Denver asked: I have been considering getting a 48cc gas engine kit for my beach cruiser, but according to recent laws (RS-68) would make it a moped and illegal to use on sidewalks, and illegal to use on roadways unless I got it registered and have at least a class E license, and can not be more than 50cc. I have several questions about this matter as I don’t want to have to register it and don’t want to get a license at this time.
1) If the engine is off and the bike is only being peddled can I ride it on the sidewalk and bike lane?
2) I have to have the bike registered and have a license to ride on roadways using the engine. Would I have to register the bike and have a license if I was to ride the bike on the ground beside the road and sidewalk (off road)?
3) If I can ride the bike off road without registering or a license, am I still limited to 50cc? Can I go above a 50cc engine because I am riding off road?
RS-68 is not a law. It is a DMV Procedure to define the means by which a bicycle with a gas assist motor can be modified to be a moped and comply with applicable laws and be operated on the roadways.
You can legally ride your bike with the engine off on a sidewalk or bike lane unless a local ordinance prohibits bicycles from sidewalks. The applicable statute refers to the type of power at the time and not the nature of the vehicle.
s. 316.1995 – Driving upon Sidewalk or Bicycle Path
(1) …. a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk, or sidewalk area, except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.
The area to which you refer is not off-road. Note that the statute also covers the sidewalk area, which is not defined in the traffic statutes. However, that area is well described in other statutes related to driver’s licenses and registration.
In the chapter on driver’s licenses, the requirement applies to motor vehicles on a “highway”.
s. 322.03 – Drivers Must be Licensed; Penalties
(1) …. a person may not drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless such person has a valid driver license issued under this chapter.
A highway is the full area of the right of way including the roadway and the adjacent property to the outer boundary, which also includes the shoulder, sidewalk and the sidewalk area.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(53) Street or Highway
(a) The entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place of whatever nature when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic ….
For registration, the requirement applies to motor vehicles on a “road”.
s. 320.02 – Registration Required; Application for Registration; Forms
(1) …. every owner or person in charge of a motor vehicle that is operated or driven on the roads of this state shall register the vehicle ….
The term “road” is not defined in the in the traffic statutes, but is defined in the chapter on public transportation. Note the similarity to the definition of Streets and Highways above.
s. 334.003 – Definitions
(22) “Road” means a way open to travel by the public, including, but not limited to, a street, highway, or alley. The term includes associated sidewalks, the roadbed, the right-of-way, and all culverts, drains, sluices, ditches, water storage areas, waterways, embankments, slopes, retaining walls, bridges, tunnels, and viaducts necessary for the maintenance of travel and all ferries used in connection therewith.
Hence, you may not legally operate your bicycle under the power of the gas assist motor in the vicinity of any public roadway, highway, road, or sidewalk area without registering the vehicle and possessing a valid driver’s license.
As an aside, regarding the nature of the vehicle, we have opined in the past that a bicycle with a gas assist motor is still a bicycle if under only human power. That is consistent with statements by the DMV. However, you may want to consider that some may not agree with that position.
Considering the nature of the vehicle, just as an automobile in the garage with the motor off is still a motor vehicle, some might consider a bicycle with a gas assist motor on the roadway to be a motor vehicle even when operating under only human power. Such a determination by a law enforcement official might make you have to a defend citation for operating an unregistered motor vehicle without a driver’s license. The thought process might be “ The operator can operate under gas power until possibly observed by a law enforcement official, at which time the operator would turn off the motor and use only the pedals.”