Kevin Bartlett fights ‘stupid’ motorcycle rules

Husqvarna 650

Aussie racing car legend Kevin Bartlett has taken up the fight against “stupid” motorcycle laws that prevent riders from stretching their legs or standing up on the footpegs. Even Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has admitted to stretching his legs when riding.

Kevin Bartlett
Kevin Bartlett

“It’s bullshit and ill-conceived,” says KB who is not one to mince words. “It’s got to be repealed. No use pussy-footing around and modifying it. There are other laws to stop any type of shenanigans. This is crap and you know that. Most bike people know it.”

The rule Kevin Bartlett (not the Aussie Rules legend but the two-time driver’s champ and ’74 Bathurst winner, “Big Rev Kev”) is referring to is Rule 271 in the national road rules also included in state road rules. Last month a Queensland rider was fined for stretching his legs while riding, causing a media sensation about police chasing petty offences to improve their “scorecard”. The Brisbane rider is not the first person to be fined for the offence and may not be the last.

READ MY STORY HERE

To summarise the rule, riders must sit on the seat with their feet on the foot pegs at all times and at least one hand on the bars. The Australian Motorcycle Council has made a submission (featured in full below with the wording of Rule 271) to the National Transport Commission but has not yet received even an acknowledgement of its receipt, according to AMC secretary Tony Ellis.

Big Rev Kev is a long-time bike fan and reckons he is “on a mission”. He’s not waiting for the NTC to act on the AMC submission. “I’m on the Queensland Motorised Sports Council and we’ve got a meeting (February 25) with Assistant Police Commissioner Mike Keating and I am submitting a question on notice to him about this,” he says. “I’m a bike person and I’m sort of saying to the others on the council ‘you do the car stuff; I want to do the bike stuff’. I’m on a mission and if we can somehow change the idiot thinking on this I’ll feel that I’ve accomplished something.”

Husqvarna 650
Riders sometimes need to take a foot off the pegs

Kev has been riding motorbikes since 1955 and his shed currently includes a classic 1990 BMW R 100 GS Paris-Dakar, Yamaha XT500 and his “regular bike”, a BMW R 1200 GSA which replaced an R 1150 GSA. “Even when I ride to Phillip Island for the driver standards stuff (historic) I ride the bike and mainly do dirt roads. I do a lot of distance stuff and what we’re talking about here with this stupid rule is stuff that you and I live with all the time,” he says.

Kev rang me after reading my article about the rules, seeking my support for his push and the support of MotorbikeWriter readers before a meeting with Transport and Main Roads officials on March 6.  “I want to put this forward as a formal request from our sports council and backed by as many people as I can get, otherwise it won’t get heard,” he says. “There is no use writing an email or a letter; it will just get swept under the carpet. This is a formal meeting with enough representatives from the TMR that it gets heard and tabled. There just might be a chance that we can get something moving on this. It’s been about seven years since it was introduced and it’s got to be stopped. I’ll be saying to them: ‘Be leaders in this. Don’t wait for the National Transport Commission. They will sit on their hands’.”

If you would like to show your support for KB’s push, leave a comment at the end of this story or send a personal email to Big Rev Kev at: kevrbart@gmail.com

OPINION

Even Queensland Police sometimes need to flout the rules
Even Queensland Police sometimes need to flout the rules

Kev asked for my opinion and for possible wording for an amendment. I sent him the Australian Motorcycle Council submission to the National Transport Commission for suggested wording, with some amendments. While I agree with most of the AMC submission, I don’t think it goes far enough on the footpeg issue. There are two concerns.

First, it doesn’t make any allowance for stretching the legs. Riders can get sudden cramps or, like me, suffer from sudden shooting pains in their knees. All we are asking for is a brief moment to stretch one leg at a time by taking a foot off the rider’s footpegs. This should be allowed at any time and at any speed. I’m not sure what definition they would require for a “moment” but I would consider 10 seconds more than enough. If they suggest that riders should stop to stretch, then they are jeopardising the safety of riders. There are many roads where it is unsafe to suddenly pull over. People have been killed when pulled over to the side of major highways. Also, there is the concern that while a rider continues to look for a safe place to pull over, the pain or cramp may lead them to a crash, resulting in injury or death.

