Bikes with Gas Assist Motors – Something New!!

Question

Heard of Something New asked: I heard someone, just recently, got a letter from the DMV that said adding a gas motor on a bicycle, still keeps it a bicycle. So how can it not be allowed on public streets, just like a “normal” bicycle?

I know it can be ridden under gas power on the sidewalks. But I thought the DMV changed its mind about gas kits?

Answer

Geo note of July 27, 2014:  We are in the process of revising the posts on the site to provide the most up to date information.  We aren’t there yet on this subject, so please see the most recent statement from the DMV on gas assist motors on bicycles here.

http://flbikelaw.org/2014/07/gas-motors-on-bicycles-at-last-final-answer/

The remainder of this post is unchanged.

One of the primary purposes of this site is to empower cyclists to take action to resolve problems.There are many examples of readers who have done just that.This is another, and the reader has asked that we not use his/her name.Many thanks to the reader for persisting and eliciting this information.

To begin, motorized vehicles, except wheelchairs, are never permitted on sidewalks.

s. 316.1995 – Driving upon Sidewalk or Bicycle Path

(1) No person shall drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk ….

(3) This section does not apply to motorized wheelchairs.

This email from DHSMV was received by the reader.

This email is in response to your inquiries to this agency regarding whether placing a gas motor on a bicycle changes the bicycle to something that requires registration and a driver license, e.g. a moped.

The simple answer is no.  Our Legal staff has advised that adding a gas engine to a bicycle does not make it anything other than a bicycle.  A driver license is not required.  A registration is not required. You should check with your local authorities to determine where you are allowed to ride a gas powered bicycle.

If you are having an issue with law enforcement advising you in a different way, we suggest that you provide them a copy of this email and have them contact us directly.  Otherwise, we consider this issue resolved.

Sincerely,

Julie W. Gentry, Chief

Bureau of Motorist Compliance

Division of Motorist Services

Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

2900 Apalachee Parkway

Tallahassee, FL 32399

That is supported by this internal document.

STATE OF FLORIDA

Division of Motorist Services

PROCEDURE # TL-10

EXHIBIT F

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

3. Scenario: A company is advertising on TV a gas engine kit that can be added to a bicycle. The engine is tied into the pedal system like a Moped and it has to be pedaled to start the engine. It is advertised that the bicycle will be propelled to 30MPH.

Q. How is the tax collector supposed to register this bicycle/gas engine assembly?

A. The definition of bicycle under s. 316.003(2), F.S., includes motorized bicycles. Bicycles are not registered or titled. Engine kits for bicycles are not new and there are a variety of kits available, however, they remain bicycles after the engine kit is installed. There are other requirements that must be met to be classified as a motorcycle/scooter/moped such as frame assembly and safety features. If a customer brings in paperwork for a bicycle, they cannot be legally issued a title or registration nor is itrequired. The agent should also direct the customer to law enforcement if there are any questions as to where the motorized bicycle can be used.

We have a different interpretation of the statutes and believe gas-assist motors on bicycles are not legal for use on the roadways in Florida.Our opinion is based on the statutes themselves.

Types of legal vehicles are determined by the statutes and not by the DHSMV.

We believe the statute concerning the definition of a bicycle is quite clear, and precludes the use of gas assist motors.

s. 316.003Definitions

(2)Bicycle – Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels.

The definition clearly states that a bicycle equipped with an electric assist motor is a bicycle and it provides specific operational restriction of 20 mph.

We believe that if gas-motors were intended to meet the “bicycle” definition, they would have been specified or that there would be no mention of “electric” helper motor.

We believe that gas motors were intentionally prohibited by allowing only a small electric motor (eBike).

The use of the phrase “and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle” also does not justify inclusion of the gas motor.

…. having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels.

Since the phrase is preceded by “having two tandem wheels” and followed by “though equipped with two front or two rear wheels” that phrase is clearly intended to address the number of wheels and not the type of power.

