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story.lead_photo.caption Julie Smith/News Tribune Denise Taylor flshes a peace sign as she rides on a motorcycle driven by Dale Thomas. They were just two of several dozen members of Freedom of Road RIders of Missouri who gathered at the American Legion Post 5 after which they left as a group to parade to the Capitol for the 21st Annual Mike Sloan Memorial May Rally.

Thunder rumbled around the Missouri Capitol at noon Tuesday, right on schedule.

The thunder came from about 75 members of the Freedom of Road Riders of Missouri as they rode for the annual Mike Sloan Memorial May Rally.

The rally is intended to remind other commuters that May is Motorcycle Awareness Month.

The 21st annual event recognizes the start of spring and that more motorcycles are on the road, said Deanna Rhodes, the motorcycle awareness coordinator.

Freedom of Road Riders fights for motorcycle riders’ rights throughout Missouri, she said.

A recent victory for the riders is that (beginning last August) Missouri gave adults the choice of whether to wear helmets, Rhodes said.

It was an issue the riders had been working on for the past 40 years. It was about giving people the right to choose, she said.

“We all want to come home to our families,” Rhodes said. “We want people to remember that we’re out there.”

Joe Widmer, the legislative coordinator, said there are a couple of bills the group is following this year — a bill concerning “ground effects” lighting and a bill that would redefine auto-cycles. It includes another three-wheeled cycle that has handlebars.

“Under the current definition, it’s still a motorcycle,” Widmer said.

The goal is to separate auto-cycles from motorcycles in law so they aren’t lumped with motorcycles in traffic collision data.

“All that kind of goes against us,” he said.

Gov. Mike Parson was the keynote speaker for the rally.

Parson acknowledged the riders had worked long and hard to change Missouri’s helmet laws.

And, he told listeners he found the way to move forward during the pandemic was the way he grew up — using common sense.

He always weighed what was best for the people of the state.

“That’s why I never did do a mask order for the state of Missouri as the governor of this state,” Parson said. “That’s up to you to decide that, not up to me.”

It’s why he didn’t shut businesses down.

The balanced approach Missouri took was the right thing to do, he said.

When leaders face issues like they faced over the past year, they have to make sure they understand perspectives from each resident, Parson said.

No matter whether they live in large cities or small towns, everybody should be treated equally and have the same fundamental rights, Parson said.

Parson said he’s always been a servant and intends to serve residents every day.

“Elected officials are public servants,” he said. “If they think they’re any more than that, they shouldn’t be there in the state Capitol.”

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