Motorized Bicycles: Transport and Compensation?


Stu asked: Does the Definition of a “Motor Vehicle” require it to be involved in “Transportation”?

Chapter 320


320.01Definitions, general. As used in the Florida Statutes, except as otherwise provided, the term:

(1)“Motor vehicle” means:

(a)An automobile, motorcycle, truck, trailer, semitrailer, truck tractor and semitrailer combination, or any other vehicle operated on the roads of this state, used to transport persons or property, and propelled by power other than muscular power,

What does “transport persons or property” mean? Do you transport persons or property on a motorized bicycle? f yes, your motorized bicycle is a “Motor Vehicle” and the Statute requires registration for it and licensing for you. This is very clear.

But what if your motorized bicycle does not transport persons or property?

Does it need to be registered? If you say yes, why? What does transport mean?

An example: Abstract: —Any motor vehicle designed for carrying more than 10 passengers and used for the transportation of persons and any motor vehicle, other than a taxicab, designed and used for the transportation of persons for compensation. —Any person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or who is exercising control of a vehicle or steering a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle. —Any person who is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle upon the highway, or who is …

When you operate your motorized bicycle are you compensated?

Under the Statutes does a motorized bicycle qualify as a “Motor Vehicle” ?

If a motorized bicycle is not considered to be a “Motor Vehicle” how does RS68 apply? RS-68 assumes that a motorized bicycle is being used to transport for compensation.


I can find no definition of “transport” in the applicable statutes. Hence, we need to use the common usage definition.

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

Transport – To carry, move or convey from one place to another.

The operator of a bicycle or motorized bicycle is being transported from one place to another whether by human or motor power.

Your quote above confuses a number of other definitions from s. 316 and s. 320.

s. 316.003Definitions. (For the purpose of traffic law)

(3) Bus – Any motor vehicle designed for carrying more than 10 passengers and used for the transportation of persons and any motor vehicle, other than a taxicab, designed and used for the transportation of persons for compensation.

(10) Driver – Any person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or who is exercising control of a vehicle or steering a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle.

s.320.01 – Definitions (For the purpose of vehicle registration)

(15)(a) “For-hire vehicle” means any motor vehicle, when used for transporting persons or goods for compensation; let or rented to another for consideration ….

Your concern about compensation is related to the definition above of “bus” in 316 and “for hire vehicle” in 320 and has no applicability to motorized bicycles.

I can find nothing in RS – 68 that refers to compensation related to bicycles, motorized bicycles or mopeds.

A motorized bicycle is not a motor vehicle if it meets the statutory definition of “bicycle”. Legally, it is a bicycle.

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 ….

In your 320 definition above, you left out the part of the 320 definition of motor vehicle the excludes bicycles from the definition:

…. but the term does not include …. bicycles …..

A bicycle equipped with a gas motor does not meet the statutory definition of “bicycle”. It is a motor vehicle and cannot be registered unless it meets the definition of moped. Otherwise, it is an unregistered motor vehicle, not a bicycle.

11 Comments on “Motorized Bicycles: Transport and Compensation?

  1. Are you a carrier involved in transportation? If you are, the Statute requires Registration and Licensing. You become a Driver, a commercial designation.
    Is a road roller a Motor Vehicle?

    Imagine that you are on a motorized bicycle riding alongside a motor roller.

    Both unlicensed non Motor Vehicles.

    Pretty amusing if you ask me.

    For legal definitions, I recommend legal sources:


    The removal of goods or persons from one place to another, by a carrier. See Railroad Co. v. Pratt, 22 Wall. 133, 22 L. Ed. 827; Interstate Commerce Coin’n v. Brimson, 154 U. S. 4 17. 14 Sup. Ct. 1125, 38 L. Ed. .1047; Gloucester Ferry Co. v. Pennsylvania, 114 U. S. 100, 5 Sup. Ct. S26, 29 L. Ed. 158. In criminal law. A species of punishment consisting in removing the criminal from his own country to another, (usually a penal colony.) there to remain in exile for a prescribed period. Fong Yue Ting v. U. S., 149 U. S. 698, 13 Sup. Ct. 1016, 37 L. Ed. 005

    Law Dictionary: What is TRANSPORTATION? definition of TRANSPORTATION (Black’s Law Dictionary)

  2. Geo,
    From what I can tell, it looks like Boyntonstu is trying to use the “right to travel” argument…

    I believe the bullet points in his (right to travel) arguments are…
    (I’m paraphrasing a bit, but it gives you the general idea.)

    1.) Motor Vehicles (according to Black’s Law dictionary) employ a driver to transport persons.

    2a.) Transport (according to Black’s Law dictionary) means to move persons for compensation.

