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Definition of a Motor Vehicle - keep handy


Marty Backe
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18 minutes ago, Marty Backe said:

Here's the Cornell University Law School definition of a motor vehicle. This is text from the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (ECFR):

Great research! I wish Cornell's definition was the law of the land but unfortunately every township, county and state have their own interpretation!

Case and point: When I first began flying  my helicopter in and out of my home the heliport was preapproved by the FAA. We are talking federal government!

The FAA approval process for heliports included an onsite FAA inspection, drawings including obstacles, elevations, coordinances, nearest airports...etc. After 6 months of paperwork and a huge cost my township ordered a special meeting and my heliport came to a grinding halt in less than 2 hours. I should have fought a legal battle but getting along with my neighbors was more important.

So my point is whatever legal interpretation is out there concerning motorized vehicles it can be easily nullified but some ignorant bureaucrat!

i will definately keep the paper handy!

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18 minutes ago, Rehab1 said:

<snip>

So my point is whatever legal interpretation is out there concerning motorized vehicles it can be easily nullified but some ignorant bureaucrat!

<snip>

Agreed. But having found this I now feel confident that I can ignore anyone but the police, and with the police I would at least try and have a polite discussion (if they're in the mood to listen) centered around this definition.

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Excellent! I plan to do the same thing. I hate to see great research go to waste. In addition to the  EUC awareness cards you were printing up put together an official looking ECFR card depicting the legal description on motor vehicles. 

I would also get a silver police badge for your chest just in case?

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I'm not sure that a police officer or person of authority would take a definition printed out on a piece of paper into much consideration if they have decided you should not be riding in a certain place.  Although technically and on paper you have a good defense, I would think the people making the call would be a little unhappy about having their authority challenged.  Usually there's a power trip thing going on where they want you to do something and if you do not comply there's going to be some sort of conflict.

I'm not saying everyone should just roll over and show their soft white underbelly.  Sometimes a different approach though might sway them to your side of thinking.  I remember seeing a video of a police officer trying out a hoverboard.  Maybe apologizing for not knowing it was a no-ride zone and talking to them briefly about how fun it is to ride one that they would want to ride everywhere too might be one approach.  Some people are pretty hard nosed though so yeah judging the situation is important.

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1 hour ago, Marty Backe said:

Multiple times now I've been told, "you can not ride that here, motor vehicles aren't allowed". Once we were escorted out by an authority figure. All these people see the EUC and that it's powered, so they think it's a motor vehicle. Then they get upset at us.

In the United States, unless specifically outlawed (like where Segways are not allowed), our EUCs can be ridden anywhere a bicycle is allowed.  However, you will often see a sign or a symbol on a map that allows bicycles, but says "No Motor Vehicles".

So I finally found a legal definition of a Motor Vehicle. I will keep a small printout of it with me so in the future I can ride in confidence regardless of what someones opinion is.

Here's the Cornell University Law School definition of a motor vehicle. This is text from the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (ECFR):

  • (a) For the purpose of determining the applicability of section 216(2), a vehicle which is self-propelled and capable of transporting a person or persons or any material or any permanently or temporarily affixed apparatus shall be deemed a motor vehicle, unless any one or more of the criteria set forth below are met, in which case the vehicle shall be deemed not a motor vehicle:
  • (1) The vehicle cannot exceed a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour over level, paved surfaces; or
  • (2) The vehicle lacks features customarily associated with safe and practical street or highway use, such features including, but not being limited to, a reverse gear (except in the case of motorcycles), a differential, or safety features required by state and/or federal law; or
  • (3) The vehicle exhibits features which render its use on a street or highway unsafe, impractical, or highly unlikely, such features including, but not being limited to, tracked road contact means, an inordinate size, or features ordinarily associated with military combat or tactical vehicles such as armor and/or weaponry.

So don't let anybody try and bully you not into riding wherever bicycles are allowed (unless they specifically ban Segway's, etc.).

@Marty Backe your timing of this issue couldn't be better, check out the response I received. I wrote to a bike trail committee council member here in the Northern Virginia area regarding the rules/laws of riding a unicycle on the W O&D trail.

