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Nothing really beats having a rush of wind in the face as you take on the dunes with a dirt bike. Dirt bikes are perfect for off-road adventures, but you may wonder if it’s okay to ride them around town. However, even if you have a license and registration for off-roading on the bike, is riding on the sidewalk legal?
Dirt bikes are specifically made for off-roading so riding the bike on the sidewalk or any public street is illegal. However, it is legal to walk the dirt bike on the sidewalk as long as no one is sitting on it, the engine is not running, and the bike isn’t in the roadway (unless you’re crossing).
Going off-road and exploring places that a car can’t fit into on a dirt bike is pretty awesome. However, it is unfortunate that there are no states that allow sidewalk riding for dirtbikes. Let’s see what dirt bike owners should be aware of when it comes to dirt biking laws, where it’s okay to ride in general, and how to make the dirtbike a legal vehicle that’s fit for the road.
Why is Riding on the Sidewalk Illegal?
As much as we might want to, it’s not safe or legal to drive a dirt bike down your neighborhood street.
This is because dirt bikes are specifically made for dirt, mud, grass, etc, and it doesn’t belong on public roads or walkways. They’re not fast enough to keep up with highway speeds, and they’re too fast to be safe around civilian areas.
It’s also not very good for your bike! The tires can get damaged because of these road and sidewalk conditions. While riding a dirt bike doesn’t require an operator’s license or liability insurance in the majority of the U.S, there are restrictions on the rider’s age.
Minors have to be supervised when riding and require a rider training certificate. Depending on the state, there are different requirements for registering a dirt bike and titling it. No matter what type of dirt bike it is, be it ATVs or 3-4 wheelers, safety certifications are necessary. (Source)
What Happens if You Get Caught?
If someone is caught riding a dirt bike, motocross bike, or pit bike on the street/sidewalk, in most states there will be a citation and the bike may be towed or impounded. This is because of the following legal violations:
- No registration.
- No insurance.
- Loud exhaust.
- Possible specific “off-road vehicle on county/city road” violations.
- Possible equipment violations such as no license plate, lights, horns, mirrors, and a lot more, depending on the configuration of the bike and local laws.
A small fine is also possible, not to mention the extra payments for impound fees and storage that you’ll need to pay to get the bike back. If you refuse to fix these issues and are caught again, you could get in much worse trouble the second time around. It’s best to stay safe and avoid this confrontation altogether by staying on legal paths. (Source)
Times When You Can Have Your Dirt Bike on a Sidewalk
Riding your dirt bike on a sidewalk is almost always illegal. But there are exceptions in the laws of most states for some times when being on the sidewalk with your dirt bike is generally permitted. However, like other aspects of this article, check with your local laws since these laws can vary not just state by state in the U.S. but even county by county.
Here are some situations where being on the sidewalk with your dirt bike is generally allowed:
- In an Emergency – The law is very lenient in emergency situations when the safety of yourself or others are in jeopardy. So if you have no choice but to be on the sidewalk with your dirt bike due to the immediate safety of yourself or others, then you’ll probably get a pass. But if it’s that dire of a situation, you should probably be calling for police assistance as soon as possible.
- While Walking with Your Dirt Bike – In most areas, walking with or pushing your dirt bike while you are not on the seat and the engine is not running is permitted. This is most common if someone had an engine failure and is pushing it to a safer location temporarily.
- On Private Property with the Owner’s Permission – If this sidewalk is on someone’s personal (and private) property and that property is not open to the public, then you’ll be ok riding on the sidewalk as long as you have the owners permission.
- Special Events (with a Permit) – Sometimes there will be special events or celebrations where the local county will issue permits to allow certain activities that are generally prohibited. Although allowing dirt bikes on sidewalks isn’t a common one, I’ve seen some strange things happen in big cities during certain city-sanctioned events!
Where Can You Ride Your Dirt Bike?
A great pro tip would be to find a course nearby to call and make sure off-roading is alright. Motorcycle shops that specifically carry dirt bikes can offer suggestions and tips for good places to ride and train. It should also be noted that no one can ride their dirt bike down a street, alley, or parking lot. This is considered breaking the law as well. (Source)
Places like large private plots of land (a ranch or farm) can be good for dirt bikes since there are no asphalt roads or traffic. Another rare exception is rural country roads. Generally, you should stick with Motocross sites and areas that are made for dirt bike use.
Can You Make Your Dirt Bike Street Legal?
It is possible to turn the dirt bike into a legal street bike but there are plenty of regulations attached. There needs to be a motorcycle license once the dirt bike becomes street legal which is applying all the laws/rules for motorcycles. Below are some general things you will need to have and know when making your dirt bike street legal.
- Make sure to have proper steering, breaks, tires, approved wheels, an exhaust system, and your VIN. These are necessary for most vehicles anyway.
- Find a stop to put a license plate on. Like other vehicles, the government needs to be able to identify them in case of tickets, wrecks, or traffic violations.
- Front and rear lights are a must, especially for driving at night. You can always use a headlamp for front lights, which lets you see the road better. For backlights, make sure it also has a brake light function because other vehicles still need to see when you are turning and when (even though a lot of people tend to forget to use their turn signal anyway).
- Dirt bike tires work for dirt roads, not paved roads. So you will need to get pave road approved tires; DOT is what usually approves them.
- In some places, you will also need a rearview mirror so you can see what is going on behind you. Turning your head will quickly become a pain in the neck.
- A few places will require an odometer so riders can stay within the speed limits. Odometers can also give mileage info, engine rpm, and engine temperature, which can be valuable information for you.
- A lot of states have a certain limit for the decibels on a motorcycle, which means the same limit will be on your dirtbike. You can use this link to check various state decibel level restrictions.
Make sure to check your states’ individual laws about motorcycles and dirt bikes becoming street legal. It is different in every state and what is listed above is just general information that is about the same in every state.
For advice on how to make your dirt bike street legal for under $100, see our article all about making a dirt bike street legal for cheap (under $100) here.
What Are the Downsides of Street Approved Dirt Bikes?
After reading the extensive list above, you can probably assume it will be a little expensive to make this conversion. That and all the time you will have to put in to research how to do it in your state. Probably a couple of hours of phone calls with state officials because it may be a bit more obscure in your state. You’ll be lucky if, after all that effort, the state actually approves the use and conversion.
A couple of other downsides include that these modifications can make your dirt bike much heavier. There is a lot to add on and change, so it’ll seem to be a bit closer to a motorcycle at that point. You can buy a dirt bike that is made to drive on the street, but those are difficult to find.
Some people just recommend getting a dual-sport motorcycle instead because you can ride it on and off-road without having to worry that much about making it street legal.
More Helpful Information
- Riding Dirt Bikes on ATV Trails: Here’s What the Law Says – Did you know that dirt bikes are generally allowed on ATV trails as long as a few requirements are met? Find out what those requirements are here.
- Recommended (and Best) Dirt Bike Gear – If you’re new to riding and want to make sure you pick up the gear that’s going to keep you safe and not make you look like a total newbie, take a look at our most often recommended gear by serious dirt bike riders!