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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's the Deal with All These Mopeds?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Whether they've been here all along, and you're just now noticing, or they're really a new Ft. Thomas phenomenon, the point is that they're getting noticed. Mopeds are gaining attention -- if not traction -- around Ft. Thomas city streets, so here's the scoop on traffic and licensing laws surrounding these small, motorized vehicles.

What’s a moped, and why?

To start, the term “moped” is derived from vehicles originally developing as hybrids that attach a motorized engine to a pedaled vehicle. Hence: mo-ped. While not all mopeds have pedals anymore, there are a few imaginable explanations for why moped traffic around town would increase lately. Fuel prices are at an all-time high, and, according to Consumer Reports, mopeds yield an average of roughly 60-100 mpg. Similarly, the simple truth is that these vehicles require less maintenance and miscellaneous financial investment to own and operate.

But probably the biggest engine behind their popularity -- and the most frequent cause for concern among other, non-moped drivers -- is the relatively minimal licensing procedure for operating a moped.

To be clear, the “mopeds” Ft. Thomas residents have been seeing more and more around town recently (for the most part) fall into the < 50cc engine category. And, in fact, this is the same category the KY State Police classify as “moped” in the KY Driver’s Manual. Other characteristics of this vehicle class include no more than two horsepower, an automatic transmission that does not require clutching or shifting, and a maximum speed not exceeding 30 mph (KRS 189.285). 

License or no license?

State law reads that one must be at least 16 years old and have a license to operate a moped in Kentucky. This makes KY one of less than 20 states to have a minimum age requirement. 

If you do not currently have an operator or motorcycle license, you must first apply for one. To obtain a moped license, the testing process consists of a general knowledge and a vision test, but no field test or temporary permit period are required. If the moped license-holder is a minor, a parent or legal guardian must co-sign the license application, assuming responsibility for said vehicle. 

Furthermore, a licensed moped-operator must also register his/her moped with the state of Kentucky. (If the vehicle has an engine greater than 50cc, a license plate is also required.) If you only plan on riding the moped on private property, no license or registration is required. 

Because of the limitations of moped-class vehicles, they are prohibited from any road where the minimum speed is greater than 30 mph. By the same token, though, this allows for relaxed regulation on safety equipment: the KY Driver’s Manual states that “moped operators are not required to wear helmets or eye-protection devices."

Sharing the Road

While there are no hard statistics telling us how many of the mopeds we've seen zipping around Ft. Thomas lately are a result of fuel economy, auto maintenance, or if it's just a new trend among local youth, they are here nonetheless, and they do belong on the road. Just like with automobiles, it is up to parents, guardians, and the Fort Thomas Police Department to ensure that young vehicle operators do so responsibly and within the parameters of traffic laws.

Correction made: According to Assistant Campbell Co. District Attorney Cameron Blau, insurance is NOT required for moped operation.
(9 Jul 2013)


  1. These kids are going to really hurt themselves or someone else with their reckless attitudes. Kudos to FTM for taking this up.

  2. I would venture to say most of what I have seen around town are a cut above what you describe as a moped, based on the speeds I've witnessed. Maybe you can follow up with info on what I would call "scooters."

  3. Okay, did a little research, both on the internet and with my 14 year old child. Anything above 50cc's is considered a motorcycle, and as stated in the article, you must be 16 to operate a moped or motorcycle i.e. scooter/moped over 50cc's.

    An interesting follow up might be to hang out around town and do an informal survey of the ages of the riders in town, and observe their speeds. Maybe even ask them how many cc's or how much horsepower their vehicles have.

    My observations have been under-16 year olds going well over 30 mph, especially on Alexandria Pike and Grand Ave.

  4. I've checked the laws for these "mopeds" and no one should be driving them on US 27 and other streets in Ft. Thomas with speed limits of 35mph and over. I've also seen many near -miss accidents with two males riding on the same bike. All appear underage and not acting responsible. The FT police seem to be ignoring this new "fad". WHY?

  5. Maybe I'm just getting older and so I don't remember what a 16 year old looks like but the 12 or 13 year old that nearly hit me while I was walking probably didn't have a license. This is a nuisance and I'd virtually guarantee the majority of those I've seen on our roads are being operated by someone under the age of 16 and at speeds well above the posted speed limit. I would love to see stricter regulation of the use of these; unfortunately, it will likely take a major accident before anyone pays it any real attention.

  6. The kids I have seen riding on Memorial are both wreckless and rude. They dart in and out of traffic, ride without helmets (and typically with another passenger), and they have used these as a getaway after harassing local kids. The mopeds are a great, economic way of transportation, but they are posing a danger to themselves and other drivers.

  7. How many of these mopeds running around town do you think have insurance? Probably few do. Who pays for the "damages" that may occur if this vehicle is involved in an accident? WOW-too scary to think about!

  8. It should be noted that the Fort Thomas Police are VERY aware of the situation. At most there are 3 patrol units out at any one time for service (occasionally more on some few occasions) coving over 115 linear miles of street. If a cruiser in responding to a call for service, they will not stop to deal with a moped/scooter violation. The call for service (not all requiring lights and siren) are priority.

    Manufacturing moves ahead much faster than the law changes. As we know, law changes only at request of the constituents who bring the issue to the attention of legislators. Some 50cc and lower bikes are capable of going faster these days due engine improvements and transmission improvements, however, unless actually clocked at over 30 MPH there really is not probable cause to stop one and check unless another violation is observed.

    Note to the one Commenter, they are NOT required to have insurance. Yes, it seems silly, but it is the law.

    Officers observing these bikes with 2 riders are getting stopped and advised, and the prosecutors office is asking us to charge with Careless Driving for second offences (and yes we track that). Just because the bike is built for 2, does not make it legal to ride 2. Keep in mind, MOST of these bikes are foreign built and sold throughout the world were 2 riders are permitted.

    Per the Campbell County prosecutors office, there is no such thing as a literal "Moped License". To operate one you must have a drivers license, or a drivers license learners permit (aka temps). Yes, many of the kids riding look younger than 16, but unless they look ridiculously young, it is hard to use this as probable cause. There is no way for all 22 officers to be made aware that certain young looking drivers are actually 16, thus we board on harassing them constantly stopping them for age check. Much like it is with motorcycles and automobiles, officers must observe a violation or have probable cause for a traffic stop. Hunches and suspicions are not enough.

    The Police Department is working on educating these riders, but it takes time. Knowledge and help from parents and guardians that provide the permission to their children to have the bikes is probably the biggest help.

  9. I've been documenting kids on these things for months now. No helmets. Riding tandem. No way they have permits. And completely reckless.

    I'll be submitting this to the city.