On April 19th, I led a group of riders to the biannual CMSP (California Motorcyclist Safety Program) Advisory Committee meeting at CHP headquarters in Sacramento. As usual, I was joined by about ten riders at the meetup point in Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, but this year AMA Western States Rep Nick Haris rode down to join us, solely to clown Leader of the Sac An, who—like her name implies—lives in Sacramento and therefore just meets us at CHP HQ. Nick lives in the hills well east of Sacramento and had been talking shit to An about how a real enthusiast would do the whole ride, and proceeded to ride through Sacramento to join us in Oakland, only to promptly ride back to Sac for the meeting to prove his point.

California Motorcyclist Safety Program logoI was glad to have Nick along, not just because his antics cracked me up, but because one rider—who I won’t shame here—ran out of gas. I broke off with her and Nick led the ride from there. Despite our delay, we managed to arrive at CHP headquarters at the same time as the rest of the group, but I swear we rode the speed limit and behaved like good ambassadors the entire way there. We were riding to a CMSP meeting, after all.

I started covering and emphasizing the importance of CMSP meetings in CityBike back in 2014, and it’s a vindicating to see some of the changes being made, albeit at the glacial pace typical of government organizations. They now take public attendance and access pretty seriously and make a dial-in number available for anyone interested, since the meetings are typically in the middle of the workday. I was disappointed that only three people dialed in—as with all things, I hear from many in the rider community about their interest in the CMSP and their belief in the importance of the program. But it’s always around the same number of riders that show up, and single-digit dial-in attendance is just embarrassing.

Also frustrating was this meeting’s committee attendance. The motorcycle people were there: Dennis “Budman” Kobza of BayAreaRidersForum.com, Nick Haris of the American Motorcyclist Association, the father-and-son team of James Lombardo Sr. representing ABATE of California and James Lombardo Jr. representing the California Motorcycle Dealers Association, Rodney Grenier representing the MMA (Modified Motorcycle Association of California), and of course the OTS and CHP / CMSP folks.

Beyond that, though, there were a lot of empty spots at the table. Caltrans wasn’t there, which was problematic when Budman brought up their new road restriping initiatives that emphasize reflectivity but apparently don’t consider traction requirements for the paint used.  DMV wasn’t there either, nor was Assistant Chief Costigan.

The big question on everyone’s mind was of course the lane splitting guidelines. The answer? “Soon.” The longer answer: they’re still being finalized, and while everyone expected the new guidelines to look a lot like the original CHP lane splitting guidelines, with recommendations for top speed and speed delta, the updated version will probably be very general, with no speed limit or speed differential specified. Also, they’re probably be called “tips” now.

Stay tuned—this is obviously an issue very near and dear to our hearts and minds, and we’ll announce the news here at CityBike and over at LaneSplittingIsLegal.com as soon as we have the latest guidelines.

Oops, tips. Just the tips.

The CMSP’s spend against budget has often been a contentious topic in the past, partly because I’ve stood up and made noise about how we weren’t spending enough of our money (“our” as in “us motorcyclists”) on safety efforts in California. For many years, the fund continued to grow, and though it’s hypothetically safe from being raided and used to fund more weird statues around the capitol building, it worried many in the community, and anyway we’re supposed to be using this money on safety programs.

In the last couple years, however, the committee has pushed for more such expenditures, and the money allocated for the 2017-2018 financial year reflects this. Here’s the breakdown of spend against allocated budget:

CMSP 2017-2018 Financial Year Spend Breakdown

One might say, “But they’re still not spending the money!” After all, it looks like the program underspent by nearly 2/3 of the allocated budget. This did not go unnoticed in the meeting, and I asked about the underspend. Sergeant Larry Starkey confirmed that the plan is still to spend more of the allocated money.

“The media contract, basically you can add $800,000 to that $863,000 spent because that money will be spent. Total Control as our CMSP contractor can bill us for this fiscal year up until June 30th. 

“I suspect even though it looks like we’re almost $2,000,000 shy, $1,900,000 million shy, we really will be at that, probably within a few hundred thousand dollars.”

In many riders’ eyes, Starkey is the face and the voice of the CMSP, and he speaks strongly about the program.