A change that would have expanded the definition to gas assist motors was proposed, but never was enacted.

House of Representatives Staff Analysis Bill # CS/CS/CS/HB 1353
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Sponsor(S): Economic Affairs Committee, Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Transportation & Highway Safety Subcommittee, Albritton
“Proposed Changes – The bill amends the definition of bicycle to remove the qualifier “electric” from the “helper motor” provision.”

We believe that was purposely killed, and for the same reasons the initial legislation included only electric assist motors in the “bicycle” statutory definition.

I am informed that it was strenuously opposed by many agencies, including counties and municipalities for the following reasons.

1. Most eBikes are commercially produced and are designed and constructed to strict safety and reliability standards, and can be manufactured with strict controls on the operational limits of 20 mph.

2. Many gas-assist bikes are homemade from add-on kits, and have no uniform design, construction and production standards, and operational limits are difficult to control.

3. Non-uniform gas motor assist bikes present law enforcement with problems, including potential speed and safety.On this site, we have heard of many cases of law enforcement declaring them illegal for use on the roads.

Directing gas bike users to law enforcement to determine where they may be ridden does not solve the problem since many in law enforcement do not accept that they are legal vehicles for the same reasons as those in this writing.

We believe that a bicycle with a gas assist motor meets the definition of “motor vehicle”.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(21) Motor Vehicle – ….. a self-propelled vehicle not operated upon rails or guideway, but not including any bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, swamp buggy, or moped.

Just because they are motor vehicles does not mean they are legal.DHSMV will not register them as legal motor vehicles nor require drivers’ licenses because, from Procedure TL-10 above,“there are other requirements that must be metto be classified as a motorcycle/scooter/moped such as frameassembly and safety features. “

We believe they do not meet the statutory definition of “bicycle”.

FBA will attempt to fully resolve this question either through legislation or working with DHSMV and other officials.Until then, we will continue to disagree with DHSMV’s interpretation and state that bicycles fitted with gas-assist motors do not meet the statutory definition of “bicycle” and are not legal on the roads.

Posted in Ask Geo, Motorized Bicycles Tagged with: , , , , , ,
29 comments on “Bikes with Gas Assist Motors – Something New!!
  1. Dwight Kingsbury says:

    DHSMV’s emailed advice to check with local authorities about where a gas powered bicycle may be ridden is a little puzzling.

    The response states that the addition of a gas motor to a bicycle “does not make it anything other than a bicycle”. If such a vehicle still qualifies legally as a “bicycle”, it’s use would be subject to the traffic regulations in chapter 316 for the operator of a bicycle, which mention no prohibition of use on public roadways except for (most) limited-access highways; use could also be restricted on some streets by local ordinance. Section 316.1995, quoted by Geo, would obviously prohibit use of a “gas powered” bicycle on a sidewalk or bicycle path, though.

    If this is the case, the only reason to “check with your local authorities” about where a gas-powered bicycle may be ridden on public right of way would be to determine whether a local ordinance prohibits use on certain roads. To date, no such local ordinance has come to light (some local codes prohibit use of a bicycle on sidewalks in certain areas, but such restrictions would be irrelevant to a gas-powered bicycle user, as any driving of a vehicle with other than human power on a sidewalk or bicycle path is already prohibited by s. 316.1995).

    Advice to “check with your local authorities” about where a gas-powered bicycle may be ridden is likely to suggest to customers that local authorities call the shots about any restriction of use on (any or some) public rights of way, but that is not the case, as the restriction in s. 316.1995 is clearly established by the state. Also, local authorities are not empowered to regulate use on state roads.

    • Dwight Kingsbury says:

      DHSMV’s response also neglects to mention that a gas-powered bicycle rider could be cited for failure to comply with motorcycle equipment requirements.

      The Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law defines “motorcycle” (s. 316.003(22), F.S.) as “Any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, but excluding a tractor or a moped”. A gas-powered bicycle could legally qualify in Florida as a “moped” if its power rating did not exceed 2 brake-horsepower and its top speed on level ground did not exceed 30 mph (s. 316.003(77)). However, the gas engine kits for bicycles sold online are typically rated 5-6 hp and develop top speeds of 35-38 mph.

