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  1. #1
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    Electric bike and drivers license

    In my state massachuetts a drivers license is needed to use an electric bike, I dont have an electric bike. But federal law says something like this

    Federal law says that an electrically driven bicycle is considered a "bicycle" and the laws of bicycles
    apply if:
    o Electrically driven bicycle has less than 750 watt motor
    o Functional pedals
    o Max speed is less than 20mph
    The Federal law shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed
    electric bicycles.

    So does federal law override massachuetts law?

  2. #2
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    state law always trumps federal law, the rumors to the contrary are wishful thinking. If MA says you need a license then get a license or they will ticket you if stopped and you could possibly have your bike impounded.
    DISCLAIMER: I cannot be held responsible for any offense taken. Should you have taken offense to my comment my lawers will be in touch. Said lawers are most often seen flying disk shaped vehicles accompanied by men in tin foil hats. Should this DISCLAIMER offend you, you are hereby declared a lost cause and the men in tin foil hats will be in touch.

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    No, Federal law does not override state law. If it's illegal in your state, then you are pretty much screwed. Like in New York. There are people in New York who ride them anyway, though. Here in my state, I've had no one even pay attention to me while I'm riding. Cops just drive on by. I have two e-bikes and have had one up to 37 mph and the other went 31 mph on a regular basis. As long as you aren't being reckless, I don't think you'll have anything to worry about. My recommendation is to take a regular mountain bike or road bike and convert it or buy one of the ready-made scooters. The people who usually get pulled over are the ones who build the e-bikes that look like choppers or motorcycles.

  4. #4
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    State and Federal Laws - A Matter of Jurisdiction

    Federal law can, and often does, override state laws, e.g., matters of civil rights. With regard to motor vehicles, however, the states have the right to regulate traffic within their jurisdiction. The Federal law relating to low-speed electric bicycles deals with safety issues such as construction of the vehicle, not the operation of the electric bicycle nor where and where they may not be used. The Federal law with regard to the safety of e-bikes does supersede state laws unless the state law is intended to increase the safety of the vehicle. Under the Federal law the e-bike must comply with 16CFR Part 1512(b) for the general description of a low-speed electric bicycle, and then must comply with the rest of 16CFR Part 15 as it pertains to all classes of bicycles. The Federal law was intended to relieve the manufacturers of e-bikes from the need to comply with the stringent regulations of meeting FMVSS requirements for motor vehicles. A number of states, such as Nevada, recently, hold that since qualifying e-bikes are not motor vehicles under Federal law, that they are no longer subject to motor vehicle requirements and permit them to be operated without license, registration, or insurance. Massachusetts is not among the states that has adopted this rule.

    Jim Wood
    Veloteq
    Houston, TX

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    Certified Non-Voter wernmax's Avatar
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    What a Nation of little girls we've become. I hope we get taxed and regulated into oblivion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wernmax View Post
    What a Nation of little girls we've become. I hope we get taxed and regulated into oblivion.
    That well could happen. With healthcare and cap'n'trade on the books, I don't know how much the people will take. That said, remember we put them in office. If people aren't willing to stand up to the politicians that make these laws then we deserve what we get.

    "When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered."
    Dorothy Thompson

    "Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction."
    Albert Einstein

    "The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything"
    Albert Einstein

    "Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them."
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  7. #7
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    I hope massachuetts can kick deval out of office this november.

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    Senior Member nwmtnbkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cytotoxictcell View Post
    In my state massachuetts a drivers license is needed to use an electric bike, I dont have an electric bike. But federal law says something like this

    Federal law says that an electrically driven bicycle is considered a "bicycle" and the laws of bicycles
    apply if:
    o Electrically driven bicycle has less than 750 watt motor
    o Functional pedals
    o Max speed is less than 20mph
    The Federal law shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed
    electric bicycles.

    So does federal law override massachuetts law?
    The misconception in the e-bike community is that there is a federal statute that says an e-bike with a motor less than 750W and that travels under 20 MPH has to be treated as a bicycle for all purposes. This is simply not accurate. I will repeat this again. The federal standards only come into play with respect to which federal agency's safety standards apply to ready-made e-bikes sold in the US. Those ready-made electric bicycles sold in the US with speeds under 20MPH and motor under 750W simply have to meet consumer bicycle safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Administration. The rationale for this lower safety standard for "low-powered electric bicycles" is that they're a consumer product, not a "motor vehicle." Those bikes with specs exceeding those standards that are sold in the US have to meet the more stringent safety standards for mopeds and motorcycles set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, meaning beefier frames and brakes as well as signal lights and headlights and tail lights.

