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Council extends helmet law to include bikes

The Excelsior Springs City Council voted 5-0 on Monday night to beef up the laws governing the operation of motorized bicycles—just a little too late to save a local teenager from injury.

New ordinances which extend some of the current helmet laws and laws affecting the operation of motorized vehicles were brought up at the council’s Aug. 5 meeting but not acted on until Monday night.

But just a few hours before the meeting, a teenager on a moped collided with an SUV at Beverly Avenue and Adams Street, near Sunnyside Park. An accident report wasn’t available before press time on Tuesday morning, but Police Chief John McGovern said the 15-year-old moped rider wasn’t wearing a helmet, and because he wasn’t a licensed driver he was not legally allowed to ride the moped on city streets.

The new ordinances cover all two-wheeled vehicles with motors, specifically those with engines which are 50 cubic centimeters and under—because those vehicles were not covered by prior laws.

Police say that mopeds and the “pocket rocket” mini-motorcycles have become a concern in recent years because more and more of them have been on the streets, and the pocket rockets in particular have a low profile and are often difficult to see.

Moreover, the bikes that are 50 cc and under weren’t covered by the laws that govern the operation of motorcycles. As a result, they have been popular with juveniles, who often remove any markings that would indicate the size of the engine. In addition, both police and members of the city council said during previous meetings and during a work session that they frequently see these small vehicles driving at high speed, and often with one or even two passengers but no helmets in sight.

At Monday night’s meeting, McGovern said the new laws “are geared to make operation safer. This will cover pocket rockets, scooters—everything.”

One of the two laws specifically requires a helmet for the operation of all motorized bicycles, and sets a maximum fine of $25 with no court costs.

The other ordinance approved Monday night governs the way motorized bicycles can be operated.

Under the new law, all such vehicles must be ridden only by licensed drivers, though the vehicles themselves are not required to be licensed and registered the way cars, trucks and motorcycles must be licensed and registered.

However, the law also states that motorized bicycles cannot be ridden on any roadway with a speed limit faster than 35 miles per hour, except to cross those roadways at intersections.

In addition, no motorized bicycles can be used to carry passengers, nor can the rider sit anywhere other than on the seat with one leg on either side of the motor; the law specifies that this rule does not apply to vehicles with three or more wheels, though McGovern said the definition of motorized bicycle by design includes only two-wheeled vehicles.

The law also specifies that riders of motorized bicycles must have both hands on the handlebars at all times, and they are not allowed to ride on any sidewalk, walkway or footpath in the city limits.

The ordinance was designed to take effect as soon as the council voted on it and it was signed by Mayor Ambrose Buckman; there is no “grace period” included to help inform the public about the new laws.

Buckman said that the time had definitely come for such laws, with some of the chitchat prior to the meeting dealing with the moped/SUV accident that happened a few hours earlier.

“This ordinance needed to be done,” he stated. “It’s getting kind of careless out there.”

Earlier this month, the council passed similar laws governing the use of golf carts and, to a lesser extent, motorized wheelchairs inside the city limits.

By Eric Copeland • eric@leaderpress.com

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4 Responses to Council extends helmet law to include bikes

  1. Erin Staponski Reply

    August 20, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Many comments regarding this issue that I want to make, but for now I just want to extend a prayer for the injured teen! Praying for healing.

  2. Phil Piburn Reply

    August 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    First, let me say prayers go out to the child that was hurt. Some people seem to think that if this ordance was passed the boy would have been saved. He already was breaking the law by not having a
    license to ride it on a city street in the first place. No law would have helped him. Just because you have a law against something, doesn’t prevent
    that “something” of happing. Just look around you,
    watch the news. I think the council should have
    checked with other states to see how they handle this problem, before jumping in and passing this ordance. I have ridden my under 50cc scooter in other states and have a teenage daughter who has ridden also. The law which I favor and abide by when in other states is that if you are 18 years of age and under you must wear a helmet. Over 18 you do not. What’s going to happen if Missouri like
    our surounding states have already done, pass a no
    helmet motorcycle law? Make a adult wear a helmet
    while riding a 49cc little scooter and no helmet
    when riding a big Harley? Or will Excelsior require
    a helmet on everything ridden? What about skate boards with motors? I can see a lot of people who ride take their business to other towns. Don’t get
    me wrong. I’m in favor of 18 and under wearing helmets, just I think adults should be able to make
    up their own mind. Laws don’t prevent anything.

  3. Cory Reply

    August 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I think its wrong for some idiot kid that shouldnt have been riding it has to screw up everyones fun. Yea he may have not been wearing a helmet but he was also underage. These Excelsior police officers should have noticed he looked underage from him not wearing a helmet and told him to go home. This town sucks.

  4. Tessa Reply

    August 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    the kid was underage and should not of been riding around in the first place. we who are of age and have a valid drivers license should not have to suffer the consquences of those who break the law. sure a helmet isn’t a bad idea and would obviously insure head safety but we should be able to make that choice ourselves if we want to wear a helmet or not and we should be able to ride with passengers if there are 2 seats and foot rest on the mopeds which there are. i assure you those of us who ride around are not reckless or endanger the lives of those who live in Excelsior Springs and many of the people of this town would agree.

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