Ask Our Lawyer – August 2018

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Hi Rod,

I’m sending this per our last conversation. This, if you recall, covers a crash on a ride I was on May 27, Memorial Day.  Unfortunately, the ride had no escorts or printed ride route.

The group ride was traveling within the street speed limit and we were staggered when the bike next to me suddenly attempted to turn right without any signal or logic in his move. (Higher speed would have had a terrible outcome) His bike caught my left front as I attempted to cut sharply to my right to avoid the hit and escape to the side. His action knocked me over a curb, between 2 power line poles and down a grass embankment.  Somehow, I managed to keep my bike up which was complicated as my wife was a passenger. After the crash, the offender denied any assistance from paramedics or police and was not injured, but he was ticketed for his action.

I had $1,300.00 damage and have just now got my bike back after losing a month of riding.  My insurance company is going after him for subrogation.

To this day I don’t know what he was thinking and in all my years riding I have never seen anyone do this in a group ride. We now have learned that he is fighting the ticket and we have been subpoenaed to testify for the City. Will keep you posted.

Thanks for all you do for riding and thank you for helping me out as well. If this goes forward, I will contact you. Respectfully, Jim Rabjohn

(Note from Rod – the Rules below published last month are worth memorizing.)


  1. Escorted?  How do you know?  Many rides claim to be escorted but they are not – legally.  Attend the safety briefing and ask the tough questions or better yet send the ride organizer an email requesting details.  In most states only authorized officers have the power to stop traffic and otherwise direct a ride.  Don’t go on any ride that is not professionally escorted.
  2. Know the motorcyclists around you on the ride. If the bike next to you is new with        low mileage, you may be riding with a newby – not good.  Learn about him/her when you are waiting for the ride to start.  If the rider is a newby, ride next to someone who isn’t.
  3. Leave extra distance between you and the rider in front, so you can see the potholes from hell and the unrepaired railroad crossing. And get ready to make a lane change if necessary.  Always have a clear lane to go.
  4. And if you don’t like the escorters and the speeds they are using – bolt. That way there is always next year.


Q.  Hi Rod and Brian, I have some questions on behalf of the Blackhawk chapter of ABATE of Illinois.When a chapter has an event and other organized riding clubs join the ride and they decide to provide road guarding without our solicitation could our chapter be held responsible?Could our chapter add a clause to the event release stating that all riders are to follow the traffic laws and posted traffic signals and we do not permit road guards and road blocking?This scenario recently happened on a ride that we hosted.  We received a letter from the city of Moline informing us that we must complete an application if we want to ride in a parade style.  I thank you for your consideration on this matter. 

Carla Enburg, Newsletter Coordinator

A.  Carla, your Chapter and any ride organization are in harms way if you allow/acquiesce in others violating the law.  Your idea of adding a clause to the event release is a good one.  And I like your idea of advising that all ride attendees are to follow the traffic laws.  I would go so far as to post this information at the registration facility and at the beginning of the ride.

While I appreciate that these errant participants were just trying to help, many do not recognize that vigilante road guards are illegal in most states – even if they are trying to do the right thing – in their mind. A common misconception is that the leaders of any motorcycle ride have the authority to stop traffic in the interest of safety.  The law prohibits this do-it-yourself ride control.

The reason for the draconian rules against vigilante road guards is that horrific crashes have been caused by well-meaning volunteers, who in most cases, have had no or inadequate training to perform such duties.

A few years back at the Miracle Ride, we had an off duty, out of city, out of uniform police officer attempt to control traffic on a U.S. highway in Indianapolis.  A disgruntled person objecting to the off-duty and out of uniform officer’s attempt at traffic control, proceeded thru the intersection injuring two participants.  Certainly a show stopper for them and the rest of the five thousand riders.

Moral of the story?  Let the local police officers do what they are trained to do and leave the rest of the riding to us.  P.S. We can help you with the language in your ride waiver.


I constantly find myself searching for a new riding experience and recently found one from my collection good enough to share. On one of those wonderful warm early winter days this year that begs you to ride, I headed off to Mooresville Indiana in search of Gravity Hill on my side/hack shovel.  Heard about it for years, but just couldn’t believe the tale. Namely that you can put your bike in neutral and it will roll uphill.  No way and dubious all the way there as I am an Isaac Newton disciple. How can you put your motorcycle in neutral and watch it coast uphill without power?  I did and so can you.  It is an amusing and confusing experience. (to get there MapQuest 705 Keller Hill Road Mooresville In.)  Here is what I did.  I followed IN 42 out of Mooresville until I hit Keller Hill Road, just a few outside of town.  I turned onto Keller Hill Road and traveled a ways; stopped and put my shovel into neutral. And then it happened – I actually started rolling backwards – uphill.  Uncomfortable with that I did a U-turn and tried going uphill with no power facing forward.  Slowly at first, but then faster and faster getting  up to 20 mph before I got back to IN 42 .  Like a little kid I did it over and over till I had to get back to the office.  Isaac should be scratching his head on that one!


