News team assemble! The reason it’s time we all unionize.
Most municipal governments, depending on what country you live in, have an urbanization action plan. An urbanization action plan involves the moving rural residents into a more densely populated area. The reason for this is to reduce the cost of having a sprawling population. It is more expensive to maintain utilities and emergency services in a less densely populated area then a more dense one. Not only is the service area larger, but there is less income per km/mile squared. A municipality, in the face of rising labor and resource costs, therefor must either raise municipal taxes (at potentially the cost of an election or re-election) or promote more people to move into residential developments to increase the tax revenue received. What does this have to do with us? Well, there is only a certain amount of riding space available, and the more residential developments that are built in a municipality, the more in demand real estate becomes. Now all of a sudden the riding area we have enjoyed so much becomes a very high priced commodity and the return on investment for having this area as a recreational area no longer becomes feasible. There are certain protected pieces of land that probably will not become a residential development, but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe from having off-road motorcycles yanked out of it. As residents start living closer and closer, the potential for complaints about noise, speed and destruction of property also increase in proportion. In fact, a lot of residential developments have boards, committees and meetings. The public has unionized, and so must we!
A loose collection of riders has no face. No voice. No reason to be there. A well-organized association of riders with respected members of the municipality on it has a well-known face, a loud voice and can present a business case as to why the municipality should keep, nay, expand the riding area! Before getting into the world of off-road riding, I had assumed that I would be riding with groups mostly in their teens and 20’s. I did not expect that at 33 I would be one of the youngest riders at most of the events I have attended. I think it’s widely assumed by most lay persons that dirt biking is done by mostly teens and young adults, and to be honest, city councilors and municipal leaders don’t care about them as much. They have entry level jobs so they do not pay a lot of income tax, they do not own property so they do not pay property tax and they do not have a lot of disposable income to spend in the community. So why would they sacrifice a quick cash injection of selling off land, or the use/licensing of the land, for a bunch of people that cannot make a return on the investment of a riding area? They won’t.
The off-road association I am a member of in my area has over 200 members. The average age of the members that I have come across is 35-50. This association has well respected members of the community who go to city council meetings and give voice to our members. They inform the council that our members own property in the area, pay into the municipal coffers and have disposable income which is spent at the local dealerships, garages, restaurants and gas stations. They connect with the local business owners and provide information on who our members are, and how often we come to their establishments to spend money. They get momentum from local business and provide the municipal councils with a sound business case on how it is in their best interest to have us around. Government officials love business cases. There are two things that rev the motors of a politician, and that is getting votes and making money. Without the solid, well presented hard evidence of the number of votes and the dollar figure spent by the off-road community and riding association, they have nothing to justify to the public the reason for keeping riding areas open to us.
I have noticed that the demographic in my area is missing riders in their teens and twenties. If you are reading this and you fit into that category, do us all a favor and join your local riding association. Yes, it may be a bit of money and I know it can be tough to pay for all these passes and memberships at the same time as keeping your bike on the trail, maybe ask for it as a Christmas, birthday, and bris present? I guess you can only get a bris present once though, unless you really are willing to sacrifice for the cause….But if you wish to keep on riding in the future, it is a very necessary thing. It’s not just paying for a membership, its having you counted, and we need every +1 we can get. If you’re already a part of an association then I urge you to get involved with volunteering and getting involved with the Board of your association. Right now it seems that the baby boomers are taking care of us. It is easy to take this for granted. Once they are no longer able to ride, they will leave it to us. If we have not gained the skills required to go in and persuade the municipalities to keep our riding areas, then we will lose them in short order.
The couch sitters, the TV zombies and the indoor enthusiasts have unionized. And so must we. Rise up and be counted.