Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ending the Nevada Rider Program?

In October of 2010, QuickThrottle Magazine published my article about the Nevada Rider Program.  A reader outraged with my coverage of the issue sent this letter to the editor.

The editor intended to publish the letter but allowed me to respond to his allegations.  I had no choice but to name names and cite sources.  Here is what I submitted in December of 2010. 

Dear Mr. [redacted] 

I apologize for any perception I may have given to you or others that my article was an attack against motorcycle safety instructors.  That was not my intent.  One of my own trainers was the late, beloved, and highly experienced “Double D,” who, through no fault of his own, was tragically killed while riding.  I have registered three motorcycles in Nevada, and have ridden over 60,000 miles on my current motorcycle since 2006.  My amazing riding adventures began on a parking lot with devoted, heroic instructors.

Also heroic, are Nevada motorcycle citizens who take time away from work to attend public meetings to ensure that the government is working for us and not against us.  My objective was to question the value of a Program and to be a voice for Nevada motorcyclists – not to insult any trainer.  I portrayed the Program Administrator in a positive light, and went out of my way to protect the identity of several persons.  In light of your concerns, you leave me with no alternative but to name names and cite sources.

The August meeting minutes for the Governor’s Advisory Board on Motorcycle Safety substantiates much of my report. It is posted on  My name and credentials are listed there as:  “Lily Gonzales, Quick Throttle Magazine.”  I will provide you or anyone interested, with an electronic copy of those minutes.

You describe Cycle School Motorcycle Training as a small training facility that is struggling to keep its doors open.  Safety trainer and owner of Cycle School, Vic “Doc” Moss takes issue, elaborates about subsidies, and addresses my use of the word “squander.”  Doc says, “We are NOT struggling to stay open.  We are a top provider, able to donate $25,000 a year to Veterans' charities having trained 745 students this year and 5316 students since our inception in 2003.   With two ranges not in use, imagine how many more students we could train, and how much more money we could collect for our Vets if we didn’t have to compete with taxpayer subsidized training.  If the subsidy is of such great value, then why did Truckee Meadows Community College opt out of the program and begin charging market rates?  Regardless of who squanders Program money, it is money that was stolen from motorcycle riders to fund other government services.  That makes it a tax instead of a fee, and is contrary to the State Constitution.”

Bones, President and founder of ABATE of Southern Nevada, adds, “There was never a suggestion that money was being embezzled by the Program, only that it is being misused. Can you explain why the majority of the training facilities are located in Northern Nevada - including all of the mobile units - when the vast majority of the population is located in Southern Nevada?”

About the Program’s safety advertisements:  I recently saw for the first time, an excellent locally televised public service announcement sponsored by the Program.  I question the cost; when and where are they aired; why there was no mention of them in either the May or August quarterly public meetings; and, are these ads a result of the Program’s public scrutiny generated by QuickThrottle Magazine?

Your mention that the Nevada Rider Program belongs to the “States Motorcycle Safety Administration (SMSA)” prompts this question:  Can the SMSA take over some of the duties involved with certifying trainers and courses to eliminate the Nevada Rider Program?

The “surcharge” amount to register my motorcycle is irrelevant to me.  At issue, is whether the Program funded by the surcharge is useful.  Or is it becoming an obstacle to our riding freedoms?  Bones says, “The success of the program has yet to be scrutinized as to the prevention of injuries to riders. Why have there been no reports on the ability to avoid accidents by riders that have taken these courses? The State of Missouri has tabulated the effect of their people involved in accidents that have taken their course, yet motorcycle safety assessment fees are nonexistent.

You stated that the Program “was the last productive thing that ABATE has done in Nevada.” Bones takes issue and agrees with John Bland, President of ABATE of Northern Nevada.  John tells me, “I'm sure you know, ABATE across the country has always pushed for ‘education not legislation.’  I think your position about government programs starting out with good intentions but often go astray without citizen oversight is very accurate.  It has always been ABATE's position to reduce motorcycle accidents by educating the riders and operators of automobiles without mandating another law or enforcing the use of apparel such as helmets.  Accident avoidance is the answer, not safer crashes.”

You mentioned that Ken Kiphart, Program Administrator, failed in his attempt to mobilize riders to keep Nevada from taking $126,000 from our motorcycle safety fund.  Is it possible that motorcyclists do not see benefits of this Program and were not motivated to act?

