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Pocket Bikes And The Federal Government!

Aug 17, 2007
A pocket bike is a two wheeled motorized device that has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and that is not designated or manufactured for highway use.
Pocket bikes do not include an off-highway motorcycle as defined in section 436 of the Vehicle Code.

Is my "Pocket Bike" Allowed on Public Land? The short answer "No". Recent legislation prohibits pocket bikes from being operated on public land. Section 21720 is added to the California Vehicle Code to read, "A pocket bike shall not be operated on a sidewalk, roadway, or any other part of a highway, or on a bikeway, bicycle path or trail, equestrian trail, hiking or recreational trail, or on public lands open to off-highway motor vehicle use."

What will happen if I'm caught riding my "Pocket Bike" on Public Land? Recent legislation allows for peace officers to seize the bike and hold it for a maximum of 48 hours. The violator shall be responsible for all costs associated with the removal, seizure and storage.
Additionally, new legislation requires the manufacturer of the pocket bike to place a sticker on the bike that reads:

The pocket bike you have purchased or obtained is strictly prohibited from being operated on a sidewalk, roadway, or any other part of a highway, or on a bikeway, bicycle path or trail, equestrian trail, hiking or recreational trail, or on public lands open to off highway vehicle use. A violation of this regulation may result in prosecution and seizure of the device.

Pocketbikes are small motorcycles powered by 40-49cc gasoline engines or electric motors. They are being marketed and sold improperly as "motor scooters". Pocket bikes meet the definition of a motorcycle as defined by California Vehicle Code 400(a):

CVC 400(a): A "motorcycle" is any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for use by the rider, designed to travel on not more then three wheels in contact with the ground, and weighing less then 1500 lbs. As the motors on pocket bikes are under 150cc, they are further defined as a "motor driven cycle" per CVC 405C

VC 405: A "motor driven cycle" is any motorcycle with a motor that displaces less then 150 cubic centimeters.

A motor driven cycle must be registered with the DMV for use on a public roadway or off-street public parking facility. The rider must be issued a valid driver license with M1 (motorcycle) endorsement per CVC12500 (b) and CVC12804.9 (a). The rider must wear an approved motorcycle helmet per CVC27803. The motor driven cycle must also be equipped with all required safety equipment.

The DMV is not currently registering "pocket bikes" due to a lack of required identifying numbers (Vehicle Identification Number and Engine Number). This means that "pocket bikes" may not be driven on any public roadway or off street parking facility.

If pocket bikes are properly registered (if the DMV permits registration at a future date), riders must follow all rules of the road and applicable equipment requirements as would any other motorcycle or vehicle and are subject to citations for violations observed by officers of this department.

Pocket bikes may still be used on private property (areas not open to public vehicular traffic) urges those riders to obtain training in the safe operation of these vehicles and wear appropriate safety equipment.

There are more agencies and organizations that are clamoring to define pocket bikes and issue calls for increase regulations. Here is one from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

Whereas, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) is an association representing its U.S. and Canadian membership by working collaboratively to support and improve motor vehicle administration, safety, identification security and law enforcement; and whose activities include developing model programs in motor vehicle administration, police traffic services and highway safety, serving as an information clearinghouse for these same disciplines, and acting as the international spokesman for these interests; and

Whereas, in order to reduce traffic collisions and deaths and injuries resulting from traffic collisions, Congress has required the federal Department of Transportation to prescribe minimum safety standards for any motor vehicle manufactured primarily for use on public roads; has prohibited the manufacture, sale, import and distribution of motor vehicles that do not conform with those federal motor vehicle safety standards; and

Whereas, responding to Congress' call, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has promulgated motor vehicle safety standards at 49 CFR 571, including safety standards for motorcycles and motor-driven cycles, and requires manufacturers to certify that vehicles manufactured for on-road use meet all applicable safety standards; and

Whereas, miniature motorcycles commonly referred to as 'pocket bikes' resemble traditional racing motorcycles in every respect except for their small size and pocket bikes do not meet the minimum height specification for headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps and turn signals for motorcycles or motor-driven cycles; and

Whereas, their low height makes pocket bikes exceedingly difficult for other motorists to see whenever they are operated on a road; and

Whereas, the laws of some states specifically recognize pocket bikes and prohibit their operation on public highways in that state, but many state's laws do not specifically recognize pocket bikes, regarding them as 'motorcycles' that might be registered and operated on public roads by qualified riders; and

Whereas, lack of federal regulation, guidance or standards clearly applicable to pocket bikes has created confusion for law enforcement officials, motor vehicle administrators and state and local government officials; now, therefore, be it:

Resolved by the Board of Directors of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, that AAMVA finds that, because pocket bikes do not meet federal motor vehicle safety standards.

They are not "manufactured primarily for use on public highways" within the meaning of federal law; and be it further resolved that AAMVA shall endeavor to develop and strengthen relationships with other safety organizations and law enforcement agencies and national safety organizations to promote awareness of safety concerns and insure that state laws prohibit the operation of pocket bikes on public roads; and

Be it further resolved that jurisdictions should not title or register for on-road use pocket bikes, 'mini-choppers', or any other non-standard motorcycle that does not meet federal motor vehicle safety standards for vehicles intended for use on public highways, and that lacks the manufacturer's certification label stating that the vehicle meets all applicable safety standards in effect on the date of manufacture, unless state or federal law specifically exempts the vehicle from such standards and certification; and

Be it further resolved that AAMVA shall provide this resolution to CPSC, NHTSA, National Traffic Law Center, and National Conference of State Legislatures, Governors Highway Safety Association and other appropriate Federal and State agencies.

Where does this leave pocket bike owners? They can still be ridden but not on public highways, sidewalks or public land. However, they can be enjoyed on private property. The rider and their parents should understand the pocketbike is not a toy and therefore requires that they ride responsibly including full head protection as well as protective clothes.
About the Author
Jerry Johnson owns the Motorcycle Clothes Store and Deals On Pocketbikes as well as several other successful webstores. Visit MotorcycleClothesStore.com and Deals on Pocketbikes for great values on your cycle apparel and pocketbikes.
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