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 Senate today.
“As pocket bikes have grown in popularity, we have seen an increased number of high-profile accidents involving children riding these unsafe devices on public roads,” said Senator Congilio, D-Bergen. “I look at these bikes and as a grandparent, I worry about children riding on one of these dangerous vehicles and getting hurt. These are nothing like the Barbie or G.I. Joe Powerwheels our kids used to ask for – they are fully-functional motorcycles that are very hard to see and can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour.”
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.
“Pocket bikes and mini-motos are a safety hazard for the entire community, not just for those who use them,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “In many cases, police officers have acted responsibly by confiscating the bikes or issuing tickets. Unfortunately, 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.
Senator Coniglio noted, “The accidents hit close to home for both Senator Turner and me, with injuries occurring in Lodi and Trenton. The safety of those we represent needs to be one of our top priorities. The people of New Jersey need to realize that these pocket bikes are extremely dangerous unless every safety precaution is taken.”
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.
Senator Turner added, “Parents need to realize that while a pocket bike might be at the top of your child’s wish list, these devices are not toys. They are fully working vehicles and just as you wouldn’t want to put a 12-year-old behind the wheel of a car, you likewise wouldn’t want them out on the street atop one of these devices.”
The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-0. It now goes to the Assembly for their approval.