      Section 316.003’s definition of “motorcycle” does not mention an exclusion for a two-wheeled motor vehicle more powerful than a moped. Could it be excepted from “motorcycle” classification on the grounds it is not legally a “motor vehicle”? Section 316.003’s definition of “motor vehicle” (quoted in Geo’s response) mentions no exception for a 2-wheeled powered vehicle more powerful than a moped; it does include exceptions for “bicycle” and “motorized scooter”, but a gas-powered bicycle does not meet section 316.003’s legal definitions of these terms. The plain sense of the definitions in s. 316.003 leads to the conclusion that a gas-powered bicycle is, for purposes of state traffic law, a “motorcycle”.

      It would therefore be subject to such operational requirements as s. 316.405 (“Any person who operates a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle on the public streets or highways shall, while so engaged, have the headlight or headlights of such motorcycle or motor-driven cycle turned on…During the hours of operation between sunrise and sunset, the headlights may modulate either the upper beam or the lower beam from its maximum intensity to a lower intensity, in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 571.108”).

      • Xman says:

        If the DMV considers it a bicycle.. The rules for a “motor vehicle” wouldn’t apply.
        Also.. If you want to get TECHNICAL, “motor” vehicle laws wouldn’t be applicable to most of the vehicles out there, because a MOTOR is run by electric power and an ENGINE is run by gas..
        If you asked a pilot, what the size of the motor is on his plane, he’d laugh at you and say, I don’t have a motor, I have an engine.

      • Dwight Kingsbury says:

        What a pilot might say is irrelevant. The Legislature writes and adopts the definitions in Florida Statutes, not pilots or state agencies. For purposes of carrying out duties that involve state statutes, state and/or local units of government often need to interpret the law. If a unit of government is unsure how a statutory provision should be interpreted, it can request an advisory opinion from the Attorney General (http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/dd177569f8fb0f1a85256cc6007b70ad#nature ). (To date, no unit of government seems to have asked the AGO about the legal status of gas-powered vehicles.) Even the AGO’s opinions are advisory, however. County courts, including their traffic courts, are independent entities. They are not bound to accept an opinion of the AGO’s, or a state agency’s, if they don’t agree with it.

  2. Nathan (NE2) says:

    For the record, FLHSMV has previously lied to me about the legality of crossing a single white line (and continues to lie in their 2013 driver’s handbook, stating that “you should not cross the line unless you must do so to avoid a hazard”).

  3. Geo says:

    This is some applicable information about solid white lines:

    s. 316.089 – Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic

    Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic,
    (1) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.
    (3) Official traffic control devices may be erected directing specified traffic to use a designated lane or designating those lanes to be used by traffic moving in a particular direction regardless of the center of the roadway; and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of every such device.
    (4) Official traffic control devices may be installed prohibiting the changing of lanes on sections of roadway, and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of every such device.

    Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

    Section 3B.06 Edge Line Pavement Markings Standard:
    If used, edge line pavement markings shall delineate the right or left edges of a roadway.

    Section 3A.06 Functions, Widths, and Patterns of Longitudinal Pavement Markings Standard:
    B. A solid line discourages or prohibits crossing (depending on the specific application).

    The operative words in the DSHMV guidance seems to be “should not”.

    • Nathan (NE2) says:

      The FHP interprets that “should not” as “it is illegal to”:
      “The right turn lane […] has a solid white line on both sides of the lane which means that a vehicle that has lawfully entered the lane cannot exit or change lanes and no other vehicles are permitted to cross the solid white line to enter the lane at that location. The Florida Driver Handbook states on page 47: […] Since no hazard exit[sic], this would be a violation of Florida Law.”
      (from a reply to an email asking about the legality of a specific maneuver)

      • Dwight Kingsbury says:

        The 2013 Florida Driver Handbook states (p. 45): “A solid white line marks the right edge of the roadway or separates lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. You may travel in the same direction on both sides of this line, but you should not cross the line unless you must do so to avoid a hazard”

        …in which case, you should cross the line, so as to avoid the hazard; if it is not necessary to cross the line to avoid a hazard, then you “should not” cross the line.

