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Safety vs. Freedom

Posted on Mar 16, 2015

On March 11, 2015, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation released information about a concept, born in Europe, known as Vision Zero. Although warning about the possible consequences such a program would have on the future of motorcycles, nowhere does the release mention the erosion of freedom. My personal objection to Vision Zero borrows from my belief that there is too much government regulation on matters that should be left up to the individual, and apparently, many others share my opinion. My editorial was published in the Sunday Post at


When our forefathers founded this country, there was a belief that each of us was born with natural rights. The first law of nature was a belief that we had the right to defend, as best we could, our own lives, liberty and property.

Since the signing of the Constitution, our rights and liberties have been on a slow train of decline, spiking to new lows each time there was catastrophic event, such as wars or more recently, terrorist attacks. In 2001, immediately after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, a poll by Fox News found that 71 percent of Americans polled were willing to trade some freedom to help the United States government fight terrorism.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, only 43 percent of the people polled held that same view. Although the world seemed to be getting more dangerous, Americans were not so sure that eroding the rights of citizens was doing much to combat terrorism. Americans were growing weary of the continued interference in daily life, through increasing regulation and legislation.

The regulatory hand of government has touched mandatory seat-belt and helmet laws, child-seat restraint systems, smoking bans, abortion, religion, sex, child discipline rules, marriage, free speech, internet posts, school dress-codes, prayer, and more. As riders, we have seen first-hand how regulations have had a negative impact on our freedom to customize our bikes, travel freely, and choose what gear we want to use.

Restrictions are bad enough, but now it appears a new evil is lurking just around the corner. According to the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), congress is looking at a concept known as Vision Zero.  First introduced in Sweden in 1997, Vision Zero places human life and health above any perceived rights or freedoms. Europe is saddled with strict safety laws and regulations, and the erosion of personal choice in safety matters continues to creep toward America, thanks in part to things like the push for Global Harmonization of traffic laws.



The MRF correctly points out that the danger in Vision Zero lies in the fact that the plan for zero fatalities calls for drastic measures to prevent crashes of all types. These measures include reducing speed limits to as little as 43 mph, and removing vulnerable road users from the traffic flow. Remember the resistance to call motorcyclists “vulnerable highway users” in many state’s right of way violation legislation?  That term is coming back to bite us, because plans like Vision Zero could eliminate motorcycles from using the roads in the future. Note the last line in the photo above; Zero tolerance of unsafe behavior and practices. Vision Zero suggests eliminating vulnerable vehicles and people from the roads.

This is a prime example of why, as motorcyclists, we need to be vigilant and also aware of what kinds of implications current legislation will have on the future of motorcycling. The MRF isn’t warning us that this philosophy might be coming to America; it warns us that it’s already here.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 1274,   a bill to help fund the development and implementation of Vision Zero in America.

Get active with your local motorcycle rights organizations and add your support to fighting these types of programs.

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