Pillion Passengers on Motorcycles

Pillion passenger.Any road trip is better when you go with a friend, motorcycle trips included. If your friend is also a keen rider, then you can share the driving with them, as long as you are willing to let them ride your bike. Their presence will also mean that you have someone else to share the experience with.

Carrying a passenger on the back of your motorcycle can be a tempting proposition, but you must make sure that you follow UK law when you are on UK roads. If you plan on riding internationally, you must observe the laws of the country in which you are riding. Current government regulation on pillion motorcycle passengers is as follows:

Rule 83 from the Highway Code

Rule 83 states that “pillion passengers on a motorcycle, scooter or moped must wear a protective helmet”. The ruling also applies to motor tricycles and quadricycle users too. This rule applies for all journeys on public roads, even if the passenger only intends to travel from one end of the street to the other. The only exception to this rule is for riders who practice the Sikh religion who wear a turban whilst riding. These riders have an exemption on religious grounds, as the rules could otherwise affect their religious rights to wear a turban.

Helmets that are worn by pillion passengers must meet minimum regulations and must be securely fastened when the bike is in motion.

Rule 85 of the Highway Code

Rule 85 of the Highway Code states that riders must not carry no more than a single pillion passenger at a time. That passenger has to sit astride the bike and be seated on a proper motorcycle seat. This means that you should not carry a passenger if your bike is not correctly suited to do so. This applies for whatever length of journey you are planning on making. Pillion passengers must face forwards whilst the bike is in motion. They should have both of their feet on a footrest during the journey. Riders who only hold a provisional license must not carry a pillion passenger.


If a rider wishes to carry a pillion passenger, they should be well trained and an experienced rider. The extra weight of a pillion passenger can affect the way that the bike moves and is likely to change the vehicle’s centre of gravity. Braking distance is likely to be increased, especially on downhill sections or in wet weather. It is also much harder to overtake due to reductions in manoeuvrability.If you don’t feel you’re experienced enough as a motorcyclist to carry a pillion passenger then don’t. You could be putting theirs and your life in danger, and if you injure or even kill them or anybody else in a motorcycle accident then you could be sued for compensation.

Although it is not a requirement in the UK, it is recommended that riders who want to carry pillion passengers should undertake an extra training course before they carry their first pillion passenger.

Carrying Passengers Under 18

Riders are permitted to carry children as pillion passengers, as long at the child meets the rules which are stated above. If they are unable to meet the regulations for whatever reason, then they should not be transported on the back of the motorcycle. For example, if the child is unable to reach the footrests on the bike, then they should not be carried. Likewise, if they are not wearing a well-fitted helmet, then they should not be allowed to ride on the back of the bike.

Parents or other adults who are carrying children should also make a case-by-case decision on whether it is suitable to allow a child to travel as a pillion passenger. Any passenger must be able to understand their responsibilities whilst they are on the back of the bike, including how they need to react to accelerating, braking and cornering.