TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Joseph Coniglio and Shirley K. Turner that would ban miniaturized motorcycles commonly known as “pocket bikes” or “mini-motos” from New Jersey’s streets and sidewalks move one step closer to law today as it passed the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
“Even with their involvement in a number of high profile accidents, pocket bikes continue to grow in popularity,” said Senator Congilio, D-Bergen. “Many people think they are just like the Barbie or G.I. Joe Powerwheels our kids used to ask for, but they are not. These devises are fully-functional motorcycles that can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour. They are very hard to see and extremely dangerous for young ones to ride.”
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.
“When I see someone riding a pocket bikes or mini-moto, I fear not just for their safety, but for the safety of pedestrians and motorists on the road who may not see the bike in their path,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “The law is currently silent on these hazardous vehicles. Unfortunately, in the cases where police officers have acted responsibly by confiscating the bikes or issuing tickets, those decisions have reversed by the municipalities because the law is unclear. The measure would remove all doubt about where and how these vehicles can be operated and empower local police officers to take action to keep our streets safe for both pedestrians and motorists.”
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.
The sponsors noted that they became advocates for this legislation after children in towns in their districts, Lodi and Trenton, were involved in serious accidents while riding a pocket bike. 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 now goes to the full Assembly for their approval.