New rules for mopeds

Moped operators in Virginia would have to wear helmets and eye protection, carry a government-issued photo ID, and title, register and put a license plate on their scooters under a bill waiting to be signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Scooter on road

Update #3 — March 20, 2013; 9:30 AM

By Shelby Mertens | Capital News Service

New moped regulations:

  • Beginning July 1st: moped operators must carry a photo ID and wear both helmet and eye protection.
  • Beginning July 1, 2014: moped owners must title and register new vehicles ($10 charge), and obtain a license plate.

— ∮∮∮ —

Moped operators in Virginia would have to wear helmets and eye protection, carry a government-issued photo ID, and title, as well as register and put a license plate on their scooters under a bill waiting to be signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Senate Bill 1038, passed by the General Assembly during its recent session, is based on recommendations from a yearlong study conducted by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

In September 2011, the DMV was asked by the assembly’s transportation committees to study the increasing consumer demand for vehicles that do not fit the current motor vehicle definitions in the Code of Virginia.

The Non-Conventional Vehicles Study group was made up of representatives from the DMV, law enforcement, the insurance industry, highway safety, motorcycle dealers and manufacturers, moped dealers, and other state and local government agencies.

The study focused on low-speed vehicles like mopeds, all-terrain vehicles and three-wheeled motorcycles. The work group wanted to address concerns dealing with the safety and proper use of mopeds.

“The number of mopeds on Virginia roads has increased significantly as a result of the rising cost of gas, along with the affordability and availability of mopeds,” said Sunni Brown, a DMV spokeswoman.

“With the increased number of mopeds sharing our roads, there has been an increase in the number of concerns expressed from the public, law enforcement, General Assembly members and traffic safety advocates.”

The study also looked at moped-related crash and fatality statistics in Virginia, as well as laws governing non-conventional vehicle in other states.

“After reviewing those other state moped requirements, it became clear that Virginia is one of the few states imposing no requirement on moped operations in terms of licensing of the operator, titling, registration of the moped, and liability insurance,” Brown said.

Chelsea Lahmers, owner and founder of Scoot Richmond, which sells and services scooters, was part of the work group for the study. Lahmers said that right now, mopeds are in a gray area between bicycles, which do not require titles or registration, and cars, which of course do.

Virginia and North Carolina are the only states in the country that do not require moped operators to carry official identification. Current Virginia law requires that the moped operator must be at least 16 years old, but no valid driver’s license is necessary.

As a result, Lahmers said, there have been many cases in which moped drivers have been in an accident and did not have a photo ID on them.

Under SB1038, moped operators would have to carry a photo ID and wear a helmet and eye protection beginning July 1.

The requirements regarding titling, registering and getting a license plate for a moped would take effect the following year – starting July 1, 2014.
According to Lahmers, titling and registering a moped gives the owner protection against theft.

“We see mopeds get recovered by the police that never get back into the owner’s hands,” Lahmers said. “Without that title, it is almost impossible to get your vehicle back if it gets stolen.”

A $10 fee would be charged for titling. Lahmers said the titling requirement would apply only to newly purchased mopeds. The DMV is unsure of what to do with mopeds already on the road, she said.

Lahmers supports the legislation, but questions one provision: Under the bill, low-speed vehicle owners would be subject to a 5 percent motor vehicle sales and use tax, and exempt from the retail sales and use tax. In addition, localities may exempt mopeds from personal property taxation.

Lahmers notes that some organizations, such as the Virginia Motorcycle Dealers Association, want the motor vehicle sales and use tax lowered to 3 percent.

SB1038 was sponsored by Republican Sens. Stephen Newman (23rd District) and Charles Carrico (40th District). It was approved unanimously by the Senate and on a vote of 60-39 in the House. According to Newman’s office, McDonnell is expected to sign the bill soon.

Last year, Maryland passed a bill that made similar requirements for moped operators. The Maryland law requires owners to place a permanent decal on the rear of the moped and levies a 6 percent tax.

— ∮∮∮ —

Update #2 — February 14, 2013; 9:55 AM

Today, the House of Delegates voted 60-39 on a bill (SB1038) that would require moped owners to register and title their vehicles, and moped operators to wear a helmet and goggles.

