Friday, January 6, 2023

Mayhem on the street! Blame bikers!

 My old Royal Enfield Bullet and I won't be popping any wheelies on the street anytime soon. We're both too old and fragile for that kind of stuff.

I'm thus unlikely to fall afoul of a new Florida law.

According to the local newspaper, Florida has a new ordinance on the books that "expands a law barring drag racing by including stunt-driving that blocks traffic on roads and in parking lots.

"In part, the law also includes definitions of such things as a 'doughnut,' 'drifting,' a 'burnout,' and a 'wheelie.'"

It's aimed at the packs of motorcycles and ATVs doing stunts in what the law terms "street takeovers," often blocking or at least terrifying other traffic.

Laws banning drag racing on public roads are old stuff. Drag racers used to gather on long, straight, isolated stretches of back roads, making at least the possibility of enforcement (by blocking escape routes) possible.

In cities, nimble vehicles presented with many escape routes can run away at will. So practical direct enforcement of this new law is probably nearly impossible.

Police pursuit adds dangers of its own. Boynton Beach, Florida, fired an officer who chased at high speed a 13-year-old boy on an off-road motorcycle. The fleeing rider crashed his bike, and died. A 2022 investigation found that, while the rider committed multiple violations, these did not meet existing department standards for continued high-speed pursuit.

That boy was riding alone. A pack of riders misbehaving would have added chaos, and thus even more danger, to the equation. 

My real fascination with the law is its definitions of misbehavior. These won't surprise anyone familiar with a motorcycle. You know them when you see them, but here they are, officially:

"Burnout means a maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby the motor vehicle is kept stationary, or is in motion, while the wheels are spun, resulting in friction which causes the motor vehicle's tires to heat up and emit smoke."

"Doughnut means a maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby the front or rear of the motor vehicle is rotated around the opposite set of wheels in a continuous motion which may cause a circular skid-mark pattern of rubber on the driving surface or the tires to heat up and emit smoke from friction, or both."

"Drifting means a maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby the motor vehicle is steered so that it makes a controlled skid sideways through a turn with the front wheels pointed in a direction opposite to that of the turn."

"Wheelie means a maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby a motor vehicle is ridden for a distance with the front wheel or wheels raised off the ground."

The real effect of the new law may be to allow judges and juries to consider misbehavior in traffic in setting penalties when deaths or injuries result.

And there are related aspects where authorities probably can crack down.

The law bans not only performing such activities, but being a passenger, arranging such an event on social media, driving alongside to photograph it (except by recognized media outlets), or even being a spectator. According to the law:

"Spectator means any person who is knowingly present at and views a drag race or street takeover, when such presence is the result of an affirmative choice to attend or participate in the event. For purposes of determining whether or not an individual is a spectator, finders of fact shall consider the relationship between the motor vehicle operator and the individual, evidence of gambling or betting on the outcome of the event, filming or recording the event, or posting the event on social media, and any other factor that would tend to show knowing attendance or participation."

I am opposed to street take-overs and stunting on the street in general. It's just not nice. But is it really worth enforcing a ban? I think it is, as long as dangerous pursuit is effectively minimal.

Even one death or injury is too much. It's a bad look for motorcyclists who, let's admit it, depend for survival at least partially on caution and courtesy being shown by every other driver on the road.


  1. Anonymous1/07/2023

    The streets are never a place to race or have fun. Having events and places to have fun off the highway should be something every neighborhood should create and support.

  2. Anonymous1/07/2023

    You might have to be careful David. It is possible to cause traffic to come to a standstill because people are swarmed around your Royal Enfield asking questions


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