Trouble in College Station, TX

mouchyn

New Member
Sep 21, 2008
2
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0
Greetings.
I come in peace.

I ride a Specialized RockHopper Comp FS with a 38cc 2-cycle frame-mounted engine.

Motor-assisted bicyclists in the area are having trouble with the local law enforcement. Local PDs, TxDOT officials, DPS officials, and the Brazos County Attorney's Office all classify gas-engine-assisted bicycles as mopeds. Mopeds must be registered, inspected, and insured. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to legally register a homemade motorized bicycle or find someone willing to write an insurance policy.

I'm here to rally support for the cause.

[moderator edit, copied from the "other" forum, links removed]


Ok, this is going to be a long post about my experience the last two months using my motor bicycle as my primary transportation in College Station.

After nearly two months of daily riding, I was issued citations for non-valid inspection, registration, and insurance while riding in a bike lane on campus at Texas A&M University. The University Police department officer couldn't tell me what my bike would be classified as. He could only tell me that he knew it was illegal. There has been an explosion in motor-bicycle popularity in our college town and officers have a directive to seek out and cite the motor bicyclists in the area. This set me on a path of making my bike legal.

After many conversations with various officials at TxDOT, Texas DPS office in Waco (central DPS office), University Police Department, Brazos County Attorney's Office, and a lawyer...I have discovered that my motor bicycle is officially classified as a "moped" in the State of Texas. That means the citations i received are valid and will likely not be dismissed.

On to the legal definitions:

Transportation Code
Texas Transportation Code (known herin as TTC)
541.201
(2) "Bicycle" means a device that a person may ride and
that is propelled by human power and has two tandem wheels at least
one of which is more than 14 inches in diameter.

(8) "Moped" means a motor-driven cycle that cannot
attain a speed in one mile of more than 30 miles per hour and the
engine of which:
(A) cannot produce more than two-brake
horsepower; and
(B) if an internal combustion engine, has a
piston displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or less and connects to
a power drive system that does not require the operator to shift
gears.
(9) "Motorcycle" means a motor vehicle, other than a
tractor, that is equipped with a rider's saddle and designed to have
when propelled not more than three wheels on the ground.
(10) "Motor-driven cycle" means a motorcycle equipped
with a motor that has an engine piston displacement of 250 cubic
centimeters or less. The term does not include an electric bicycle.

551.351. DEFINITION. In this subchapter,
"motor-assisted scooter" means a self-propelled device with:
(1) at least two wheels in contact with the ground
during operation;
(2) a braking system capable of stopping the device
under typical operating conditions;
(3) a gas or electric motor not exceeding 40 cubic
centimeters;
(4) a deck designed to allow a person to stand or sit
while operating the device; and
(5) the ability to be propelled by human power alone.

Added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1242, § 3, eff. June 18, 2005.

--------

I am no lawyer, so my interpretation of the above definitions can only be accepted as "opinion."

It's not hard to see how Texas State officials classify a motor-powered mountain bicycle as a moped. It IS a motor-driven cycle with a rider's saddle, a combustion engine smaller than 50cc (in my case), and a single-gear drive system attached to the engine. It is my experience that the motor bicycle does not achieve regular speeds of 30mph or more on flat ground -- no matter how much running space you have. I usually top out around 27 or 28 according to my Cateye computer and a few casual side-by-side automobile speedometer tests.

When I built the motor bicycle, I had TTC 551.351 in mind. It seemed to me that my motor bicycle met all the criteria of a "motor-assisted scooter." I was told by a Texas A&M University Police department sergeant and the Brazos County Attorney for transportation affairs, Spencer Giles, that the seat and/or pedals of a bicycle do not qualify as a "deck designed to allow a person to stand or sit while operating the device." While this interpretation of the law is questionable, that one piece of 551.351 is the only clause keeping gas-powered motor bicyclists from being registration, inspection, and insurance exempt in Texas.

That begs the question: What qualifies as a "deck?"

There are no specifications for size, shape, or location of a scooter "deck" in the TTC.

TxDot and the DPS told me (over the phone) that the stand-up "blade scooters" with gas engines are what that 551.351 definition describes. Basically a 2-wheel skateboard with handlebars, brakes, and a gas engine smaller than 40cc. I have seen these things zipping around campus without so much as a second look from passing University Police. That tells me the UPD officers are at least familiarized with the TTC enough to know that the death-machine blade-scooters are legal and unregistered motor-bicycles are not.