Although the bill–which addressed other “non-conventional vehicles” in addition to mopeds–passed the Senate, it was modified by a House committee to refine the definitions of all-terrain vehicles and establish low-speed license plates for special four-wheeled electrically-powered vehicles, among other things (PDF).

As the bill was modified, it will return to the Senate for reconsideration. If the modified bill passes the Senate, it will go before the Governor. However, if the modified bill is rejected, it will then enter a committee of conference for the two bills to be reconciled.

A representative in the office of the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stephen Newman (R- 23rd District), said the senator approved of the House changes, and expects the modified bill to pass the Senate and move to the Governor’s desk.

— ∮∮∮ —

Update #1 – January 16th; 6:30 AM

Del. Joe May (R-Leesberg) has introduced a bill (HB1984) that would require all mopeds in Virginia to be titled and registered, with riders required to carry government-issued photo identification and wear safety glasses if the moped is not equipped with a windshield.

The bill would also update the state’s legal definition of “moped” to mean:

…every vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground that has (i) has a seat that is no less than 24 inches in height, measured from the middle of the seat perpendicular to the ground and; (ii) has a gasoline, electric, or hybrid motor that (a) displaces less than 50 cubic centimeters or less or (b) has an input of 1500 watts or less; (iii) is power-driven, with or without pedals that allow propulsion by human power; and (iv) is not operated at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour.

Thus, motor scooters displacing 49cc or less would be considered mopeds under the bill, which would become law effective July 1, 2014. A representative of Del. May’s office said a House subcommittee reviewing the bill recently lowered the proposed titling tax rate on mopeds from 5% to 3%. The bill is scheduled to go before a full House Transportation Committee vote on Thursday.

The Senate is also considering a similar bill (SB1038), now awaiting vote in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Relatedly, Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced an additional moped bill (SB1007) that would require moped owners to have a valid driver’s license, complete special vehicle operations testing, and wear a helmet during operation. The bill also forbids excess of one passenger riding on a moped while in use, and increases violation fines from $50 to $250.

The bill is awaiting vote in the Senate Transportation Committee.

— ∮∮∮ —

Original — December, 27 2012; 10:45 AM

Draft legislation requiring scooter and moped1 owners across Virginia to register and title their vehicle, as well as wear helmets and eye protection, will likely come before the General Assembly sometime after it convenes in early 2013. Several motor scooter riders and enthusiasts, including the owner of local Scoot Richmond, think the proposed law is imperative.

“There were not nearly as many 49cc bikes” when state laws were first made, said Chelsea Lahmers.2 “Now there’s so many more. Something had to be fixed.” She said Virginia has one of the nation’s most lax moped laws.

She said that since 2009, Scoot Richmond has seen steady growth in annual sales, largely because of the fuel economy mopeds offer (typically 70-100 mpg). She said 2012 has been the retailer’s “best year on record,” seeing upwards of 75 moped sales in a single month. However, neither Lahmers or state officials know the number of mopeds in either Richmond or the state. “No one has any idea,” Lahmers said. That’s one of several benefits Lahmers sees in the proposed law.

The Scoot Richmond owner was one of several individuals that comprised a recent “Non-conventional Vehicle Study Group” organized by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The study group, consisting of various state departmental officials, representatives of safety organizations, and business owners, held a trio of meetings this past summer to discuss updating state laws regarding several non-automobile vehicles, including mopeds.

Lahmers said one of the chief concerns among moped discussions was to create a consistent law that encompassed all of the state rather than relying on individual cities and counties to make and enforce laws that sometimes contradicted one another.

For instance, Richmond law requires moped riders to wear helmets while operating their vehicle. However, “In many other counties, that [is] not the law,” Lahmers said. Similarly, some state jurisdictions require riders to wear eye protection while on a moped. Others do not. The proposed law will make it so that all Virginians who operate a moped must wear both a helmet and eye protection across the state.

Another benefit of the law that Lahmers praises is the requirement that all mopeds must be both tagged and titled. Currently, moped riders can operate their vehicle without a license plate, which Lahmers said help makes them “very easy” to steal. Just this summer, Richmond Police noted that moped thefts in the city were up nearly 150 percent compared to 2011. Should the proposed law pass, moped riders will be required to obtain a license plate3 for their vehicles at a one-time, $10 charge (the tag should follow the bike if its subsequently sold).