Even Queensland Police sometimes need to flout the rules
Even Queensland Police sometimes need to stand up

The other concern is that on dirt roads, it might be advisable to take one foot off the footpegs through a corner, motocross style. As you know, the bike can suddenly slip on gravel and if you aren’t allowed to put one foot down you could lose control and crash, also resulting in injury or death.

As for the “sitting astride” issue, I think it needs to be clearly spelt out that this issue has become more pertinent in recent years with the growing trend toward adventure bikes. In fact, it is the fastest-growing segment in the bike industry. For the past 10 years we have been watching Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor in the “Long Way” series standing on the footpegs. Many riders have done the responsible thing and sought training for adventure riding and have been taught by the experts to stand as often as possible. To prevent riders from crashing and to avoid them having to unlearn a valid skill, this issue must be cleared up as soon as possible.

Owing to recent publicity about riders being penalised for these rules, many riders may be scared into sitting down, which could result in crashes, injury and possibly death. None of these scenarios are being over-dramatic. They are simple statements of truth. Do the bureaucrats want to be responsible for the injury or death of riders?

AMC SUBMISSION TO NTC

In general terms, there are three parts to Section (1) of this Rule that deal with rider control of a motorcycle, i.e. (a) sit on seat, (b) hands on handlebars, (c) feet on footpegs.

Rule 271: Riding on motor bikes
(1) The rider of a motor bike that is moving (other than a rider who is walking beside and pushing a motorbike), or the rider of a motorbike that is stationary but not parked, must:
(a) sit astride the rider’s seat facing forwards; and
(b) ride with at least 1 hand on the handlebars; and
(c) if the motorbike is moving — keep both feet on the footrests designed for use by the rider of the motorbike.
The proposed Amendments to Parts (b) and (c) are welcome.

For rules 271 (1) (b) and (c) substitute –
“(b) if the motorbike is moving – keep at least 1 hand on the handlebars; and
(c) if the motorbike is moving – keep both feet on the footrests designed for use by the rider of the motorbike, unless the motorbike is moving at less than 10 kilometres per hour and either:
(i) the rider is manoeuvring the motorbike in order to park the motorbike; or
(ii) the motorbike is decelerating to come to a stop; or
(iii) the motorbike is accelerating from being stopped.”.
We submit that Part (a) requires an Amendment to ensure a motorcycle rider is able to maintain control.
We propose that Part (a) of Section (1) be amended to read:
“(a) remain astride the motorbike facing forwards”

We reproduce here the text and photograph from Page 55 of the Victorian Riders’ Handbook, issued by VicRoads and available online, as “part 2”:

Bumpy roads and potholes
On rough roads, keep your speed down. That does three things – it gives you time to avoid
the worst bumps or holes, reduces road shocks and gives your bike’s suspension time to
work. Remember that bumps can affect your steering as well as well as the suspension, so
take it easy. To give yourself as much control as possible, raise yourself a little on the
footpegs so you can absorb road shocks with your knees and elbows.
On Page 57 of the same VicRoads Handbook is a “check your understanding” question for this point.

Coppers standing
NSW Police take a stand

The following photograph shows a NSW Police rider demonstrating correct posture for maintaining precise control when riding on variable surface geometry:
Separating bodyweight from the motorcycle mass and applying it low-down through the footpegs aids in lowering the centre of mass for maneuvering control.
Similarly, we propose that Part (a) of Section (2) be amended to allow a pillion passenger to follow the body movement of the rider. This is particularly significant in negotiating “speed humps” or traffic calming devices placed on suburban roads. Speed humps may cause a pillion passenger to become unseated if they do not lift their body off the seat by standing on the footpegs.
We propose that Part (a) of Section (2) be amended to read:
“(a) remain astride the pillion seat facing forwards; and”
These amendments would clarify the existing rule and create consistency with motorcycle rider training and safety.

64 Comments

  1. Good for you, this is a very worthwhile campaign. Aside from being essential for maintaining control on loose or rough surfaces; which the NSW roads have aplenty; standing on the pegs can also give you that extra bit of forward vision to see what is happening ahead in traffic. This extends the riders situational awareness and increases their ability to plan ahead based on the developing situation.

