ANNAPOLIS – Those tiny motorized minibikes that dart through traffic and up and down alleys in Baltimore may be coming in for some regulation if legislation in the Maryland General Assembly is approved. In addition to the bikes being an annoyance to motorists, one legislator contends they are a prime mode of transportation for drug dealers.
Two Maryland legislators are proposing bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, that seek to fix the problems they say are caused by motorized minibikes, brands such as Pocket Rocket, mopeds and mini motorcycles.
Delegate Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore, is one of the sponsors of a bill that calls for some type of registration for the tiny vehicles, some of which or no more than 12 inches off the ground, enabling authorities to track the bikes if necessary.
“But the problem for us is that police won’t chase them,” Pugh said. “In some jurisdictions – in Baltimore city – they are illegal, however because police can’t chase them there are still many of them on the street.”
These minibikes are causing havoc on the state’s streets when their operators run red lights and drive illegally, Pugh said.
But Sen. George Della, D-Baltimore, who is also sponsoring a bill in the Senate that is very similar to Pugh’s, cited a much more specific reason for wanting to get some type of control over the bikes. He said that many of these bikes are instruments of Baltimore’s drug trade.
“The darn things are the dreads of the earth because the drug dealers buy them for the couriers,” he said Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Both bills would add motor scooters, mopeds and other types of motorized minibikes to the legal definition of “motor vehicle,” requiring the Motor Vehicle Administration to register these bikes in some way.
“Whether it be a plate, sticker or something that can link them back to who they belong to, so that they can at least be ticketed and penalized and notified of their abuse of the highways,” Pugh said.
Jack Andryszak, assistant vice president of the mid-Atlantic region of American Insurance Association, supported the bill but urged that it be modified. Current law requires all motor vehicles to be insured, something that he said is near impossible to obtain for motorized minibikes. Andryszak said the bill should be amended to say that minibikes are not motor vehicles, or not require insurance coverage for the bikes.
Opponents to the bill said classifying minibikes as motor vehicles has other unintended consequences as well.
Mary Peitersen, deputy assistant director of driver vehicle policy and programs for the Motor Vehicle Administration, pointed out that the places that currently sell these minibikes, like Target and Pep Boys, are retailers. If minibikes become classified as motor vehicles, retailers would have to become licensed as dealers, she said.
Peitersen also said she conducted an Internet search of the General Assembly’s Web site and found 111 hits for motor vehicle in Maryland’s code. “To change the definition of motor vehicle, which is what this bill does, that’s how many sections [of Maryland code] will be impacted,” she said.