You assert that “NO” Program rep testified in helmet law hearings.  Wrong.  Mr. Kiphart used his credentials to testify in a manner that undermined efforts of motorcycle rights activists – as I correctly reported.  His testimony is on page 32 of this link:

You assert that signs deemed unfriendly by motorcycle tourists during the 2009 Reno Street Vibrations, were “the brainchild of the Nevada Highway Patrol, not the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Board.”  Nevada Law, NRS 486.376.2(b) establishes that one member of the Board must be a “peace officer.”  This person has influence over what law enforcers in Nevada do to us.  Here are my unedited transcribed notes from my audio recording of the May 24, 2010 meeting:

Willie OLSON, Motorcycle Instructor (Attended as a public citizen in Reno.)

Buzz HUNT, Board Chairman (Retired from the board effective May 24, 2010.)

Ken KIPHART, Administrator (A retired North Las Vegas public servant, now contracted by the State of Nevada.)

Scott SWAIN, Board Member (Lt. NHP – Retired from the Board effective August 12, 2010.)

   OLSON:     I would just like to say one thing that I noticed last year (undecipherable)... the lights on the signs, it didn’t seem too friendly to our guests.

      HUNT:     It’s not supposed to be.

   OLSON:     It’s not supposed to be?

      HUNT:     No.  It’s designed to make a point.

KIPHART:   I think the signs say, “Helmets required, no lane splitting.”

      HUNT:     “No lane splitting and wear your helmet.”  Should we put “Please?”

   OLSON:     (Undecipherable)

    SWAIN:     Specifically it came back to me that it was less than tourist friendly.  But my plan on it is that it made a point.  Splitting lanes is the biggest problem we have.  As you know during Street Vibrations we have motorcycle crashes and a lot of them are from people being impatient from states that don’t have helmet laws.  So again, this year, I’ll request it to say the exact same thing. (Emphasis mine.)

      HUNT:     Can it say please?  (Laughter heard from Hunt, Kiphart, and Swain.)

Note the Board’s flippant attitude about tourism.  Government reps found the use of the word “please,” as laughable.  If there truly was no other means to convey that message, fine.  But the fact that the issue was not only dismissed but also ridiculed, illustrates government arrogance against citizens.

Bones adds, “Ask any out-of-state rider and find out why they would go two or three hundred miles out of their way to avoid the discriminatory laws Nevada uses to harass riders, knowing that the chances of returning to fight for their rights would cost them more than the ticket. Nevada Rider chooses to support law enforcement in its efforts to promote helmets as safety devices, and law enforcement continues to discriminate against riders in this State.”

As for my “rant” about the Program undermining motorcyclists’ rights:  For one year, Nevada rights activist, David Stilwell, continues to get tossed between law enforcement agencies and the Program in his quest to get an answer to his question, “How can I, with certainly, comply with Nevada’s helmet law?”  Eliminating this Program would give law enforcers one less means to pass the buck.

After reviewing the facts, I drew the conclusion that this Program is a bureaucracy with power to harm motorcyclists.  I sought to influence the recent elections by endorsing candidates who reached out to motorcyclists and were sanctioned by our ABATEs.

How would you know that I “made a scene” at the August Board meeting if you were not there?  If you were privy to videos, let’s put them online so that motorcyclists in Nevada can get fired up to support the Program with you, or to recognize its flaws.  Furthermore, it is my right as a citizen to scrutinize how our taxes are spent, and my job as reporter for QuickThrottle magazine to report my motorcycle-related findings.

Thank you for providing your opposing views.  Hopefully this dialogue will help gain momentum towards establishing a motorcycle-friendly Nevada.


Neither the reader's letter nor my response were published.  In part, because it appeared the reader no longer wanted his letter published.  Here's what the reader had to say:

She is all over the road in her reply and her research, just like the original article. There’s subject matter for four or more articles here. What is her beef?

It’s up to you if you want to become the enemy of Nevada State motorcycle safety programs but I wouldn’t publish this.

I didn’t expect you to print my letter but I was so angry when I read the article that I felt the need to let someone know about it.

In my opinion, she had her shot and blew it. She should apologize and leave it at that, unless you want to make your magazine look like a forum for childish bickering to your readers.

She should stick to fluff pieces on Toy Runs and such and stay away from inflammatory articles until she gets some focus. If I were the publisher I wouldn’t ever print anything with her name on it again.

Concerning a debate with Lily she doesn’t seem like a reasonable person and I really don’t want to have any further contact with her, even third party.

Please "like" my Facebook page to receive notices about my Nevada Rider Program reporting and to voice your opinion.

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