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St. Louis Requires Kiddie Flags on Some 49cc Scooters

March 2, 2006 Politics/Policy, Scooters 17 Comments

NOTE: I’ve revised the headline and the last paragraph since first posting a few hours ago.

Last year the City’s Board of Aldermen passed a new ordinance which is raising some red flags. Well, actually, red or orange flags. Before I get to the latest issue I need to give you some background.

During my campaign last year the issue of the annoying micro bikes came up. At a public meeting attended by Aldermen Dorothy Kirner, Schmid and Ortmann the particulars of the 2001 scooter law sponsored by the late Ald. Daniel Kirner as to how they relate to the new breed of miniature motorcycles.

On February 19, 2005 I pointed out, on my campaign site, that the city’s law regarding these toys had become obsolete (see report). Basically the 2001 law outlawed the motorized skateboard type scooters on city streets but did not address any sort of sit down type micro bike (see ordinance).

At that meeting a year ago Ald. Ortmann was one of the people that thought the 2001 covered these micro bikes. Apparently he set to work to correct the situation by introducing Board Bill #24 for a first reading on April 29, 2005.

Here is some text from the final ordinance which took affect on June 6, 2005:

17.02.315 Motorized bicycle.

“Motorized bicycle” shall mean any two- or three-wheeled device having an automatic transmission and a motor with a cylinder capacity of not more than fifty cubic centimeters, which produces less than three gross brake horsepower, and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than thirty miles per hour on level ground, except those devices used by persons with disabilities for the purpose of mobility.

17.18.060 Equipment for motorcycle or motorized bicycle riders.

B. No person shall operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle unless such motorized bicycle is equipped with a red or orange flag measuring not less than twelve inches by twelve inches. Such flag shall extend not less than forty-eight inches in height above that portion of the seat occupied by the operator.

Yes, the law says I need to have a 12×12 flag at least 48 inches above the seat of my 49cc scooter (aka motorized bicycle). Like I’m going to do that.

In reviewing the history of the legislation it appears the flag language was not in the original bill, nor was it in a committee substitute. The flag language arrived in the form of a ‘floor substitute” which most likely means a last minute amendment on the floor of the Board of Aldermen.

So we now have the 2001 ordinance defining “motorized scooters” as the stand-up stake board type and an ordinance which defines motorized bicycles (a revision of an earlier ordinance which is too old to be online) that requires tall red flags. As someone that often gets on and off the scooter by throwing my leg over the week I’d find the flag a nuisance and a potential safety hazard. Like my bicycle, the riding position is quite upright and is highly visible.

I bought my 49cc Honda Metropolitan scooter on September 4th, 2005. It is generally believed among scooterists in Missouri that a 49cc scooter like mine or a Vespa does not require registration (plates), a motorcycle license or liability insurance. This is a bit of a gray area as various laws talk about engine displacement, transmission types, attainable speed, and total horsepower. Very similar scooters can vary on these criteria.

My scooter is not registered and I do not carry any liability insurance for it. I do, however, have a motorcycle permit and intent to take a motorcycle safety course which will get me my motorcycle license. I will not be installing a square foot flag above the seat height.

One thing I will do, help organize the local scooter groups that are understandably upset about this issue. I will also contact the local dealers and national manufacturers.

UPDATE 3/2/06 @ 8:30pm:

When writing this post earlier today I looked up the specs for my Honda Metropolitan scooter online. Honda’s website does not list the HP for my model. When I got home I found the information listed on the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin: 4.3HP. So, per the ordinance definition my scooter is not a motorized bicycle as the HP is greater than 3.

So now I am wondering if the City of St. Louis considers my scooter a motorcycle and all that goes with it — motorcycle license, license plates, insurance, etc.. I’m also curious if St. Louis’ definitions are similar to those in neighboring municipalities, St. Louis County and the state of Missouri.

I also feel like I’m going to need to carry a copy of the ordinance and my proof of HP with me as I scoot. I tell you, getting 85+ MPG is getting complicated.

– Steve


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Matt says:


    I didn’t think oil would last that long that we would still be able to use gas powered scooters.

    BTW, can I have a ride on your time machine?

