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Ask a Trooper: Motorcycle passengers

Question: My wife and I have a larger motorcycle and love to ride. We have a 6-year-old grandchild that wants to go along. The state motorcycle guide says you should not have a child ride in front of you but behind you instead. It doesn’t say you can’t, it says you shouldn’t. It also says the passenger must be able to reach the foot pedals. My question is, can our grandchild ride (sandwiched) between us? I feel this would be safe but is it legal?

Answer: The motorcycle guide is not the law, it is a summary, and your interpretation of what it says may be incorrect. It would not be legal and would not be safe. Motorcycles are not designed for three people (unless there is a sidecar or similar). Here is part of the motorcycle law concerning passengers:

M.S.S. 169.974 Subdivision 5(a) An operator of a motorcycle shall ride only upon a permanent and regular seat which is attached to the vehicle for that purpose. No other person shall ride on a motorcycle; except that passengers may ride upon a permanent and regular operator’s seat if designed for two persons, or upon additional seats attached to the vehicle to the rear of the operator’s seat, or in a sidecar attached to the vehicle; provided, however, that the operator of a motorcycle shall not carry passengers in a number in excess of the designed capacity of the motorcycle or sidecar attached to it. No passenger shall be carried in a position that will interfere with the safe operation of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.

(b) No person shall ride upon a motorcycle as a passenger unless, when sitting astride the seat, the person can reach the footrests with both feet.

(c) No person, except passengers of sidecars or drivers and passengers of three-wheeled motorcycles, shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle except while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on either side of the motorcycle.

Parts of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Thanks for asking, I hope this clears it up for you.

If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, please send your questions to: “ASK A TROOPER” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol, 7694 Industrial Park Road, Suite 2 Baxter, MN 6425 or email questions to with Ask a Trooper in the subject line. Questions are edited.