Are Pocket Bikes Street Legal

You've seen those adorable little bikes buzzing around, so tiny they look more like toys. Anyone over the age of eight riding on one resembles a circus act-where the clown rides a tiny bike for laughs. But these bikes are no laughing matter, especially where safety and the law are concerned.

Are pocket bikes legal? No.

But I see people riding them on the street. So?

But they're motorcycles, right? No.

Okay, why all the confusion over these seemingly harmless vehicles? First, it helps to understand exactly what kind of vehicle one calls a pocket bike. Terms are used interchangeably after all. And understanding the physical description helps explain some of the confusion and why these bikes are not legal on streets, sidewalks, park paths and any number of other places.

Legal definition of a pocket bike

In Washington State, and presumably other states as well, a pocket bike is defined as:

  • Having no more than two 10-inch of smaller wheels
  • Having handlebars
  • Looking similar to a motorcycle
  • Being sat upon by the operator
  • Having an internal combustion engine

They miss being a motorcycle because:

  • They don't meet minimum wheelbase of three feet, six inches
  • They don't meet the minimum headlamp height of 24 inches and minimum tail light height of 15 inches
  • They don't have two mirrors, pneumatic rubber tires and other requirements

They need a VIN

These vehicles do not meet the requirements set by the Federal Vehicle Safety Standards that all vehicles must meet to be allowed on public roads in all states. Therefore they are not issued a 17-digit VIN, or vehicle identification number. Without a VIN these vehicles cannot be licensed. Without a license, well, they're illegal.

That, too, may explain some of the confusion surrounding the legality of pocket bikes. Some people do not see pocket bikes listed specifically in the vehicle rules and regs for their state and-perhaps wishfully-think that means it's okay. No again. Pocket bikes are not listed because they don't have a VIN so they are not legal vehicles.

Substantial fines

Anyone caught breaking the laws governing pocket bikes is subject to heavy fines. In Oregon these fines range from $90 to $720.

While it may seem unfair, the laws are actually concerned with keeping people safe. First the pocket bike rider often cannot be seen by other vehicles because these bikes sit so low to the street. Second, if there is a collision, the pocket bike rider's head is just about even with the other vehicle's bumper. That's going to hurt.

If you still think your pocket bike might not fall into the category of illegal street vehicle, you might check with your local law enforcement officer or contact the motor vehicle department for you state.

The poor pocket bike. It's kind of like a pre-teen-not big enough for the street, but not allowed on park paths and sidewalks, either. Keep it on the track where it was designed to be used. Or ride it on private property with permission of the landowner.

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