  2. I fully support changes to these rules in the interests of road safety. I have been riding motorcycles at work and at play since 1970 and continue to do so. The ability to be able to quickly transfer weight onto the feet to lower the centre of gravity and improve handling on rough surfaces is an essential to safe bike control. Stretching ones body to maintain comfort when operating any vehicle will help in keeping concentration levels high and thus contribute to safe operation of the vehicle.

  3. Hi Mark,

    The Victorian Riders Handbook is only partially right about the ‘slowing down’ on bumpy surfaces. First off, speed is your friend on many corrugations. Second, speed is your friend on many loose surfaces. This is because, as a matter of physics, a motorcycle derives much of its stability from the wheels acting as gyroscopes. The fast they spin, the less likely the bike will be deflected from your chosen line. Having said that, I am still a pussy in sand. It takes a lot to get around the counter-intuition of feeling like you are going to crash and concluding that the solution is to go faster. A bloke once told me that riding in deep sand is continually having a crash until you do.

  4. I too take my feet off the pegs very regularly as I am prone to blood clots. I stretch both legs so as to prompt circulation and everyone who rides/travels any distance should do. I can’t remember the time recommendations but it will be on the net. I didn’t check prior to writing my comment. What I’m trying to say is that there is probably a valid medical reason also.

  5. Kev, you have my support. I may have missed it, but has anyone mentioned creek crossings? When crossing a creek I have sat on the seat & had both feet in the air above the water. The intention is to hopefully, keep my feet dry. If you hit a rock in the creek bed which knocks you off balance then you get your foot wet to put it down & push off the creek bed. Maybe not a recommended technique, but one which I have employed many times & I haven’t fallen of in a creek! So the point of this is that the law should allow for rider discretion to do what they please on the bike as long as it is safe. It appears that there is a distinct drive by the “authorities” to try & ‘get’ motorcyclists any way they can & thereby discourage motorcycling altogether. We riders, as a group, need to stand against the anti-motorcyclists.

    1. This is just typical of rules made for riders by non-riders. I used to ride a trials bike that didn’t even have a seat. A rider has much more control when standing than when sitting.
      Rules should be made by riders, not by beaurocrats who only drive cars or some who don’t even do that.

  6. Mountain out of a mole hill maybe??
    To be honest , until this incident I have never heard of anyone being booked for a foot off a footpeg.

    From http://www.news-mail.com.au/news/bundys-top-traffic-cop-defends-anti-bikie-laws/2143013/

    Sgt Arnold highlighted two particular cases that seem to have started a lot of debate and made policeman look like the villains – the motorist who got a ticket for doing 61km/h in a 60km/h zone and the motorcyclist who got a ticket for stretching his legs off the footrests while riding.

    “I know the real story behind those incidents and on both occasions the drivers were intercepted for more serious offences but given those minor tickets as a show of good faith and warned regarding the more serious offence only to have it come back and slap us in the face,” he said.

  7. Enough nanny state bullshit. We have become compliant, fearful and gutless sheep. So many Australuans have no concept about banding together to change the laws. How? By being elected to Parliament. I continually here bikers whinge and moan but when it comes to being proactive they run a mile. HOG, Ulysses. AMC, MRA keep bleating about their apolitical stance. Then what bloody use are any of you? You can have a thousand meetings and deliver a million petitions, but they count for three tehths of bugger all in the end. Motorcycling is inherently dangerous as is skiing, BASE jumping, skydiving and any number of activities. That’s part of the attraction. Pushing yourself and your machine to your limits. So be it. To the legislators. Scrap your petty revenue raising laws and rules and fix the bloody roads if you want us all to be safer.
    Kev, I sent you an email on Friday mate, if you could confirm that you received it, that would be appreciated.

