Knowing the Law

Those who have ridden for a while have come to learn that as a rule, non riders have no idea what the laws are regarding motorcycles and that many of our enforcement agencies do not know much more than the average driver.  Because of this, it has become an almost standard requirement for riders to know the laws of their own area.  

There are a number of laws that are vitally important to be aware of because of how they directly impact the rider in every day activities.  Parking, oddly enough, is an issue that is so clearly misunderstood on both sides of the fence that has led to comical and tragic results.  The misconception that a motorcycle can park in spaces that are not designated for parking is the one that seems to lead to the most problematic issues.  Many non-riders assume that a motorcycle can use bicycle parking, or the left over triangles in parking areas.  Depending upon your locale, this may or may not be true.  

In Georgia for example, it is never legal for a motorcycle to use either of those spots.  The only exception to the rule is a 'moped' which is classified as a vehicle with less than 50cc displacement, which can use bicycle parking.  

Unfortunately, perception has caused a larger problem.  Many drivers do not know or understand this and get upset over a motorcycle taking up an entire space, as they are legally obligated to do.  Recently, that has led to some comical incidents.  One of the more interesting comes from the Capital Hill area of Seattle.  Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.  As many of us know, parking on the sidewalks will result in tickets and fines.  Parking in parking spaces can result in the bikes being moved, knocked over and threatened for obeying the law. 

Parking is not the only area though.  For many scooter owners there are other bits to be educated on.  

The definition of a moped/scooter is often one of engine size, and that dictates how they are licensed and insured, but also where they can be ridden.  Knowing these laws can be the difference between a day and court and a pleasant ride.  

Georgia is a good example, where the law can be a little murky with regards to scooters.  The short version, as summarized by the state is


A moped is defined as any motor driven cycle with an engine not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters (3.05 cubic inches).

Mopeds are exempt from the provisions relating to the registration and licensing of motor vehicles.

Rules to operate mopeds on Georgia roads and highways:

1) Must be 15 years of age and have in their possession a valid driver's license, instructional permit or limited permit.

2) Must wear protective headgear (motorcycle helmet).

3) No tag is required.

4) Every person operating a moped upon a roadway must obey the same traffic laws governing drivers of motor vehicles.

5) May not use limited access highways or other roadways where the minimum speed limit is above 35 mph.

The gotcha here is the 5th bullet point.  The minimum speed criteria.  Georgia has no hard and fast law on minimum speeds.  There is no minimum speed unless otherwise posted.  But, that is not the whole story.

There is second statute that has to be understood because it articulates the minimum speed rules:


(a)(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as  

to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when  

reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.

(2) On roads, streets, or highways with two or more lanes allowing for  

movement in the same direction, no person shall continue to operate a  

motor vehicle in the most left-hand lane at less than the maximum  

lawful speed limit once such person knows or should reasonably know  

that he is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor  

vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed, except when such motor  

vehicle is preparing for a left turn.

(b) Whenever the commissioner of public safety or the commissioner of  

transportation or local authorities determine on the basis of any  

engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of  

a road under their respective jurisdictions impede the normal and  

reasonable movement of traffic, such commissioners jointly, or such  

local authorities, may determine and declare a minimum speed limit  

below which no person shall drive a vehicle except when necessary for  

safe operation, and that limit shall be effective when posted upon  

fixed or variable signs.

Here we have two different rules that apply in this context.  The easier one is (b) which clearly defines that there is no minimum speed unless posted.  The problem is (a)(1).  (a)(1) provides a judgement call criteria for enforcement.  It is this criteria that represents an issue for the scooter/moped rider.   Knowing the above helps the rider know what is an is not legal for them to do, but also to defend their actions should it be required.  

Content by dru_satori, edited on a Mac using SandVox (because I'm lazy)