AUGUSTA – Perforated wingtips went toe-to-toe with biker boots Wednesday as Gov. John E. Baldacci continued the tradition of holding a May tea at the Blaine House for dozens of motorcyclists.
“I appreciate all of the things you do in all of the counties on an annual basis,” Baldacci told members of the United Bikers of Maine. “You have fun, but you do a lot of good things with scholarships, educational programs, safety programs and assistance programs. I want to build a relationship with you that I want to enjoy for the time that I have the opportunity to be governor.”
Baldacci continues the tradition begun by former Gov. Joe Brennan and perpetuated under each successive administration. He used the occasion to proclaim May “Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month” to encourage all motorists to be vigilant for motorcyclists on Maine highways at the beginning of the riding season in the state.
Back in the 1980s, when Maine still had mandatory helmet laws, the United Bikers of Maine organized to influence legislation that eventually repealed the safety provision. In the years that followed, the organization expanded its vision and began initiating statewide motorcycle safety courses. One of the major footnotes in the state’s tourism season is the bikers’ Toy Run, which has been known to attract more than 10,000 riders who converge in Augusta to donate Christmas gifts for the Salvation Army.
While no bill mandating helmets is in the works, UBM President Leon “Mac” McCreary said his organization still needs to remain politically active to deal with other motorcycle recreation issues. Excessive motorcycle noise is the latest battleground for the group and has sparked confrontations in Portland and Old Orchard Beach.
“The Transportation Committee had a bill restricting motorcycle muffler noise, but they agreed to shelve it to allow us time to resolve the problem,” McCreary said. “And this year, we’re endorsing a bill mandating a more comprehensive motorcycle awareness segment to be included in driver education programs. And there’s always the chance that a helmet law could come back from the insurance companies. So we still have a political agenda and we’re looking out for motorcyclists’ rights.”