  8. I was pulled over for this very offence just last Sunday. The officer who was also riding a motorcycle pulled me over near the end of the M1 (formerly F3) motorway last Sunday around 11am. He had pulled out of the fire station at the end of the old pacific highway just ahead of us but when he saw four motorbikes approaching pulled off to the side of the road until we passed then pulled back in behind us probably trying to get a ticket for whatever. Unlucky for him we had a P plate rider with us who had just taken ownership of her new bike and was not yet confident so we were all riding very sedately.
    After following us for 20 mins or so he obviously was frustrated at not being able to issue any tickets and then saw his shot to boost his numbers for the day. Whilst riding the length of the motorway at 10km/h under the speed limit (as we had the P plate rider with us) I stated to cramp and stretched my leg for a period that would not have surpassed 10 seconds. Within 1 min afterwards I was being pulled over and informed that I was receiving a fine for riding without both feet on the pegs. I asked the officer what the fine was and how many points were involved and he said he didn’t know but I would be receiving this fine in the mail after he got back to the station to write it out. I was then asked for a contact phone number so he could ring me and tell me what the actual fine would be and how many points were involved. I still have not heard from him. When at first I resisted giving him my phone number and insisting he has all the relevant details on my licence he seemed to get much more aggressive in tone and nature insisting that I would be in more trouble if I didn’t cooperate. So under duress I did.
    I have not received the fine nor have I heard from the officer just yet but am expecting it any day now

  9. Is it also illegal to look over one’s shoulder as per a ‘lifesaver’, shoulder check, blindspot check or whatever the local terminology for such is?

    What about heal/toe shifters? Bikes with floorboards rather than pegs, shifting between balls of feet on footpegs and instep on pegs positions?

  10. There is another important issue regarding the use of highway pegs, there are numerous bikes that have more than one set of pegs for the rider. Now how are you expected to move your feet from the centre pegs after getting into top gear to the highway peg?. These highway pegs are standard issue on some brands of bikes. So the very fact they are fitted clearly demonstrates that at some point the rider will be moving their feet while mobile. One might ask does that negate the bike’s roadworthiness or question why they are fitted at best.

    1. Mark, what bikes are sold with secondary “highway” pegs fitted as standard equipment? I don’t know of any. However, I have seen second-hand bikes fitted with the pegs and even new bikes that leave the showroom floor with aftermarket highway pegs fitted. If they are illegal, how can the dealer/owner sell them? Surely they would have an onus to tell the buyer that they are not ADR compliant!

  11. What a load of rubbish. None of these rules mean a thing. I have held a motorcycle licence since I passed my learners in 1982. I have owned many different motorcycles over the years. My current bike is a zx14. Everytime rules are produced they take the onus away from the individual to take responsibility for there own actions. Get rid of the rules altogether and let police use some disgression with those who choose to be stupid. There are enough rules and laws as it is. The courts are full of defenders fighting against stupid charges. Police are tied up with paperwork and many cases fail because it’s not done properly. Ditch these rules completely. They are unnecessary and dangerous.

    1. Chris, I agree that we are over-governed and our laws too verbose yet still lacking in covering all scenarios (has anyone thought about how this applies to amputees who ride?). However, leaving laws to the discretionary arbitration of police officers of varying levels of knowledge and competence means the laws will not apply equally to all citizens.

    2. As anarchist as it sounds, I think you are right Chris. Many people would be concerned about the potential for Police discretion to be abused, but I believe that giving people responsibility is the only way to make them behave responsibly. Even without checks and balances in the system, I believe that most coppers would become more mature and wise. Of course there would always be a few that would spoil it for the rest, but they would need to be dealt with individually, rather than punishing the group for the sins of the few.

  12. Kev,

    Fully support you.

    These rules need to change but I don’t think the wording relating to the speed is right. Speed has nothing to do with it.

    Further it doesn’t cover standing?

  13. The discussion paper NTC released for the 2011 Australian Road Rules review specifically mentioned that this peg road rule needed changing.

    Victorian Motorcycle Council made a submission and recommended a bunch of changes to the road rules including allowing filtering and modifying RR271 (peg rule). We haven’t heard anything about it.

    The NTC’s original ARR review discussion paper is here: http://ntc.gov.au/DocView.aspx?DocumentId=2240

    VMC’s submission (1 of about 71 submissions – most of which focussed on cycling issues): http://victorianmotorcyclecouncil.org.au/uploads/INFO/VMC%20NTC%20Aust%20road%20rules%20review%20Submission%20Dec%2020112011122114084211642.pdf

    The ARR review process is still ongoing: http://www.ntc.gov.au/DocView.aspx?DocumentId=2411 to which AMC made an excellent submission which you referenced.