--break--break---

Whereas, strictly speaking, neither an electrically propelled nor, of course, a gasoline-powered vehicle is allowed on the Trail w/out its user, by reason of either infirmity or age, having first solicited & obtained explicit permission from the Park Authority, you may have already noticed that the number of e-vehicles on the Trail is gradually, silently growing. In some cases, their drive and power source is completely hidden from view. More than that, one fellow who owns a solar-powered, orange (and most ironically named) Elf (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQQzLMIXOJ0), which is very nearly as large as a Smart car, can be seen zipping along the Trail at speeds that I consider excessive. Its owner, however, seems to have sweet-talked someone of substantial influence & power (above the rank of the manager of the W&OD, in fact) into looking the other way. I myself draw from these facts the conclusion that the falling prices of e-vehicles and their increased availability, in tandem with lax enforcement and/or willful disregard of existing rules, will soon lead to a change of said rules, which are, after all, held over from an era in which an e-vehicle was like what a cell/smartphone used to be, viz., an infrequently encountered toy of the very prosperous only.
     All that said, a unicycle equipped with only a stabilizing gyroscope and no motor to propel it, when compared to the distinctly non-diminutive Elf that seems to whiz around at nearly twice the top speed to which you referred -- such a unicycle seems effectively beyond reproach, and even quite benign.

Best wishes,
Bill McCarthy
FOWOD

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43 minutes ago, HunkaHunkaBurningLove said:

I'm not sure that a police officer or person of authority would take a definition printed out on a piece of paper into much consideration if they have decided you should not be riding in a certain place.  Although technically and on paper you have a good defense, I would think the people making the call would be a little unhappy about having their authority challenged.  Usually there's a power trip thing going on where they want you to do something and if you do not comply there's going to be some sort of conflict.

<snip>

Agreed. I would only have the discussion with a police officer if they were in the mood. That can be discerned rapidly. Otherwise it's, "OK officer, I'll move along"

But it's good to be talking from an educated perspective instead of just emoting.

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1 hour ago, Marty Backe said:

Agreed. I would only have the discussion with a police officer if they were in the mood. That can be discerned rapidly. Otherwise it's, "OK officer, I'll move along"

But it's good to be talking from an educated perspective instead of just emoting.

Might be a good idea to (very politely) ask for future reference which specific (local) paragraph or law was violated by riding in such area ... so it might be "investigated" / contested in the future (I'd though keep such intention for myself at that moment ;))

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1 hour ago, Boxer Rebellion said:

the number of e-vehicles on the Trail is gradually, silently growing. In some cases, their drive and power source is completely hidden from view. 1


All that said, a unicycle equipped with only a stabilizing gyroscope and no motor to propel it, 2

1 I was actually discussing the very same point just a couple of days ago. Recent E-bikes with batteries in frames and small integrated motors are very "covert" and only after closer inspection distinguishable from normal bicycles.

2 Sneaky sneaky :D 

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On 10/20/2016 at 10:37 AM, Marty Backe said:
  • shall be deemed a motor vehicle, unless any one or more of the criteria set forth below are met, in which case the vehicle shall be deemed not a motor vehicle:
  • (1) The vehicle cannot exceed a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour over level, paved surfaces; or
  • (2) The vehicle lacks features customarily associated with safe and practical street or highway use, such features including, but not being limited to, a reverse gear (except in the case of motorcycles), a differential, or safety features required by state and/or federal law

Officer: "What's the max speed on that?" (Referring to the MSuper)

@Marty Backe: "24.999 mph"

Edited by noisycarlos
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On 10/20/2016 at 10:37 AM, Marty Backe said:

In the United States, unless specifically outlawed (like where Segways are not allowed), our EUCs can be ridden anywhere a bicycle is allowed.

Unfortunately, I don't think it is safe to make such a blanket statement. Laws vary considerably from state to state, and federal law is actually superseded by individual state laws unless it's on federal land. And the definition of "motor vehicle" varies by federal agency. The National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and a half dozen others all have separate definitions of "motor vehicle," "pedestrian," "bicycle," etc, etc, etc.

Always look up local laws and definitions. Cities and park districts often have definitions that only allow "human powered" vehicles in certain places, and these laws and ordinances take precedent over state, county, and federal laws.

Long story short: there is no one overall controlling definition, and it takes research to find which rules and definitions apply where. The right  definitions are found preceding (usually) the applicable law according to the actual jurisdiction. Relying on the wrong law and definition can get you in deep doo doo. (That's a legal term. Excuse my pretentiousness.)

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2 hours ago, dbfrese said:

Unfortunately, I don't think it is safe to make such a blanket statement. Laws vary considerably from state to state, and federal law is actually superseded by individual state laws unless it's on federal land. And the definition of "motor vehicle" varies by federal agency. The National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and a half dozen others all have separate definitions of "motor vehicle," "pedestrian," "bicycle," etc, etc, etc.

Always look up local laws and definitions. Cities and park districts often have definitions that only allow "human powered" vehicles in certain places, and these laws and ordinances take precedent over state, county, and federal laws.