Many mopeds in Richmond are also not titled. The new law would require moped owners to pay $20 to register their vehicles with the DMV. Lahmers said that not only would tagging and titling mopeds deter theft (and make it more likely to recover a vehicle should it be stolen) but it would add another method of identifying a moped rider should she be involved in a severe accident with no identification on them. “If that person has no plate on the bike…there’s no way to find out who that person is,” Lahmers said. Titling will also help give officials and the public a better idea of just how many mopeds are in use statewide.

Many riders will be pleased with what the proposed law does not require. Moped owners will not need a driver’s license to operate their vehicle, will not need to pay property taxes, will not be required to obtain an annual state inspection of the vehicle, and will not needing to renew tags.

“I feel there aren’t a lot of downsides,” Lahmers said about the proposed statewide changes. She believes that when Delegate Joe May (R – Leesburg) brings the bill to the General Assembly sometime next year, as is expected, it will become law. “I’m very optimistic that this will pass.”

Related

— ∮∮∮ —

Footnotes

  1. Public perception of mopeds and scooters sometimes differ from their legal distinctions. According to Virginia law, any motor bike that operates at 49cc or below is considered a moped. So, while some would see a 49cc Vespa and refer to it as a scooter, it is legally classified as a moped. Anything 50cc and above is a motorcycle. So, a 100cc Vespa may be called a scooter in conversation, but is legally referred to as a motorcycle. 
  2. Virginia considers motor scooters that operate 50cc and above motors motorcycles, which carry with them their own unique tagging and titling requirements. 
  3. Lahmers provided this photo comparing the license plates of an automobile (bottom), motorcycle (middle), and one that would likely be similar to that of a moped under the new law (top). 

photo by swanksalot

  • error

    Report an error

46 comments on New rules for mopeds

  1. This article is quite confusing. The author seems to mix up ‘moped’ and ‘scooter’ which are not the same thing.

  2. ^^^duhhh, never mind you go into the legal classifications towards the end.
    Scooters though are not mopeds because they lack pedals. Our legal system doesn’t seem to recognize this inherent difference

  3. Ross Catrow on said:

    @Scott, it’s definitely confusing. I’ll be interested if the proposed legislation clears up any of the definitions. We’ll update this when the bills drop!

  4. downtownwatch on said:

    Thanks for letting us know about this- I’ll be sure to tell my friends who have scooters-

  5. I believe the state classifies motorized bikes 49cc or less and travel at speeds under 35 mph as mopeds, whether they have pedals or not. It is not a definition about design between a moped or scooter.

  6. Chelsea from Scoot Richmond here. The changes will require that vehicles that are classified as mopeds (engine size less than 50cc, top speed of 35mph or less) are titled, which is $10.00. The permanent registration/license plate for the scooter/moped would be $20.00.

  7. Scott on said:

    @jeff – that’s what I’m saying.

  8. afowler on said:

    for this comment, moped != scooter.

    title? that requires a VIN plate right? very few vintage mopeds have retained their VIN plate… what am i supposed to do about that? This has the potential to kill the local moped culture that rarely gets their moped stolen because we know how use to locks properly… this makes me sad…if this passes i’ll be forced to thin the herd to reduce fees i’d have to pay.

  9. The states of Washington and Oregon define mopeds based on performance: Less than 2 bhp, 30 mph top speed on level ground. While both states require gearless transmissions, Washington recently changed its law to eliminate the requirement for pedals and other bicycle features. Both states also make allowance for 2- or 3-wheeled vehicles with similar performance.

  10. Arnold on said:

    None of my mopeds have titles and only one has a vin tag. Would make it very hard to even get the mopeds on the road! Would definnly kill the moped riders.

  11. This is a solution looking for a problem. Most moped owners appreciate the lack of government involvement/interference in the moped experience. These nanny state proposals will definately kill the moped industry in Virginia.

