347 South Mountain Road
Fruit Heights, UT 84037
Dear Mr. Mathews:
This is in reply to your letter of March 31, 1997, to Taylor Vinson of this Office, asking how this agency would classify "a Velo Solex 'pedal assisted' bicycle."
As you describe it, the Velo Solex is equipped with a small internal combustion engine. The vehicle can be operated as a bicycle driven solely by muscular power, "by leaving the motor in the 'pulled back' position." If the rider wishes to use the assist, the engine will not start until the vehicle reaches a speed of about 5 mph. If the rider stops pedaling, the vehicle will eventually come to a halt as the power of the engine alone is insufficient to keep the vehicle moving.
This agency is authorized by Congress to regulate "motor vehicles". In part, a "motor vehicle" is defined as a vehicle driven by mechanical power (49 U.S.C. 30102(a)(6)). It is evident from your description that the primary driving force of the Velo Solex is muscular power, and that the mechanical power of the engine is not operative at all times the bicycle is in motion and only supplements the primary driving force. We have therefore concluded that the Velo Solex is not a "motor vehicle" subject to the regulation of this agency. The Federal agency that has jurisdiction over bicycles is the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
If you have further questions, you may refer them to Taylor Vinson (202-366-5263).
Acting Chief Counsel