Fine. You win, Texas. How can I register my motor bicycle as a moped and get it inspected? Turns out, you can't. Texas will only register approved/certified mopeds, according to the TxDOT vehicle registration FAQ: Vehicle Titles and Registration FAQs . I follow that rabbit hole in to wonderland and find the information required to make MY motor bicycle a TxDOT-approved moped. I would need to form a corporation, register as a "manufacturer" with the City of College Station (so they get their piece of the tax pie, too), document/designate a make and model for my bike, generate a VIN (VIN requirements set by TxDOT), submit an affidavit to the state swearing, under oath, that the make and model listed meets all the requirements of a "moped" in the State of Texas. Talk about a hassle.

This brings me to the insurance issue. Insurance is, obviously, required for registration and inspection. After another 10 or 12 phone calls I discovered that 99.9999999% of insurance companies will not write policies for mopeds of "unknown origin and reliability." Even your newly founded manufacturing corporation and TxDOT cerification is not enough to convince insurance companies to write a policy. You would need to find an independent insurance company/agent bold enough (if any exist) to write a policy for a homemade moped with unmarked chinese parts.

Long story short, legal DIY gas-engine-powered bicycles are a pipe dream in Texas. Riders seeking motor-assisted bicycle transportation are currently limited to electric bicycles. Researching the legislation on electric bicycles also left me frustrated and confused.

TTC 541.201
(24) "Electric bicycle" means a bicycle that:
(A) is designed to be propelled by an electric
motor, exclusively or in combination with the application of human
power;
(B) cannot attain a speed of more than 20 miles
per hour without the application of human power; and
(C) does not exceed a weight of 100 pounds.

Since I have become accustomed to riding with two-cycle power, top speed without human power is fairly important to me. Most people would agree that intermediate cyclists in decent physical condition can pedal a bicycle faster than 20mph for extended periods of time. It seems strange that the electric bicycle is limited to 20mph without human power while a 40cc gas-powered motor-assisted scooter is legal up to 35mph. That said, I'm sure there is a little wiggle-room in the rated, non-human-powered speed limit for an electric bicycle. Since electric bicycles are all legal at first glance, an officer would need to measure (with radar) the speed of the bicycle on flat ground for a reasonable distance without any human pedaling to have reason to cite a rider for an illegal electric bicycle. This could, potentially, be visually defeated by making sure you casually/deceptively pedal every few seconds. I think police around here would be, more or less, ignorant to electric bicycles simply because they are quieter and more bicycle-like. The exhaust noise of my two-cycle engine at full throttle is what got the the law enforcement's attention -- not the fact that i was zipping along at 28mph without pedaling.

I am left with a few different options:

1. Find out if it is possible for a clever lawyer to convince a (random) judge that the seat and/or pedals of a bicycle can reasonably be considered a "deck designed to allow a person to stand or sit while operating the device." A local judicial ruling could be enough to get the State to consider recognizing and regulating gas-engine-assisted bicycles as a new vehicle type (much like the electric bicycle). If I remember my government classes correctly, it is the judicial system's job to interpret the laws--not some dude at TxDOT or the DPS office...

2. Somehow design a vehicle that works like a motor-bicycle, but incorporates what the State considers a "deck," which would undeniably classify the vehicle as a "motor-assisted scooter" instead of a "moped." I am currently brainstorming ideas using a recumbent configuration. More to follow on that.

3. Build an electric bicycle capable of cruising at 28-30mph without pedaling. I have not researched electric bicycle design yet, but I worry about the weight, range, and maintenance of a battery bank. I was inspired by a forum member's idea to use a gas-engine as a generator. However, strapping a gas-engine generator totally blows the stealthiness of the electric drive train, thus attracting attention from law enforcement.

[/moderator edit]
--------------

For those interested, there is tons more on this issue at the "other" motorized bicycle forum. My username is the same. Check it out.
 
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Norman

LORD VADER Moderator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2008
2,605
2
38
68
pampa texas
Last year I had a letter and the blessing from Texas motorcycle safety. In the mean time I lost or misplaced the letter and the man that was in charge transfered out. There is now a woman in his place and according to her the bikes are illeagal end of story. I posted this info on here quite a while back.
So it looks like we are going up the creek with out a paddle. anyone interested in 3 motorized bikes that may be up for sale soon.
I'm getting really tired of all the BS.
 

Norman

LORD VADER Moderator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2008
2,605
2
38
68
pampa texas
Hey tramp see if you can talk to those officers and see what their take is on the bikes and if they can give something positive about it. I know not all officers are rotten its like everthig else a few are and give all a bad name.
 

ebmvegan

New Member
Jul 15, 2008
283
0
0
OC, Ca
551.351. DEFINITION. In this subchapter,
"motor-assisted scooter" means a self-propelled device with:
(1) at least two wheels in contact with the ground
during operation;
(2) a braking system capable of stopping the device
under typical operating conditions;
(3) a gas or electric motor not exceeding 40 cubic
centimeters;
(4) a deck designed to allow a person to stand or sit
while operating the device; and
(5) the ability to be propelled by human power alone.

