Bi-wheel and bipartisan: the Senate Motorcycle Caucus

1972 Honda CB500

Formed by motorcycling U.S. Senators, the first-ever Senate Motorcycle Caucus promotes rider safety, manufacturing and efficiency, while also supporting a place for motorcycles (and vintage cars) in a fast-arriving autonomous vehicle world.

Just when you think that government is all messed up, meet U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA). In April 2017, the pair formed the first-ever Senate Motorcycle Caucus with the express purpose of advocating for motorcyclists’ safety, U.S. motorcycle manufacturing and industry, and educating federal lawmakers about the value of motorcycling as an efficient transportation solution. The senators will co-chair the caucus, an impressive bipartisan commitment to the motorcycling cause.

In essence, a political caucus is a group of members interested in a certain topic, with the purpose of educating a broader group. The benefit is that whenever a piece of legislation arrives that affects this topic, the caucus members can more quickly and fully appreciate the topic. In this case, of course, it’s motorcycles.

Senator Joni Ernst
Senator Joni Ernst
courtesy of Joni Ernst

Riders first, senators second

As lifelong motorcycle riders, it’s a given that Senators Peters and Ernst know that motorcycles are fun. So instead of focusing on the recreational aspects of bikes, the caucus is intended to educate Capitol Hill lawmakers about the value of motorcycling in America, and to seek to support it and protect it during the years ahead, which are projected to include the arrival of Level 4 autonomous vehicles (when the car completely drives itself in almost all conditions potentially without a steering wheel or pedals) by 2021.

While vintage-car enthusiasts may have trouble understanding the appeal of driverless cars, research suggests they may significantly improve traffic safety by helping to reduce the collisions that claim over 37,000 lives a year (including over 5,000 motorcyclists) on our nation’s roads.

Representing motorcycles

It’s fair to ask what will happen to motorcycling if and when car traffic should largely become driverless. You can’t, after all, expect to get on the back of a robotic motorcycle and just ride along while the machine does all the steering, braking, and leaning into turns. And even if you could, would you want to? Bikes are profoundly different than cars in this way, making autonomous transportation and motorcycles an odd pairing.

“That is where I draw a line in the sand,” Peters said in an exclusive interview with Hagerty. “We want to ensure that motorcycling will remain motorcycling, regardless of how cars and the transportation infrastructure may change.”

Senator Gary Peters (MI)
Senator Gary Peters (MI)
courtesy of Gary Peters

Motorcycle Caucus initiatives

Here is Senator Peters’ take on how the Senate Motorcycle Caucus can positively impact the following motorcycle topics.

  • Safety — “Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and the autonomous vehicle world, is happening sooner than anyone thinks. I want to make sure that this new world will leave a place for traditional motorcycling.”
  • Manufacturing — “We focus on U.S. manufacturing every day. However, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus broadens this to include a healthy motorcycle manufacturing ecosystem.”
  • Infrastructure — “As autonomous vehicles arrive, the road infrastructure will also become smarter. Infrastructure-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-vehicle systems will develop to direct traffic, and the road will actually begin speaking with your car. But there will always be a place for old vehicles and motorcycles.”
  • Efficiency — “Motorcycles are more energy-efficient than cars, and there is a place for electric-powered motorcycles to further improve this advantage. We also want to promote the mobility advantages motorcycle offer.”

The Senate Motorcycle Caucus is next scheduled to meet in Spring 2018. There is no formal website for the caucus, but interested persons can contact Senator Peters’ office at (202) 224-6221.