    [REPLY — Ooops, I’ve corrected the year to 2005. – SLP]

  2. Brian says:

    As a fellow scooterist this one really bugs me too.
    As I’ve pointed out numerous times on the scooter lists, all the police need to do is enforce laws already on the books at a state/federal level.
    The mini-chopper, pocket bike, and other “go-ped” type toys are NOT DOT-approved (unlike a 49cc scooter such as your Honda) and therefore illegal to operate on a public roadway.

    As for your HP findings, you may want to check if the law specifies CRANK HP, or BRAKE HP (BHP). Your scoots certificate oof origin, and most manufacturer specs would list the greater crank hp value, however state entities will usually call for bhp, which would be signifigantly lower.

    Besides which, I continually hear horror stories of people trying to get the McDonalds counter rejects at the DMV to even issues plates to 49cc scoots, so you may not be able to get plates on the thing even if you tried.

    Myself, I simply plan a protest of civil disobedience.
    Power to the scooters my friend!

  3. Joe Frank says:

    I wish the police would just impound those idiotic mini-motorbikes that minors ride way too much, way too fast down the alleys and streets in our neighborhood. I don’t seem them right now as much as I did a few months ago, but there does need to be some regulation.

    But I do think it would be fair and appropriate to require (under State law) that all motorized vehicles designed to operate on public streets require a licensed driver and a license plate, including liability insurance.

    Non-motorized vehicles (that is, bicycles and non-motorized scooters) don’t need to be licensed. But anything with a motor does. Seems simple enough to me. But, of course, it’s not.

  4. Bryan says:

    Are you sure there isn’t a distinction between motorized bicycles and scooters? Motorized bicycles are typically bicycles with “pedal assist” motors/mopeds that can be powered with pedal power or an engine.

  5. Brian says:

    By MO state law, anyting with an “automatic transmission, 49cc or smaller, capable of no mare than 30 (or maybe 35mph) and less than 3(?)bhp is considered a “motorized bicycle” ie – moped – wether it has pedals or not.

    There is lots of ignorance on both the police and the publics part however, and especially here in the mid-west, anything not easily recognised or classified as a “motorcycle” (read: Harley) is a “moped”.

    Even if that “moped” is a 200cc 2T 5-port Vespa capable of 70+ mph.

    Some folks get plates when they don’t really need to, lots of others don’t when they really should.
    Both pretty much have equal chances of being pulled over and ticketed, whether they’re legal or not.
    For 2 years now I’ve been riding around on my 1962 IWL “Berlin” scooter from East Germany. it’s 150cc, has (supposedly) 8.5hp, and goes 50mph. But since it was made in EAST Germany it’s never had an MSO, Title, or any documentation. And certianly the MO DMV computers don’t have “IWL” in their database as there are only about 12 in the whole country. Therefore, I don’t have plates, can’t get plates, (but DO have special insurance) and after several um, “Discussions” with various DMV offials I pretty much decided not to draw any more attention to myself from the state.

    To this day, the scooter and its little teardrop trailer have the German number plates on them, and I’ve never once been hassled by a cop – in any of the 4 states it’s been ridden in. In fact on several occasions I’ve had police come right up to me at a light or a gas station and comment on / admire the rig, and they don’t even blink over the plates.

    And tomorrow kiddies, I’ll tell you the story of riding around the city with the dummy MG-34 machine gun on my Ural motorcycle…

    YMMV of course.

  6. Bryan Oekel says:

    Thanks, Brian. Interesting. Your scooter sounds very cool, too. Any pics on the internet anywhere?

  7. Jordan says:

    Thanks for posting this! I live in Kansas City, technically Independence, MO and have been riding my 49cc Honda Metropolitan nervously to work each day. Every time I see a cop I get the “OH NO” feeling. I stay on 25-35mph roads except for a really quick jaunt on a small patch of 40mph. I’m going to take the motorcycle licensing written test next week at least to get my permit as a just-in-case. I assume I’ll have to get it licensed and insured, etc due to fact that it can go over 30mph. Blegh.

