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New Motorcycle Law Taking Hold In Texas Has Riders Furious

Chaparral Motorsports
January 7, 2015
Last Updated: October 12, 2020

A motorcycle law in Texas requiring passenger footrests and handholds went into effect at the start of the New Year and has many motorcycle enthusiasts pretty upset. House Bill 3838, also known as Malorie's law (named after 19 year old college student Malorie Bullock when she was killed in a motorcycle accident back in 2010), requires a motorcycle that is designed to carry more than one person must be equipped with footrests and handholds for use by the passenger. The new law falls under Section 547.617 of the Texas Transportation Code.

Solid mount passenger handles on a Kawasaki Ninja
Solid mount passenger handles on a Kawasaki Ninja

Many riders have been posting all over social media about the new law and are furious because they think they'll have to install some kind of passenger handle bar or grab bar onto their bike or face getting hit with a misdemeanor and a fine. Motorcycle riders should be upset with any legislation requiring that additional parts or equipment be installed on their bike that didn't come as original equipment. However, from the comments people have been making it seems many are overreacting as most if not all new bikes sold in the US already meet the requirements specified in the new law. What many people seem to be overlooking and what isn't properly identified in the new law is, what constitutes a "handhold"?

Pretty much every motorcycle sold in the US that is designed for two up riding comes with passenger footpegs and something for the passenger to grab onto. Many sport bikes have metal or hard plastic handles mounted to the side or incorporated into the rear of the bike or passenger seating area. If there aren't grab handles present on the sides then there is most likely a grab strap over the front portion of the passenger seat or pillion. Even scooters designed for two-up riding have passenger handles on the side or a grab bar over the back of the seat. So, technically the motorcycles should already be legal to carry a passenger. That is unless of course the ambiguity of the term "handhold" doesn't account for the grab strap, then we can see where having to install additional passenger bars or solid handholds would be a major concern. What's also not clearly defined is whether or not the passenger has to be holding the handles/strap at all times? Or does the bike just have to be equipped with said part(s)?

Victory Cross Country
Passenger grab strap on a Victory Cross Country

Now, from a customization/comfort standpoint we can see the big concern with this new legislation when it comes to swapping out your stock seat. Many cruiser riders like to replace their stock motorcycle seat and when doing so often leave the stock grab strap off the bike because either the new seat and grab strap don't fit together, don't look good together (a thinner profile seat can result in a loose/floppy strap), or they just don't want the strap on the bike any more. In any of these this situations with this new law you then have the issue of the government forcing you to install some kind of extra safety component to your bike.

While the government, state, and local agencies have been working towards making motorcycle riders safer on the roads it often feels their efforts miss the mark (ie motorcycle-only check points). Rider safety goes well beyond equipment on the motorcycle, it's about rider education, passenger education, and driver awareness of motorcycles. Unfortunately there's an underlying "us against them" mentality that cuts both ways between motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists, and until everyone realizes that no matter what your method of chosen transportation is, to do so legally on the open road is a privilege and not a right.

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