The topic of motorized bicycles (henceforth referred to as MBs) always seems to be controversial.
Regardless, the current set of definitions and laws seem to have been drafted in such a way that has led to some interpretations with, in my opinion, absurd results.
There are a set of proposals that seek to amend/clarify MBs positions at kcsbikes.com, and while I don’t necessarily support the specific proposals, but i do think some “reform” of the MB law is definitely needed!
- Incorporate definitions congruent with Federal / CPSC definitions of “low-speed electric bicycles” (750W), the current Arizona definition oddly doesn’t mention electric power rating.
- I can’t imagine the cc limit would ever get raised
- The mph business should be changed to an *equipment* limitation and not an operating limitation; see other state’s laws on the topic e.g. CA language CVC 406b, something to the effect of the motor “is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than xx miles per hour on level ground”. There should be no prohibition on operating speed (the usual speed laws, that apply to everybody, of course apply to MBs, as they do to bicyclists and no explicit reference is needed or desirable)
- somehow cities/localities should try be prevented from trying to (mis)apply local “play vehicle” ordinances to MBs
- While we’re at it, a good clarification would be to state explicitly that the definition of moped that the speed mentioned is an equipment definition; some have argued this is an operational restriction, though I would disagree. I.e. 28-101(31) “Moped” means a bicycle that is equipped with a helper motor if the vehicle has a maximum piston displacement of fifty cubic centimeters or less, a brake horsepower of one and one-half or less CAPABLE OF PROPELLING AT a maximum speed of twenty-five miles per hour or less on a flat surface with less than a one per cent grade.
Apparently some places (the prime example i know of is Tucson), the police/city currently consider MBs operated at 20 or above to be mopeds (or possibly motorcycles); and that this leads to a cascade of potential criminal charges and large fines including 1) driving without a drivers license (if applicable), 2) violation of financial responsibility / no insurance, and 3) driving without registration.
It’s my theory/understanding that it’s impossible to get a MB registered with AZ(?), and furthermore, it’s impossible to purchase liability insurance for a MB. If this is the case — i would think you could get some more libertarian-minded legislators (there are plenty of them) interested in what seems to be a government-built Catch-22.
Insurance / Financial Responsibility
Is required for “motor vehicles” by 28-4135: “Motor vehicle financial responsibility requirement… A motor vehicle that is operated on a highway in this state…”. The general def’n of motor vehicle is given in 28-101(33), which as you might expect, depends on the def’n of vehicle, (28-101(57). There is an additional def’n of motor vehicle specific to chapter 9( Vehicle Insurance…), 28-4001(3) ” ‘Motor vehicle’ means a self-propelled vehicle…”.
As things turn out, in AZ, bicycles are plainly not vehicles; because the def’n of vehicle 28-101(58) “exclud(es) devices moved by human power” , and as such are not motor vehicles either. Both mopeds (28-101(31) ” ‘Moped’ means a bicycle that is equipped…” and motorized bicycles ( 28-2516C ” ‘motorized ….bicycle’ means a bicycle equipped…” ) are defined as types of bicycles, and as such neither of them are vehicles. Presumably because they can be human-powered. (but see below for an additional moped ambiguity *)
Therefore no insurance is required for bicycles (no surprise there), motorized bicycles, or –it would appear– mopeds. Insurance IS clearly required, however, for motor driven cycles (usually called “motor scooters”; e.g. vespa), and motorcycles. Note that this conflicts with what Arizona MVD says in FAQ
What is the difference between a moped and a motor-driven cycle and what are the licensing requirements?
A moped is a bicycle or human-powered vehicle (with pedals)…Any class of driver license can be used to operate a moped. A moped must be registered, but a vehicle title is not issued. Emissions testing is not required. Vehicle liability insurance is required…
???? [So ADOT thinks otherwise but will not, or can not, explain why]
List of relevant background here. This situation might be traced to a “defect” in Arizona law; it is customary in other codes, e.g. in the UVC to define a moped as a kind of motor-driven cycle, rather than as a type of bicycle. That would clearly mean mopeds were by definition motor vehicles, and then would clearly be covered under Arizona’s financial responsibility law.