  12. downtownwatch on said:

    I have a friend who is very much about scooters: He said that this law would be very difficult for him to comply with, because many of his scooters are in various states of repair and disrepair. Furthermore, many of the scooters are franken-scooters, being composed of parts from several scooters. Most do not have VIN plates, making registration essentially impossible.

  13. Jennifer C. on said:

    They haven’t decided on anything definite yet, so why not put forth your concerns? Maybe there can be a special FrankenTitle for those bikes.

  14. They should license both the scooters and the drivers and require them to have insurance just like all the other drivers on the road. Enforcing traffic laws would be good (no more sidewalk or wrong ways driving).

  15. well i believe it will be good for those of us who have to have tag, title .and carry insurance.if it is allowed on the roads it should be tagged titled and insured. the DMV can issue VIN plates just like they do for trailers built by owners

  16. bradf on said:

    this law sounds really good for the owner of the scooter store that sells new complete scooters for over 1000 dollars for all the rest of us the moped and scooters

  17. Willis on said:

    Looks like the legislators have taken the reccomendations of the panel and run with them. Moped’s, get ready for SB1007.

  18. Robert on said:

    I can’t see where they actually lay out the specifics as far as fees, titling, etc. The proposed bills indicate that mopeds are required to be titled and registered, but they don’t indicate what the cost or form of the titling and registration will be, nor do they state how owners of existing, non-titled mopeds will be able to obtain a title. It seems like I’m missing something. Can someone correct me if I’m wrong?

  19. Robert on said:

    Oh I see…. it seems that some of the text is only in the PDF versions of the bills.

  20. jade on said:

    This sucks. One of the main attractions of a 49/50cc scooter is that you just buy &ride .it

  21. jade on said:

    I just bought my first one, no title. I am saving up to get my drivers liscence so i wanted to have transportation in the meantime. I can see passing the first bill, requiring title and registration. But i CaNNot agree with the second, requiring drivers license, certification, and insurance. That would essentially make scooters into “motorcycles”! That’s crazy. If someone has a valid license, &can afford insurance, etc, then they should just buy a motorcycle! Our if they want a scooter, the 150&250cc ones are considered motorcycles anyway! That was the whole point of a 50cc! Sorry, this makes me frustrated…

  22. jade on said:

    Jeff waters is selfish. Essentially making a “motorcycle only” world is bad enough, but then to try and limit it to NO passengers?!? The current law and the first proposed bill both state that if the scooter was designed for one, u can only have one. If it was made for two, u can have a passenger. If it was made for two with jeffs bill, though, u could still! only ride by yourself. I know i have been a passenger many times. But since i am a new driver, i have not yet had a passenger when i ride. I will, once i an fully comfortable doing so. And i believe that most riders are the same way, and do not ride with a passenger unless they are ready and experienced.

  23. OK folks, please consider the following comments which intend to present to the politicians responsible for this debacle. (1) If it is passed that you have to register your moped and to do that you will need a current title or a certificate of origin, then how will a perfectly legal owner of a 1978 Motobecane (example) provide such documents as they never had one. It was purchased as a motorized bicycle and does not have a VIN number, nor was a COI issued and dealers or sellers have long since vanished. (2) The perfectly legal owner of the 2010 scooter who bought it from his next door neighbor who lost the original paperwork years ago when they moved or I bought it from the guy down the street but he bought it at an auction and there is no paperwork, or I found a scooter frame on the side of the road and built it myself from parts i ordered over the internet. Examples like this and hundreds of others are all over the place. Will that mean I will have to scrap my bike that I use daily and buy a new one from a dealer. For the dealers pushing this, I wonder why.
    I would instead advocate registration of the moped rider on the proposed ID card or moped designation on ones drivers license if they have one. That way it could be revoked for DUI offense. Targeting mopeds and or scooters for registration will create monumental problems for both owners and DMV. IF this proposed change will cause you problems I recommend you light up your representatives telephone and voice any concerns you may have as I certainly will. It appears the politicians are getting input from dealers without any from owners and users, which is definitely a bad idea.

  24. Richard Baker on said:

    This bill is laced with greed. Mopeds and 4 wheelers have always been exempt for vehicle taxes. Registration seems to be an attempt to close a “tax loophole” that penalizes people who want to save transportation costs or someone who can’t obtain a drivers license.
    When is the Govt going to give us a break – next they’ll be taxing the air we breath.

