Lead In Motorcycles - Get The Lead Out

Behind Bars

It's so inane, it approaches brilliance.

"Can I get a motorcycle, Dad?"

"Nope. It's illegal."

The look our seven-year-old gave me eloquently expressed the ancient epiphany usually reserved for early teen years: Individually and as a whole, adults are so unutterably mush-witted that it's remarkable we can form sentences unaided.

Do you blame her? This is the kid who pell-mells up and down the block on her little pedal bike, piggy tails flying out from under her helmet, skidding turns.

Here we see a tornado of a girl who can bruise herself fleeing down the hall, escaping imaginary attack rabbits or tormenting our tangible dog. Do we worry about her clambering onto a motorcycle to fling herself across our bumpy backyard?

Sure. But that's what training is for. If Joy is sharp enough for accelerated reading and gymnastics, she can absorb 50cc worth of basic safety.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission disagrees. Not because they fear the obvious-broken bones and brain trauma-but because kids' motorcycles, like all motorcycles, contain more than 600 parts per million of lead.

Substitutes exist for leaded paint and battery plates, but parts like frames queer the deal. To sell any toy intended for children under 13 now requires onerous lead testing and certification for every component, and the lead content of mild steel isn't negotiable.

Please note that motorcycles are "toys" the same way BB guns are "toys"-they require training, supervision and careful use. If your 11-year-old stuffs his motorcycle in his mouth, stick with large blocks.

With the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, a bipartisandebacle sponsored by Congressman Bobby Rush (D, IL) and signed by former President Bush, legislators ran afoul of a higher law called "unintended consequences."

Infants in Illinois kill their brains swallowing Chinese toys; poodles in Poughkeepsie croak on melamine-laced chow. Before you know it, an entire family sport is destroyed, ostensibly to save peewee racers from gnawing the lead off their wheel rims between motos.

Congress painted the CPSC into a corner. Because they're "charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction," the CPSC defaults to banning everything that might cause harm rather than risking reasonable judgment.

The law of unintended consequences remains as immutable as gravity. With sales down for virtually every manufacturer and bike shops across the country going belly-up, successful holdouts in the low-margin (and unsubsidized) motorcycle industry just got their tits wrung. Worse, every peewee-class rider got smacked.

Tim Buche, president of the Motorcycle Industry Council and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, doubts you'll even be able to buy parts for little bikes. The MIC/SVIA estimates that U.S. dealers will immediately eat $50 million in unsaleable inventory and lose up to $1 billion annually in sales, service, apparel and parts revenue.

What a grand economic stimulus.

With right-sized bikes banned, more kids will sample tall bikes and heavy ATVs without governors or automatic clutches. Over their heads with further to fall, they'll get hurt more, but mercifully will only be exposed to the more digestible lead on their parents' bikes.

Meddlesome scolds perceive no social value in noisy, hazardous dirtbikes. In our decreasingly free society, simple pleasure is guilty, guilty, GUILTY until proven both innocent and virtuous.

When militant nanny-staters claim it's "for the children," it generally means they're taxing you for the privilege of taking something away from your kids. They intend the CPSIA to rescue children from negligent parents who might take them riding. Never doubt that they stand ready to save you next.

Pencil heads! They're a plague on all that's bad and decent.

Beleaguered by shrill activists, Congress reliably votes to hamstring us with our own safety nets. In the Land of the Free, you can't buy a Commie cigar or mouth off to a cop (try it sometime). Unbelievably, possession with intent to distribute unpasteurized French cheese is a federal crime. And now kiddy-crosser bikes wear the same scarlet racing number as assault weapons and marijuana.

It's time to Just Say No. Each time you're too busy to argue, the pencil heads win another round.

Do not go easy into that hazy regulatory coma. Google up your Congressional representatives and bellow "NO!" Explain the family values of riding together-and the social value of voting blocs. Demand rollbacks of sweeping prohibitions. Your sons and daughters will thank you.

When peewee bikes are outlawed, only outlaws will race the peewee class.

Can you imagine that a mere Act of Congress could keep a girl like this off motorcycles? Think again, petty tyrants!