Q: A friend of mine just bought a mini-motorcycle, and I was thinking about buying one too. What are the laws about riding them on the street?
A: Mini-motorcycles, or “pocket bikes,” are becoming increasingly popular. You may have recently seen someone riding one down your street, but are they legal to ride? These bikes are classified as motorcycles. However, most are not manufactured to comply with the laws that allow them to be used safely on public roadways. They also cannot be registered as a legal motor vehicle. Accordingly, the locations where they may be legally ridden are very limited. Most retailers don’t share this information with you, but that’s no excuse for being uninformed.
Vehicle Code Section 473 defines a pocket bike as follows:
“A pocket bike is a two-wheeled motorized device that has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and that is not designed or manufactured for highway use. Pocket bike does not include an off-highway motorcycle, as defined in Section 436.”
Additionally, section 21720 has been added to the Vehicle Code that now makes operating a pocket bike illegal on the following:
“A pocket bike shall not be operated on a sidewalk, roadway or any other part of a highway or on a bikeway, bicycle path or trail, equestrian trail, hiking or recreational trail or on public lands open to off-highway motor vehicle use.”
These rules pertain to both electric and gasoline powered mini-motorcycles:
• Mini-motorcycles may be ridden on private property, but only with the owner’s permission.
• Anyone riding a mini-motorcycle on a public street or other public place may be issued a citation, and the mini-motorcycle may be impounded.
Two other popular transportation devices are motorized skateboards and motorized scooters. Here are some rules people may be concerned about when operating them:
• Driver must be at least 16 years old.
• A Class C driver’s license or driver’s permit is required.
• A motorized scooter shall at all times be equipped with a muffler.
• Speed limit is 15 mph.
• Driver must wear a bicycle helmet.
• Operation permitted on a bicycle path, trail or bikeway, unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting it.
• Motorized scooters may be ridden on private property, but only with the owner’s permission.
• On the roadway with a posted speed limit of greater than 25 mph, driver must operate in Class II bicycle lane.
• On roads with a posted speed limit of 25 mph or less, riding in a bicycle lane is not required.
• Operator shall ride as close to the right curb as possible, except to pass or turn left
• Operation permitted on private property only, with the permission of the owner.
• Illegal on highways, sidewalks, bikeways and hiking or recreational trails.
For additional information on regulations for mini-motorcycles, please contact the Traffic Division at (310)458-8993.
This column was prepared by NRO Scott Pace (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate-10 to Ozone Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or firstname.lastname@example.org.