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Mini motorcycles, major misdemeanors

June 18, 2004

Darleene Barrientos

The streets of Glendale are buzzing about new miniature motorcycles,

but police are not happy that the cycles themselves are making most

of the noise.

The bikes are about one-third the size of standard motorcycles,

but unlike their larger cousin, the mini cycles are not legal on

streets. Most also don't have safety devices, like turn signals.

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Mini bikes, also known as pocket bikes and choppers, are an

increasing nuisance for Glendale Police and other authorities, who

say the vehicles are marketed as toys when they should be driven only

by adults with motorcycle licenses on private property, or on a

designated racing track.

Glendale Police Lt. Don Meredith cited an 18-year-old Glendale man

earlier this week as he rode his pocket bike along Kenilworth Avenue,

near Fremont Park. The vehicle was impounded, and the man was cited

for not having a motorcycle license, registration or insurance for

it, Meredith said.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles cannot register the cycles

because they do not have a 17-digit vehicle identification number,

which is required of all motorized vehicles on public streets. The

mini cycles also are illegal on sidewalks.

But the cycles' popularity seems to be growing, especially with

young adults. At Showstoppers USA, an after-market auto parts store

in Glendale, Manager Chuck Hernandez sold 14 last week.

"Some people buy them for their kids," Hernandez said. "Most

[customers] are under 25, and there are lots of teenagers buying

them."

Many of the bikes lack proper safety equipment, such as

headlights, taillights, mirrors, brake lights and Department of

Transportation-approved tires. Depending on whether they are gas or

electric-powered, the cycles can go from 10 to 40 mph. Most are

marketed for children 14 and older and can handle a weight up to 200

pounds. The pocket bikes start at about $200 in stores like Wal-Mart

and Pep Boys.

The pocket bikes have become such a problem that the California

Highway Patrol recently issued an information bulletin about them,

outlining the cycles' litany of vehicle code violations.

"One of the problems with these motorcycles is that they're being

manufactured by big companies and small companies and are sold

everywhere, even swap meets," DMV spokesman Armando Botello said.

"Common sense tells you a child under 16 shouldn't be riding it out

in the street where it can't be seen by other cars."

Companies manufacturing the cycles, like Razor, contend that the

cycles are labeled "racing only" and are meant to be used only on

private property or on a designated track. Authorities say more

education is needed.

"It's way too dangerous for kids to be using them on the

[streets]," said Ron Burch, a CHP spokesman. "The solution is public

education. Parents are purchasing these for their children,

completely unaware that they're breaking the law. They think children

can ride these to school. Parents are putting their children on these

as they would on a bike or a skateboard."

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