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Ask Our Lawyer - November 2004

Q: Is Chicago Alderman Ed Burke serious about his proposed ordinance requiring helmets for motorcyclists in Cook County/City of Chicago? If so, what can we do about it?

A: Incredible as it seems, I think Alderman Burke is serious. Here is what we've said to Alderman Burke in a letter dated September 30th, 2004, regarding his proposed ordinance:

Dear Alderman Burke:

On behalf of the motorcyclists of A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois, we respectfully ask that you withdraw your proposed mandatory helmet ordinance for motorcyclists within the City of Chicago.

We remind you that Illinois State Law, 625 ILCS 5/208 provides that: "No unit of local government, including a home rule unit, may enact an ordinance requiring motorcycle users to wear protective headgear." This law was passed and signed as a part of legislation in response to the Chicago Bike Ban of 1998.

As counsel to A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois and its members, we advise you that if such an ordinance is passed, we will be forced to immediately seek a TRO [Temporary Restraining Order] restraining enforcement of this ordinance. Should this ordinance pass and law enforcement authorities issue citations to A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois members, we will seek damages for them and against the City of Chicago for intentionally ignoring a state law clearly preempting this proposed ordinance.

For your information, A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois voluntarily teaches over 30,000 new students in Illinois high schools on how to be more careful drivers and to increase their awareness for motorcyclists. There are approximately 250,000 registered motorcyclists in Illinois. They are on the average 45 years old and earn $44,000.00 per year, have insurance, are not public burdens and are a part of our society that uses two wheel transportation. THEY ARE VOTERS.

Should you need additional case law or statutory citation to support our request, please advise and we will supply same.

Rodney V. Taylor

As a side note, we have a draft of the Complaint against the City of Chicago (and Temporary Restraining Order) prepared. We intend to file the Complaint immediately if this ordinance is passed. The Illinois legislature may make this ordinance expensive for the City of Chicago. A bill has been proposed that would allow a $25,000.00 punitive damage award for each citation issued by the City of Chicago for a violation of this unconstitutional ordinance. Remember, the State of Illinois has preempted the law on the helmet issue meaning that the cities, towns, and counties are not allowed by the Illinois constitution to pass their own helmet bills in derogation of the state law. We will keep you posted on this issue.


As my wife Ann and I rode on U.S. 40 though central Illinois over to St. Louis, I remembered back to a time when we were confronted with a "national helmet bill" and were overwhelmed with helmet legislation proposed or otherwise in almost every state. The coming together of the SMRO's and the creation of Motorcycle Rider's Foundation ("MRF") changed all that. I thought of the founders of the organization and recalled one individual who stands out above all the others - Michael Farabaugh. Michael had the presence of mind and the leadership ability to channel all the efforts of the individual state MRO's and created "The Meeting Of The Minds" - it was Farabaugh who came up with the name - and the rest is history.

At this years 20th anniversary (they were all there), the movers and the shakers, - Jay Jackson, Greg "Sidecar" Wagner, Steve and Janice Zimmer, Cheryl Pearre, Mark Falsetti, George Tinkham, Hairy George Nitzsky (whom I call the conscience of American Motorcycling), Paul Cote and AMA Leaders like Terry Cook, and many others who made a difference. But one individual was not there - Michael "Balls" Farabaugh. Easy Rider Magazine had him assigned to a photo shoot somewhere in Nebraska, then another shoot when he got back to Indiana. In his hectic schedule, Balls came within 500 feet of the "Meeting Of The Minds" as he rode by on 70 through St. Louis. I know it was painful for him not to stop, but life and obligations move on. When he went by I would have liked to have said to Michael Farabaugh "the ultimate compliment to a leader/founder is when an organization like the MRF continues on to even greater achievements." Michael, we shall never forget what you did for motorcycling and when you rode by the Meeting Of The Minds, you had to feel proud of your legacy. Your leadership and spirit continues there. If American motorcycling had a Mt. Rushmore, Michael Farabaugh would be on it.


Congratulations to Dal Smilie on being inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame. Dal Smilie is a Paris, Illinois native and member of the Board of Trustees of the American Motorcyclist Association. Being from southern Illinois myself (Wayne County), I claim him as one of mine. He has been an AMA Trustee longer than any other human being. Dal, a riding buddy of George Tinkham, is an Assistant Attorney General of the State of Montana. Dal, congratulations for an honor long over due.
Ride Safe and Free,
Rod Taylor
A.B.A.T.E. LEGAL Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com.