With potholes and steel plates, taxis and pedestrians, one way streets and stoplights on every corner, DC is not the most hospitable location for motorcyclists. However, there are numerous destinations in DC, from the Mall to Georgetown, and even a scenic ride or two, if you know where to look.
Fortunately, DC is surrounded to the north and east by Maryland, and to the south and west by Virginia, so if you’re abiding by Virginia and Maryland laws as you travel to DC, you should be in good shape when you arrive. (Just don’t expect to register your Easy Rider chopper with 16″ handlebars.)
DC’s laws* for street bikes are as follows:
- Owners – must title and register the motorcycle and display appropriate motorcycle license plates.
- Operators – must hold a valid driver’s license with a Class M designation or a motorcycle driver’s license.
- Safety helmet – all riders and passengers must wear a helmet.
- Eye protection – riders must also wear a face shield or safety glasses/goggles, or the motorcycle must be equipped with a windscreen.
- Helmet speakers are allowed.
- Radar detector – prohibited by law.
- Training – DC does not offer rider education, see Virginia or Maryland.
- Passenger seat / footrest – required if carrying a passenger.
- There is no age restriction for passengers.
- An operator with an instructional permit cannot carry a passenger.
- Equipment required – must pass annual safety inspection, including but not limited to: rearview mirrors, headlight with high and low beams, taillight, horn, brake light, tailpipe, muffler in good working order, front and rear brakes, and good tires.
- Handlebar height – restricted to a maxium of 15″ above the seat (required by inspection regulations).
- Liability insurance – compulsory liability (minimum limits, 25/50/10).
- Motorcycles operating two abreast in same lane and lane splitting are not addressed.
*Information subject to change
For more information:
– AMA – DC motorcycle laws
– DC Motor Vehicles website – Obtain Motorcycle Endorsement on Your License
– DC Law – Title 50. Motor and Non-Motor Vehicles and Traffic