TRENTON – Miniaturized motorcycles commonly known as “pocket bikes” or “mini-motos” would be banned from New Jersey’s streets and sidewalks under legislation sponsored by Senators Joseph Congilio and Shirley K. Turner and passed by the State Assembly today.
“Last summer, there were a number of high-profile accidents involving children riding on pocket bikes,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “As schools let out for the summer this week, we will begin to see children spending their days outside playing their neighbors and enjoying the summer break. Hopefully, this bill will prevent a repeat of last year’s accidents and make the summertime as safe as possible for our kids.”
Bill S-1510 would prohibit the use of motorized scooters and motorized skateboards on any public street or public property, including sidewalks. The vehicles could be used on private property with the owner’s consent. The first offense would bring a fine of $100-$200 and seizure of the item to be retrieved by the individual to whom the item is registered. A second offense would bring a fine of $200-$500, seizure of the item to be returned only upon approval of a judge and up to 25 hours of community service for the operator of the item. Any further offenses would lead to a fine of no less than $500, permanent seizure of the item and up to 50 hours of community service.
“The more one learns about pocket bikes and mini-motos, the more one realizes that these vehicles are a danger to both those who ride them and motorists on the road,” explained Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Police departments around the state have recognized these vehicles for the safety hazard they are and attempted to get them off the roads, only to be thwarted by unclear statutes. This bill empowers local police officers to keep these vehicles off public property and improve the safety of our roads.”
The bill would also allow municipalities to designate by ordinance certain public property where the use of motorized scooters and motorized skateboards would be allowed. The ordinance must require operators to be at least 12 years old, have liability insurance, register the vehicle with the municipality and use a helmet. The municipality would be allowed to impose a reasonable fee for the cost of registration.
Pocket bikes and mini-motos are small scale motorcycles with gasoline engines smaller than 50cc that can reach speeds of over 45 miles per hour. The dangers of pocket bikes and mini-motos came to light over the summer after several news reports of injuries sustained by children riding these vehicles on public roads. Their lack of regulation and small size make them attractive for teenagers who are not old enough to earn a driver’s license. Police officials in many municipalities have begun to confiscate the vehicles since their owners are unable to register them with the MVC, but state laws are not clear on what actions can legally be taken.
The bill was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 75-1-1. It now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.