- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 12 March 2008
Welcome to insidebikes legal tips and advice section. This isn’t a service to help you after a nicking from the Police, nor should it be relied upon as any sort of defence in court – instead we hope this keeps you out of trouble in the first place, especially when biking is relatively new to you. So, when in trouble, get a solicitor – preferably one who rides a motorbike.
Frequently Asked Questions on UK bike laws;
My mate says it’s OK to get ride around with a smaller number plate, so long as the letters are the same size as on a normal sized plate – is he right?
No. From 1st September 2001 a new set of laws came into force for UK motorcycle number plates, which are quite specific in listing the exact dimensions of the letters, spacing, height – even the margins around them to the edge of the plate (which must be 11mm, by the way).
You can’t change the letter script, or font, from the ‘Charles Wright’ typeface, or push letters or numbers together to make amusing spellings. The plate must have a BS AU145a number on it.
What about an old bike with VIC 5EXY written on it?
Pre 1973 bikes can have suitably old-fashioned plates with white, or silver letters on a black background, for that authentic look. Vehicles registered before 1st September 2001 can have slightly different spacing or lettering on them. The exact dimensions can be found on the DVLA website; www.dvla.gov.uk
If you have bought an older bike with an illegal plate on it, it is up to you to fit a plate that has the correct lettering and spacing. It’s never usually a valid defence in court that you were unaware of something illegal on any motor vehicle.
Will I get points on my licence for a naughty number plate?
No. The maximum fine is £1,000. But the actual registration mark can be withdrawn by the DVLA as well, which then makes the bike illegal for road use.
Is it legal to park a motorbike or scooter on the pavement, so long as it is out of the way of pedestrians?
No. If the land is owned by the council, or Highways Department, they can ticket, clamp or remove your motorcycle.
Is it legal to park on private land, such in front of some offices, or round the back of a factory unit?
Yes, if you have permission. It is private land at the end of the day, so your vehicle could be removed if you are say, blocking a fire door.
The sensible rule is that if someone asks you not to park in a specific spot, or there is a warning sign, then don’t – it’s nearly always possible to find somewhere else on a bike or scooter to park. Remember that returning one day to find your vehicle lying battered on its side, after it mysteriously ‘fell over’ is never much fun.
Also remember to lock it, even if it is a rusty old scooter and you’re parking for a few minutes – thieves love nicking scooters and mopeds from outside shops and offices.
Can I wear a tinted visor when it’s occasionally sunny?
Yes, but only a visor which has a BS 4110 stamp on it, permitting 50% of sunlight through. Darker ones are illegal.
Hmmm, what about some rockin’ Raybans under my usual visor?
Wearing sunglasses is perfectly legal, so long as your sunglasses let 18% of the light through. So are visor inserts by the way, but you may find that some Police will pull you over anyway.
Do points on my licence from car offences count against me on bikes, and the other way round?
They do. Once you reach 12 points, you are looking at a minimum 6 month ban, unless you can convince the magistrates that there are mitigating circumstances which mean you deserve mercy. Losing your job is not a reason for avoiding a ban by the way. Being a celebrity, or member of the royal family, may be helpful however, depending on your charity commitments.
I own an old Tomos moped with a git boy loud exhaust on it – is that legal?
If your Tomos was registered before 1983, then yes, it probably is – although being a regular nuisance may still get you pulled by the law, under the new anti social behaviour laws. Pre 1983 motorcycles are not required to have a BS stamped exhaust, or conform to a decibel limit. They must not however have an exhaust stamped ‘NOT FOR HIGHWAY USE’ on it – that is illegal no matter how old the bike may be.
My mate Kev has a GPZ600R, which has a well tasty `zorst fitted – is that legal?
It depends. There are a number of BS (British Standard) markings dating from the 1980s, plus the original manufacturers markings, which a police officer would check for on the exhaust. Replacement systems made before Jan 1st 1997 should have a BS AU 193 stamp, or the equivalent International kitemark, displayed clearly and legibly on them.
Is it legal to try getting your knee down on roundabouts, pull wheelies or stoppies?
In general, no. Most Police officers would regard more than two laps of a roundabout to be some kind of offence and popping wheelies or doing stoppies, as being dangerous, or reckless riding, or perhaps `riding without due care and attention’.
Ultimately, it is only a Police officer’s opinion on your riding ability, but that opinion will generally be accepted by the magistrates as the truth, not your excuse that you were following tips on ‘riding like a God’ from a bike magazine. The place to get your knee down is called a racetrack and trackdays start from as little as £80 per day – cheaper than copping three points and a fine.
Under anti social legislation passed in 2003 you can have your bike confiscated and then sold by the Police, without any appeal, or compensation, if they decide you were riding in a dangerous manner – this is to make sure that biker meets which feature amateur stunt shows can be shut down very quickly.
My mate Kev reckons if you fit a legally marked exhaust then you don’t have to tell your insurance company, as you’re automatically covered – is that true?
Nope. Your insurance policy will state exactly what is, and is not, covered.
Generally, any changes or modifications to the bike, which the insured (that’s you) DID NOT tell the company about could affect whether the insurer would pay out, assuming the bike was legal at the time of an accident, but it is not wise to allow the company the chance to refuse to meet the cost of a claim – that’s why you’re insured after all – so always tell your insurer of any changes you have made to the bike from its standard spec.
This same rule also applies to accidents and convictions by the way. If you want to make sure you’re covered, be honest.
One last question Vic, my Gran is a naturist and likes to ride my Tomos moped naked, except for fluffy slippers, a Centurion open face helmet and rubber dishwashing gloves. Is this legal?
Yes. It is deeply disturbing however. Please change her medication immediately.