BC’s New Motorcycle Laws: Diminishing Civil Liberties Rather than Improving Safety

Cutting across the Cariboo-Chilcotin
It’s after June 1st, 2012, and that strange nagging feeling you’re getting is the erosion of common sense from motorcycle laws here in BC. A re-emphasis of “The operator of a motorcycle must be seated astride the driver’s seat.” [see: Standing Illegal] comes packed with a $121.00 fine and the potential unconstitutional seizing of your motorcycle.

Why unconstitutional? There is no road side defense against a police officer simply saying he saw you standing on the pegs. There is no codified law to ensure that this portion of the Motor Vehicle Act is only used in cases of stunting or dangerous behavior. That’s fine, if you can trust the judgment of the constabulary.

The common sense judgment of police is in question. Case in point:

  • Cpl. Benjamin Robinson who killed a motorcyclist and obstructed justice along with participated in Robert Dziekanski Tasering Death)
  • Const. Lee Chipperfield (who delivered eight shots into a crawling Paul Boyd), only having responsibility potentially forced upon him when video of the act surfaced.
  • Sgt. Donald Ray an Alberta RCMP officer who disgraced himself and the force through repeated sexual harassment of female underlings.

Indeed B.C. Minister of Justice Shirley Bond herself has spoken out against the transfer of the latter officer to BC. If not all police can be trusted with the big issues, say human lives, then how do we trust the police with the relatively trivial, like the impoundment of an individual’s sole transport? From that question, it follows that the law needs to protect citizens from abuse of near indefensible road side impoundments. These recent Motor Vehicle Act revisions completely fail BC voters in that respect.

The argument will come back from the BC Government that “you may request a review of a vehicle impoundment from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles within 15 days of the date of the impoundment.” Cold comfort for those whose vehicles have been seized roadside on the word of police. Even more chilling considering the conflict of interest of appealing to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles who as part of the legal process can’t be considered arm’s length, third party or even impartial. Brace yourselves, because come 2014 rather than streamlining the legal system for processing challenges to other tickets, you’ll be phoning in and attempting to defend yourself without the issuing officer present for cross examination. Adjudicators in this instance according to Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, will be members appointed by cabinet and have expertise in administrative justice, road safety and traffic law. Though appointed by cabinet and qualified can be two quite different things — it comes down to good judgment.

There is an equally big question to the constitutional fairness of balancing the livelihood of operators, whose vehicles may be their only means of transport to from work, on the word of a police officer’s judgment without checks and balances. No, the question isn’t if this is an erosion of civil liberties. It’s this, are harsher laws and more extreme punishments the right approach?

The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles has the following laudable and darkly laughable vision:

As a leader in road safety our vision is to have the safest roads in North America and work toward an ultimate goal of zero traffic fatalities.

Laughable, because vehicles kill, there is no legal immunity from this reality. Roads can be made safer, but stricter and stricter laws can only have diminishing results.

There will always be drivers and riders who break the law. Unfortunately many will be young, many will have “suitable” rider or driver training per our government’s licensing process, and as a consequence some will die. Often when grieving families are trotted out backing the latest round of motorcycle safety laws, there is no acknowledgment of the fact that the victims were the ones were breaking existing and relatively reasonable laws.

You can’t outlaw the tragic consequences of breaking the law through increasingly harsh penalties and blatantly stupid laws. You can prevent deaths by educating young riders and drivers regarding reasonable laws and their consequences, responsible vehicle usage, obstacle avoidance (see standing on the pegs), emergency handling and prophylactic prevention of injury. On that note, I leave you with one of the best Motorcycle Safety videos we’ve encountered in ages, it is truly more daring and innovative than any draconian enforcement and under thought erosion of civil liberties. Education will win the day and save lives, eroding peoples rights won’t.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. katui says:

    lol. I love that video 😀


  2. Art Kernaghan says:

    Certainly this new law appears to be a “one size fits all” affair but I reckon that discretion will come into play by the witnessing authority for each individual act of “peg standing”.
    Frankly, this whole “standing on the pegs thing” has developed into an orthodoxy for riding motorcycles, which I find unsettling. Riding a motorcycle should not involve either sitting or standing–a clear black and white deliniation of riding positions–but should be practised as “jockeying”–doing whatever is necessary and appropriate to maneouver the motorcycle for the given environment. The variables of rider input are near endless on a motorcycle, as the environment for riding is near endless and goes completely beyond this notion of “stand or sit”. The idea of “one or the other” confounds me and is entirely counter-intuitive to the notion of skilled riding–for any type of motorcycle or motorcycling activity.
    When I see riders “standing on the pegs”, it is typically under perfect riding conditions, such as the photo above shows. It has become ubiquitous to the point that it is practised in the most benign circumstances, such as entering or exiting driveways–hardly a requirment for the simplest of tasks on a motorcycle.
    Chuck the fashionable riding trends and seek to gain intuitive riding skills.


  3. wb5plj says:

    it is the ignorance or perhaps lack of research that continues to astound me in such situations. I will take it as a given that non motorcyclist don’t realize that you control the bike with your whole body. As such I wouldn’t expect them to realize that standing on the pegs at times is a safety device. Be it for lowering the center of gravity for awkward terrain or (and I do this often) to see over or around something at turns, intersections, and parking lots. At times it is a comfort thing to get stretched.

    I know and understand that they are not aware that standing on the pegs is a normal and safe part of motorcycling. I also know that just a little research into motorcycling quickly to anyone whom is interested that it is a whole body experience and that standing on the pegs is not in any way sufficient criteria for determining if a motorcyclist is riding in a careless and imprudent manner and/or presenting a threat to the health and safety of others or there property.

    Yet we are here. So I know that no research has been done. Whats more I it appears that there was no thought to do any research. As if the position taken was one of “I know everything about motorcycle riding because I don’t ride one”. That right there is really the pointy end of the stick.

    If you have no Information/Knowledge to base your opinion on you are left with only one other choice in how to go about making the decision. This is true for all humans, that choice is and ever will be Emotional Response. There is a time and place for these things but not in legal proceedings, never. The scary part is that somebody, likely many somebodies, felt that knowing nothing, doing no research, and using emotional response was OK. The right way to proceed.

    In the end a bevy of emotionally charged and created laws left in the hands of the constable to be the ultimate and only arbitrator. His word, that is Rule of Man not Rule of Law. Ultimately I also feel for the constable in such circumstances. a big chunk of power has been handed to them and clear rules as to how to apply them are not also provided. It stands to reason that “fair and equal” will become at some point the lost puppy on the side of the road. Some will come to use this power aggressively with personal motivations and citizens will loose. Some will attempt to use it as best they understand and will find that they stand unsupported by the law in the face of accusers crying false arrest.

    Any Law that is emotionally charged and then subjectively written ultimately hurts everyone. And yes many would say it is a small little thing, pegs on motorcycles, not everyone rides a motorcycle. In a sense they are right but what it abides may be worse.


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