Added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1242, § 3, eff. June 18, 2005.
.

Here, you may have a chance. If you remove your pedals and fabricate a deck in it's place where you can stand, you may be able to circumvent the problem of the state not knowing what you're riding. Use a steel plate where it is wide and long enough for you to place your feet on completely (the DECK). Install a pull start so you can start the motor (if it's an in frame Chinese motor). When in front of an officer, ride the bike as if it were a scooter. Stand on one side of the plate and go. You are demonstrating that it can be stood upon under it's own power or by you. The pedal is technically a mechanical assist device and could still be interpreted as a non human assist devise. If all you have is your foot other than the motor, you are good. You have done your best to follow the law as it is written but to no avail. Well....rewrite what you are riding to accommodate the law. I'm not sure if it will work, but who knows? Good luck.
 

ebmvegan

New Member
Jul 15, 2008
283
0
0
OC, Ca
You'll have to forgive me for the previous post. It's late and I had a lot of sugar today. I am not familiar with Texas State Law. :)
 

DasKapitan

New Member
Jul 27, 2008
122
0
0
Birchwood, WI
www.cetaceanmarine.com
Contact your Texan Congressional Representatives! Fixing the law is their job. The apparent fact that the Motor Bicycle is not referenced at all in the Texas Statutes is an omission on their part. It needs to be included. Citations issued regarding motor bicycles are disputable on this point alone. Registration & Insurance is BS and pursuing this course sets an unwanted precedence. This forum would be a good start for a Texas petition. I'd recommend using Wisconsin Statutes as a guideline. http://motorbicycling.com/f17/wisconsin-motor-bicycle-law-part-1-a-2454.html
It is well written and covers all the bases.
 
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Saddletramp1200

Custom MB Buiilder
May 7, 2008
1,439
40
48
Houston, Texas
I met these fine young gentlemen at a local corner store. Young educated and smart. I told one rider they had really nice bikes (2500.00) at least, and offered them an idea that they could patrol more with a kit, than a normal bike. They looked my bike over and agreed it was nice. As Police they just said keep it cool. As riders they thought it was real neat. No problems, no attitude then after riding about a block I passed them and went on my way. I am a retired trucker and have met Every kind of Cop there is.MOST good, some not. Ride right and you won't get jacked with. Norman old friend that's all I got. (c) P.S. they can and do ride 15 to 45 miles in 8 hour shifts. There legs look like steel trash cans! rotfl
 
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thatsdax

Member
Feb 22, 2008
869
1
16
www.thatsdax.com
Go to the......

Go to the legal section here in the forum. You will find a lot of help there. Sounds to me like motor assisted bicycles are not regulated in your area. So..No regulations? Who would have thought. Something that someone is doing is not regulated by government? Wow !!! Is that possible? Yep... So..Since it is not regulated in your area, if you call police or anyone in Government, and make an attempt to get a registration or license or what ever...and..Why would you.. I mean.. Are bicycles regulated in your area? Most likely not yet.. But..If you call the cops, they will do their best to fit you into a category. Most likely the moped one. Which your bicycle is not a moped. It is much much less than a moped. According to Fed Regs, if it is less than 50cc and does not exceed 30mph under power on level ground, it is still a bicycle. And that makes the most sense. But..If bicycles are regulated in your area, and in some places they are, then you need to get what is applicable to bicycles. and not mopeds, Scooters, or motorcycles. Again.. Go to the legal section for more. Thanks.. Enjoy the ride...
 

Weedylot

Angry Old Fart
Jun 12, 2008
453
1
0
Tucson Arizona
As far as insurance goes, you might be able to become the insurance company and write your own policy. Years ago a guy wanted to rent used cars to the public. No insurance company would help him so he started his own insurance company, wrote his own policies and became a big success. The company was called Ugly Duckling, they did very well for quite a few years.
 

mouchyn

New Member
Sep 21, 2008
2
0
0
As far as insurance goes, you might be able to become the insurance company and write your own policy. Years ago a guy wanted to rent used cars to the public. No insurance company would help him so he started his own insurance company, wrote his own policies and became a big success. The company was called Ugly Duckling, they did very well for quite a few years.
That is an interesting notion. I will do some research to see how much insurance mopeds are required to carry in TX. If the amount is relatively small, I could request a certification of financial responsiblity -- or whatever it is called.

The form for motor vehicles you can get that basically says "yeah, i have enough cash lying around to cover whatever insurance would cover by law." I think that amount of cash is something in the neighborhood of a half million dollars for normal motor vehicles, though...

Then again, founding an insurance agency dedicated to the insurance needs of "alternative transportation" could be very lucrative.

So who needs insurance? Boy, have I got a deal for you! ;)