view bikers as some sort of expendable cash cow. We don’t deserve a smooth ride on the highway, we don’t deserve help with medical bills if we are uninsured (even though non-bikers who do stupid things probably do), we don’t deserve the tax credit for our fuel-efficient bikes. But we DO deserve to be stuck with an exhorbitant fee tacked on to our driver’s license just because we choose to ride, and we DO deserve to have our freedom of helmet choice taken away.

Four words to sum this up: Thank God for ABATE.

And two words for the Iowa Legislature, but I’ll let you guess which two they are.

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4 Responses to “Pay because you ride: The Iowa Legislature hates bikers”
  1. My comment to this is WTF? A surcharge on helmets vs no helmets?? I’m scratching my head right now. Now that I’m getting older I wear a helmet a little more then in the past but it’s my choice so I guess that maybe they should charge me $15 bucks because I never know if I’m going to feel like wearing it or not. I’m still scratching my head. You can always tell that the people trying to pass these bills are Non-Bikers. Thank god for ABATE!

    Off the subject here….I totally love your blog! Thanks for all the content you put on here. I would have never known that there is a bike show next weekend at the fair grounds! Keep up the great work!!!!

  2. “WTF – I’m scratching my head right now” – My thoughts exactly! LOL All the bills mentioned above were introduced in 2007 and immediately referred to committee. Because Iowa’s Legislature runs on a two-year cycle, and we are now in the second half of this cycle, it’s possible they could come back for debate THIS year. I would love to have the people who introduce this crap stand up at a HOG meeting and justify themselves.

    Glad you are enjoying the blog – YES, next weekend is the big swap meet, and there’s a custom bike show that goes along with it. TONS of awesome goodies at the swap meet, you won’t want to miss it! Thanks for reading! ~ Janet

  3. holly says:

    Of course, they don’t consider that most deaths and serious injuries from motorcycle accidents are caused by blunt trauma to the chest, not head injuries! So, maybe we should be taxed if we choose not to wear chest guards! As a responsible adult (most of the time!) I want the freedom to decide if I should wear a helmet or not. It should be a CHOICE…not a mandate. The legislature should be putting more effort into enforcing the law that requires EVERYONE to have liability insurance on their vehicles! I do believe we have such a law in place, however, there are too many uninsured drivers on the road. Obviously, as tax payers we are having to pay for medical bills for people injured in accidents involving uninsured drivers and I think I’m fairly safe in saying there are more of those people recovering from injuries than there are motorcyclists. Also, why does the media ALWAYS make a point of stating that a cyclist involved in an accident WASN’T wearing a helmet but fail to mention when those involved that were wearing helmets…whether they are injured or (God forbide) killed!

  4. Wow…just plain idiocy…again. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t…

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