    Congress has left it up to the individual states on how to regulate the operation of electric bicycles on public rights of way, including licensing. Many in Congress aren't necessarily big fans of e-bikes; with respect to federally-funded pedestrian/bike trails and walkways, Congress issued a prohibition on their use by electric bicycles unless a State has authorized such use by "electric bicycles". (See the permanent amendments to Section 217(h) of Title 23 of the United States effective upon enrollment of Public Law 105-178.)

  9. #9
    Senior Member nwmtnbkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Veloteq View Post
    Federal law can, and often does, override state laws, e.g., matters of civil rights. With regard to motor vehicles, however, the states have the right to regulate traffic within their jurisdiction. The Federal law relating to low-speed electric bicycles deals with safety issues such as construction of the vehicle, not the operation of the electric bicycle nor where and where they may not be used. The Federal law with regard to the safety of e-bikes does supersede state laws unless the state law is intended to increase the safety of the vehicle. Under the Federal law the e-bike must comply with 16CFR Part 1512(b) for the general description of a low-speed electric bicycle, and then must comply with the rest of 16CFR Part 15 as it pertains to all classes of bicycles. The Federal law was intended to relieve the manufacturers of e-bikes from the need to comply with the stringent regulations of meeting FMVSS requirements for motor vehicles. A number of states, such as Nevada, recently, hold that since qualifying e-bikes are not motor vehicles under Federal law, that they are no longer subject to motor vehicle requirements and permit them to be operated without license, registration, or insurance. Massachusetts is not among the states that has adopted this rule.

    Jim Wood
    Veloteq
    Houston, TX
    Jim,

    You're the only other e-bike enthusiast I've run into who understands that the federal definition only establishes which federal agency's safety standards are applied to ready-made e-bikes sold in the U.S.

    Prior to 2001, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration asserted authority to impose moped/motorcycle safety standards on all ready-made electric bikes sold in the US. In 2001, the US Congress (in response to lobbying by major bicycle manufacturers) passed legislation (Public Law 107-319) that defined two categories of ready-made e-bikes for purposes of safety regulations--"low-powered" electric bicycles and other electric bicycles that don't fit this category. The term "low-powered" electric bicycles is defined as a bicycle with an electric motor of no more than 750W and speeds no more than 20 MPH. Those ready-made e-bikes that meet this definition only have to meet consumer bicycle safety standards set forth in regulations issued by the Consumer Product Safety Administration. Without this legislation, I suspect there'd not be many ready-made e-bikes sold in the US since major manufacturers build their e-bikes for the world market, meaning their e-bikes can't travel above the low speeds set by the EU and many Asian countries. At present, conversion kits don't get caught up in safety standard issues, but I expect that to change as ever more powerful hub motors get shipped from China.

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    oh, thanks for the info. Getting a drivers license right now is not a priority for me for now. maybe say in 5 years it will move up on my priority =).

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    Yes,you are right.In some countries, the electric bike license is required,but not all the countries,the electric bike driving license is necessary,for example in china.If you want to learn more about the laws of electric bike in the worldwide countries,you can browse the content here http://www.freyebikes.com/news/manag...-countries.htm

  12. #12
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    @ OP

    Read the full text of the federal law. The law specifically says right in the beginning that it applies to the manufactures of electric bikes not the end users. Basically if you want to manufacturer in (or import to) the U.S.A. an electric bicycle so long as you stay within those federal limits as far as power and speed and such you don't have to meet any safety and equipment standards beyond what applies to regular pedal only bicycles. Otherwise safety and equipment standards for ready built and sold as e-bikes would have to meet the more stringent Mo-Ped standards (and if your a manufacturer you can still make and sell e-bikes that go faster and are more powerful then those standards in that law if your willing to meet the more stringent Mo-Ped standards.)

    Does not apply to end users or to an e-bike you build yourself from a kit. Road use legality does indeed go by state law. If your state law says you have to have a drivers license to ride an e-bike on the public roadways in your state then that is what it be. State rules for road legality taking precidence can be a good thing if the state law is better then the fed. law. For example in my state for road legality I can go all the way up to 1.49 Kilowatts of power and 30-mph which is significantly higher then the federal standards. Just have to put it together myself since almost anything ready made meets the lower level fed. standards.

