Washington, DC Motorized Bicycle Regulations



New Member
Feb 14, 2008
Metro Washington, DC
In DC, motorized bikes are classified as bicycles. All bikes (motored or not)must be registered if the owner is a DC resident.

Here are the regs....:rolleyes:

District of Columbia Bicycle Regulations
DC Code of Municipal Regulations, Title 18

This chapter shall apply to all bicycles operated upon all public space in the District of Columbia.
No person may own or operate a bicycle in the District except in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
Operators of bicycles have the same rights as operators of motor vehicles.
No operator's permit shall be required for the operation of a bicycle.
No person shall be subject to the loss or suspension of his or her motor vehicle operator's permit for violation of any regulation under this chapter.
No points shall accrue toward the loss of or suspension of a motor vehicle operator's permit by reason of a violation committed while operating a bicycle or sidewalk bicycle.
Each bicycle operated in the District shall be registered as provided by this chapter within fourteen, (14) days of its acquisition or of its being brought into the District; Provided, that a non-resident owner who has registered his or her bicycle for the current registration period under the laws of another jurisdiction is exempt from this provision.
No motorized bicycle shall be operated upon any public space in the District by any person who is less than sixteen (16) years old,
Every person riding a bicycle on a highway shall be subject to all the duties applicable to the drivers of motor vehicles under this title, except as otherwise expressly provided in this chapter, and except for those duties imposed by this title which, by their nature, can have no reasonable application to a bicycle operator.
No person shall operate or ride a bicycle other than upon or astride a regular seat attached .to the bicycle.
No person shall operate or ride on a bicycle with more persons on it at any one time than the bicycle is equipped to carry.
No person shall ride a bicycle abreast of another bicycle unless to do so does not endanger himself or others,
No person shall operate a bicycle at a speed in excess of any posted limit or at a speed which is greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing.
Any person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk shall yield the right-of way to pedestrians, and shall travel at a speed no greater than the posted speed limit of the adjacent roadway, Provided, that such speed is safe for the conditions then existing on the sidewalk..
A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or while crossing a roadway in a crosswalk shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, except that the bicyclist must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk or crosswalk.
The operator of a bicycle emerging from, or entering an alley, driveway, or building, shall, upon approaching a sidewalk or the sidewalk area extending across any alleyway, yield the right-of-way to pedestrians approaching on said sidewalk area, and upon entering the
roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on said roadway, to the extent necessary to safely enter the flow of traffic.
No person operating a bicycle shall sound any warning device at any intersection so as to interfere with the obedience to the instructions of officia1 traffic control signals or to the directions of police traffic control officers.
No person shall operate a bicycle except in obedience to the instructions of official traffic control signals, signs, and other control devices applicable to vehicles, unless otherwise directed by a police officer or other person authorized to direct and control traffic.
All provisions of this section shall be equally applicable to the operation and riding of motorized bicycles, excepted as specifically provided. otherwise in this chapter.
Except as otherwise permitted for a motor vehicle, no person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk or any off-street bikepath or bicycle route within the District. This prohibition shall apply even though the motorized bicycle is being operated solely by human power,
A motorized bicycle may be operated on any part of a roadway designated for the use of bicycles.1202
No person shall operate a bicycle in the District unless the bicycle has been validly registered as provided by this chapter and bears a serial number, a valid registration tag, and valid registration plate, as provided by this chapter; or unless it is validly registered in another jurisdiction, when required by applicable law of such jurisdiction, and bears readily visible evidence of being registered.
Subsection 1202.1 shall not apply to the operation of e bicycle within fourteen (14) days of' its acquisition by its owner; Provided, that the operator of the bicycle possesses written proof of the ownership and date of acquisition of the bicycle,

