Bicycle or Moped?
Jim asked: Please look at the www.OrganicTransit.com website. They have a new enclosed bike that I’m extremely interested in buying for shipment to my permanent home in Zephyrhills. I’m 62 and think it’s time to switch to a three-wheeler to avoid balance issues. The bike will cost $7,500 so I must be sure I will not be having legal headaches as I use it for all transportation needs. I prefer to take advantage of sidewalks in dangerous traffic areas. I have a Florida driver’s license.
This is the definition of “bicycle” in the statutes.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(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 term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. No person under the age of 16 may operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle.
It seems the manufacturer has been careful to meet the Federal definition, but cautions that various states have different definitions and includes the disclaimer that the buyer is responsible for insuring the vehicle meets state requirements.
There is one inaccuracy on the site. In the chart, they say the minimum age for operation in FL is 10. See above. There may be other inaccuracies, so you must be sure of what you are buying.
A point you may want to clarify is the maximum speed of the vehicle. The statute says 20 mph max with electric motor and human power. The web site indicates the vehicle “ can travel up to 20 mph on electric power only and up to 30 mph when combined with pedaling”, which is different from the statute. If it is possible, the inclusion of a speed limiter may solve that problem.
This is a summary of the Motorized Bicycle issue as it relates to driver’s license. Many thanks to attorneys Hussein and Webber in Jacksonville for this information.
Chapter 322, Florida Statutes requires the operator of a “motor vehicle” on a highway of the state to have a valid license. As defined in Chapter 322, “Motor vehicle” is anything that is self-propelled, but does not include bicycles and qualifying “motorized bicycles.” As defined in Section 316.003, “Motorized bicycle” means that the bicycle is not capable of self-propulsion, but is propelled instead by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground.
In interpreting this provision, Florida appellate courts have taken the view that the law means exactly what it says. If it is a vehicle powered by gasoline, it requires a license. If the vehicle is powered exclusively by battery, it requires a license. If the propulsion for the vehicle does not derive from a simultaneous combination human and electric power, then it requires a license. Only those vehicles falling within the narrow exception provided in 316.003 are exempt from the requirement of a driver’s license.
You can see the full article here:
Since you have a valid driver’s license, the question is the type of vehicle this might be under DMV registration.
If the vehicle is not a “bicycle”, it may be that the vehicle would meet the definition of “moped”, which would require a driver’s license and registration, but not a title, and be legal on the roads. The traffic law requirements are similar to a bicycle.
See this post for more on mopeds:
You can either make your own determination using the definition of bicycle or moped in the statutes or preferably, go directly to the DMV and insure the vehicle meets the standards to be classified as a bicycle or moped.
You should note also that operating the vehicle under power other than entirely human power while on a sidewalk or bike path is not lawful.
Even if you have the full clearance from the statutes and the DMV about your vehicle meeting the bicycle definition, we cannot insure you will not have legal hassles. One reader who drives an enclosed “velobike” having two wheels and being fully human powered has been cited 8 times for not keeping right and was successful in having all of the citations dismissed using the information on this site.
In addition to your vehicle classification, the usual misunderstandings we encounter with law enforcement are the questions of impeding traffic and not keeping far enough to the right. To prepare for such incidents, we recommend having documentation about the vehicle classification and being thoroughly familiar with the laws shown on this site, particularly those related to impeding traffic and lane sharing.
If you determine that this is a legal vehicle, before using it on the roadway or sidewalk, you may want to take the information and vehicle to the local police department and inform them that they will be seeing you and ask them to alert their officers about the laws and your rights.