    There is even one state I've heard of but have not yet figured out which one and confirmed the rumors but supposedly they allow "bicycles with helper motors" (how they define them) with a motor size up to five horse power which is equal to 3,728 watts with no limit on speed just a limit to five horsepower or less. Just think of the kind of speed potential that could be possible with that kind of power legally available.
    Last edited by turbo1889; 10-05-13 at 09:15 AM.

  13. #13
    50/50 Road/eBike Commuter kmcrawford111's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by turbo1889 View Post
    @ OP


    There is even one state I've heard of but have not yet figured out which one and confirmed the rumors but supposedly they allow "bicycles with helper motors" (how they define them) with a motor size up to five horse power which is equal to 3,728 watts with no limit on speed just a limit to five horsepower or less. Just think of the kind of speed potential that could be possible with that kind of power legally available.
    Too much for me! I'm quite satisfied going 25 MPH with my eZee motor, and I have parameters limited to 480W and 10A. Even this seems a little edgy at times.

  14. #14
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    I also have designed and built most of my hybrid powered bicycles that combine the human motor with another power source with a cruising speed at around 25-mph in mind, some a little less. I do agree that is about right for conventional bicycle type applications and uses and is a good speed without being too much. (I prefer to use the term "hybrid" because it implies that both power sources are taken full advantage of, the pedals are not there just for show, and neither is the other power source, they work together and are both equally important and best performance is obtained by using both and matching both to each other very carefully so they work together and compliment each other to best effect. I also don't want to limit things just to electric only, done properly there are other options besides electric that are still better for the environment then driving a petro full size car.)

    But, I would certainly like the freedom to build faster if I so desired. I have visions of a tadpole semi-recumbant upright torso but forward positioned legs and pedals riding position trike with the front wheels spaced about 6-foot wide for rock solid stability mounted out on the ends of fiberglass aero nose wings with a 9-foot long sleek fiberglass canopy body with fighter jet type clear bubble canopy capable of going down the road at 60-mph on the flat under maximum hybrid power output with both the rider pedaling strong and the throttle on the motor pinned at full. I think that could be done under a 5-hp power limit with no limit on top speed. That would be one heck of a commuting machine.

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    While this topic is relatively old, there is miss information. When State law and Federal Law Conflict then Federal Law takes precedence. This is called Preemption and is enforceable by the Supremacy Clause. In the case of Low Powered Electric Bicycles HR727 Section (2) states:

    For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced
    pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, a low-speed
    electric bicycle (as defined in section 38(b) of the Consumer Product
    Safety Act) shall not be considered a motor vehicle as
    defined by section 30102(6) of title 49, United States Code.

    This became law in 2002, So Federally Low Speed Electric Bicycles have been removed from the classification of Motor Vehicle. Thus Preemption prevents state law from reclassifying them as motor vehicles because it would conflict with the federal law, and the Supremacy clause causes the Federal Law to supersede the state law.

    The reason states usually regulate these kind of laws and don't have Preemption conflicts is because typically this kind of regulation is not handled Federally, but in this instance it was.

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    HELLO FRIENDS,
    YOU CAN ESSY GET LICENSE OF ELECTRIC BIKE YOUR NEAREST RTO OFFICE.


    PREVENTATIVE VEHICLE MAINTENANCEhttp://www.contenthoop.com/preventat...ntenance/8315/

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    Quote Originally Posted by psmite View Post
    In the case of Low Powered Electric Bicycles HR727 Section (2) states:

    For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced
    pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, a low-speed
    electric bicycle (as defined in section 38(b) of the Consumer Product
    Safety Act) shall not be considered a motor vehicle as
    defined by section 30102(6) of title 49, United States Code.

    This became law in 2002, So Federally Low Speed Electric Bicycles have been removed from the classification of Motor Vehicle. Thus Preemption prevents state law from reclassifying them as motor vehicles because it would conflict with the federal law, and the Supremacy clause causes the Federal Law to supersede the state law.

    The reason states usually regulate these kind of laws and don't have Preemption conflicts is because typically this kind of regulation is not handled Federally, but in this instance it was.
    But note the first line in the federal regulation that you quote: "For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced
    pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49 ..." So they can't be considered motor vehicles from the standpoint of safety standards that would otherwise apply to them and would require the manufacturer to meet those standards. But there's nothing in that statement that prevents a state from requiring operators of electric bicycles to be licensed by the state. Operator licenses are a separate issue from safety standards that must be met by product manufacturers.

