Q: For many of us who are struggling to make ends meet, and considering the high price of fuel, alternative modes of transportation sound really tempting for making local trips. What are the laws and requirements for motorcycles, scooters and similar vehicles?

A: First, let me define what a motorcycle is:

A motorcycle is a vehicle whose motor displaces more than 150cc (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. A motor-driven cycle is a motorcycle whose motor displaces less than 150cc.

What is a mo-ped 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 mo-ped 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 horsepower and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than 30 mph 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 mph on level ground;

• 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.

What is a motorized scooter?

• 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 interfere with the ability to stand and ride and may also be designed to be powered by human propulsion;

• Powered by electricity or other source (gas engine).

Driver’s license requirements

Motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, motorized bicycle/moped 406(a): 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, while 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 and riding skills test. (DMV will accept certificate of competence from an approved novice motorcyclist training program instead of skills test.)

If the individual is under 21 years of age, mandatory successful completion of a basic rider education course approved by the California Highway Patrol is required.

Motorized Bicycle 406(b)

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.

Motorized scooter

• Driver must be at least 16 years old;

• Class C driver’s license or driver’s permit is required;

• Motorized scooter shall at all times be equipped with a muffler;

• 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 (Not legal on any bike path in Santa Monica; including beach bike path);

• 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.

Helmet requirements:

• Motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, motorized bicycles/mo-peds: 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 motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, and motorized bicycles/mopeds.

• 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: A bicycle helmet meeting the standards of either the ASTM or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (SPSC) must be worn to operator a motorized bicycle. Check for labeling to ensure the helmet you are purchasing meets the safety requirements.

Although you may meet the listed requirements, none of these vehicles are allowed on the bike path; other than a motorized bicycle being pedaled by the rider. Also, bicycles, roller skates, skateboards and other similar devices with wheels are not allowed on Third Street Promenade, public parks, and other recreational or cultural facilities where necessary for public safety.

Public safety is the mission of the Santa Monica Police Department. That being said, traffic and pedestrian safety is one of our main goals. Besides enforcement, we all need to be aware of others and be sure we all drive, ride and walk cautiously. Carelessness can kill, or ruin the lives of all involved.

This column was written by Neighborhood Resource Officer Richard Carranza (Beat 1: coastal, beach and pier areas). He can be reached at (424) 200-0681 or richard.carranza@smgov.net.