    You wont find any output from the NTC which makes practical recommended changes to the ARR’s. The NTC are pursuing an “applied road rules” approach rather than a model road rules approach, and applied rules is defined as: “One state or territory enacts the national laws, and these laws are used as the basis for other states and territories.” NTC are stepping back from proposing and maintaining a national set of road rules.

    It might be worth you following this up with the NTC Mark. If you can rope in KB and his high revving motivational approach, it could become quite the story.

    Cheers, Rob.

    1. The NTC hasn’t even acknowledged receipt of the submission from the highest representative body for motorbikes in this country – the Australian Motorcycle Council – so I don’t see much hope in them responding to me. However, the call has gone out for a comment. Thanks for the tip!

  14. Not only stretching the legs but sometimes when there has been grit on a corner or oil or petrol I’ve had to slam my foot onto the ground and go around speedway style to save a crash.

    This works not just on gravel.

    As for the stretching, it is mandatory on trips to keep blood flow to extremities. Even commuting I often stretch my legs.

    This is a stupid rule that should never have been passed.

  15. So the AMC would support / encourage duck walking ? ? ? ?

    I would not support any proposal that suggests it is ok for riders to have legs stuck out as outriggers when moving off or stopping. The change proposed by the AMC as quoted would be to encourage poor riding technique that could lead to a fall.

    I agree that the standing issue in 271:1(a) would be fixed with a one word change ie sit >> remain.

    1. And what if people did choose to walk like a duck Jude? You would support a law designed to prevent that insignificant event which could be misinterpreted to mean stretching a leg? Who cares if someone did that? Is it any of our business to tell people what they should do? Since when did we become our brothers’ keeper?

  16. What an appealing rule. I like Kevin have been riding for many years. This rule has obviously been written by someone of no skill or knowledge of motorcycle riding & is quite frankly dangerous.

    Has a legal challenge to this law been looked at. There must by a bike riding lawyer willing to take it to the supreme or high court or where ever its likely to get the best result.

    If there is a fatality caused by this law & its proven to be an unsafe practice surely the draftee of the law must be culpable.

    1. Paul who would fund the 300k needed to go the high court and the fact is theres lawful or consitutional arguement fr them to hear . Theupreme court or high court ont hear caes based on ack of ommon sense or stupidity therwse they would be a million cases before them you need grounds to go there nn of which i can see regarding these laws.

  17. Fully agree, but these laws should not be amended they should be scrapped altogether, which would also remove any need for “interpretation”.

  18. If they cant fix my shitty potholed and corrugated road, with deep loose gravel drifts and big rocks poking through the surface, I can’t safely follow their stupid rules. I stand for my safety and skim a boot around the 90 degree bends. Keep up the fight Kev.

  19. I am a 62 year old rider who often suffers from sudden cramp in the hip and thigh. I do stretch my leg and sometimes stand on the footpegs to ease the discomfort. I fully support the proposed amendments.

  20. I’ve been following this issue with interest and fully support getting rid of these archaic rules. Just want to add ascooterist’s perspective: we have no footpegs (pillions sometimes excepted). Are we free to put our feet wherever we like or is there some ‘variation’ to the rule. We don’t actually use our feet so what does it matter? Further, sitting ‘astride’ is not always applicable. On many, mostly smaller cc scoots, you simply sit ‘on’ the seat like a chair. The point I’m hoping to make is that this is just a further illustration of how the law has made a disconnect with the real world. What I fail to understand is why, when these things are pointed out to them, these fellows sitting ‘astride’ their office chairs in little legislative offices don’t see it is simply common sense to correct the anomolies.

    I’m fully astride behind you Kev!

    1. Exactly! The more specific the law, the more loopholes and exceptions that arise. However, on the flip side, the looser the law, the more it is open to interpretation by a police force ill-equipped to deal with the vagaries of motorcycles – after all, they mistook a Sons of Anarchy t-shirt for vicious lawless motorcycle gang regalia!

      1. So with more loopholes and exceptions the “hired guns” will have plenty of business from the “hoons” that somehow convince the magistrate that motorcycle surfing is only done for safety. Next the trainers will be teaching how to straddle walk your bike in a car park.

  21. Fully support the removal of these stupid and unsafe laws. I have always riden adventure tourers or road/trail and was taught to stand when on dirt roads to aid in control.
    Thankful the Big Rev Kec for taking up the fight.

