Location: Salina

Are Motorized Bicycles Street-Legal in Kansas?

The Salina Journal is reporting that police in Salina, Kansas are cracking down on motorized bicycles:

Cole Rodenbeek says he and some friends who ride their bicycles to work are being eco-friendly and trying to save money on their daily commute to work.

But Salina police say he and his friends are breaking the law. It’s the motors on the bikes the Salinans ride that have drawn law officers’ attention.

Equipped with 49 cubic centimeter motors that get as much as 175 miles to the gallon of gas, their bikes can cruise at 20 miles an hour along the street or faster downhill.

Recently, one of the riders was stopped by a patrol officer and given a ticket for riding an unregistered vehicle on a city street. The fine in Salina Municipal Court for driving an unregistered vehicle is $50, and court costs are $50.

Officers aren’t against saving fuel. But the law says that any vehicle driven on a street has to be registered and have a license tag, said Lt. Russ Lamer, traffic unit commander.

A motorized bicycle doesn’t have a vehicle identification number, so it can’t be registered, Lamer said. The same holds true for golf carts, which also are illegal to operate on Salina streets, he said. Mopeds have VINs, so they can be registered.

Bicycles powered by electric motors also would not be legal to drive on city streets, Lamer said. [Read more]

Here are the Kansas Bicycle Laws and Statutes related to motorized bicycles:

8-1592a. Application of 8-1586 to 8-1592 (bicycle-specific statutes) to motorized bicycles.
The provisions of K.S.A. 8-1586 to 8-1592, inclusive, shall be applicable to motorized bicycles, and every person operating a motorized bicycle shall be subject to the provisions thereof.
8-1592b. Electric-assisted bicycles; traffic law application; no registration or driver’s license required.
Vehicle registration and driver’s license shall not be required for operation of an electric-assisted bicycle. Traffic regulations applicable to bicycles shall apply to electric-assisted bicycles, except tricycles with no brake horsepower.
8-1439a. “Motorized bicycle” defined.
“Motorized bicycle” means every device having two tandem wheels or three wheels which may be propelled by either human power or helper motor, or by both, and which has:
(a) A motor which produces not more than 3.5 brake horsepower;
(b) a cylinder capacity of not more than 130 cubic centimeters;
(c) an automatic transmission; and
(d) the capability of a maximum design speed of no more than 30 miles per hour except a low power cycle.
8-1489. “Electric-assisted bicycle” defined.
“Electric-assisted bicycle” means a bicycle with two or three wheels, a saddle, fully operative pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor. The electric-assisted bicycle’s electric motor must have a power output of no more than 1,000 watts, be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour on level ground and incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device beyond 20 miles per hour.

Here’s what the Kansas Highway Patrol says about motorized bicycles (and Mopeds):

Are Motorized Bicycles Street-Legal in Kansas?“Motorized bicycle” means every device having two tandem wheels or three wheels, which may be propelled by either human power, helper motor, or by both and which has:

  • A motor which produces not more than 3.5 brake horsepower;
  • A cylinder capacity of not more than 130 cubic centimeters;
  • An automatic transmission; and
  • The capability of a maximum design speed of no more than 30 miles per hour except a low power cycle.
  • * The operator must possess a valid driver’s license for any class of motor vehicle, or a driver’s license specifically for the operation of a motorized bicycle per KSA 8-235. [read more]

And here’s what the Kansas Department of Revenue says:

A motorized bicycle manufactured in 1980 or after must have a seventeen (17) digit VIN conforming to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration requirements. There must also be a decal or plate attached with a statement that the motorized bicycle meets the Federal Safety Standards. If the motorized bicycle does not meet these requirements, it more than likely will be considered a “toy vehicle” which will not be titled or registered in Kansas and cannot be operated on public roadways within Kansas.

In addition, a motorized bicycle must meet the following requirements: have two tandem wheels or three wheels which may be propelled by either human power or helper motor, or by both, and which has all of the following:
(a) A motor which produces not more than 3.5 brake horsepower*;
(b) a cylinder capacity of not more than 130 cubic centimeters;
(c) an automatic transmission; and
(d) the capability of a maximum design speed of no more than 30 miles per hour.

If the vehicle does not have every one of these requirements, it will not be titled or registered in Kansas. If the vehicle exceeds any of the number values or has a manual transmission, it will be considered a motorcycle and will be titled and registered as such.

How do I get a license to operate a Motorized bicycle (Moped)?
Provide acceptable proof of identity. Pass a vision test and written test.

Seems like there’s some degree of fuzziness and inconsistency among the various agencies. Add in the possibility that different municipalities may have different statutes, and the situation is pretty confusing all around.

But it appears that Lt. Russ Lamer with the Salina Police Department is correct: Motorized bicycles (powered by an internal combustion engine) need to be licensed and registered. And since bicycles don’t have a VIN (apparently the bicycle serial number doesn’t suffice), they can’t be registered.

But his second statement, that “Bicycles powered by electric motors also would not be legal to drive on city streets”, seems to be contradicted by state statute 8-1592b which clearly states that “no registration or driver’s license required” (as long as it can’t go faster than 20 MPH).

The bottom line: Motorized bicycles are (probably) not street-legal in Kansas!

So just ride a normal (human-powered) bicycle and avoid the whole issue. Pedal bicycles do not require license or registration (except in a few communities). Plus, they’re far less expensive, and much better for your physical and mental health!

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web’s premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

6 responses to “Are Motorized Bicycles Street-Legal in Kansas?”

  1. Gene U says:

    The politicians and other voted in people need to allow people to ride these motor assist bikes or make the price of gas go back too a dollar a gallon and stay there ,,every one of them need to be asked on camera for the ok for motor assist bikes and the ones against it need to be recalled imeaditaly ,I’m sure they have hurt enough people w/their wanton money lust that recall pertitions would be easy too fill up demanding imeadiate removal from office and apointing only people back in that want too help people in this depressed economy and not line their pockets w/ill gotten money

  2. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    So, I guess if you have a locomotive, it doesn’t need to be registered. I can’t find any on ebay, but they sound like fuun!

  3. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    Seriously, the law will be amended. Early adopters sometimes get the shaft, but somebody has to take the lead to make change happen.

    Electric bikes are awesome. I remember the first time I was passed by somebody riding one. It looked like a beach cruiser. Then a guy did same on what I would call an English Raleigh 3-speed type frame. They were pedaling, but totally relaxedly, and I knew that I was not in THAT BAD SHAPE. 😉 I’d like to get one as a counter-force to the nasty winter-spring headwinds here.

  4. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    I saw on the news Salina is going to approve motorized bicycles. It’s the sensible thing to do. I really think motor-assisted bking can greatly extend the riding seasons here, give people some exercise (if people will do SOME pedaling), reduce fossil-fuel energy usage and lower people’s commuting costs.

  5. A motorized bicycle doesn’t have a vehicle identification number, so it can’t be registered,
    thank you for a nice blog with appreciate of business of motorized biycle.

    motorized bicycle parts

  6. Odd, if you buy a motorcycle frame it comes without serial or registration numbers. But you can take it to the Highway Patrol and they will inspect it and give you a VIN number for so it can be tagged. ODD!!!