TRENTON – Owners of miniaturized motorcycles commonly known as “pocket bikes” or “mini-motos” can no longer operate them on New Jersey’s streets and sidewalks as Governor Richard Codey signed legislation today sponsored by Senators Joseph Congilio and Shirley K. Turner that would make their use on public property illegal.
“Unfortunately, last summer saw several high-profile accidents involving children riding on pocket bikes,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “With this new law, we hope to avoid a repeat of that this summer. It’s good to know that as children are well into enjoying their summer, concerns about accidents involving pocket bikes are greatly alleviated. It is my hope that parents will enforce this ban at home so that our local police officers don’t have to.”
The new law, formerly bill S-1510, prohibits the use of motorized scooters and motorized skateboards on any public street or public property, including sidewalks. The vehicles may be used on private property with the owner’s consent. The first offense will 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 will 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 will lead to a fine of no less than $500, permanent seizure of the item and up to 50 hours of community service.
“Since the accident in Trenton last summer, I have learned a great deal about pocket bikes and mini-motos and the danger these devices pose to both those who ride them and motorists on the road,” explained Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “It became clear we needed to pass this law, so that local police departments would be empowered to get these dangerous vehicles off the roads and sidewalks. Several police departments around the state recognized the safety hazard and now this unambiguous law allows them to keep these vehicles off public property and improve the safety of our streets.”
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 previous lack of regulation and small size had made them attractive for teenagers who are not old enough to earn a driver’s license. Police officials in many municipalities had begun to confiscate the vehicles since their owners are unable to register them with the MVC, but until now state law had not been clear on what actions could have been taken legally.