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 • firstname.lastname@example.org