    AFAIK, there is no federal law establishing whether operator licenses should be required for electric bicycles, therefore the decision is up to each individual state to establish its own laws in that regard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
    But note the first line in the federal regulation that you quote: "For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced
    pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49 ..." So they can't be considered motor vehicles from the standpoint of safety standards that would otherwise apply to them and would require the manufacturer to meet those standards. But there's nothing in that statement that prevents a state from requiring operators of electric bicycles to be licensed by the state. Operator licenses are a separate issue from safety standards that must be met by product manufacturers.

    AFAIK, there is no federal law establishing whether operator licenses should be required for electric bicycles, therefore the decision is up to each individual state to establish its own laws in that regard.
    Based off my understanding, Manufacturing standards are covered in section(1) of HR 727, and section (2) is the exclusion of them from the definition of motor vehicle, but if this is not the case then please show what the official federal definition of motor vehicle is?

    When I searched for it, this is what I get, which would also exclude Low powered electric bikes at a federal level.

    The NHTSA also indicates that that sub 20mph Vehicles are subject to state and local safety standards, but like section (2) of HR 727 these would be inapplicable because they are "manufacturing" safety standards, are they not? If so then Federal Preemption would apply.

    Lastly, specifically regarding Massachusetts, the Bicycle to Moped conversion form specifically states that Low speed electric Bicycles are not subject to registration to comply with Federal law (15 U.S.C. 2085) AKA HR727. This would imply that the Massachusetts RMV recognizes this as a Preemption issue, or are they adopting it at a state level?
    Last edited by psmite; 09-13-15 at 09:49 AM.

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    I also want to point out that the Massachusetts law states that a license is required to operate a "Motor Vehicle." So to figure out if it is actually against the law, then we need to know if LPEBs are indeed classifiable as a motor vehicle. If Federally they are specifically excluded from the definition of motor vehicles, then the answer is no.

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    Quote Originally Posted by psmite View Post
    I also want to point out that the Massachusetts law states that a license is required to operate a "Motor Vehicle." So to figure out if it is actually against the law, then we need to know if LPEBs are indeed classifiable as a motor vehicle. If Federally they are specifically excluded from the definition of motor vehicles, then the answer is no.
    But they are only excluded from the definition of motor vehicles "for the purposes of motor vehicle standards." There's nothing that I see that prevents a state from requiring an operator of an electric bike from having an operator's license or from requiring registration if they choose to do so since the federal rules are silent on those points. Here's a list of the various state rules with quite a few requiring a license:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#United_States

    This site also indicates that operator licenses and registration are up to each state:
    Electric Bikes: Legal Issues - Electric-Bikes.com

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    While neither of those are the law, I do find it interesting that under the Wikipedia Massachusetts text it has:

    ...
    A response to an inquiry made to the Mass DOT/RMV indicates that Massachusetts does recognize the federal low speed electric bicycle Federal Law (15 U.S.C. 2085) and interprets that to mean these ebikes do not require license or registration. However, some of the materials available on the RMV website do not distinguish between 'Motorized Bicycle' and low power ebikes. One form, Bicycle Conversion to Motorized Bike, does document the exemption of low power ebikes.
    ...

    Just more evidence that the HR727 is being acknowledged, and is interpreted as being law.

    But lets for a second assume that it isn't excluding low powered electric bicycles from being classified as motor vehicles. Why bother creating exceptions for motor vehicle safety standards for electric bicycles? I mean Mopeds and Scooters are required to meet motor vehicle safety standards, so why would they create an exception for L.P.E. bicycles if in the end they are going to be treated as motor vehicles? It doesn't make sense. They also go out of their way to include low powered electric bicycles in the definition of bicycles when talking about bicycle safety standards. That seems odd if ultimately they have the potential to be considered motor vehicles at a state level. Care to explain?
    Last edited by psmite; 09-14-15 at 01:04 PM.

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    There's a greater incentive to have a uniform national rule specifying manufacturing safety standards since otherwise a manufacturer would have the burden of making his product in differing ways to meet possibly conflicting requirements by individual states. OTOH, there's no such implementation issue with regard to a state requiring an operator license when the product is used on their public roadways. It's certainly possible for states to allow such operation without an operator license - and that's the case where I currently live. But I see nothing in the federal statute you cited that would prevent a state from requiring a license if they chose to do so.

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    E-bikes meeting the federal requirements are not classified as motorized vehicles by the RMV in MA. Please see the bottom of this form:

    www.massrmv.com/rmv/forms/21897.pdf

    "Motorized vehicle" is a term of law, and this requirement for a drivers license would apparently not apply. Some ebikes might exceed these requirements, though. In this case, the bike would also need to be registered as a moped.