Long story short: there is no one overall controlling definition, and it takes research to find which rules and definitions apply where. The right  definitions are found preceding (usually) the applicable law according to the actual jurisdiction. Relying on the wrong law and definition can get you in deep doo doo. (That's a legal term. Excuse my pretentiousness.)

I'm not a lawyer. But I thought it was useful to have something, anything, to refute arguments thrown your way by pedestrians. Having something from Cornell Law School seems like a reasonable starting point. Authority figures (even when they are wrong) will always win, but at least this definition provides 'a little' bit of ammunition. What I wrote was not intended to be used in a court of law, in case there was any doubt.

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4 hours ago, noisycarlos said:

Officer: "What's the max speed on that?" (Referring to the MSuper)

@Marty Backe: "24.999 mph"

Very funny Carlos :-)  I had mine running at ~23mph for a stretch today, passing a bicyclist who was really pushing it. Still lov'n the MSuper.

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Transportation laws are set state-by-state. And even then, every city can set their own city ordinances. So its not as simply as you're trying to make it. I have already talked to the City of San Antonio police department about it and they are good with me riding not only on the "no motor vehicle" trails, but also on city streets. I am now in the process of talking to a Texas representative to add or modify the Texas transportation code to permit electric unicycles use basically anywhere a bicycle can also be. So EUC use can be ridden with no legal repercussions throughout the entire state of Texas.

Another thing you have to consider is public vs private roads. Transportation laws only deal with public roads. Private roads and businesses can set their own rules how they see fit, otherwise you'll be charged with trespassing.

Also number 2 and 3 in the ECFR refer to "unsafe" use on roads as a way to discredit calling something a motor vehicle. Do you think EUCs shouldn't be allowed on roads? I view EUCs as bicycle replacements and if bicycles are allowed to be on roads then I think EUCs should be also.

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Reading this you've the same problem like we've in Europe (OK it's a bit harder here with possibilities to get the EUC seized by police) with a currently diversified regulation. Only new standards/ federal/ European laws can save our hobby in the mid/ long term to get accepted by gov.

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  • 7 months later...

I'm at Frank bonelli regional park and the lady at ticket booth said my unicycle is not allowed and it has to be either regular bicycle or a "full" electric bicycle. 

So, yeah i could use Marty's post to argue but meh.. i feel good today so I'll play nice :)

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59 minutes ago, Sven said:

I'm at Frank bonelli regional park and the lady at ticket booth said my unicycle is not allowed and it has to be either regular bicycle or a "full" electric bicycle. 

So, yeah i could use Marty's post to argue but meh.. i feel good today so I'll play nice :)

BS.  Unfortunately it's really hard to argue with people who feel like using the 'power' card to get their thrill for the day (thrill of having dominion over others).

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Looking carefully at my local laws, it appears I could use my EUC anywhere as a mobility assistance device. I mean I could as I have a hip with bursitis. Probably the law was intended to be used by crippled people in electric wheelchairs.

Problem with that is I haven't had a single person question my general physical fitness. Usually quite the opposite.

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18 minutes ago, LanghamP said:

Looking carefully at my local laws, it appears I could use my EUC anywhere as a mobility assistance device. I mean I could as I have a hip with bursitis. Probably the law was intended to be used by crippled people in electric wheelchairs.

Problem with that is I haven't had a single person question my general physical fitness. Usually quite the opposite.

Do you mean that you have bursitis, but you appear to be healthy and fit?  Perhaps you could carry a cane, and wave it at people who question your disability.   You just gave me the mother of all ideas.:ph34r:.  I have a cane that I bought when I had arthritis in one knee, but never used it because the knee problem was caused by overuse (Get this strong now video, some guy leg pressing a toyota and claiming short range of motion with extremely heavy weights was the next big thing) and gradually got better.  i might try riding with it in case people give me grief about riding on trails with signs that say no unauthorised motor vehicles.

Edited by steve454
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On 10/20/2016 at 2:57 PM, Marty Backe said:

Agreed. I would only have the discussion with a police officer if they were in the mood. That can be discerned rapidly. Otherwise it's, "OK officer, I'll move along"

But it's good to be talking from an educated perspective instead of just emoting.

Me too, and if the officer is not in a good mood, I would move along also.

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On 10/20/2016 at 0:37 PM, Marty Backe said:

The vehicle lacks features customarily associated with safe and practical street or highway use, such features including, but not being limited to, a reverse gear

Just don't ride backwards in front of a policeman;)

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