Mopeds fall within NHTSA’s jurisdiction when they can go over 20 mph and are meant to be used primarily on roads.  They’re considered “motor-drive cycles,” which are a subset of motorcycles.  In NHTSA’s world, a motorcycle is “a motor vehicle with motive power having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.”[1]  A motor-drive cycle is “a motorcycle with a motor that produces 5–brake horsepower or less.”[2]  Since these mopeds are regulated by NHTSA, they cannot be imported into or sold in the United States without complying with the FMVSS.[3]

Since NHTSA is focused on vehicles meant for road use, one might wonder whether the use of bike paths changes NHTSA’s jurisdiction over mopeds.  Ultimately, though, NHTSA is focused on speed.  According to NHTSA’s published interpretations of its regulations, the agency “believe[s] that vehicles with speeds of over 20 mph are capable of on-road operation,” and therefore fall within their purview.  NHTSA makes classifications for vehicles in interstate commerce.  The classifications are meant to be as applicable in California as they are in Tennessee or Maine.  Some cities may have ample bike lanes such that it would be reasonable for the bikes to never be used on roads, but most do not. NHTSA’s classifications will not change from location to location.


Continue Reading NHTSA versus CPSC Jurisdiction Over Certain Micromobility Products

As alluded to in last week’s post, Product Safety Regulations for Electric Bicycles and Scooters, micromobility products, such as e-bikes and scooters, fall at the intersection of jurisdiction between two distinct federal agencies: the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with “consumer products.”  “Consumer products” broadly defined includes any product for use in or around residences, schools and in recreation.  CPSC’s jurisdiction expressly excludes “motor vehicles.”[1]

NHTSA, which is charged with ensuring safety on public road ways, has jurisdiction over “motor vehicles.”  “Motor vehicles” are “vehicle[s] driven or drawn by mechanical power manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways, but does not include a vehicle operated only on a rail line.”[2]

There is no hard-and-fast rule as to what constitutes a “motor vehicle” subject to NHTSA’s jurisdiction.  Thus in determining whether a product is a “motor vehicle,” NHTSA typically considers such factors as:

  • the product’s intended use;
  • the product’s use of the public roadways and how incidental or predominant that use tends to be;
  • how the product is marketed;
  • the kinds of dealers that sell the product;
  • how or whether dealers may certify or register the product; and
  • the product’s speed.


Continue Reading 20 Miles Per Hour Divides NHTSA and CPSC Jurisdiction Over Micromobility Products

Rideshare bicycles and scooters have become increasingly ubiquitous in cities across the United States over the past few years.  While many rideshare bicycles are conventional, others feature pedal-assist technology and are commonly referred to as “electric bicycles” or “e-bikes.”  As for scooters, electric versions are offered to consumers by rapidly growing micromobility companies such as Lime and Bird.  Given the increasing popularity and expansion of these rideshare vehicles across the country, we provide a brief overview of the regulatory landscape that ensures the safety of these products.

Bicycles

In 1972, the Congress established the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to regulate the safety of consumer products at the federal level.  One of the first products to be regulated by the Commission was bicycles.  In 1978, the CPSC promulgated its first rules regulating traditional human powered bicycles (16 CFR part 1512) with the goal of establishing requirements for their assembly, braking, and structural integrity.  It was not until twenty-five years later, in 2003, that the Commission, pursuant to an act of Congress, updated the federal safety standard for bicycles to include low-speed electric bicycles.  Thus, electric bicycles, including most of those used for ridesharing purposes, are regulated by the CPSC and must comply with the mandatory federal safety standard for bicycles at 16 CFR part 1512.


Continue Reading Product Safety Regulations for Electric Bikes and Scooters