    2b.) Driver (according to Black’s Law dictionary) means to be engaged in commerce while transporting persons.

    3.) If you’re not engaged in “commerce” then you’re not (a driver) driving a motor vehicle.

    This is the same argument that all right to travel proponents use.

    Whether it has legal standing or not, is the issue, I believe, he wants to address.

  3. I am addressing what the Law is actually stating. For sure, dictionary definitions are not allowed in the Court. In Statutes and the IRS Code we see something like: “For the purpose of this section XYZ means….”

    Therefore, for the purpose of defining a “Motor Vehicle”, it must be used in transportation, which has a specific legal definition. If we use Webster’s Dictionary, we will find:

    Full Definition of ROAD GRADER:
    A wheeled device having a long inclined vertically adjustable steel blade used to throw earth and other surface material from the side to the center of a road.

    I would guess that most people would call a engine driven wheeled device that weighs thousands of pounds a “motor vehicle”. They would be incorrect by dictionary and by Florida Statute definitions.


  4. As I frequently state. I am not an attorney and on this site we do not give legal advice.

    I do appreciate the comments and participation by attorneys, but we are not in court trying to win cases. We are trying to get the average cyclist, motorist, law enforcement officer and even attorney to just read the laws and become familiar with the situations they confront all the time.

    I started this website when I was working with law enforcement and became aware of the lack of easily understood sources of information about the laws related to cycling.

    If we can get officers to stop enforcing laws that don’t exist, such as “You can’t ride in the roadways. You must use the sidewalk”, motorists to understand that cyclists have the same rights and duties as other drivers, cyclists to understand the same, and attorneys to at least read the laws, I will be happy, even overjoyed.

    Attorneys can nitpick the legality of the information on the site, and I welcome that. However, the vast majority of our readers will gain nothing from this string of comments, and probably won’t even read it. Take a look at the questions that are frequently asked and you will see the level of the majority of our readers, which I believe represents the general population.

    Cyclists can use the information to ride more safely. Law enforcement officers will enforce the statutes they believe to be correct. Motorists will gain a better understanding of what cyclists are doing and why. Attorneys can learn the basic laws which, based on my experience with them as relates to bicycling, are apparently not taught in law school.

    Given that, I welcome your interpretation of the definitions in s. 316.003 that are used by law enforcement in their duties, should guide cyclists in their use of the highways and should be used by attorneys and court officials. Please note that there is no mention of carrier and that transportation is defined for the purpose of this section, that is, traffic law.

    s. 316.003 – Definitions – The following words and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them in this section, except where the context otherwise requires:

    (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…..

    (75) Vehicle – Every device, in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

    (74) Transportation – The conveyance or movement of goods, materials, livestock, or persons from one location to another on any road, street, or highway open to travel by the public.

  5. I agree with your philosophy.

    Since you stated: “welcome your interpretation of the definitions in s. 316.003 that are used by law enforcement in their duties, should guide cyclists in their use of the highways and should be used by attorneys and court officials.”

    (21) MOTOR VEHICLE.—Except when used in s. 316.1001, 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. For purposes of s. 316.1001, “motor vehicle” has the same meaning as in s. 320.01(1)(a).

    The last sentence gives the definition of Motor Vehicle back to 320.01(1)(a)

    IOW s. 316.1001 is inferior to 320.01(1)(a) which must legally prevail.

    In the legal world (Court) I do not go along with the practice of average cyclists, motorists, or law enforcement officers to use use dictionary definitions instead of legal definitions. Try it in Court and you will hear a strong “objection”.

    After reading the Statutes, I conclude that “Motor Vehicle” and transportation are legally and inexorably linked.

    Does the State of Florida require that devices not classified as Motor Vehicles be registered?

    Do you agree that a 5,000 lb road grader may be on the road without a Motor Vehicle registration and operated by someone without a Drivers license?

  6. NE2,
    No. A certified operator must be present n the vehicle.
    316.86 Operation of vehicles equipped with autonomous technology on roads for testing purposes; financial responsibility; exemption from liability for manufacturer when third party converts vehicle.—
    (1) Vehicles equipped with autonomous technology may be operated on roads in this state by employees, contractors, or other persons designated by manufacturers of autonomous technology, or by research organizations associated with accredited educational institutions, for the purpose of testing the technology. For testing purposes, a human operator shall be present in the autonomous vehicle such that he or she has the ability to monitor the vehicle’s performance and intervene, if necessary, unless the vehicle is being tested or demonstrated on a closed course. Before the start of testing in this state, the entity performing the testing must submit to the department an instrument of insurance, surety bond, or proof of self-insurance acceptable to the department in the amount of $5 million.
    (2) The original manufacturer of a vehicle converted by a third party into an autonomous vehicle shall not be liable in, and shall have a defense to and be dismissed from, any legal action brought against the original manufacturer by any person injured due to an alleged vehicle defect caused by the conversion of the vehicle, or by equipment installed by the converter, unless the alleged defect was present in the vehicle as originally manufactured.

