Motorized bikes vs. mopeds for citations

STUART, FL (WFLX)   Robert Haynes said because he doesn't have a driver's license and lives on small disability checks, his motorized bike represented transportation freedom.

"I used the motorized bicycle for long distances, to go to my doctor's appointments," said Haynes. "The motorized bike was able to give me my independence."

He purchased the bicycle with the 46 cc motor without knowing the trouble it would cause him.

"I rode it a couple of months, until I got pulled over by one officer," he said.

That Martin County Sheriff's officer reportedly "paced" Haynes on his bike.

"He said I was going approximately 21 miles an hour," Haynes said.

That alleged 21 mph speed, according to Florida law, is what could change the classification of a motorized bicycle into a moped.  If you drive a moped, you have to have a driver's license.

John Silvia owns ProCycles, a Stuart-based bicycle shop. He said his shop doesn't sell engines for bicycles for safety reasons.

"They're not designed to handle that kind of speed, for that kind of a distance over and over and over again," said Silvia. "We just don't feel it's safe. It's not the right thing, they're not really designed for that."

He said most recreational bikers average about 10-15 mph, so adding a motor to a bike that significantly increases its speed can make it not only illegal to drive without a license, it can also make it dangerous.

"A lot of people, like myself, you see a bike go by—you're not expecting it to travel that fast. So it really throws you off if you have to take a turn, or you want to turn in front of them," Silvia said.

Haynes said he has since switched to a non-motorized bicycle to play it safe, but he still has to go to court to deal with the traffic citation.

In the meantime, he wants to get around town, and with a back injury, a bicycle is still his favorite set of wheels.

"I can ride a bicycle better than I can walk, and it hurts me to ride in a car," said Haynes. "Believe it or not, it doesn't hurt me to ride in a bicycle. I ride a bicycle, a regular bicycle, about 15-20 miles every day."