        Even in the absence of a hazard, a driver may need to cross a solid white lane line. For example, agencies often stripe a solid white bike lane line past business driveways, as at the driveway of this large corner gas station-convenience store in Tallahassee: http://goo.gl/maps/SynHC . No motorist could use this driveway to enter or leave the gas station if crossing a solid white line were prohibited.

        A cyclist using a bike lane could not leave the bike lane to prepare for a left turn, turn left into a driveway, or pass another cyclist in the bike lane, if crossing a solid white line were prohibited.

  4. Geo says:

    “A solid line discourages or prohibits crossing (depending on the specific application).”

    s. 316.089 – Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic
    Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic….
    (3) Official traffic control devices may be erected directing specified traffic to use a designated lane or designating those lanes to be used by traffic moving in a particular direction regardless of the center of the roadway; and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of such device.

  5. Geo says:

    ” ….. or prohibits crossing (depending on the specific application).”

  6. Geo says:

    NE2,
    I hope you aren’t saying you think we said DHSMV is lying in the original post. We are not. We are saying that we disagree with their interpretation of the statutes about gas assist motors on bikes, not that they are lying.

  7. R. Hazlett says:

    My son is incarcerated w/o bond . charged with operating vehicle w suspended license. He and I thought there was no license required to ride gas assisted bicycle.. This government is very crooked..my son has two small children, one and two yrs old, working hard to keep life together.. trying to do the right things , I feel he was set up . as the probation officer knew for a whole year my son has been riding to all appointments and knew that day he was on his way to next to last appointment with Justin Calario…then his probation would be done… An unmarked and a Leesburg PD pulled my son over July 16, 2013 and arrested him…w charges mentioned, could not ticket him as he was not disobeying any traffic law.. He is in Lake county jail with no bond…unbelievable …I read paper this morning where a man shot another yesterday in Wildwood Fl. and THIS man has a bond…there is something seriously wrong with this judicial system..I am very upset over this and would like a response of what his rights are…

  8. mark says:

    heres my situation, i live in cooper city/davie and everything i need, (school, work, restaurants, gym etc.) is very close to me. i do not need to drive a car to these locations. so for now, i bike everywhere. it would be very convenient if i could buy and install a motor to put on my bike. ( http://www.bikeberry.com/gas-engine-kits/gas-engine-kits/66-80cc-flying-horse-black-angle-fire-bicycle-engine-kits-2-stroke.html ) can somebody please give me a straight up answer, yes or no and explanation to why i can or can not do so without violating the law or anything like that.
    -thank you

  9. Dwight Kingsbury says:

    The state has never said that use of gas-engine-equipped bicycles is legal on public roads. The state agency responsible for administering MV registration and driver licenses, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, has said (in statements quoted above) that vehicle registration and driver license are not required in their opinion, but this doesn’t necessarily make the bikes street-legal; they would still need to meet applicable vehicle equipment requirements set forth in chapter 316 if used on public roads.

    Because the legislature has left the scope of regulations about “motor-driven cycles” in a bit of a muddle (the term is used in chapter 316, but not defined), enforcement agencies may have different opinions about the applicability of equipment requirements such as s. 316.405.

    Moreover, because county sheriffs and municipal police departments have authority under s. 316.640 to enforce traffic laws, and are independent of the DHSMV, they don’t necessarily have to agree with DHSMV that a driver license is not required to operate a gas-engine-equipped bicycle.

    Consequently, at this time, there is no “straight up answer” in the affirmative that a rider could rely on to hold up in traffic court.

