MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) - Word that motorcycle helmets are now optional in Michigan spread quickly among bikers in Muskegon.
At All-Brands Cycles owner James Wolf says he heard about the change early Friday morning. Wolf plans to take advantage of riding without a helmet mostly on the highway. He says highway traffic is all moving in the same direction and he has more time to avoid a potential crash.
Chad Simpson works at All-Brands with Wolf. Simpson is recovering from a motorcycle crash that happened three weeks ago. His injuries include a sprained wrist and cuts on his arm. However, like Wolf, he also plans to go without a helmet on the highway and use it when traveling in town.
Friday Chuck Caldwell left Muskegon' Hot Rod Harley on a 2003 Road King he just purchased. He left the dealers' parking lot wearing protective gloves, a leather jacket, and helmet. Caldwell says he will continue to be a helmet guy. "Riding is dangerous and accidents can happen", says Caldwell.
One of Muskegon's biggest annual tourist events centers on motorcycles and the people who ride them. Muskegon Bike Time attracted more than 90,000 visitors in 2011. This year event organizers believe attendance will grow now that riders from neighboring states do not have to stop at the state line to put on helmets.
According to Bike Time chairman Clyde Whitehouse, "There are people from states that the helmet law does not exist that do not come to Michigan because of that."
Whitehouse says participants in the past have told organizers they enjoy the event and location but wish, "they could ride without a helmet."
UPDATE (WZZM) - Several groups have come out with statements against and for the new optional motorcycle helmet bill signed into legislation today.
The Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan (TIA) is disappointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's decision to give motorcyclists the option of wearing a helmet under legislation signed by the governor on Thursday.
"On behalf of the traffic safety community, I am saddened by Governor Snyder's decision to sign a bill that is likely to result in increased deaths and economic costs," said Jim Santilli, executive director of TIA. "As a Governor that is committed to using a dashboard to improve safety, I believe this is a step in the wrong direction."
"It is disappointing that a law that saved lives and reduced injuries in the Great Lake States has been repealed," said Pete Kuhnmuench, Executive Director, Insurance Institute of Michigan.
AAA Michigan is extremely disappointed that legislation which allows some motorcyclists to ride without a helmet on the state's roadways has been signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. Public Act 98, which takes effect today, is poor public policy and will increase motorcycle fatalities and injuries, AAA Michigan reports.
And others have come out in support:
"We believe that the key to motorcycle safety, accident reduction and injury prevention lies in rider education, car driver awareness and license endorsement," said Jim Rhoades, Legislative Director for American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE of Michigan. "We plan to continue providing certified motorcycle rider safety courses across the state at affordable rates so every rider can be educated before hitting the road."
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation that will give many Michigan motorcyclists the option of riding without a helmet.
The Republican governor announced Friday that he signed the bill a day earlier, ending a multi-year effort to change state law. Lawmakers had passed repeals of the mandatory motorcycle helmet law before, but the measures were vetoed twice by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
The new measure will allow riders 21 or older to go without helmets if they carry extra insurance and meet training or experience criteria.
Snyder said he expects many riders will continue to wear helmets. But he said those who choose not to wear a helmet deserve "the latitude to make their own informed judgments" if they meet legal requirements.
Critics say the change will lead to more deaths.
By Jon Mills /Previous reporting from the Associated Press