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Traffic Q&A: Can one motorcycle be used to tow another using a strap?

Q: Is it legal for a motorcycle to tow another disabled motorcycle with a tow strap? – Darrell F., Lakewood

A: We here at Traffic Q&A headquarters hate to answer a question with a question, but, and we’re paraphrasing a guy we talked to at a local motorcycle endorsement school, why in the world would you want to?

Riding an engine-powered two-wheeler in Puget Sound traffic isn’t thrilling enough for you?

Now, to be clear, Darrell only witnessed this behavior. He did not participate.

Let us let him tell it:

“I live in Lakewood and this happened on Gravelly Lake Drive by the Clover Park High School. They were headed south, and I was headed north. There were riders on both motorcycles. I would say they were going 25-30 mph. I am a retired Lakewood firefighter. I have seen a lot, but not this.”

Not this, indeed.

As we often do in such cases, we asked Sgt. James Prouty of the Washington State Patrol for his take on Darrell’s question.

Prouty was stumped.

“The only information I could find was RCW 46.44.070,” the good sergeant replied.

RCW 46.44.070 is titled, “Drawbar requirements—Trailer whipping or weaving—Towing flag.”

It states:

“The drawbar or other connection between vehicles in combination shall be of sufficient strength to hold the weight of the towed vehicle on any grade where operated … When a disabled vehicle is being towed by means of bar, chain, rope, cable or similar means and the distance between the towed vehicle and the towing vehicle exceeds fifteen feet there shall be fastened on such connection in approximately the center thereof a white flag or cloth not less than twelve inches square.”

That leads us to believe that towing one motorcycle with another is not illegal.

But then we did a little digging into the law books ourselves (read: we Googled) and found RCW 46.61.614, “Riding on motorcycles — Clinging to other vehicles.”

It states, in its entirety:

“No person riding upon a motorcycle shall attach himself or herself or the motorcycle to any other vehicle on a roadway.”

That “or the motorcycle” verbiage gave us pause.

At a loss, we called Puget Sound Safety, a driving school headquartered in Puyallup. It offers, among other things, a motorcycle-endorsement course.

The fellow who answered the phone didn’t know the answer but said he’d ask his motorcycle experts and get back to us.

They, apparently, didn’t know, either. “Their question is, why would you want to?” the fellow said before referring us on the State Patrol.

Sigh.

Further in-depth research (more Googling) took us to the website of “Cycle World,” which in September 2015 published an article titled, “CW Tips & Tricks: How to Tow Another Motorcycle Safely.”

It did not address the legality of the practice but suggested various ways of using a tow strap to connect the motorcycles, all of which made us shudder.

It concluded with this:

“Either way, the more experienced rider should be on the trailing bike and should keep all slack out of the line; the trailing rider can run over a slack line and get it caught up in the front wheel. All braking should be done by the trailing rider, and the lead rider should keep the speed down.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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