Mr. Gene Trobaugh
Whizzer Motorbike Company
1915 Orangewood Avenue, Suite 200
Orange, CA 92868-2047
Dear Mr. Trobaugh:
This is in reply to your Petition to the Administrator dated October 2, 1997, on behalf of a "motor-assisted bicycle."
You request "relief from meeting DOT regulations" for two reasons. The "motor-assisted bicycle" requires human power to start from a static position. It will not exceed 25 miles per hour. In addition, it is designed to accommodate only one person and has less than 2 horsepower.
To respond to your petition, we must first decide whether the Whizzer is a "motor vehicle" and required to comply with the regulations from which you seek to be excused. Under our safety law, a "motor vehicle" is a vehicle driven by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on the public streets. With respect to bicycles with motors, we use the term "power-assist" to refer to a vehicle that cannot be driven by the motor alone but which requires muscular input at all times when in motion, assisted when needed by the engine. We do not consider this type of vehicle to be a "motor vehicle" subject to our regulations. If this correctly describes the Whizzer, then your petition is moot. However, if the Whizzer is capable of being propelled by the engine alone with no muscular power required when the engine is engaged, then the Whizzer would be a "motor vehicle", specifically a "motor driven cycle."
The Whizzer's speed capability of 25 miles per hour is somewhat greater than is ordinary for operation by muscular power alone.
Assuming that the Whizzer is a motor vehicle, we cannot by this letter provide blanket relief from DOT regulations. We therefore view your petition as one for rulemaking that would exclude the Whizzer and other vehicles in its class from DOT requirements. The agency's Office of Safety Performance Standards has the responsibility of evaluating and responding to petitions for rulemaking within 120 days of their submission. Accordingly, I am providing them with a copy of your petition for such further action as that Office deems appropriate.
Alternatively, you request relief "from meeting DOT lighting requirements." The reasons for this request is that the Whizzer is best suited for daytime operation and that you do not want to encourage operation at night. In addition, due to its nature, the Whizzer is likely to be used only for casual, recreational riding.
There are two ways to proceed with your petition. We can treat it as a petition for rulemaking to be considered with your primary petition for relief from compliance with all DOT regulations. That is the simplest way to proceed, and we shall do so unless instructed by you to the contrary.
The second way is to treat it as a petition for temporary exemption from Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment. However, your petition does not contain the information required by the agency's regulation 49 CFR Part 555. There are four bases on which temporary exemptions are granted. If immediate compliance would cause substantial economic hardship to a manufacturer that has tried in good faith to comply with Standard No. 108, an exemption of up to three years may be granted, provided that the total vehicle production of the manufacturer in the year preceding the filing of its application did not exceed 10,000 units. If an exemption from Standard No. 108 would facilitate the development and field evaluation of a low-emission vehicle or one with innovative safety features and would not unduly degrade the safety level of the vehicle, or if, in the absence of an exemption from Standard No. 108, a manufacturer would be unable to sell a vehicle whose overall level of safety is equal to or exceeds that of a non-exempted vehicle, an exemption of up to two years may be granted which would apply to not more than 2,500 vehicles a year. The exemption process takes three to four months after a petition is received that meets the requirements of Part 555.
If you wish further information on this exemption procedure, you may telephone Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263). Further correspondence on petitions for rulemaking should be directed to L. Robert Shelton, Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards.
Acting Chief Counsel