 Q.  Over the years we have received many questions from ABATE members inquiring as to the safety of “retread” truck tires. Some of us have had to dodge retread tire materials and have narrowly avoided crashes. Interestingly in the age of almost perfect communication, retreads seemingly have missed scrutiny.  Is it because the problem is only a motorcyclist problem?  What follows is our first stab at answering this question.

 A.  Let’s get to the point. Are there safety issues with retread tires? We have studied the problem and there are some questions that just don’t add up. So let’s start  our inquiry with information as to exactly what is a retread or capped tire.

The general definition is that a retread, also known as “recap,” or a “remold” is a remanufacturing process for tires that replaces the tread on worn tires.  Essentially retreading is a process that saves money by shaving down old tires to the casing and gluing on a new tread.  (Years ago I worked at General Tire in Indianapolis where we glued retreads to used casings.) Sound safe?   Some of us have witnessed a delaminating retread.  My experience was spectacular. The semi just ahead of me had a trailer tire delaminate at about 60 mph.   The tire delaminated violently and showered tire debris over me and my FLH.  I still have a crack in my windshield caused by tire shrapnel.  To avoid catastrophe, I slalomed around the larger chunks of tire material some of which was large enough to derail a motorcyclist.   I now collect photos of retread debris in an effort to shed light on a hazard to motorcyclists.

Now for the other side’s story – the retreaders. According to Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau aka TRIB, retread tires are a good deal and are safely used by trucking fleets and others all over the country.  But regulations disallow retreads in certain applications. So why is it that retreads cannot be legally used on the steering axle of a bus if they are safe?  Some companies have a private policy of no retreads on a steering axle.  Why?  No one provides a clear answer to that one, but I have a pretty good guess.

IF retreads are truly safe then what about all the retread debris you see on the side of the highways aka – roadside alligators? Most of us know those to be leftovers of a delaminated retread tire.  But the retread groups claim that the rubber pieces you see on the road come from both new “virgin” and retreaded tires in equal proportions to their usage on roads (They have not shared the data).   That claim does not fit with my past experience as a commercial truck driver.  Those lobbying groups claim to have additional studies indicating that the main cause of the roadside debris is from tires being improperly maintained, under/over inflated, road hazards, potholes, and driver operational error.   My experience begs to differ especially when I see long strips of retread materials along the roadway that have become unglued.

If retreads are a safety hazard, why do many trucking companies use retreads?  Is it because they are better and safer?  The real answer is: retreads are cheaper.  You can get a retread for 30-50 percent less than a new tire.  Retread supporters claim that retreading truck tires saves the trucking industry over $3 billion each year, but at what expense?

Let us know about your experiences.


 Q.  Is it illegal for people to blow their grass clippings onto the roads in Indiana? Thank you, Brian Russell – ABATE MEMBER.

A.  While no state law directly prohibits blowing grass clippings on to public roadways, there may be city and county ordinances barring the practise. Keep in mind that grass clippings blown onto roads are not only an eyesore but also a hazard to motorcyclists. Engineers have calculated the coefficient of friction of fresh grass clippings – almost as slick as grease. So while you may not be in violation of a law, you may have created a condition that could cause you to be liable for injuries caused by your clippings. Here is why.

Lawsuits have been filed against property owners claiming that covering the roadway with grass clippings creates a dangerous situation.  Especially dangerous are wet grass clippings.  Some say they are akin to riding over a sheet of ice.  And a swirling vortex of grass in the eyes creates its own problem, especially if you are a motorcyclist.  A lawsuit filed in Plainfield, IL by a woman passenger on a motorcycle claims the motorcyclist lost control after they hit a patch of grass clippings blown into the street by a homeowner.  The passenger sued the homeowner for negligence.

See the below case.

So even if no city or county ordinance bars the practice of blowing grass clippings onto the road, the lawyers will be waiting for you if you do and someone is injured.   I can almost guarantee that you will get sued if a motorcyclist is injured because of your grass clippings.

Ride Safe & Free,

 Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

 All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery, and expenses as approved by client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to:  © 2018.

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