    • This area has been a bit of a legal mess for years. Session Law 76-281, sec. 1 specifically defined both bicycles and mopeds as not being motor vehicles in 316.003(21), but Laws 83-68 sec. 1 changed the status of bicycles to vehicles in 316.003(2), but didn’t change the status of mopeds, leaving them where they were. The latest change, 02-20 secs. 67 & 133 retained the “but not mopeds” language in 316.003(21).

      In a 2003 case, State v. Meister, 849 So. 2d. 1127 (4 DCA 2003) a woman who had a suspended drivers license was cited for driving a moped without a license. She appealed on the grounds that she was not driving a motor vehicle. The judge pointed to the section of state statutes dealing, not with the traffic codes, but the administration of drivers licenses, and discovered that 322.264 contained a prohibition against driving any motor vehicle without a license, and it defined a moped as a motor vehicle. He explained:

      “There is no reason why the legislature cannot define motor vehicles one way for licensing requirements and another way for infractions for financial responsibility”

      Thus, just because something is a motor vehicle for the purposes of the traffic code does not mean it cannot be excluded for purposes of insurance, titling, liability, etc.

      [The law was changed in 2008 and the drivers license section now conforms to the motor vehicle code section]

      In another case, State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co. v. O’Kelley, 349 So. 2d 717 (1 DCA 1977), a young man was injured by a car while riding a 5-hp minibike. At that time (1977) the motor vehicle code had a separate definition for “motor-driven cycles.” Motorcycles were excluded from PIP coverage, but bicycles, motor-driven cycles and mopeds were not. Therefore, the question was whether “motor-driven cycles” were motorcycles or non-motor vehicles. The opinion said:

      Thus we are faced with another ambiguity. If a “moped” as defined under 316.003(2) is equipped with a motor not exceeding 1 1/2 brake horsepower, it is a bicycle. If, however, a bicycle under subsection 316.003(23) has a motor rated between 1 1/2 to five brake horsepower, it is a motor-driven cycle. Presumably, if in excess of five brake horsepower, it would qualify as a motorcycle under subsection 316.003(22). These overlapping ambiguities are all too apparent.


      I suspect the insurance issues were probably the driving force between eliminating the distinction between bicycle/moped-motor driven cycle/motorcycle.

      Paradoxically, today’s section 316.208(2)(a) contains quite a complete set of rules-to-the-road for moped drivers. There is even a version of the ride-to-right at less than prevailing speed rule, although there is no “narrow lane” provision. One can even ride a moped on the sidewalk if the motor is turned off.

      But there is no definition of what the things are. The sidewalk provision implies that the motor is limited to an assist motor (i.e. they must be able to be propelled by human power if desired.) The case precedent in State Farm v. O’Kelley suggests they have to be limited to 1.5 brake horsepower, because, while that law may have been deleted, no substituting law has replaced it, so the common-law controls.

      As to the issue of whether they are motor vehicles, I can say definitely “no” under the vehicle code, and after 2008 definitely no under the driver’s license code. I did not look up the equipment, titling or tag requirements, but based on the Meister case, the answer is that there is no universal answer, that one has to go to each one of those sections of the code and seek guidance.

      • One correction. “Moped” IS defined, at 316.003(77). I have been asked by email, “do motorized bicycles have to be tagged?” If there is specific language that says they do, then yes. But under my reading of Attorney General’s Opinion 69-114 and 77-84, general language applicable to motorcycles would not apply, because motorcycles are motor vehicles and mopeds are not.

        Finally, mopeds are vehicles. But mopeds are not bicycles, even when they are switched off. Is any of this logical? No, it’s just the law, a patchwork of quick fixes, adhocracies, miscommunications, and the other normal foibles of humans operating under too little time and with too few resources.

      • s. 320.0803 Moped License Plates
        (1) Any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, registration and payment of license taxes in accordance with these requirements and for the purposes stated herein shall in no way be construed as placing any requirements upon mopeds other than the requirements of registration and payment of license taxes.
        (2) Each request for a license plate for a moped shall be submitted to the department or its agent on an application form supplied by the department, accompanied by the license tax required in s. 320.08.
        (3) The license plate for a moped shall be 4 inches wide by 7 inches long.
        (4) A license plate for a moped shall be of the same material as license plates issued pursuant to s. 320.06; however, the word “Florida” shall be stamped across the top of the plate in small letters.

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