There’s something about us all that can’t resist laughing at ridiculous laws. After all, our laws use only boring language designed to be as exact as possible… or do they? We set off to find unusual motorcycle laws. Some of them we can’t believe are real because they aren’t. And some of them we can’t believe are real, but they are. Take a look below to find out what we discovered.
Are These Motorcycle Laws Really On the Books? We’ve done our research, and in most cases, yes; these laws really are in effect. We’ll let you know the few instances that we were unable to verify. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should take anything in this article as legal advice. It’s for entertainment purposes only. If you’re concerned about how the law affects you, consult a lawyer or other legal professional. Motorcycle Clothing Laws All men riding motorcycles must wear shirts.
In the internet’s many lists of ridiculous laws, this is the most commonly listed ordinance concerning motorcycles. It’s usually attributed to Minnesota, and as best we can tell, Minnesota has no such law specific to bikes. Some sources also attribute it to Thailand with a petty fine attached, but we were still unable to verify its reality. So men wishing to show off their muscular physique (and utter disregard for upper-torso protection) may continue to do so while riding. Let’s just hope they don’t crash – what a horrible case of road rash! All students in a motorcycle endorsement program must wear pants.
Yep, pants are specifically a requirement according to Minnesota’s 7411.0565. Of course, taken out of context like this, it seems slightly absurd. But the same law also mandates other protective clothing such as gloves, shoes, helmet, etc. In other words, what it’s really saying is that students shouldn’t wear shorts, which simply don’t add enough protection. It also mentions that either a jacket or a long-sleeved shirt must be worn during the riding portion of instruction. Perhaps this is where the folklore of Minnesota’s shirt requirement comes from? It is unlawful to wear a costume or disguise while riding a motorcycle.
While this is true to a degree, it isn’t actually a motorcycle-specific law as some sources might have you believe. In fact, several states prohibit wearing masks. Take Virginia’s §18.2-422, for example. However, you’d be fine if there was a legitimate festive, professional or medical reason – or if you were wearing a costume without a mask. So the next time you hit the road with your bat bike, leave the cape at home. Riders are not required to obey the helmet law if they regularly wear a turban.
Many jurisdictions have laws requiring the use of a helmet. It’s a somewhat controversial subject, one that we won’t go into detail about here. However, it’s interesting to note that while British Columbia has enacted such a law, it specifically exempts people who wear turbans in BC Reg 237/99. Before you start planning a turban-wearing trip to British Columbia, however, be aware that the law specifically applies to adherents of Sikhism, so it’s really a law protecting religious rights, not motorcyclist rights. Laws Relating to Maintaining Control It is illegal to ride a motorcycle if you are 88 years old.
This is another oft-cited law, usually attributed to Idaho Falls and sometimes using several variations. However, using a quick internet search of the Idaho Falls city code, we could find no such law in existence. Idaho’s senior citizens can continue to ride. It is illegal to pop a wheelie.
This law exists in a variety of locales. The intent is safety, and sometimes the specific law is limited to whenever other people are in the area. Actually, it’s such a common law that it has largely lost its interest value because it is no longer unusual. However, the law as described in Maine’s books (Title 29-A §2062) gives particularly curious wording: A person may not intentionally or knowingly raise the front wheel of a motorcycle off the surface… So in other words, a rider is still breaking the law if they unintentionally but knowingly raise the wheel? (It’s too bad that as defined legally, knowingly usually means something more akin to deliberately rather than being aware of. It would have made the law much more interesting.) It is illegal to operate a motorcycle outside of a rider’s own ability.
Hopefully you weren’t planning on operating a motorcycle according to someone else’s ability because you might be breaking the law in West Virginia (§20-15-5). Apparently they believe that if the physical risk of riding stupidly isn’t enough to deter you, then maybe the legality of it might. Motorcycle Equipment Laws The headlight must always be illuminated on a highway.
Really? Connecticut has a law (14-289b) which states that the headlight must always be illuminated on the highway if your bike was manufactured since 1980. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the day or not. Well, we suppose that’s not entirely true – police officers are exempt from this rule (and a few other laws mentioned in the section). Of course, we can’t argue with safety, and when studies say bikes with lights are involved in fewer accidents, we’ve got to agree with the validity of the law. The headlight on a motorcycle travelling at 50 km/h must reveal an object at a distance of 60 m.
The intent of this British Columbian law (BC Reg 26/58) is actually reasonable enough. It’s the specific wording that tickles our funny bones. The headlight must reveal an object? Okay then. Hopefully the object (whatever it is) isn’t behind something that would hide it. Otherwise, you better hope that your headlight can disintegrate whatever’s in front of it and thus reveal the object. Similarly, the law seems to ban all headlights which cannot magically reveal an object which has been enchanted to be invisible. And someday we hope to know exactly what the object is so that we can best prepare to reveal it. Seating Position Laws Women may not straddle a motorcycle.
This law apparently hails from multiple international locales. The two that we ran into during our research was parts of Kenya and Indonesia. While we weren’t able to verify the laws exactly (laws in other countries not being quite as accessible online as the USA or Canada), the plethora of sources and their expected reliability makes us believe that this one is probably true. Women may not straddle a motorcycle in these jurisdictions and are instead required to sit sidesaddle. Apparently, this unusual law is a reflection of local cultural norms and current attitudes toward women. Of course, a law like this wouldn’t fly in the United States for a moment. In fact, we specifically found multiple states banning the practice of sitting sidesaddle regardless of the rider’s gender. It is illegal for men to sit on the backseat of a motorcycle.
That’s right, men; it’s your turn to be targeted. You better hope that you can either drive or walk, because you may not be able to ride as a passenger. This law has been attributed to both Guatemala and Honduras. While it appears that there really was talk of enacting such a law temporarily to cut down on Honduran murders (several of which occurred in a short period of time by male motorcycle passengers), we seriously doubt that such a law permanently exists in any country – especially in a third-world country where high travel expenses necessitate using motorcycles as the primary means of travel for many folks. It is unlawful for motorcyclists to ride without their feet on the pedals.
If you’re in the Village of Scotia in New York (§210-17), make sure your feet stay on those pedals if you’re moving at all. It doesn’t matter if you’re going 5 mph or 75 mph – your feet can’t move from their designated spots. Other Unusual Laws Motorcycles are permitted to drive through red lights.
If you’re a motorcyclist in a few select states, congratulate yourself because you have rights and privileges generally reserved only for cops and ambulances: you can drive straight through a red light. Is this for real? Yes, and it applies to several states, such as Illinois (Public Act 097-0627). Before you start plowing through every red light you see, be aware this this is limited to those traffic signals which have failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle due to the motorcycle’s size or weight – and then you must treat it as a stop sign, giving the right of way to vehicles travelling perpendicular to your course (not that you’d want to take that risk anyway). In the case of the law in Illinois, it only applies to municipalities with fewer than two million inhabitants. It is illegal to ride between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM.
We came upon this curious supposed law, but it was never attached to a specific jurisdiction, and we never found anywhere that seemed to apply it. While it’s possible that some motorcycles may be banned if they are too loud for nocturnal noise ordinances, it’s unlikely that no motorcycles are permitted to be on the road at these hours. Conclusion That’s our list of some of the most unusual motorcycle laws we could find (along which where they’re found so you can check them out yourself). Of course, we know that there are many more out there. What bizarre laws are you familiar with? Share them with us in the comments!