In just a two-weekend span of time in September, New Jersey saw no less than 30 charity ride events. Many of these were misnamed “First Annual,” and close to half were “poker runs.” We are all probably familiar with this type of ride, whereby the participants have several stops and choose a playing card at each to complete a hand. Best hand wins whatever pot the sponsors put up.
Hold on to your helmets, ladies, as I am about to mount my soapbox.
At what point did these sponsors and/or organizers of many of these poker runs decide it would be a great idea if the stops were placed at bars? My “chauffeur” and I decided to participate in one that promised all proceeds would be going to veterans and men and women police and firefighters. At the end would be music, food, a silent auction and merriment. There were not a lot of participants, but of what there were, we and one other woman made it to the final stop a full hour before the others. Then, at the final stop (a community center) was a booth selling beer and wine coolers. The reason we finished a full hour ahead? Each stop was at a small neighborhood bar and the three of us refused to drink. The remaining participants starting flowing in steadily, loud and happy, quickly after that hour.
Included in the many statistics about drunk driving is this: Bikers comprise the highest percentage of drunk drivers in fatal crashes, followed by light trucks then passenger cars. With all the diligence about making the roads safer for motorcycles, why is it that the motorcycle community then has charity rides that promote drinking?
While I am up here, my other point of contention is the proliferation of these charity runs in the first place. Whether poker runs, scenic group rides or destination rides, every nonprofit has found that the way to raise cash is to get the bikers. The 30 events I mentioned were from only one online listing. It is very possible that number could be doubled. Bikers have big hearts. Be it homeless pets or homeless vets, we ride to help, but it has gotten out of hand. Churches, hospitals, children’s groups, cancer centers, etc., all want a piece of our paychecks. With the economic uncertainties we have been facing, simply writing a check and mailing it has no longer been a guarantee for the myriad of nonprofits. The offer of a nice ride ending with entertainment and food for a nominal “donation” entices us to forego a lazy day at home and get out amongst our brethren for camaraderie and a pulled pork sandwich while being serenaded by Lynyrd Skynyrd sound-alikes.
What is the fallout from all these charity rides? Less money raised for those charities as bikers pick and choose whom they would like to help is one. Another very real possible problem comes from those that use bars in their events. While riders and passengers sign waivers absolving the organizers of any liability, the fact is, should the worst occur and a fatality happens, the spouses or families of those riders did not sign anything. One beer per stop on a poker run is five beers. Across the US, a DUI is issued when a driver “blows” a 0.08, not a hard number to reach for most of us and one that certainly can be attained by downing five large beers within the average time of a run.
What should we as responsible riders do? First, if you choose a charity run in which to participate, find out if it involves bar stops. Then avoid it and find another. If you truly want to be diligent about motorcycle safety, let the organizers know why you would not want to do their event. When it comes to motorcycle safety, no charity should be exempt from using good common sense.
Update on a run I covered in May, the Wilson 10-33 Benefit Run and Picnic:
On September 10, Officer Wilson lost his battle with leukemia. Our condolences to his family, friends and his fellow officers.
By Louise Reeves