  25. Scott on said:

    Womp womp, how are you supposed to title a moped?

  26. Scott Burger on said:

    Electric bicycles, which are more energy efficient and run more cleanly and quietly, do not require licenses or registration.

    http://www.electricbike.com/category/news/

  27. this law is pretty sad. i feel for all the people who have been collecting these antiques vehicles.

  28. This new law specifically exempts mopeds from being subject to personal property tax. There will be no new taxes on mopeds, period.

    Sales tax in Virginia is 5%, and is currently the tax charged on a new moped. Vehicle tax is only 3%, and we’d like to see that become the tax rate charged on new mopeds as it will actually make the tax paid on the vehicle cheaper than it currently is.

    The DMV wanted to make sure that the law passed before they worked out the implementation plan for mopeds that are currently on the road, which includes mopeds from the 1970s and 80s as well as a 2010 model year moped and mopeds that someone has assembled from parts, all of which are legal and do not have titles. As part of the DMV group that will be sorting out the implementation, I can personally guarantee that there will be a method for getting titles on all vintage, older, and otherwise non-standard mopeds. Currently legal untitled vehicles are not going to be rendered useless when the new law goes into effect. I do not yet know what the process will be, as the meetings to sort that out have not started yet.

    Basically: Don’t freak out! It’s all going to be worked out in the very near future, and it’s not going to be time-consuming or expensive.

  29. RJ, every moped on the road has a VIN, whether it is a 1978 Motobecane or vintage Tomos or Puch or what have you. Even if a vehicle is handbuilt, there is even a procedure for having a VIN assigned to it as well. You won’t need to buy a new moped.

    The group that assisted the DMV with the content of the new law consisted on not only dealers and law enforcement but also riders and local scooter/moped club members, so these changes are actually supported by people that ride mopeds and comprehend what the law is trying to do. There are a lot of misconceptions out there, and there are other things that have yet to be worked out, but this law is actually good for riders and not based on greed or government overreach.

  30. A.P. Schill on said:

    This looks suspiciously like an internet comment thread in which at least half of the participants are laboring under false assumptions or plain ignorance. Most of you don’t even know the current laws for mopeds in the first place, so changes are kind of beyond you. Catch up, ya tomatoes.

  31. MoreMoneyforVA on said:

    Just to point out that the state is losing its income on Gas tax, Property Tax-auto, registration, titling, etc because of scooters. Now this new bill is basically trying to do damage control, and those insurance companies also want a piece of the pies. Mandating PPE is acceptable but making money in the name of public safety is plainly GREEDY. Do those law makers really think, the public is this STUPID???

  32. I happen to operate a driver improvement school in Virginia Beach. There’s a little known fact that, as a licensee of the DMV, I have to submit $10. to the DMV for each and every student who takes my course. As far as registration fees, yes, it IS about the money. Don’t believe otherwise. My personal concern is the fact that these vehicles are not required to carry insurance of any kind. One month ago, a scooter operator lost control of his bike, slammed into the side of my car. While, luckily, there was only a small scuff on my car, not only was his bike totaled, he was dazed, confused, and had possible medical issues from it. Another instance: an acquaintance slammed into the back of an SUV, broke his leg, had multiple facial lacerations and suffered a collapsed lung. I hope he pulls through. The point is, who winds up paying for his medical care? We ALL do with higher insurance rates.

  33. J Shepard on said:

    This is long overdue. These vehicles use the roads that are funded and maintained by tax money.Why shouldn’t they pay taxes just like everyone else? The operators of these vehicles are just as likely to get into an accident as any other motor vehicle so requiring liability insurance shouldn’t be an option. Every day I see scooters that are supposed to belimited to 35mph or less traveling greater than that speed. I also see many of the operators disregarding traffic laws that every other motor vehicle operator is supposed to follow. I have had instances of being run off the road, erractic operation, improper helmet use, swerving from lane to lane and generally unsafe vehicle operation by scooter operators. Since these vehicles are being used on public roads, their operators should be required to have a valid operators license like all other classes of road users. I realize there are plenty of responsible scooter and moped operators but, unfortunately there are many that aren’t. I’ve ridden scooters, mopeds and motorcycles. Scooters and mopeds are just as dangerous as motorcycles if not used with respect and responsiblity. There shouldn’t be a class of motor vehicle used on public roads that receives special treatment.