  8. Nick Lang says:

    Gas and insurance costs have finally broken my grad student income. I decided since I live in CWE that I could easily live a whole life within the range of a 49cc scooter. The only St. Louis dealer I could find online was Extreme Toys on Manchester west of Brentwood. When I went there, I got the hard sell on the Kymco ZX50 and was quoted a price more than $250 above the MSRP listed on several websites. Can anyone offer suggestions on models and other places to shop around at before I make a decision? Thanks.

  9. cole says:

    i ride actuall mopeds. a 1980 garelli among others i ve had cops stop me because they thought i was riding a mini bike and others because they thought i needed a helmet. the cops are confused/ indiffrent if you ask me.
    ps the guys at the extreme toy store are jerks. i’ve had several bad encounters with them. i’d advise buying somewhere else.

  10. Taylor Mott says:

    I’m glad you posted this about the honda metropolitan. I’ve been thinking of buying one lately and I don’t know what I would have to do to keep driving it legally in the state of florida. And I can’t find it’s bhp anywhere! I don’t want to have to get my motorcycle license, but it looks like I might have to anyway, depending on what the metropolitan is actually considered in this state.

  11. chad says:

    hey i was thinking of buying a 49 cc dirtbike/pocketbike can i ride on st louis county road legaly? THANKS

  12. dale says:

    Hi brian ,like the sound of your iwl, i to have the pleasure of driving one of these great machines with trailer over here in the u.k.. Maybe we can exchange pics and info cheers! bye

  13. Dirk says:

    I suggest a 49 CC “Plate” on your – ahem – larger than 49CC rides. Keep speeds in the 30 MPH area. Wear a helmet, regardless of what the ‘law’ says–it’s smart to do so.

    With respect to motorized bicycles….there are none finer than the engine kits offered by Golden Eagle (www.bikeengines.com). Get the 40CC Tanaka 2-stroke.

  14. Lisa says:

    Hi! I just purchased a 2007 Honda Metropolitan–it is what I wanted for my 40th birthday!
    I took all of the paperwork to the DMV office, and was told they didn’t issue plates for scooters under 50cc. However, if I WANTED plates, I need a safety inspection, despite the fact that it is a new vehicle. I will try one more time, different office, and if I am refused again, so be it. I will carry with me all the current information I’ve found on-line, just in case I am stopped. I did call a motorcycle shop to schedule an inspection, and they told me I didn’t need one……..and I was all pumped for my personalized plates: 4 MY 40.

  15. Mike says:

    So, today I ride my 49cc over to the Labor Day parade downtown. After being heckled by a float full of drunken construction workers, I decide to head home. I pull up at a stop light next to a cop who was standing on Market St, blocking traffic going east. I was going west and making a left. So, as I pull up, I realize I’m not wearing a helmet, I have no mirrors, no plates, no insurance, no motorcycle license or permit, and nothing to prove that I don’t need any of this (well, okay I need mirrors, but I’m just breaking the law there…). So I decide to play it cool and ignore him. I can see him looking me over, then he says (extremely loudly) “Hey! Where’s your orange flag?” Now, I’ve never heard of this law. I look at him, pretty confused, and ask “What orange flag?” He repeats himself and stares at the rear of my scooter. I look at my rear, then back at him, and repeat my question, a little more annoyed. He repeats his. I ask “Do I need one?” He responds with an “Uhm hmm” kind of grunt. As the light turned green, I pulled off and said very sarcastically “Oh, I’ll have to get one of those!”

    No way in hell am I riding with a square foot of orange nylon 4 feet over my head.

    [SLP — So where was your helmet and mirrors???  No way in hell would I consider riding a bike or scooter without a proper helmet.  My experience to date is that if you look and act like a vehicle you don’t really get bothered.  Get the mirrors and wear a helmet!!!] 

  16. William says:

    I don’t think the flag should be a requirement.

    “Motorized bicycles are typically bicycles with “pedal assist” motors/mopeds that can be powered with pedal power or an engine.”

    The statutes and the state supreme court considers a kick start to be the same as a pedal start. At one point in time, the pedal was a requirement, but now it is an option, as long as there is some form of foot-start included, don’t need the pedals.

    Just my few sense, after all, we all have them . . .


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