Give motorcyclists their deserved respect

Written By By JOHN W. FOUNTAIN Posted: 08/21/2014, 12:52am

Something about the rumble of my Harley on a sun-drenched summer day. Something about the wind blowing through my, uh, helmet or scarf, since I am bald.

Something sweet about rolling over an open country road — time and destiny suspended by the sense of freedom and exhilaration with each turn of my wheels, my chrome glistening.

Something about the darnedest things that people say, as if trying to steal my joy over my newfound Hog heaven.

“Hey man, you’re gonna mess around and kill yourself on that motorcycle.”

“Riding a motorcycle is way too dangerous.”

“You must be going through a midlife crisis.”

Even the guy at the DMV couldn’t even ask a simple question without his words dripping with sarcasm and doom: “Do you want to be an organ donor? . . . You do know that’s what we call motorcyclists.”

Ha ha. Not funny, dude.

“Uh, no,” I replied. “I think I’ll need my organs until I’m 98.”

I’m not exactly sure how to respond to all the gloom-and-doom and snide remarks about my decision to take up motorcycle riding a little more than two years ago. I did so understanding the risks and also by taking the Motorcycle Riding Program course through the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Traffic Safety. I passed with flying colors.

My endeavor — then, now and always — is to ride safe. I ride to live. Not to die.

I am well-versed in motorcycle safety. I adhere to the rule that if you’re going to ride, don’t drink and if you’re going to drink, don’t ride.

I wear my helmet — uh, most of the time — aware that in most cases of fatal motorcycle crashes, the rider was not wearing one. I — as do most of my biker friends — wear protective clothing. We adhere to the rules of the road. And we accept that motorists often don’t see us and sometimes act like road bullies. Talk about dangerous. How about a distracted driver?

Being a motorcyclist, in my opinion, has made me a better motorist — more conscientious of road safety and keenly aware of those biker dudes and dudettes out there on those roaring bumper-less two-wheel vehicles. For I realize that no matter how “safe” we bikers may be riding, we are, by the nature of the beast, vulnerable and highly destructible to cars, especially those driven by motorists, ignorant to some key facts about motorcycles.

A list of facts and tips that can help save motorcyclists’ lives has been compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. I would encourage all those who have expressed concerns about those of us who ride motorcycles — if you are indeed genuinely concerned—to take note:

Don’t operate a vehicle while distracted. A motorcyclist has the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other motorist on the roadway. Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Allow more follow distance — three or four seconds — when following a motorcycle, which gives a motorcyclist time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.

And this: Check your mirrors and your blind spots. See us! That’s the sentiment of the Start Seeing Motorcycles campaign launched across the state in May 2011.

I have to admit, there’s something sweet about seeing a motorist not talking on their cellphone, not texting with both hands off the wheel, or turning to yell at the kids in the back seat, swerving into my lane. Something that makes my Hog and me that much safer and the ride that much sweeter.



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