    This is, of course, a completely separate issue from federal preemption.

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    "Fortunately" in CA (think the rules are max 750w, 20 mph with some new considerations in the legislature now), there are bigger problems for the gendarmes to worry about. I've never received a second look from them, but I ride rather conservatively.

  25. #25
    Senior Member ciderguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimDDD View Post
    E-bikes meeting the federal requirements are not classified as motorized vehicles by the RMV in MA. Please see the bottom of this form:

    www.massrmv.com/rmv/forms/21897.pdf

    "Motorized vehicle" is a term of law, and this requirement for a drivers license would apparently not apply. Some ebikes might exceed these requirements, though. In this case, the bike would also need to be registered as a moped.

    This is, of course, a completely separate issue from federal preemption.
    STANDARD DISCLAIMER. This is not legal advice. The person writing this post is not a member of any bar anywhere in the United States. An attorney-client relationship is not being created. Please consult someone who is a member of the bar in the jurisdiction for legal advice. END STANDARD DISCLAIMER.

    Preemption is an extremely tricky and thorny legal issue. In general, if a local jurisdiction passes a law intending to regulate something the best practice is to follow it. Otherwise, you need to prepared to consult a member of the bar in your local jurisdiction with training in this particular area if it is claimed that you are violating said law. Budget out an appropriate amount to take the case a to the appellate level.


    Mass Law.

    Definitions (Chp. 90 Sec. 1):

    "Motorcycle'', any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, including any bicycle with a motor or driving wheel attached, except a tractor or a motor vehicle designed for the carrying of golf clubs and not more than four persons, an industrial three-wheel truck, a motor vehicle on which the operator and passenger ride within an enclosed cab, or a motorized bicycle.

    "Motorized bicycle'', a pedal bicycle which has a helper motor, or a non-pedal bicycle which has a motor, with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and which is capable of a maximum speed of no more than thirty miles per hour.

    "Motor vehicles'', all vehicles constructed and designed for propulsion by power other than muscular power including such vehicles when pulled or towed by another motor vehicle, except railroad and railway cars, vehicles operated by the system known as trolley motor or trackless trolley under chapter one hundred and sixty-three or section ten of chapter five hundred and forty-four of the acts of nineteen hundred and forty-seven, vehicles running only upon rails or tracks, vehicles used for other purposes than the transportation of property and incapable of being driven at a speed exceeding twelve miles per hour and which are used exclusively for the building, repair and maintenance of highways or designed especially for use elsewhere than on the travelled part of ways, wheelchairs owned and operated by invalids and vehicles which are operated or guided by a person on foot; provided, however, that the exception for trackless trolleys provided herein shall not apply to sections seventeen, twenty-one, twenty-four, twenty-four I, twenty-five and twenty-six. The definition of "Motor vehicles'' shall not include motorized bicycles. In doubtful cases, the registrar may determine whether or not any particular vehicle is a motor vehicle as herein defined. If he determines that it should be so classified, he may require that it be registered under this chapter, but such determination shall not be admissible as evidence in any action at law arising out of the use or operation of such vehicle previous to such determination.

    "Operator'', any person who operates a motor vehicle or trackless trolley.

    "Right to operate'', the privilege of operating motor vehicles on the ways of the commonwealth conferred by a license issued under section eight, a learner's permit issued under section eight B, or by reciprocity to nonresidents under sections three and ten, including the right of residents of the commonwealth who are at least sixteen years of age to apply for such license or learner's permit.

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    Ok, so by definition e-bike can be both a "motorcycle" or a "motorized bicycle." Motorcycles are "motor vehicles" and "motorized bicycles" are not. Operating a motor vehicle seems to require a license, but it hasn't said anything about non-vehicle motorized bicycles yet.

    -----

    Chp. 90 Sec 1B
    "A motorized bicycle shall not be operated upon any way, as defined in section one within the commonwealth by any person under sixteen years of age, nor at a speed in excess of twenty-five miles per hour. A motorized bicycle shall not be operated on any way by any person not possessing a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit."

    Right here it says that it requires a driver's license or learner's permit.

    ---
    As far as the Federal Safety Standards go:

    Chp. 90 Sec. 1C
    "Motorized bicycles and motorized scooters shall comply with all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards."
    Last edited by ciderguy; 09-15-15 at 08:38 AM.

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