How will you get to work on July 18? Motorcycle maybe? That’s what state Rep. Richard LeBlanc - the proud new owner of a Harley-Davidson Peace Officer Ultra Classic - hopes.
The Westland Democrat and 13 fellow Democratic lawmakers - most of whom don’t own motorcycles - want the state to designate the third Wednesday of every July as "Ride Your Motorcycle to Work Day."
"I’ve always loved motorcycles," said LeBlanc, who got his first one as a gift from his grandfather at age 9. He’s owned roughly 130 over his lifetime, including five now-counting the new Harley-and gave his sons their first ones at ages 2 and 4.
But he confesses that he hasn’t ridden any of them yet on his 170-mile daily round-trip commute between Westland and Lansing since taking office in January.
Not all his co-sponsors share his fascination for motorcycles. Nor do they all share his support for repealing Michigan’s 1969 mandatory helmet law.
Another attempt to repeal the law is expected this year.
In 2006, Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed a bill that would have exempted operators who are over 21 and with at least two years’ experience from the helmet requirement if they pass a safety course and have at least $10,000 in medical insurance.
Granholm labeled the $10,000 amount "woefully inadequate" in light of the full costs of treating head injuries.
Motorcycle fatalities dropped 7 percent in 2006, contrasted with a 35.6 percent jump from 2004 to 2005, according to the state Office of Highway Safety Planning.
Repeal of the law - a longtime lobbying goal of motorcyclist rights advocates and their American Bikers Aiming Toward Education organization - faces strong opposition from AAA of Michigan, the Brain Injury Association of Michigan and the Michigan State Medical Society, among other safety and health groups.
State Rep. Barb Byrum of Onondaga, another cosponsor of LeBlanc’s motorcycle-to-work bill doesn’t have a motorcycle - although her husband used to - and favors repeal.
"We’re the only state in the region with a helmet law," Byrum said, calling for a balance between "the interests of safety" and the condition of the economy.
Eliminating compulsory helmet use "will encourage more motorcyclists to come to Michigan and spend tourist dollars," she said.