I’ve been reading about the new motorcycle passenger safety law that has passed Texas State Legislature. The law was passed after the last legislative session in 2013. It came into being after an accident from which Malorie Bullock, a college student who was a passenger on a motorcycle was killed in a crash. There are multiple articles about the accident if you do some Google searches on the topic but you can read one of the articles about it here. Student killed in motorcycle accident. As of January 1, 2015 the law applies to Texas motorcyclists.
So what does this law do and how will it affect motorcyclists? That primarily depends on what type of motorcycle you ride. Cruisers, touring bikes, and motorcycles that you sit upright on will be mostly unaffected. Sport bike riders however may have to make some accommodations for their passengers. It seems to me after reading the new law that the state is simply wanting riders, and passengers, to take responsibility for having passengers on bikes. If you want to have a passenger, the bike has to have been designed to carry more than one person, passengers must have handholds, and they must have foot pegs to put their feet on. All of this seems completely reasonable to me. Everyone I know that rides as a passenger have these basic items for safety and comfort.Below is the new law that you can read for yourself and figure out if you and your passenger will be affected by it or not. Read through it and then explore some of the particular concerns I have afterwards. I agree completely with the new law, if you have a passenger…..
text of the bill –
By: Phillips H.B. No. 2470
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
relating to the regulation of sport bikes and certain other
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. This Act shall be known as Malorie’s Law.
SECTION 2. Section 521.084, Transportation Code, is amended
to read as follows:
Sec. 521.084. CLASS M LICENSE. A Class M driver’s license
authorizes the holder of the license to operate a motorcycle,
including a sport bike as defined by Section 541.201, or a moped.
SECTION 3. Section 541.201, Transportation Code, is amended
by adding Subdivision (18-a) to read as follows:
(18-a) “Sport bike” means a motorcycle:
(A) that is optimized for speed, acceleration,
braking, and maneuverability on paved roads;
(B) that has a lightweight frame;
(C) on which the operator leans forward over the
gas tank during operation; and
(D) that is not a touring, cruising, standard, or
SECTION 4. Subchapter I, Chapter 545, Transportation Code,
is amended by adding Section 545.4161 to read as follows:
Sec. 545.4161. OPERATION OF SPORT BIKE. (a) In addition to
the requirements and prohibitions under Section 545.416, an
operator may not carry another person on a sport bike unless the
sport bike is designed to carry more than one person and:
(1) the operator:
(A) is at least 18 years of age; and
(B) has had a Class M license for at least two
(2) the other person:
(A) is at least 18 years of age and holds a Class
M license; or
(B) is a motorcycle operator training and safety
course instructor certified under Chapter 662.
(b) An operator of a sport bike shall ensure that a
passenger on the sport bike complies with all department
regulations relating to motorcycle safety.
SECTION 5. The heading to Subchapter M, Chapter 547,
Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:
SUBCHAPTER M. ADDITIONAL OR ALTERNATIVE EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR
MOTORCYCLES, [AND] MOTOR-DRIVEN CYCLES, AND SPORT BIKES
SECTION 6. Subchapter M, Chapter 547, Transportation Code,
is amended by adding Section 547.803 to read as follows:
Sec. 547.803. SAFETY EQUIPMENT. If a motorcycle, including
a sport bike, is designed to carry more than one person, the
motorcycle must be equipped with foot pegs and handholds for use by
a passenger on the motorcycle.
SECTION 7. Section 661.001(1), Transportation Code, is
amended to read as follows:
(1) “Motorcycle” means a motor vehicle designed to
propel itself with not more than three wheels in contact with the
ground, and having a saddle for the use of the rider. The term
includes a sport bike, as defined by Section 541.201. The term does
not include a tractor or a three-wheeled vehicle equipped with a cab
or occupant compartment, seat, and seat belt and designed to
contain the operator in the cab or occupant compartment.
SECTION 8. This Act takes effect September 1, 2011.
My only concerns are in regards to SECTION 6 of this house bill.
SAFETY EQUIPMENT. If a motorcycle, including a sport bike, is designed to carry more than one person, the motorcycle must be equipped with foot pegs and handholds for use by a passenger on the motorcycle.
I can see some arising issues for riders dealing with police interpretation on this part.
First: What constitutes designed? Margaret for instance removed her back seat and has a fender bib in its place. She also has a different seat from the original that is lower and pushes her closer to the handle bars for better reach. It does not have a handhold on it as the original seat does. She does not and will not carry a passenger. It’s unreasonable to assume anyone would ever ride as a passenger sitting on a fender bib anyway. But, if she was pulled over could an officer say the bike was originally designed for a passenger and ticket her because the handhold is missing? Even though she does not have a passenger?
Second: Take the factory Street Glide. It has a small passenger seat with a leather handhold. Your riding along and a cop pulls you over. Is it up to the officers interpretation as to whether that is a legitimate handhold or not?
Third: What if I’m riding without a passenger and have no footrests on the bike? Am I violating the law even though I have no passenger to put at risk? In my opinion, if there isn’t anyone on the bike with me it shouldn’t matter if I have handholds or foot pegs.
I want to assume police officers are going to be reasonable about this and are going to enforce the law when there is a clear concern for a passengers safety. They could just as easily make you have a very bad day over the particularities of this part of the new law since its not clear. I’ve met some pretty stupid officers that could blow this up real quick. I’ve also met some very arrogant, pompous cops that want to push their badge around in the attempt to force you to respect them who could use this to cause you grief. Prejudice cops could also become a very serious problem for bikers and use this as a way to bully a rider.
Any thoughts on this?
Ride Strong, Ride Safe