Minis Caught In Legal Cycle

Mini-cycles no longer street-legal

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The increasingly popular miniature or pocket motorcycles have now been legally classified as motorcycles -- meaning most of them will stay in the garage.

Since the increase in the number of mini-motorcycles, the Payson Police Department has tried to determine where they fit, in terms of vehicle classification.

"It became such an issue that we decided to go to our legal department and get some kind of determination," Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said.

Deputy Town Attorney Tim Wright researched the issue and decided the bikes fit the motorcycle classification and not a play vehicle like the motorized skateboards or scooters. Wright's decision is consistent with other municipalities statewide -- that a combustion engine and a seat made the vehicles motorcycles.

"Chandler, Mesa -- all the Valley agencies were in the same situation when these came out and their legal departments made the same determination, that they are considered a motorcycle," Engler said.

Now that mini-cycles are considered motorcycles, drivers must have a motorcycle endorsement, proper equipment, insurance and registration.

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Austin Boldt and his father, Skip, on their mini-motorcycles.

"In order to legally operate them on the streets, drivers must meet all the laws and regulations required of a regular motorcycle," Engler said.

Yet, according to our local Department of Motor Vehicles, the headquarters in Phoenix has told them that they cannot register the mini-motorcycles.

"They do not have individual vehicle identification numbers, so they cannot be registered at the MVD," Engler said. "That being the case, the mini-motorcycles cannot be operated on the roadways."

Essentially, the only place people can ride their mini-motorcycles is on private property, officials say.

The legal decision-making between the town and DMV is frustrating to children like 8-year-old Austin Boldt and his father, who enjoy riding the mini-motorcycles around their neighborhood cul-de-sac.

"I like riding it a lot. I wish I could ride it every day," the younger Boldt said. "I'm angry that they said I can't ride it on the street anymore."

His father feels the town should be more flexible.

"Think back when you were young -- hey, these are fun," Skip Boldt said. "When he's out here riding, I'm out here. I also got one so I could enjoy it with him. It's something we can do together. There needs to be more things for kids to do in Payson, and the town isn't doing much for them. This is just one more thing they're being told they can't do."

The town's classification is affecting local sales of the miniature motorcycles. Stores like Pine Country Outfitters, Checker, Wal-Mart, Auto Zone, Safeway and Giant all added the mini-motorcycles or scooters to their inventory.

"This has virtually shut down my scooter portion of our business," Rick Hill, owner of Pine Country Outfitters said. "This is not just something targeted to kids. I've got just as many older and retired folks buying these play vehicles. I've got several people we've sold these to that ride them to and from work, so essentially these are transportation vehicles and they ride them on the back streets. They don't ride them on (the highways)."

Hill thinks the town should stick with their original decision about recreational scooters.

"Why did the town spend all that time to come up with a workable ordinance? The way the ordinance is written now, it's my opinion that these bikes would fall under the classification as recreational vehicles," he said.

With the new mandate, Payson police officers will be ticketing drivers if they are on public streets.

State law covers the regulation of motorcycles, so the town's decision takes effect immediately, unlike the case of motorized play vehicles, which occupied the town council for weeks until they ironed out an ordinance that regulated their use.

"We will begin issuing citations and some of them could be expensive," Engler said. "Having no vehicle registration and no proof of insurance and those types of things are fairly serious traffic violations."

Drivers also will be cited if the bikes are improperly equipped or if the operator is not licensed or under the age of 18 and not wearing a proper helmet or eye protection.

"We have safety concerns about these pocket motorcycles as well," Engler said. "It is difficult for motorists to see regular-sized motorcycles and when they are only a couple feet off the ground, it contributes to a greater likelihood of an accident."

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