So, MCN got a cease and desist letter from the MSF. Why should we care?
I encourage you to check out the MCN article that inspired me, read the letter from MSF's legal counsel, the document that is said not to exist in the MSF letter, and the original article that started off this whole tizzy. Do it in reverse order if you want to follow the timeline a little closer. One of those is 40 pages long, so bring a lunch. Oh, if you happen to be my Mom, you should probably skip reading this one. It is pretty serious.
Here is the why we as a group of motorcyclists should care. Motorcycling is a dangerous activity.
Full Stop. Even with all the best gear, all the best training, and the advancements in electronic rider aids, riding a motorcycle has more risk associated with it than driving a car simply because it is much, much harder make a car fall over and send the driver tumbling down the road. As a rider with a few more miles under his belt on many more bikes than the average motorcyclist, given the choice of the best gear, the best instruction, or the best electronics I would choose instruction over all the rest. This statement is true from first learning how to ride all the way to trying to shave that last 10th of a second on a race weekend. Because of the level of danger associated with motorcycling, I took the MSF course back in 2007 instead of just doing the DMV test. I thought that the MSF BRC was way too easy to pass, and did not really paint an accurate picture of how quickly things could go south on a bike. With the exception of the person that highsided during the emergency stop drill, everyone in my class passed. Even as a brand new rider this seemed odd to me. There were people that were obviously not ready to leave the parking lot on two wheels, yet there they were, departing the class one written test away from having their M1. It seemed to me that it was more about putting more riders on the road - to sell more bikes - than it was about education. Granted I also think that tiered licencing is a great idea, so read that how you will.
My biggest take-away from the exchange between MSF and MCN is that without it, I would not have known that there were fatalities that occurred during the BRC. Thanks to the 40 page CPSC document that MCN shared, I now know that there were approximately a dozen fatalities prior to my taking the classes needed to become an MSF Rider Coach in 2012.
This information was never presented to me as a potential coach, and while it might not be relevant information in regards to my ability to educate future students, I would have liked to have known that it happened, why it happened, and what changes were made so it didn't happen again. Without the MCN article and the resulting MSF attempt to squash it I also would not have known that it was not just students that were having fatal accidents while taking the BRC. According to the CPSC article, a Rider Coach died while on course earlier this year. I have not heard the cause of any fatalities, a question that I raised with the MSF lawyers who have yet to reply. With the Holidays upon us I was anticipating much of a response from either side before the first of the year, but I received this statement from MCN Editor David Hilgendorf literally minutes after reaching out:
"No matter who the training provider, the controlling interest should be transparent and accountable for their curriculum and training methodology creating better motorcyclists, rather than bringing harm. This is especially true with government funding and oversight, like the state and military motorcycle training programs.
The term "motorcycle safety" is an oxymoron. Motorcycles are dangerous, injuries happen. It's how training providers communicate that risk and respond to injuries that shows their true intent.
MSF has admitted to reviewing the CPSC complaint in its own mass-email media release (below). MSF seems to believe by rejecting the complaint and belittling its author, that it might disappear. Instead, MSF is bringing more attention to the complaint and more concern over its response, or lack thereof. We have shared the public complaint at mcnews.com for all to review. MSF did not deny claims of (or numbers of) deaths during the BRC, the primary cause for the complaint." Wait, what? But in the cease and desist letter MSF's lawyer claims that there was never a complaint submitted. Below is the best I can do for an official statement from the MSF. It was an email sent November 8th, 2019 with the subject line "MSF eNews Special Bulletin" well in advance of the MCN article I linked to above.
"Motorcycle Safety Foundation Response to TCTI, Lee Parks and James Kimsey
To our RiderCoaches, RiderCoach Trainers, Sponsors, Site Administrators, Program Coordinators, National and Statewide Staff:
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is serious about safety, and so are you. We know how much you value MSF’s mission, and we value your commitment to delivering MSF’s proven and effective rider education and training. We’ve worked with one another for more than 40 years. Together we’ve made motorcycling safer by ensuring access to the best available rider education and training.
Recently, we became aware of a complaint attacking our collective good work and reputation, submitted by “J. Kimsey” to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on October 31, 2019. Presumably, this is the same James Kimsey who works for Lee Parks, president of Total Control Rider Training, Inc. (TCTI). Some of you received an e-mail from Mr. Parks himself, publicizing Mr. Kimsey’s frivolous claims.
TCTI’s many grievances about MSF are nothing new, are well-known to government, and have been rejected. Examples include:
In 2019 the New York DMV approved an MSF contract protested by TCTI after concluding that “the issues raised [by TCTI] in the Protest are not of sufficient merit to overturn the contract award by DMV.”
In 2015, the Colorado DOT denied a series of TCTI bid protests against MSF and concluded that TCTI failed to provide evidence to support its claims.
MSF has always preferred to handle these sorts of things behind the scenes, because our collective work is too important to be sidetracked by nonsense. But this latest attack, which, among other things, compares MSF to the tobacco industry, is simply too much to ignore.
I write to assure you that we stand with you against these scurrilous attacks. You already know the truth, because you live it. The complaint is without merit and will be rejected. We will vigorously defend our work on rider safety. Our valuable work will continue. You are welcome to call with questions, but we do not plan to make further public comments. We prefer to put our energy into serving students, RiderCoaches, RiderCoach Trainers, and Sponsors.
On behalf of MSF’s Board of Trustees, thank you for your ongoing commitment to deliver safe, high-quality rider training. MSF will continue to set the record straight and to ensure students throughout the United States and among our military have access to MSF’s proven and effective rider education and training.
Erik Pritchard President & CEO, Motorcycle Safety Foundation"
To me this reads as a very presumptuous and accusatory swat at MSF's biggest competition and lacks the same due diligence that the MSF lawyers accuse David Hilgendorf of.
I will keep you posted if I ever hear back from the MSF lawyers, and as I get more information about this story. Until then, What are your thoughts?