Elgin Police officers investigate a crash in which a motorcycle rider died after crashing into an SUV. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:15AM
‘Another good column, my friend. Dibs on your donated organs, if I need them!!!”
So read the note from a friend in response to last week’s column on my decision to take up motorcycle riding.
Ha-ha . . . I should have known this was coming.
“Hey, John,” my 91-year-old grandfather said last weekend, chuckling. “Why you want to wait all these years and ride a motorcycle?”
He was suggesting, as some of the men around him quivered with laughter, that I must have a death wish.
Not a death wish. Just a yearning to ride a Harley, hear it rumbling beneath me, the wind whistling, and nothing except road and miles of riding dreams in front of me.
Since last week, the response to my declaration of being smitten by the motorcycle-riding bug has been steady.
But I remain undeterred.
At last writing, I was enrolled in the Motorcycle Riding Program administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Traffic Safety, and getting a firsthand taste of the virtues — and hazards — of motorcycle riding. And like my 10 classmates— about half of them women — I was worried about passing the written and riding exams.
When I first broached the idea of riding a motorcycle, my wife said absolutely not, though she later softened. I still wonder if her change of heart wasn’t because she peeked at my life insurance policy and figured that if the worst happened, she’d get my Harley and a big fat check. (I’m only joking!)
Actually, it was my enrollment in a motorcycle-safety class, my intentions to ride a cruiser rather than a crotch rocket, and my reassurances that I don’t plan on getting killed.
Truth is, I suspect that most motorcyclists who have gotten killed didn’t exactly plan on it. And yet each year, according to IDOT, some do.
In 2010, for example, 130 fatal crashes involving motorcycles resulted in the deaths of 131 motorcycle operators and passengers, and one non-motorcyclist.
Those numbers don’t tell the entire story — something we covered in class with instructors, Chas Maricich and Jordan Sinwelski.
They emphasized that any number of factors contribute to motorcycle crashes and related fatalities and that understanding the hazards — as well as assuming the risk and personal responsibility for your own safety — can go a long way toward saving your life.
Among the most valuable lessons: That most often motorcyclists killed in crashes were not wearing a helmet.
† So wear a helmet and protective gear.
† Don’t drink and ride.
† Intersections represent the greatest potential threat to motorcyclists and other traffic while curves represent potential danger for running off the road.
† So be aware and SEE (that’s Search, Evaluate, Execute).
† And become a lifelong learner.
The overarching lessons I took from class:
The greatest danger to a “safe,” skilled motorcycle rider is other motorists, and the greatest threat to unskilled, unsafe motorcyclists is themselves.
I got it. And in the end, I passed.
Harley, here I come.
As for my grandfather’s chiding, I reminded him of two of his own sobering mantras: That “any day you’re well enough to live, you’re sick enough to die,” and that “one thing’s for certain: none of us is getting out of this life alive.”
His point: Live life.
Now, as for my good friend’s inquiry about my organs, uh, I think I’ll be needing them myself — for a long time. But I think I just might have some liver to spare — chicken livers!