Mark Sailors: Everyone Should Feel Safe On The Road – March 9, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

This is the first, of what I hope are many weekly musings, that I am privileged to write for you. I am going to write about Arcata. The good, the bad and the ugly. I hope you get as much enjoyment from reading my pieces and looking at my photographs as I have gotten from writing and taking them. I also want to say a big thanks to Kevin for asking me to come on board.

Arcata is a hub of creativity and independent thought. We embrace the challenges that come with progress in unique ways, like the Arcata Marsh, and I for one am proud of that attempt. We are also a town that embraces alternative transportation choices, like pedicabs, bikes, NEV’s (neighborhood electric vehicles), LEV’s (Low Speed Electric vehicles), mopeds and E-bikes.

One thing that I have noticed is that people don’t seem to know what is what when it comes to the law regarding their chosen form of alternative transportation. I know this first hand.

Some things you would not expect to need licenses for do in fact require licenses to operate, some things we would assume are legal are not, and you can use some things in places you may find surprising. Let’s not forget one important thing, your definition of a word and the definition that the DMV uses could be completely different, so it is important for you to know how the state defines your mode of transportation.

First, NEV’s like the GEM4 need a regular driver’s license to operate on the public roads, and they also need license plates. They are legal on roads that have speed limits of 35 mph or less. LEV’s are more like golf carts, they cannot go faster than 20 mph and they are only legal on private property or streets where cities have made them legal. Arcata has no such law currently on the books that I can locate. Next we have motorcycles, motorscooters, scooters, mopeds, E-Bikes and bicycles. This is where the confusion starts for most people.

According to the California Motorcycle Driver Handbook, a scooter is a motorized two-wheeled vehicle with a floorboard designed for standing while driving. The scooter may have a driver’s seat, but if the seat interferes with the operator’s ability to stand while driving the vehicle is not a scooter. A typical scooter also has the ability to be driven by human propulsion. A prime example would be a Go- ped type vehicle. California Vehicle code does not require a motorized scooter to have license plates or have insurance. The law does require that the operator be at least 16, wear a helmet and know where they may legally operate.

Scooters can always legally be driven in bike lanes and bike paths, they are never legal on sidewalks and are limited to streets with speed limits of 25 mph. All Vespa-type motor scooters, regardless of cc, must be registered, have licence plates and the operator must have an M1 license.

Before 2006, the law saw bikes with under 50cc differently, this is no longer the case. The vehicle code has two definitions for mopeds and motorized bikes. First is a two- or three-wheeled vehicle that cannot exceed 30 mph on level ground.

It must also include fully functional pedals, an internal combustion engine that can produce no more than two gross brake horsepower with an automatic transmission, or an electric motor with or without pedals. This is the quicker type,and requires a class M2 drivers license and registration with the DMV. This includes the popular motor attachments that you can add on to your mountain bike. I see these all over Arcata, even on sidewalks. None have plates.

The second type of moped is what most people would call an E-bike. This type of moped has an electric motor of less than 1,000 watts and cannot go above 20 mph on level ground (even if assisted by human power). The motor must also stop when the brakes are applied and or the starter switch is released.

This “20 mph” classification of a moped may be driven without a license, proof of financial responsibility, or a moped license plate. The driver only has to be 16 years old and wear a properly fitting bicycle helmet. If you go the route of faster moped you will need to have an M2 license.

To secure your Class M2 license simply make an appointment. at your local DMV, submit an original DL 44 application form, provide a thumb print,have your picture taken at the DMV, pay the $28 application fee, pass a vision test, and pass the traffic laws and signs test.

If you are under 21, complete the California Highway Patrol motorcycle training course and present the Certificate of Motorcycle Training (DL 389) to the DMV. If you already have a current California driver license ,you won’t have to take the motorcycle driving test.

If you are over 21, you may choose between taking the CHP course and submitting the certificate of completion, or you may schedule an appointment at the DMV to take the driving test.

I hope this is helpful for everyone out there who uses alternative transportation. I would hate to see anyone get their motorized bike impounded because they assumed it was legal to ride it like it was a regular bike only to find out the hard way that they legally can’t.

A few last things about bicycle law that I am not sure are common knowledge.

Blinking front lights on bikes are illegal in California, and all bikes in Arcata are supposed to be licensed with the city. If you have licensed your bike in any other jurisdiction in California, it is valid in Arcata, because they are valid statewide. The roads and streets of Arcata bustle with activity.

Let’s try to make this a place where pedestrians, motor vehicle drivers and those of us that use “alternative” transportation can all use the roads and sidewalks safely.

For additional information on the motorcycle classes offered by the California Highway Patrol call (877) 743-3411 or visit the California Motorcyclist Safety Program.

California Bike licenses can be purchased from the Arcata Police Department Business Office during normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mark Sailors, operator of Arcata Kineticab, knows and goes all about Arcata in the course of his daily duties. (707) 845-6163