Friday, September 15, 2006

What is a moped?

This little story started with a co-worker who leaves his F-250 truck at home and rides a scooter to work. You can just imagine the cost savings for gas on a ten mile commute. The scooter has a top speed around 30 mph, though and he rides it on roads with average speeds over 50. Good news, I told him, our top ranked DOT project will add bike lanes to Mahan near his Buck Lake home. Bike lanes do him no good. He asked a friend of his who is a police officer if he is allowed to ride in bike lanes. The cop says no, he would be ticketed for riding his scooter in the bike lane.

I was sure that couldn't be right. So I went looking through the statutes and other reference materials. Here is a page I found hosted by the Florida DOT Safety office with the Statutes and interpretation of law by the State Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator.

In the comment under “Roadway position for mopeds”, it says:
Comment:  Since roadway positioning rules for mopeds
are the same as those for bicycles, and Florida traffic
laws do not provide an exception where bicycle lanes are present,
moped operators traveling more slowly than other motor
traffic on a street typically ride in bicycle lanes, where provided.
However, per definition of "moped" (s. 316.003(77), F.S.),
the motor of a moped cannot propel it faster than
30 mph on level ground.

Here is the legal definition of a moped from Florida Statutes:

316.003(77) MOPED.--Any vehicle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels; with a motor rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground; and with a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged. If an internal combustion engine is used, the displacement may not exceed 50 cubic centimeters.

Incidentally, the definition of motorized scooter refers to basically a skateboard with handlebars. It specifically says "no seat". So the scooter my co-worker rides is not a moped because it has no pedals, not a motorized scooter because it has a seat. Technically, it is a motorcycle.

Still, we're talking about a vehicle with a 50 cc engine, not capable of going over 30 mph. Dwight Kingsbury of the DOT Safety Office provides this insight:

Re: mopeds. If an officer felt a moped (going slower than 30 mph)
should be cited for using a bicycle lane, what specific section could
be cited? I know of none, given that moped operators are required
to observe the same rules re roadway position as cyclists and no
exception is made for bicycle lanes. A hair-splitting discussion
could be conducted about this; the fact is that it has become
common practice and seems to be accepted by law enforcement in
Florida when the moped is doing less than 30. Consequently,
I don't see a great need to clarify the point.. maybe a more
important need is to update Florida's obsolete definition of "moped",
since few mopeds still include a human pedal-power option.
See Wisconsin's laws for a more current definition.
So I saw Wisconsin's laws:

Wisconsin Statutes 340.01(29m)

Moped means any of the following motor vehicles capable of speeds of not more than 30 miles per hour with a 150-pound rider on a dry, level, hard surface with no wind, excluding a tractor, a power source as an integral part of the vehicle and a seat for the operator:

A bicycle-type vehicle with fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and an engine certified by the manufacturer at not more than 130 cubic centimeters or an equivalent power unit.

A Type 1 motorcycle with an automatic transmission and an engine certified by the manufacturer at not more than 50 cubic centimeters or an equivalent power unit.

Consider this, we catch enough flack from jackasses like Tony Grippa who want to stop spending money on bike lanes, even when the City has already said they pay for themselves through greater roadway stability and subsequently longer life between resurfacing. Adding bike lanes adds 2% to the cost of a roadway project and bike lanes are now in the City, CRTPA, and State standard cross sections for collectors and arterials. Still, we catch hell that they are underused. We have to fight to add them to roadway projects.

Here is a potential ally. Moped/scooter riders. If you could commute by scooter, but had a scooter lane, would you leave your car at home? Even with the less efficient engine on a scooter, wouldn't you save gas money? Are the bike lanes so crowded that we don't have room for scooters? I have been looking at electric scooters for a long time, but I can't even ride one the two miles to work safely. I feel safer on my bicycle.

I would like to see Florida update it's moped definition in keeping with most other states (not just Wisconsin) and to explicitly allow mopeds (motorcycles up to 50 cc) to use bike lanes. What do you think? Come on, tell me why I'm wrong.


Blogger hoodwalker said...

I asked a scooter vendor today if he thought allowing scooter riders in bike lanes would help him sell more scooters. To my surprise, he said no.

He was showing a 50cc scooter that is restricted to 30 mph, unless you have a motorcycle endorsement on your Driver License, in which case he'll de-restrict it and it goes 45 mph.

6:04 PM  

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