I recently saw a video on social media of a scooterist riding along a pavement, and I was told that the rider wasn’t prosecuted. Is It ever actually legal to ride a motorcycle on the pavement? There must be some grey areas.
In the case you mention, for reasons which are not clear the prosecution for dangerous driving was abandoned. But It poses the question of when It’s OK to ride a motorcycle on a pavement and, more broadly, where can a motorcycle be ridden?
The law on riding motorbikes on pavements is clear: It is Illegal, with one exception. You may ride (or drive) a motor vehicle on the pavement for a maximum of 15 yards to get to a place of parking. The law does not actually define “a place of lawful parking”, simply that it is a place where you can park – but If you leave your motorcycle parked on the pavement you are committing another offence of obstruction of the highway. Either way, you’re nicked.
The difference is that the police will take an interest in you riding your motorcycle on the pavement, whereas they will not be particularly interested in you parking your motorcycle on the pavement unless you are creating an active obstruction to the highway, and even then they are unlikely to be especially Interested. The law is contained in Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1984.
The same rules apply if you ride a motorbike on a bridleway, public footpath or common land – again, these are all areas upon which motorised traffic does not usually pass.
A bridleway, however, is often on private land. This means the landowner can use his or her motorbike, quadbike or tractor on it, but you cannot ride your motorbike on it. So do not take the presence of motorised vehicles on a bridleway or a footpath as your own personal right to ride.
Can you push your motorbike on the pavement? Yes, but you need to be pushing it, not straddling and paddling it. If you straddle and paddle, the law has determined (in the way that only judges can) that you have ‘control’ of the machine and are therefore ‘riding’ it – but if you are to one side of it and pushing It you are not in control. So if you have to move an uninsured or otherwise non-street legal motorbike, push it but do not straddle It.
This is very old English common law, and may not be so interpreted following a European Court of Justice case which said, and I summarise, that if you are using a vehicle in any other place to which the public have access, and it causes harm, then the vehicle must be insured. However, so long as your journey is less than 15 yards or, you are pushing your motorcycle along, you will not be committing an offence.
Riding along the pavement with anything other than ostentatious care being displayed would carry the more serious charge of dangerous riding, because no reasonably careful driver or rider would place a motorised vehicle on a pavement, and the act is deliberate. People who would lawfully be using the pavement would be likely to be endangered merely by the presence of a motorised vehicle moving with any speed differential, as it would be wholly unexpected.
The law is clear: the more unusual your action, the higher your duty of care rises. So if you have an extraordinary reason to ride a motorbike more than 15 yards on the pavement and pushing is not a viable option, it would take very little to trip it into dangerous riding. Counter Intuitively, the lesser charges of driving without due care and attention or careless and inconsiderate driving would not be alternative offences – the offence is not a momentary lapse of concentration (it cannot be with a deliberate act), and if you were riding a motorbike inconsiderately on the pavement it would be an obvious endangerment to people who might also be using it.
So unless your motorbike has training wheels, is modelled on a superhero’s and you are under the age of seven, it’s probably best to limit your pavement motorcycle riding to less than 15 yards – and only to park your motorbike.
RiDE Magazine – March 2017