  10. Geo says:

    R. Hazlett,
    You should retain legal counsel to determine your son’s rights about all the particulars of this case. See the other posts on this site for information about the applicable laws.

  11. David Harris says:

    Everything stated is true basically I see it like this gasbikes are exempt through the definition ofmotor vehicles key words excluding ANY BICYCLES, MEANING gas electric solar nuclear or stream powered

    • Geo says:

      David,
      Bicycles with gas assist motors are only legal if they meet the definition of moped and are registered with the DMV. “Any bicycles” means any vehicle meeting the definition of bicycle in the statutes. Bicycles with electric assist motors are specifically mentioned in the definition of bicycle. See the numerous posts on the subject on this site.

      • David Harris says:

        Sorry didn’t get to my point.yes it is illegal I’ve known that.the thing I’m concerned is it’s only illegal not criminal,I don’t need adrivers license to do it it’s just a62$ fine for driving a gas powered bicycles on bike path or side walk not driving a motor vehiclewith suspended drivers license

      • Geo says:

        Not so, David,
        Driving an unregistered vehicle, a gas powered bicycle which cannot be registered, is one offense. Driving a motorized vehicle, legal vehicle or not, on a bike path or sidewalk is a second offense. See the posts about Sidewalks and Crosswalks. Tickets for those with court costs could be considerably more than $62.

      • David Harris says:

        Point taken but a gas powered bicycle is by all means a non vehicle and not needing registered it may have an ENGINE on it but it doesn’tt have safety features that’ll make a vehicle but yes driving gas bike I am guilty as hell

      • David Harris says:

        All B.S. aside can I build a radical motorized wheel chair there’s no mention of gas or electric no speed restrictions and I couldn’t find anywhere that I had to be confined to it,, just a thought

  12. David Harris says:

    I was waiting to hear back Geo, about the lack of safety features making a bicycle a non vehicle I am right? correct?

    • Geo says:

      David,
      You need to see the most recent information on the subject. The DMV has stated that the only way a bicycle equipped with a gas motor can be legal is if it meets the definition of “moped” with the required features. The FHP has said a gas-assist motor on a bicycle is not legal. See this post:

      http://flbikelaw.org/2014/07/gas-motors-on-bicycles-at-last-final-answer/

      In reference to your “rad” motorized wheelchair, I can’t find a definition of motorized wheelchair in the statutes, but it would seem you would risk a citation for unregistered vehicle if you do as you indicate. The definition of motor vehicle may apply and certainly your proposed vehicle could not be registered.

      • David Harris says:

        I am still aware of it being illegal that’s the way I roll I saying I do not need a drivers license .I’m not trying to Register it I just want to ride and doesn’t take certain safety features such as frame assembly and vin # to be considered a vehicle?I believe it is what it is,A GAS POWERED BICYCLE THAT IS ILLEGAL TO DRIVE ON PATHS OR SIDEWALKS and nothing more it’s still a bicycle

  13. Randy says:

    Having a drivers license is not needed to operate any vehicle if you are using it to just go to work or grocery shopping. The only ones who are needing to have a drivers license is anyone who uses their vehicle for transporting goods to a destination. The DMV are crooks & people are gullible into not checking the info out about what the law really is. I haven’t had one since 1998 & I drive without one with all my vehicles with just registration tags & insurance.

    • Geo says:

      Randy,

      The state seems to disagree with you.

      s. 322.03 – Drivers must be licensed; penalties.—
      (1) Except as otherwise authorized in this chapter, a person may not drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless such person has a valid driver license

      There is no mention of going of the grocery store or work, or transporting goods.

      The only vehicles exempted are those that are not defined as motor vehicles in the statutes.

      (27) “Motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle, including a motor vehicle combination, not operated upon rails or guideway, excluding vehicles moved solely by human power, motorized wheelchairs, and motorized bicycles as defined in s. 316.003.

5 Pings/Trackbacks for "Bikes with Gas Assist Motors – Something New!!"

Leave a Reply