Motorised mayhem

FIRST one motorised pushbike came clattering at speed out of a side street onto Hamilton’s busy Glebe Road, and three or four seconds later a second followed leaving the same thin stream of smoke. The riders didn’t feel the need to pause before rounding the corner because they went straight to the white line marking the side of the road and stayed there for half a block as they travelled at the speed of the peak-hour traffic, close to 50km/h. Then with hair streaming from their helmetless heads they crossed a gap between cars and turned right with a corner-cutting sweep. It was a reckless performance.

I was two cars behind the second rider, and I took the same right turn and we ended up in the same place, a bottle shop. As I left the shop with a couple of bottles I asked the rider guarding the bikes about the motors.

He’d bought his motor on the net, he told me, for about $250 and bolted it on with the supplied fittings, and his friend’s was a whipper snipper motor. Were the bikes legal? He didn’t know but they hadn’t been pulled over yet, he laughed. This fellow was aged in his early 20s, and at this point his friend, in his late teens, emerged from the bottle shop with a case of beer, and I left them trying to work out how they’d carry it home while riding the bikes.

A week before I was waiting at the lights to turn right from Bunnings at Belmont when two boys aged perhaps 14 went roaring up the highway on pushbikes with motors at about 40km/h.

Assuming the power output of the motor is no more than 200 watts, these bikes are legal despite the fact that they are no safer than the electric scooters that were deemed by the RTA, now the RMS, to be illegal four years ago. Indeed, the antics of many of the bike riders is more alarming because they seem to add 30 km/h and no care to their riding of a bike.

The problems are many.

The bikes are propelled to speeds well beyond those the rider could reach under his own steam, yet there is no check that the bike is roadworthy at these speeds. There is no check for roadworthiness without a motor, but at 15km/h that is a lesser issue.

Children should not be in charge of anything at 30km/h on public roads.

The brakes on these bikes are definitely not designed to slow the bike and rider from speeds of 30km/h repeatedly, and, even if they were so designed, being rim brakes they will slow a bike from anything above 25km/h slowly. When it is raining and the rim of wheel is wet the brakes might barely work at all.

The RMS defines a motorised pushbike as a power-assisted pedal cycle that is designed to be propelled primarily by human power, and to be legal it must have a motor of no more than 200 watts output. It is distinct from pedal-assisted mopeds, which cannot be used legally on the road.

The riders of motorised pushbikes are riding a low-powered motorbike with poor stability, poor braking, no blinkers or brake lights and no safety inspection, and they’re doing so without any instruction in road rules or road safety whatsoever. Not even the output of the motor can be readily tested.

It would be a joke if it were not so dangerous for every road user.

What is your experience of motorised pushbikes, as an observer or rider? Should they be legal?

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