  34. As a former moped rider in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am sad to see that this legislation has passed. I fondly remember my recent broke-student days where the only way I’d get around was with my moped. The best part about my little steel pony was that I didn’t have to go through all the BS that car owners did. It was cheap and affordable. This legislation might not be a big deal to those who have mopeds as toys but it does affect the poor people whose only way to get around is a little 49cc vehicle. I predict high rates of non compliance and an eventual end of the 49cc industry because of the bill. And I do have a feeling it will help the electric bicycle industry. I bet none of the delegates/senators who signed the bill rode a moped to work. They have their large SUVs

  35. phog on said:

    I bought my scooter in 2002 (new, it came with certificate of origin) but I lost the paperwork years ago. When this law goes into effect next year, how am I supposed to title this scooter? It will be impossible.

  36. theodore l conley III on said:

    I have been riding a moped since I was 15 I am 54 now.I have never had wreck I have a vision problem that keeps me from getting a driver’s license by 20 points on a vision test. if they require moped riders to have a driver’s license it will put me off the road completely! We do not own any other vehicles no one in my home drive’s but me on the moped. What are poor people like us soppiest to do? we don’t have money to pay some one (if you can find some one) to take us were we need to go! Like to buy food and to go to the doctor or out to pay our bills! is the state going to provide transportation for us I doubt it!

  37. danny rudolph on said:

    think va is just some money hungry any and every thing that they can get money out of they going to put there hand in it and the reason I say this is I have six scooters and ride them every day but I ride them like I would be in a car and wear my helmet and have a id my copy of the title and do everything you do if your in car,or whatever you are driving

  38. cory tinson. on said:

    We do not pass bill call #(SB1007) by. Jeff Mcwaters from Virginia Beach. That hurt me very much. PLEASE do not pass bill.

  39. I’ve had 8 REGISTERD bicyles stolen..locks cut. NEVER saw any of them again! its all a money thing! my only transpo to work & polititan greed wants some of that too? pathetic!

  40. guess if greedmongers kick us off our scoots,w’ll hv to carry a weeks worh of groceries on th citybus..bet none of them EVER had to do such a pleebish thing!

  41. Darrell Chrisley on said:

    Tired of all the belly aching. Act like adults and take care of your business. When you are on the highway you are no better than the rest of us that have a license and insurance . In short. GET LEGAL OR GET OFF MY HIGHWAY!!!!

  42. banthegov.org on said:

    all i gotta say is, dont expect me to ride on the shoulder of the road anymore. if i have to tag title and insure my 50cc scooter like everybody else then im gonna use the road like everybody else. EVERYBODY behind me will be doing 35mph!

  43. kissmyglass on said:

    Darrell, it’s not “your highway.” I pay taxes at the pump like everyone else, jack.

  44. michael cox on said:

    if this goes thru you could cost me my job. since i have to be at work at 3 am (no bus runs at that time ) and i will have to work so you are telling me i have to leave my house at 1am to be there by 3 am ? i would rather be unemployed or i might be if i can not make it to work on time i understand the importance of safety but no you are taking away my employment

  45. Al Rios on said:

    The New Law is clear any scooter or moped under 50 cc is excempt from A type Plates but requires by law drivers I D and Registration. anything above 50 cc needs by law license plate type A and registration., ID is for drivers ans helmet and eye protecction.

  46. TEDSHRD on said:

    I feel for the ones that enjoy their moped/scooters. I have been riding motorcycles for over 40 years and have to say these bikes are not safe in the main roads and traffic. They cause traffic jams and issues on roads that have speed limits over 35 mile speed posted. If they rides of these bike would stay in their posted zones I say work with the issue. But I see that being abused with no way to control it. I do believe that they are forcing this issue with the theft statement and I do feel if your in traffic you need insurance. But lets see how a insurance company is going to figure out how to insure someone that isn’t registered or licensed. Hope it all works out for everyone but I’m going to have to vote to pass SB1007.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Or report an error instead