I would suspect some will continue to claim insurance is required for mopeds by seizing on the phrase about registration in 28-4001(3) “a self-propelled vehicle that is … required to be registered…”; because mopeds, indeed, do require registration. They are still, however, not vehicles. (and just to make double-clear, motorized bicycles explicitly do not require registration, 28-2516(2); in fact it’s not really clear if/how it’s even possible to title and register a motorized bicycle with Arizona MVD. Why would one ever want that? One reason could be in order to qualify as a moped when operated at 20mph or greater)
*There is an additional ambiguity in the moped definition statute, 28-101(31) more full reads: ” ‘Moped’ means a bicycle that is equipped with a helper motor if the vehicle has…” < 50cc. In other words, they’ve muddled the definition by beginning by stating it’s a type of bicycle and go on to refer to the vehicle. But as we well know, a bicycle is not a vehicle. Oh well.
Is a Moped a Motor Vehicle? What about a Motorized Bicycle?
This is related to the insurance question, but is more fundamental. ARS has some oddities/quirks/flaws(?) that make what would seem to be a very simple question very muddled.
As we (we azbikelaw.org readers) all know, bicycles are NOT vehicles; and because of that it’s clear enough to state unequivocally that in az bicycles are not motor vehicles. Motorcycles, unsurprisingly, are motor vehicles. In most/many other states, mopeds are defined as a kind of motor cycle; but not in Arizona —
both mopeds and motorized bicycles are defined as bicycles with a motor (and like you said, there are various requirements regarding the size of the motor).
As such, we tell people riding bikes that no matter how slow you are going, you cannot be in violation of 28-704A (motor vehicles must not impede the normal movement of traffic); and that in narrow lanes, we advise “controlling” the lane — regardless of whether or not it impedes motorists, and is perfectly legal.
What about a motorized bicycle? what about a moped?
Conclusion: according to the definitions in 28-2513 and 28-101 — motorized bicycles and mopeds are NOT vehicles. And they therefore cannot be motor vehicles. (these terms all have specific definitions: bicycle, vehicle, motor vehicle, motorized bicycle, and moped).
Registration requirements in general are given in Title 28, Chapter 7 Certificate of Title and Registration by 28-2153: “Registration requirement; A person shall not operate, move or leave standing on a highway a motor vehicle… unless (it) has been registered with the department…”. Chapter 7 has no further definitions of the terms here, so the normal definitions of “vehicle” and “motor vehicle” would be those found in 28-101.
Bicycles are not motor vehicles.
Motorized bicycles state explicitly in their defining statute 28-2516A(1) and (2) “A certificate of title is not required… Registration is not required…”.
For Mopeds, their defining statue refers to registration 28-2513, but never actually says registration is required. So, again, like DL or insurance requirements, it would revolve around whether or not a moped is a motor vehicle. As stated above, per the definitions in 28-101, a moped is not a motor vehicle and as such does not require registration. [Note that ADOT thinks otherwise but will not, or can not, explain why]
Bicycles require no operating license, see bicycle-license. I found it interesting to note that nowhere, in statute, does it say a license is or isn’t required.
Motorized bicycles state explicitly in their defining statute 28-2516A5 state “A driver license is not required to operate”.
Mopeds: 28-2513 “7. Any class of driver license is valid for operating a moped” (so that moots the point about is a drivers license is required by virtue of whether or not a moped is a motor vehicle?)
Motor-driven and motorcycles clearly require a class M endorsed driver’s license. In the first place, they are both motor vehicles, and thus require a license per the general motor vehicle license requirement, 28-3151 ” a person shall not drive a motor vehicle … without a valid driver license and proper endorsement”. The business about endorsements is covered in 28-3101 and 28-3103A
Some Deep Background
Much of the impetus for the 2006 law, both state and Tuscon’s was due to the efforts of Spooky Tooth Cycles; a retailer of motorized bicycles. There is a trove of, albeit anecdotal, info on their forum. I also looked up the House and Senate Transportation committee meetings; they were pretty uneventful, according to the minutes… the video is available, but I didn’t watch it.