  22. I fully agree with the proposed changes. They make sense, and allow the rider to properly control the machine – which the current rules do not. I taught learners and advanced defensive riding for some years, and the techniques described in the article above are most certainly normal curriculum items. Bring it on Big Rev Kev!

  23. I ride an adventure bike and a trailbike, I see no need for the rule at all. Get rid of it and substitute with, “must face forward, and have at least 1 hand on the handlebars” thats all that is required. I should be able to stand if I wish, and put my foot out if I wish. When you ride a bike a significant portion of the all up mass is you the rider, and you must be able to move that weight around unimpeded in order to control the bike properley.

  24. Would it be possible for motorcycle orientated laws be reviewed by a panel of motorcycle industry people, rider trainers, motorcycle police, journalists and motorcycle industry people.
    Real world experience applied to achieve laws which actually reflect day to day scenarios and changing technology applicable to motorcycling.

      1. The problem with that idea is that a committee end up having to compromise on a fix for things that don’t even require a fix.

  25. I fully support the push to modify these ridiculous rules that compromise the safe operation of a motorcycle.
    Being able stretch legs and lift yourself off the seat are also fatigue reducing actions.
    As an adventure bike rider there are times when riding on unsealed roads that I will stand on the pegs for 80% of the that piece of road. Using weight transfer, and that includes using your feet off the pegs, is an absolute must to keep balance and control of the bike.
    Having ridden with Kevin years ago I fully understand his motivation, if we, as fellow riders can help voice this need for change then we are ready for it.
    I trust Kevin’s submissions will be heeded resulting in sensible outcomes.
    As I mentioned in a previous post we need a group of people who are respected in motorsport and motorcycle training to act on our behalf to have any chance of change.
    I congratulate KB for that initiative.

    1. I might think that the proposed change to rule 271 (1) (c) be of complete deletion.
      The rule still does not allow for what I have explained in my above comment.
      If keeping it ensure it allows for the requirement for bike control and fatigue management.

      1. Absolutely Correct Michael. Don’t stuff around with words that will be used to trap us. This law, and many others are not required at all.

  26. I support you Kevin. As an employed rider trainer, owns an adventure bike which is designed to stand up on and rides every day long distance. I believe these laws should be changed.
    Fight the good fight Kevin!!!
    Common sense will prevail.
    Be safe. Shoulder check every time!!!

    1. Ben, as a rider trainer, what do you suggest riders do with their mirrors when they stand? I always tilt up my left-hand mirror so I can see what’s behind while I’m standing and leave the right-hand mirror down for when I return to the seat. What’s your advice?

    2. No Ben, common sense already prevails. What some people don’t like is matters at the discretion of the police. They want the law to cover specific situations yet they can’t see the flaws they propose. Just look at the proposed 271(c)(ii) and imagine that you are training someone to stop at a red light. Now from what is written they would have to be less than 10kph and move their foot off the peg. Hopefully not making immediate contact with the ground but that’s another matter. Now they are committed to come to a complete stop. Sound fair enough. But what if the light now turns green and they continue forward without stopping. They are not covered by 271(c)(iii) for they were never stopped. So to comply with the new laws they would have to stop at a green light even if were safe to proceed. Tell that to the car behind them or to the rider with that look of death in his eyes as the two tonne of metal looms up from behind.

  27. Fully support the changes.

    These “offences” were rarely, if ever, prosecuted until the Queensland Government brought in the Anti-Rights Laws (VLAD) and the Scorecard system for the Queensland Police which led to the harassment of every motorcycle rider.

    1. I know of at least two people fined for taking a foot off the pegs before the VLAD Act. By the way, that’s me flouting the law in those photos. I wonder if the police will bother chasing me, considering there is also photographic evidence of them doing the same thing!

      1. Kevin/Mark,
        You may need to check on the intent of these laws with the Assistant Commissioner as I seem to remember when they introduced changes to the Qld Traffic Act some time back, they were about stopping riders performing “stunt riding” and the sections relate to people standing on the pegs or standing on seats or being off the bike in an abnormal way consistent with street stunting and not normal rider behaviour.
        Laws are normally introduced to stop improper behaviour which leads to obvious outcomes ie. crashes.
        Seems the INTENT of the laws has been forgotten for the purpose of revenue raising.

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