Mopeds are an interesting blend between motorized bikes and motorcycles. Though their appearance might convey an almost whimsical, child-like quality to consumers, they are certainly not toys. Riding a moped comes with several benefits, notably fuel efficiency that ultimately benefits the environment when compared to cars. Mopeds can also carry up to one passenger, giving “car-pooling” a completely different meaning. Mopeds are a viable mode of transit available to the residents of California, and as such face similar regulations to passenger vehicles and motorcycles.
What is a Moped?
According to the state of California, mopeds are synonymous with motorized bicycles. The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) dictates that these vehicles possess the following characteristics:
- They have 2 or 3 wheels
- They can reach no more than 30 mph (406(a)) or 20 mph (406(b)) while on flat ground, with motor and pedal activation
- They include foot pedals that can be used for manual propulsion, or additional propulsion when used with the motor
- Their motor produces no more than 2 brake horsepower
- They only utilize automatic transmissions
- They use an electric motor that propels the vehicle without pedal activation (406(a))
California divides their mopeds into two different classes: 406(a) and 406(b). 406(a) a class of moped that operates using a motor with greater power. In this list above, there are designations that indicate which characteristics specifically apply to each class. Mopeds that meet 406(b) classification use less power and operate up to a lesser speed than the previous class.
California Moped Laws
Moped riders in California must follow guidelines that help the state regulate each vehicle and maintain rider safety. These rules are mandatory for mopeds that fit 406 (a) classification and come with fines if riders do not obey:
- Riders must purchase special license plates and identification cards. This costs $18 and does not require renewal.
- Riders must possess either an M1 or M2 license to operate their vehicle.
- All riders must wear helmets during operation. Though mopeds don’t operate at greater than 30 mph, this speed is enough to severely injure a rider that is not wearing a helmet.
Again, these laws are specific to 406(a) mopeds. 406(b) mopeds do not fall under the same license and identification stipulations. Moreover, riders operating 406(b) mopeds do not have to wear a helmet if they are over 16 years old, according to California’s 2019 helmet laws.
Who Can Ride a Class 406(a) Moped?
Mopeds can only be operated by individuals 16 years and older, though this comes with stipulations. A young rider must have completed their driver’s training, driver’s education, and taken their written examination in order to obtain a driver’s license. Young drivers must also take a motorcycle riding class similar to a combination of driver’s education/training. This is mandatory for all young drivers seeking their M1 class license.
Drivers over 18 must either take a motorcycle safety course, or pass a license examination at the DMV to obtain their M1 license.
Penalties for disobeying moped laws include fines and tickets/citations. Moped are treated as any other roadway vehicle meaning riders are subject to the same traffic rules and violation fines as other drivers. The only unique penalty that moped riders must worry about are those associated with California’s helmet laws, which also result in fines that increase with each additional offense.
Mopeds are a great way to travel within the city, especially in crowded California streets. However, these vehicles should be treated with the seriousness that many reserve for driving a car. Though these vehicles might not look difficult to operate, failing to abide by traffic laws and riding recklessly could cause easily preventable accidents.