Any person wishing to register a bicycle shall file an application for registration with the Director.
Each application for a registration certificate shall be executed by the owner of the bicycle upon a form furnished by the Director and shall contain the following:
The owner's true and lawful given name, middle name or names, if any, and surname, and his residence address;
A description of the bicycle, including make, color, type, and whether new or used; and
The date of acquisition by applicant, and the name and address of the person from whom the bicycle was acquired,
Each application for registration of a new bicycle shall be accompanied by such proof of ownership as the Director may reasonably require.
One dollar ($1.00) shall be charged, upon filing of the application, to cover the cost of registration.
Each bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement,
Each bicycle, when in use at night, shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet (500 ft.) to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Director which shall be visible from all distances from fifty feet (50 ft.) to three hundred feet (300 ft.) to the rear when directly in front of upper beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.
A lamp emitting a red light visible tom a distance of five hundred feet (500 ft.) to the rear may be used in lieu of the red reflector.
In place of the requirements of §1204.2, a lamp may be worn on the arm or leg of an operator; Provided, that it; may be readily seen from the distances set forth in that subsection.
Each bicycle shall be equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet (100 ft.).
A bicycle shall not be equipped with, nor shall any bicycle rider use, a siren of any kind.
A bicycle rider shall not use the device for giving an audible signal when operating the bicycle within the quiet zone established by the provisions of D.C. Law 2-58 within one hundred (100) yards of any school, college, or university while classes are in session, or within one hundred (100) yards of any hospital or institution for the treatment of sick persons, except where such use is reasonably necessary for the safety of the rider or pedestrians.
A mountable rack may be attached to a vehicle for the purpose of transporting a bicycle; Provided, that the number of bicycles transported in the rack shall not exceed the number which the rack is designed to carry.
No mountable rack shall extend beyond the bumper design margins of a vehicle in any manner which is hazardous or dangerous, nor shall any such mountable rack obstruct the vehicle's stop or turn signals.
No bicycle rack shall be placed on public space unless a permit has been obtained from the Mayor.
An application for a bicycle rack permit shall be signed by the owner of the abutting property and filed with the Mayor.
No permit shall be issued for any rack which would unduly obstruct pedestrian movement.
There shall be no fee for rental of public space for racks.
Any rack placed on public space by the permittee shall be removable; shall be maintained in a good, clean condition; and shall not be allowed to deteriorate, become unsightly, or dangerous to the public.
A person may secure a bicycle to a stanchion for a period of not more than the twelve (12) consecutive hours, by means of a lock or similar device, in accordance with the requirements of §1209.2
A person may secure a bicycle to a stanchion by means of a lock or similar device as 1ong as securing the bicycle does not obstruct or unduly impede traffic or pedestrian movement and as long as securing bicycles has not been forbidden by any notice posted by the Director.
All provisions of this section shall be equally applicable to the parking or securing of motorized bicycles.


New Member
Oct 26, 2009
Washington, District of Columbia
[allow me to recognize that this thread's pretty old, but I figured why start a new one when i can recycle?]

In response: I'm not sure that gets us off the hook (as far as title, tags, etc) go—if that's what you're implying. The Non-traditional Motor Vehicle definitions stipulate registration, inspection, and insurance for motorized bicycles...

Has anyone had trouble in DC?

I live out in NW (Chevy Chase), so for my commute (only a couple miles, though I often see police) I should be fine.
However, if I want to visit some friends (Logan Circle) I have to enter the city (I could squirrel through some back streets, but there are still police out and about).

I may just take my chances...
Register my bike (before installation) and plead ignorance... if I get caught.
And with lights and a helmet, I doubt any police officer would bother me (my friends drive unregistered scooters—and I think a cop would see a motorized bicycle as "lesser" than a scooter. but it's late, and somehow that justification makes sense to me right now)


The Boy Who Never Grew Up
Jul 9, 2009
northeastern Minnesota
I didn't see anything in the first post regarding insurance. Has that been amended or something? Not that I will ever ride my motorbicycle in DC, but it is of interest, anyway. I am anticipating a time in the not so distant future where towns and cities across the country will enact legislation for the use of motorbicycles. I don't see any way around that. My fear is that they will simply be banned in some places as that would require the least thought and effort by city legislators. Having in hand legislation from other cities, especially from our nation's capital, would argue in favor of at least allowing them to be ridden. Much of what I read in that first post is sensible if a bit wordy, but the business about riding on sidewalks is confusing. In one place it sounds like it is OK, but gives the pedestrian the right of way. Sounds reasonable to me. Then in another spot later it says no motorbicycles on sidewalks. Which is it? One dollar to register a bike is reasonable and also gives you legal ownership of that bicycle should it be stolen and recovered. Thanks for posting this.


New Member
Oct 26, 2009
Washington, District of Columbia
Yeah—the first doesn't have stipulations regarding insurance, but it doesn't contradict the rules given on the Non-traditional Motor Vehicle sheet.

So, what I've gathered is that the first post is general guidelines for use.
(and, yuck, I thought I posted a link to a more legible copy of the first reference. it is here)
From what I remember (I'm not going through it word for word right now, but I've read the thing multiple times—too tired right now) the bicycle codes are pretty standard (have breaks that can cause a skid, don't hit pedestrians, white light at night, etc)

The Non-Traditional Motor Vehicles fact sheet defines "motorized bicycle." And they mean the definition we use. Scooters get lumped in with motorcycles or motorized bicycles. (Though it seems that if I found a motorized vehicle with tires exactly 16" in diameter, I wouldn't be in either definition!)

You are supposed to register your bike in DC (apparently! ha).
Do I know anyone that's done this? No.
Will the local police laugh at you? Probably. Especially if I go register a bottom of the barrel walmart bike.
Neat that it's a dollar. What else can you get for a dollar? Not much.

And more neatly in response to your post:

We like it wordy in DC (apparently. phtt.).
As far as sidewalk biking, it's basically saying: 1. yield to peds 2. don't do it where prohibited 3. don't endanger yourself/others 4. don't ride motorized bicycles/scooters on sidewalks.

Basically, they've lumped the requirements of (motor and non-motor) bicycling together (sensible) and registration/insurance/etc is dealt with in another section of paperwork (of course! wouldn't be paperwork without hassle).