Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road: Is it legal to do a wheelie?

Popping a wheelie is fine if you’ve just jumped 200 slot machines outside Nooksack River Casino in Deming, as Robbie Knievel did in this 2004 photo. But if you’re on a city, county or state road, a wheelie could be considered negligent driving and get you a $250 ticket.
Popping a wheelie is fine if you’ve just jumped 200 slot machines outside Nooksack River Casino in Deming, as Robbie Knievel did in this 2004 photo. But if you’re on a city, county or state road, a wheelie could be considered negligent driving and get you a $250 ticket. The Bellingham Herald

Question: When operating a motorcycle are you required to have both wheels on the ground? I have seen on several occasions on Old Fairhaven Parkway a motorcycle doing a wheelie down the road. He is not driving recklessly or unsafely as far as I can tell but I just wondered if it is legal.

Answer: If you saw a car or a truck driving down Old Fairhaven Parkway on only two of its four wheels would you consider that safe?

By doing the “wheelie,” the motorcycle has lost the ability to rapidly respond to a hazard. It cannot stop as quickly or turn as rapidly as if it had both wheels on the ground.

There is no specific RCW that I know of prohibiting “wheelies.” I would think that I could make a fairly good argument in court that the following would apply: RCW 46.61.525 Negligent driving — Second degree (1)(a) A person is guilty of negligent driving in the second degree if, under circumstances not constituting negligent driving in the first degree, he or she operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property. (2) For the purposes of this section, “negligent” means the failure to exercise ordinary care, and is the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances or the failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under the same or similar circumstances.

Note, the RCW says likely to endanger any person or property, that includes the operator of the motorcycle.

There are places where “wheelies” would be allowed, but the roadways of the city/county/state would not be that place.

Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who serves on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force. For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/traffic.

  Comments