A Basic History of ABATE

ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) of Oregon, Inc. was formed in 1975. The very first chairman (Coordinator) was Luke Metcalfe. Although the structure of the organization has evolved over the years, ABATE has always held firm to the principle of freedom of the road and a policy of non-discrimination toward anyone wanting to be a member. Over the years ABATE has become a very effective political force as well as a nationally acclaimed educational body.

In 1976 the River City Chapter was formed becoming the first chapter outside of Portland. In 1977 ABATE began its first concerted effort to change the helmet law in Oregon. The membership worked to give freedom of choice back to motorcyclists in Oregon. At one point a round-the-clock sit-in and vigil was held at the capitol. This created a lot of attention and forced the helmet bill out of committee where it passed and was signed into law by Governor Robert Straub.

In 1978 the first Fossil Run was held. Originally a chapter event, the Fossil Run has become one of the largest runs in the Northwest as well as the main fund-raiser for ABATE of Oregon. In 1979 the first attempt to create a motorcycle training program to teach beginners to ride was proposed by ABATE in the legislature. In 1981 the motorcycle rider training program, which later became Team Oregon, was made into law. This safety and education program was conceived of and made to be by the efforts of ABATE of Oregon, Inc. and other motorcyclist groups in Oregon. It is now administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation, but it is still one of ABATE’s proudest achievements.

In 1988 the state legislature sent a referendum to the voters about mandating helmets, rather than dealing with the issue themselves. This was barely passed by the voters of Oregon in one of the lowest turnout elections in state history. To prevent such things from happening in the future, it was decided that there needs to be a presence in the Capitol during the legislative session. To address this need, BikePAC was formed as a separate entity in 1989.

In the early 1990s there were increasing numbers of reports about police using helmets as a tool for harassment. “Illegal” helmet tickets and even confiscation of helmets showed the need to have the helmet law addressed again. Several attempts were made to give adult riders freedom of choice but none were successful. In 1995 a bill was created at the request of BikePAC to define what a helmet is. ABATE and BikePAC held the “Biker’s Days” at the capitol to teach motorcyclists how to directly lobby the legislature. This proved extremely effective and the helmet definition bill passes and was signed by Governor Kitzhaber. It was hoped that this law would eliminate the harassment of motorcyclists by certain law enforcement personnel.

Motorcyclists were still being detained or pulled over just to check for “illegal helmets” and reports kept coming in that the harassment did continue. After a large campaign at Fossil in 1996 by the Oregon State Police to write helmet tickets, ABATE and State Coordinator Larry Schalk filed a class action lawsuit against the Oregon State Police. In 1997 a federal court found that the State Police had interpreted the law incorrectly and could not use helmets as a reason to make a stop.

ABATE of Oregon, Inc. has achieved much for motorcyclists in Oregon since 1975: the Team Oregon training program which gives motorcyclists, both beginner and experienced, the ability to safely improve their skills; the Governor’s Motorcycle Safety Advisory Committee, which was created to advise the governor on issues of motorcycle safety; the Motorcycle Awareness Program developed by ABATE members to teach young automobile drivers to be aware of motorcycles; many charity events like toy runs which benefit people not directly involved in motorcycling in our communities; and the ongoing battle to enact legislation favorable to motor-cycles and rescind legislation unfavorable to motor-cycles.

Most questions about the day to day operations of ABATE can be answered in the Rules of Operation or Bylaws. Some of the most common questions involve things like chapter operations, fundraising, political activities, or charities.

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