Recumbent with Motor

Question

Bert asked: I am unclear as to the exclusion clause in FL 316.003 I am planning on electrifying my recumbent trike (with a seat about 10 inches off the ground and a speed of less than 20 mph.) “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.” What category of vehicle is this?

Answer

Apparently, the statute was passed a while back, before recumbents and trikes were popular. Regardless, your vehicle is not a bicycle since the seat height does not meet the minimum height in the statutory definition.

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 …. 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.

The operator of a recumbent has all the rights and duties of other drivers if it is human-only powered, whether the vehicle is classified as a bicycle or not.

s. 316.2065Bicycle Regulations

(1) Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle

Adding electric power precludes the vehicle from being a bicycle, and therefore a bicycle with an electric assist motor, as described in the statute. You would not have the rights and duties due to human power as defined above, and the vehicle would now require registration, maybe as a moped (if possible?), and a driver’s license.

You would also be prohibited from riding under motor power on the sidewalk or bike path.

s. 316.1995Driving 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 ….

Posted in Ask Geo, Definitions, Motorized Bicycles
8 comments on “Recumbent with Motor
  1. fred says:

    I’m not sure how one would go about accomplishing this, but consider that it would take a court ruling to have your recumbent declared to be a bicycle. Perhaps if one could get in writing that a recumbent is legally considered a bicycle, the rest of the statutes are void?

    In all the fifty-one traffic stops in my recumbent, I have been told that my “bicycle” is a bicycle. Getting an official ruling, especially from a court, would go a long way to resolve something in the future.

    It’s quite unlikely that you would experience any repercussions from uninformed uniformed law enforcement as few of them have any real idea of cycling statutes, but it’s always better to be on the “right side of the street,” in a situation such as this.

    If you manage to find someone in the legal world willing to declare your recumbent as a bicycle, please post here or somewhere so the word gets out.

    • HarryB says:

      At the moment I am attempting to get a clarification of a specific law after having discussed it at length with a local law enforcement officer. This was the result of my contacting the sheriff’s office concerning the impact a decision by a state agency will have on pedestrians and some bicyclists. His interpretation of the statute and mine are diametrically opposed.

      He contacted officers in a number of other jurisdictions who agreed with his interpretation while I provided him with information from some official documents plus the opinion of this site which supports my contention. We continued to disagree.

      Finally I requested that the sheriff’s office ask the Florida Attorney General for her opinion. I realize her opinions are not legally binding, but the Attorney General’s Office does have more extensive resources to help in trying to discern the intention of the Legislature.

      The officer responded that he will seek out a law enforcement liaison with the Attorney General’s Office for clarification. Apparently that is the first step toward getting an official opinion from the Attorney General.

      The OP might consider this approach to determine how adding an electric motor to his trike might affect its classification.

  2. Geo says:

    Fred,

    Good points. Another approach may be to get FBA to put the question on their legislative agenda to redefine “bicycle” to update to the present actual bicycle varieties out there. FBA has been successful in many other endeavors in the past.

    I will notify the executive director of the issue. Other readers may want to contact FBA also.

  3. To clarify, adding electric power (consistent with the limits described in the definition of “Bicycle” in s. 316.003) would not preclude the vehicle from qualifying as a bicycle, but it would preclude it from being a human-propelled vehicle.

  4. HarryB says:

    Fred,

    You wrote, “Whooeee! I’d never ask a cop anything without knowing the answer first.”

    We really don’t know what a law means unless it has been tested in court, do we?

    In this situation, a state agency with jurisdiction over part of the county I live in crafted a new rule which, as I understand the law, is in conflict with a state statute. However, I could find no case law which addressed the issue, so I recognized that my understanding of that law was merely an opinion based upon my research. I contacted the sheriff’s office and asked a deputy if the Sheriff was enforcing the law in the county as I understood it.

    Although the deputy could find no fault in my reasoning, he referred my question to a higher ranking officer who disagreed with my understanding of the law. As I wrote, he appealed to the opinions of other LEO while I appealed to published documents, including one by the Sheriff of another county.

    I believe I know the answer, but even if we receive an official opinion from the Attorney General, we are still left with opinions. I submit that most people will agree that her opinion carries more weight than that of a sheriff, but unless it is tested in court, we still won’t know for a fact what that law means.

    PS: For some reason the software would not allow me to post this reply directly to your comment, so my response will appear out of order.

  5. Chuck C. says:

    Perhaps a person could mount a small lightweight bicycle seat on the top of their seat back which is over 25″ from the ground and meet the elements of the statute. Nothing in the statute says you have to be mounted on such a seat.

  6. Geo says:

    Chuck,

    Actually it does.

    s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
    (2) A person operating a bicycle may not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto.

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