“I remind people constantly, both inside and outside my agency, that money is not taxpayer money. That money is motorcyclists’ money. That money comes from registered motorcycles, people who own motorcycles, and that’s why we have to protect that fund to be used for motorcycle safety projects, which is what it is legislated to be used for.”

California Motorcyclist Safety Program meeting, April 2018.

Sergeant Larry Starkey lays down the law.

The biggest area of spend for the program is of course new rider training, and the program trained 54,938 riders in 2017—down from 60,311 in 2016.

Year Total Year Total Year Total Year Total
1987 5,265 1995 15,678 2003 43,419 2011 61,709
1988 6,531 1996 16,823 2004 48,449 2012 63,942
1989 6,668 1997 17,765 2005 53,330 2013 62,074
1990 10,041 1998 19,586 2006 58,007 2014 61,888
1991 12,314 1999 23,633 2007 62,298 2015 53,764
1992 11,969 2000 29,650 2008 70,053 2016 60,311
1993 12,004 2001 37,024 2009 58,076 2017 54,938
1994 14,705 2002 39,642 2010 52,194  

You may ask, “What the hell happened?” I certainly did—but I also noted that 2017 student count was higher that 2015’s number.

The answer? Lee Parks, who runs Total Control, the rider training contractor for the CMSP, answered that student volume tends to track with motorcycle sales.

“Training numbers are always dependent almost exclusively on motorcycle sales… it’s just a function of the marketplace.

“We have over 40 sponsors in the state, plus us, plus CHP, that promote the program. Everybody is incentivized to promote it as much as they can, but what we don’t want to do is be in the business of promoting riding to non-riders who shouldn’t be riders.

“Those of us that have been riding for a long time, as many of us if not all of us in this room have been, we know the real dangers out there. While we’re the first ones to tell people who cool it is, and so much fun, we’re also the first ones to say ‘if you can’t even ride a bicycle, this is probably not a good idea for you.'”

Sergeant Larry Starkey shows off one of the CMSP high-viz vests.

Sergeant Larry Starkey shows off one of the CMSP high-viz vests.

In addition to training a bunch of new riders, the CMSP spent money on a variety of things of items like these:

  • CMSP Posters
  • High visibility reflective vests
  • CMSP tear drop banners
  • CMSP Display booth with tables and chairs

The banners and booth are pure PR plays for use at events—check out the deck at the end of this article for more on these efforts. Posters have been distributed all over the state.

The vests are more interesting: they’re going to be given to students upon completion of the CMSP MTC (Motorcyclist Training Course—the basic, new rider course) if they commit to wearing their new vest.

Although some capital-B Bikers love to grumble about The Man supposedly scheming to eventually force us all to wear high-viz vests, there was none of that nonsense in this meeting. The vests are a good idea, and a good use of CMSP funds—conspicuity helps keep riders safer.

I mentioned that the committee has been pushing more on initiatives and spend. Here’s the breakdown of go / no-go for potential projects, from the committee’s (private) January meeting.

No Adoption
Project Number Title
CMSPADV-2017-001 Online Training for CMSP Instructors
CMSPADV-2017-009 Negotiate with Manufactures for Cost of Motorcycles Used in Training
Possible Adoption
Project Number Title
CMSPADV-2017-002 Subsidize Cost of Refresher Course
CMSPADV-2017-003 Provide Updated/Replacement Range Cards to Instructors
CMSPADV-2017-004 Provide High Visibility Gloves for Instructors
CMSPADV-2017-005 Supplement Cost to New Instructors for Required Training
CMSPADV-2017-006 Provide Student Workbooks at No Cost
CMSPAVD-2017-008 Subsidized Cost to CMSP Instructor Shirts
CMSPADV-2017-010 Online Situational Awareness Tool
CMSPADV-2017-007 Training Site Grants to Purchase Motorcycles

Apparently, negotiating with manufacturers for lower prices on motorcycles used in training is considered a conflict of interest under law and is illegal. However, various technicalities mean that it is legal to grant money to training sites for purchase of motorcycles, so that project is still on the table while negotiation of prices is not.

Here’s the complete presentation from the meeting. The meeting was three hours long, and covered a lot more than I have here. I urge you to keep your eyes and ears open for our next ride to Sacramento for the October CMSP Advisory Committee meeting.

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