By William Thompson: Freedom Newspapers
They’re only 3 feet high and can travel at 35 mph., and they’re catching on as trendy transportation for children and young adults. But Clovis police warn not just anyone may legally operate “pocket bikes” on Clovis’ city streets.
“The pocket bikes are motor vehicles,” Clovis police Lt. Ron Hutchison said on Sunday. “Any person who operates a motor vehicle on city streets or in city alleyways must have a driver’s license.”
Hutchison said the bikes must be registered with the Motor Vehicles Department and also be insured before they can be legally driven on city streets.
“Even if the bikes are operated off-road within the city limits, they must still be registered and insured,” Hutchison said. “A lot of parents are buying these bikes for their kids and don’t know that their children cannot ride these bikes on the street. It is also against the law to ride pocket bikes on sidewalks, and anyone under 18 must wear a helmet, period.”
Hutchison said a child may ride the bike on his or her family’s private property but must have permission to ride on other people’s property.
The Associated Press reported cities across the United States are facing problems related to pocket bikes.
The scale-model racers — mostly Chinese imports with tiny, two-stroke gasoline or electric engines — cause trouble because riders are often reckless and don’t obey the law.
Police are reluctant to chase after law-breaking mini-bike riders because of the chance for injury.
In Philadelphia, the bikes can be driven on private property but are banned on streets and sidewalks. When riders are stopped, their bikes can be confiscated.
Phoenix police have also been ticketing anyone riding pocket bikes on streets or sidewalks.
Gary Doss, a salesman for C&L Detail of Amarillo, was selling pocket bikes in a parking lot at the corner of Prince and 21st Streets on Sunday in Clovis.
“I sold about 15 bikes today. Many kids and adults ride them,” Doss said. “Even though the bikes are so small, an adult can still ride them. They will hold up to 375 pounds.”
Doss said he was unaware of any regulations concerning bike operation.
“They are street legal,” he said. “We encourage people to use a helmet.”
Charlie Thresher, owner of C&L Detail, said he learned Sunday evening only licensed drivers can ride the bikes on Clovis streets.
“I didn’t know that the bikes had to be registered and insured here in New Mexico,” Thresher said. “The laws are different in Texas. The next time we sell the bikes in Clovis we will tell parents that only licensed drivers can ride the bikes on streets in Clovis. I will also find out exactly what all the laws are in New Mexico concerning the bikes.”
Bobby Russell paid about $450 on Sunday for a blue electric-powered pocket bike for his young stepson, Zac.
“His feet can touch the ground when he’s on the bike, and we are going to get training wheels for the bike,” Russell said.” He will be able to ride it in an empty field adjoining our house.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.