ONONDAGA, N.Y. – A man riding bareheaded on one of about 550 motorcycles in an anti-helmet law rally lost control of his cycle, went over his handlebars, hit his head on the pavement and died, police said Sunday.
The motorcyclist, 55-year-old Philip A. Contos, likely would have survived the accident if he’d been wearing a helmet, state troopers said.
The accident happened Saturday afternoon in Onondaga, a town in central New York near Syracuse.
Contos was driving a 1983 Harley-Davidson on a helmet-protest ride organized by the Onondaga chapter of American Bikers Aimed Towards Education, or ABATE, troopers said. The organization states that it encourages the voluntary use of helmets but opposes mandatory helmet laws.
Contos, of Parish, hit his brakes, and his motorcycle fishtailed and went out of control, flipping him over the handlebars, police said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The statewide president of ABATE, Thomas Alton, said Contos wasn’t a member of ABATE but was a motorcyclist with 30 years of experience.
Participants in the ride, which the Onondaga chapter has held annually for 11 years on the July Fourth weekend, were told it was their choice whether to wear helmets, Alton said. Some wore them while others didn’t.
“I don’t believe we’ve ever had a fatality on any group run of any kind,” he said.
The ride, on a hot, sunny afternoon, was about 30 miles long from Syracuse to Lake Como near Cortland.
No other motorcycles were involved in the accident, Alton said.
“An officer of my group said there may have been equipment difficulties for the rider,” he said. “Apparently he was riding a motorcycle that wasn’t his usual one. Some vehicles have different quirks.”