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Are Pocket Bikes Legal?

You've probably seen them on the street: a rider atop a tiny motorized bike speeding along on what looks like a miniature motorcycle. The rider -- hunched over, knees pointing out at either side -- looks like a giant on the miniature moped machine, but it's going pretty fast, especially for something that small.

But are pocket bikes legal?

Below you will find information on laws regulating pocket bikes, including restrictions on where pocket bikes can be ridden and unique dangers that should be kept in mind by pocket bike owners and riders.

What are Pocket Bikes?

Pocket bikes -- also called "mini-motorcycles" or "pocket rockets" -- are small gas-powered bikes that look like miniature replicas of full-sized motorcycles. Despite their small size (about two feet high and weighing around 40 pounds), these recreational vehicles typically come equipped with 40cc electric motor engines, and can reach maximum speeds of up to 40 to 50 miles per hour.

Are Pocket Bikes Legal to Ride Where You Live?

Many states and municipalities have enacted laws that specifically ban the operation of pocket bikes and mini-motorcycles on public streets, roads, and trails. In some states, this is simply because (safety issues aside) pocket bikes typically do not come equipped with features like turn signals, mirrors, and horns -- equipment that is required in order for a vehicle to be considered "street legal" under some states' vehicle and traffic codes. What's more, since pocket bikes usually cannot be insured or registered, this fact alone makes them illegal to operate on public roads in many states.

For example, in California and Texas, operation of pocket bikes and mini-motorcycles is illegal on all public streets, sidewalks, and trails. Legal operation of pocket bikes in these states (and many others) is limited to private property only. In Texas, for instance, an individual operating a pocket bike on a public road may be cited for operating an unregistered vehicle; driving without insurance; driving without a license; and failure to meet certain equipment standards. These types of violations usually are punishable by fines but could result in suspensions and other penalties.

Most states that regulate the operation of pocket bikes also mandate age restrictions for riders. For example, in New Jersey, pocket bike riders must be at least 12 years old.

To find out whether it is legal to ride pocket bikes where you live -- either on private property or on public roads -- start by contacting your local law enforcement agency or department of motor vehicles and asking about rules regarding pocket bike riding.

Dangers of Pocket Bikes

As discussed, operation of pocket bikes is illegal when it comes to the public roadways of many states and cities. But the reality is that some people will still choose to ride pocket bikes on public streets, regardless of what the law says. Those pocket bike riders need to keep in mind that other drivers will have trouble seeing them on the road, especially due to the disparity between pocket bikes' small size and their high-speed capability. (Learn more about traffic accident liability and safe driving.)

Although they are smaller, pocket bikes present many of the same hazards as full-size motorcycles, including the possibility of serious head injuries to riders if an accident occurs. Whether on a public road or private property, pocket bike riders should always wear a motorcycle helmet that is approved by the Department of Transportation. (Learn more about motorcycle accidents and helmet laws.)

State and City-Specific Information on Pocket Bikes

Below you will find links to legal and safety information on pocket bikes, from a number of state and local government websites. You may may find that many jurisdictions treat pocket bikes similarly to motorized bicycles.

Is Your Pocket Bike Legal? Get a Legal Evaluation Today

Even if it is permitted off-road, on private bike lanes, or private roadways used by other motorists, it is important to ensure that your pocket bike meets local ordinance requirements or state law, such as the California Vehicle Code, which may require installation of a license plate, reflectors, tail lights, headlights, and brake lights. Your pocket bike may also be subject to federal motor vehicle safety standards.

While pocket bikes look like fun toys, they're actually quite powerful and can cause injury (or worse) if you're not careful. If you have questions about the legality of your pocket bike, an attorney can help give you peace of mind. Get started today with an initial legal evaluation from a local product liability attorney.

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