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Motorcycles and Similar Vehicles

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Photo of a motorcycleWhat is a motorcycle?

A motorcycle is a vehicle whose motor displaces more than 150 cubic centimeters and has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider. It is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and weighs less than 1,500 pounds.

What is a motor-driven cycle?
Photo of a motor-driven cycle

A motor-driven cycle is a motorcycle whose motor displaces less than 150 cubic centimeters.

Photo of a mopedWhat is a moped or motorized bicycle?

  • There are two types of motorized bicycles, defined in the California Vehicle Code (VC) Sections 406(a) and 406(b).
  • Section 406(a) VC refers to a moped or motorized bicycle as any two or three wheeled device having fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power, or having no pedals if powered solely by electrical energy, has an automatic transmission, and a motor which produces less than 2 gross brake horespower and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on level ground.
  • Section 406(b) VC refers to a motorized bicycle as a device that has fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and has an electric motor that:
    • Has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts;
    • Is incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour on level ground; and
    • Is incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power is used to propel the motorized bicycle faster than 20 miles per hour.

Photo of a helmetHelmet requirement

Motorcycles, Motor-Driven Cycles, Motorized Bicycles/Mopeds (Section 406(a) VC ) - A helmet meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, self-certified by the manufacturer and displaying a 'DOT' emblem must be worn by all riders of motocycles, motor-driven cycles, and motorized bicycles/mopends.

Motorized Scooters - A bicycle helmet meeting the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) must be worn to operate a motorized scooter.

Motorized Bicycles (Section 406(b) VC) - A bicycle helmet meeting the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (SPSC) must be worn to operator a motorized bicycle.


Photo of a motorized scooterWhat is a motorized skateboard or motorized scooter?

  • Effective 1/1/2005, a motorized scooter is any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, has a floorboard that is designed to be stood upon when riding.
  • May have a driver seat that does not interfer with the ability to stand and ride and may also be designed to be powered by human propulsion.
  • Powered by electricity or other source.


Driver's License Requirements

Motorized scooter

Effective 1/1/2005, a Class C driver license or driver permit is required.

Motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, motorized bicycle/moped (Section 406(a) VC)

  • Must obtain an M-1 or M-2 endorsement on a driver's license.
  • M-1 allows the driver to operate a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle and moped
  • M-2 allows for operation of a moped or motorized bicycle only.
  • To obtain an M-1 or M-2 endorsement, the driver must:
    • Pass the appropriate written exam
    • Pass riding skills test (DMV will accept certificate of competence from an approved novice motorcyclist training program instead of skills test, such as the California Motorcyclist Safety Program).
    • If the individual is under 21 years of age, mandatory successful completion of a Basic Rider education course approved by the CHP is required, such as the Basic Rider course available through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program.

Motorized Bicycle (Section 406(b) VC)

  • Driver's License not required but rider must be at least 16 years of age.

Instruction Permit Requirements

  • Operator must be at least 15 1/2 years old
  • Operator must pass automobile written exam
  • Operator must pass appropriate endorsement requirements for an M-1 and M-2 endorsement
  • Operator must have completed an approved automobile driver education course

Note: An operator with an instruction permit may not carry passengers, ride after dark or operate a motorcycle on the freeway.

Photo of motorcycle

Equipment Requirements

  • Brakes, tires, rear view mirror and horn in good operating condition
  • Multi-beam headlight for 1978 models and later to remain on at all times
  • Tail light and license plate light
  • Front and rear turn signals for 1973 and later models
  • Passenger footrests allowing any passenger to place feet on them

Safety Clothing

  • Helmet as mentioned above. If face shield is worn, it must be shatterproof
  • Eyeglasses or other eye protection
  • High-top boots or shoes, preferably with steel toe protection
  • Gloves
  • Snug clothing covering arms and legs
  • Brightly colored clothing and reflectorized material after dark
Photo of motorcycle and rider

Photo of motorized scooter and riderMotorized scooter

  • Driver must be at least 16 years old.
  • Effective 1/1/2005, a Class C driver's license or driver's permit is required.
  • Effective 1/1/2005, a motorized scooter shall at all times be equipped with a muffler.
  • Effective 1/1/2005, a person shall not modify the exhaust system of a motorized scooter in a manner that will amplify or increase the noise level emitted by the motor.
  • Speed limit is 15 mph.
  • Driver must wear a bicycle helmet
  • Operation permitted on a bicycle path, trail or bikeway, unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting it.
  • On the roadway with a posted speed limit of greater than 25 mph, driver must operate in Class II bicycle lane.
  • On roads with a posted speed limit of 25 mph or less, riding in a bicycle lane is not required.
  • Operator shall ride as close to the right curb as possible, except to pass or turn left

Motorized skateboard

  • Operation permitted on private property only.
  • Illegal on highways, sidewalks, bikeways and hiking or recreational trails.

Pocket Bikes (Mini Motorcycles)

  • Operation permitted on private property only.
  • Illegal on all roads, sidewalks, bikeways and riding or recreational trails.

    Photo of motorcycle and rider


Riding Tips

  • Lane splitting is permissible if done in a safe and prudent manner
  • Postpone your trip if weather is bad or roads are icy
  • Avoid sudden starts, stops and turns
  • Anticipate that cross traffic at intersections won't see you
  • Make eye contact with drivers to avoid being hit
  • Watch out for another motorist turning left in front of you; plan an escape route
Photo of motorcyle rider and trucks
  • Stay out of blind spots, especially on large trucks
  • Scan the road for diesel fuel, oil or gravel
  • Be alert for potholes or railroad tracks that parallel the roadway
  • Obey the speed limit. A motorcycle collision is highly likely to cause injury or death
  • Don't drink and drive. DUI is a leading cause of motorcycle crashes
  • Take a motorcyclist safety course to improve skill and lower insurance rates