'Pocket bikes' are little but lethal.It's an age-old sight gag, a surefire boffo bof·fo Slang
Extremely successful; great.
n. pl. bof·fos
[Alteration of boff1.]
Adj. 1. joke: At the circus, a clown rides into the ring on a tricycle, hunkered over the tiny handlebars, knees hunched up around his ears. The crowd roars. It's fun to see grown men riding on tiny transport.
Miniature motorcycles, all the rage General Public's All the Rage was released in 1984 by I.R.S. Records. Track listing
But these are no toys--and they can be deadly. People think that because they're both small and and fast, they can be ridden anywhere--on sidewalks, in bicycle lanes, and on the street. Gas-powered models that have been modified can achieve speeds of 45 mph. The bikes are usually sold without typical motorcycle safety Accident rates
Motorcycles have a far higher fatality rate per unit of distance travelled when compared with automobiles. According to the US Highway Safety Authority, in 2002 20.9 cars out of 100,000 ended up in fatal crashes. The rate for motorcycles is 66.7 per 100,000. features like brake lights, rear reflectors, mirrors, turn signals, horns, and approved tires. They don't meet current federal safety standards Safety standards are standards designed to ensure the safety of products, activities or processes, etc. They may be advisory or compulsory and are normally laid down by an advisory or regulatory body that may be either voluntary or statutory. for street-legal vehicles, and they're operated by unlicensed and often underage riders. At least five deaths have been reported.
"You're a lot safer putting a 13-year-old on a full-size motorcycle than on one of these things "These Things" is an EP by She Wants Revenge, released in 2005 by Perfect Kiss, a subsidiary of Geffen Records. Music Video
The music video stars Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage. Track Listing
1. "These Things [Radio Edit]" - 3:17
2. ," said David Scott
But riders seem charmed by the small bikes and unaware of the risks. "The attraction is they are cheap and they are 'fun,' at least as long as the rider does not need to change direction suddenly," Scott said. "'Small' does not equate with 'safe' when it comes to any two-wheeled vehicles. What holds the bike up is the gyroscopic gy·ro·scope
A device consisting of a spinning mass, typically a disk or wheel, mounted on a base so that its axis can turn freely in one or more directions and thereby maintain its orientation regardless of any movement of the base. action of the wheels. The smaller the wheel, the less stable the vehicle is [and] the more difficult to control."
Originally developed in Italy, where European versions are raced on tracks at speeds above 50 mph, the tiny motorcycles' popularity in the United States is increasing astronomically. Consumer groups list them as among the top 10 most dangerous toys. Major manufacturers include Fisher-Price, Razor, and Toy Quest. Sold by discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart, auto parts stores like Pep Boys, online through Amazon.com and eBay, at swap meets, and by home-based distributors, pocket bike sales figures are hard to track. Small Business Trends newsletter estimates that up to 2 million pocket bikes have been sold in the United States in the last two years.
Well-built European models with 10-horsepower, water-cooled engines sell for $2,000 to $6,000. But cheap Asian knockoffs that sell for $250 to $500 have flooded the U.S. market. These bikes come with air-cooled 2.5- to 3.5-horsepower motors (similar to lawnmower engines) in gas- or electric-powered versions. According to the December 2004 issue of Consumer Reports, their brakes are inadequate and throttles tend to be sluggish, which hampers deceleration deceleration /de·cel·er·a·tion/ (de-sel?er-a´shun) decrease in rate or speed.
early deceleration . They handle poorly--tight turns are almost impossible at slow speeds, and the bikes are hard to hold on a straight course. No government agency checks pocket bikes for safety features.
"Our concerns with these bikes are several," said plaintiff attorney James Swartz of Boston, whose office is currently evaluating a case involving a 13-year-old rider hit by a truck. "They are low-profile and can travel at high rates of speed--a potentially deadly combination. Vehicles may not see the bikes in time to stop or take other evasive actions. Also, they have been marketed to children and young adults who might otherwise not use a motorcycle; as a result, there are many inexperienced drivers." The bikes' critics note that children have not been trained as motor-vehicle drivers and lack the coordination needed to operate these complex machines safely.
Pocket bikes pose other hazards for riders of any age, as well as those around them. They are often used without safety gear such as helmets and padding, and their speed makes them unsuitable for riding on sidewalks, where they may endanger pedestrians. Their motors reach decibel decibel (dĕs`əbĕl', –bəl), abbr. dB, unit used to measure the loudness of sound. It is one tenth of a bel (named for A. G. Bell), but the larger unit is rarely used. levels that have been proved to damage hearing.
The number of injuries caused by pocket bikes each year is unknown. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC CPSC Consumer Product Safety Commission (US)
CPSC Computer Science (course)
CPSC Canadian Plastics Sector Council (Ottawa, ON, Canada)
CPSC Chemical Processing Safety Committee ) estimates that 2,345 injured riders of pocket bikes and larger minibikes were treated in emergency rooms in 2003. A few more-recent examples:
* In July 2004, a 19-year-old man riding without a helmet in Queens, New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of , died after he hit a pothole pothole, in geology, cylindrical pit formed in the rocky channel of a turbulent stream. It is formed and enlarged by the abrading action of pebbles and cobbles that are carried by eddies, or circular water currents that move against the main current of a stream. and fell off his bike while trying to elude police.
* In August 2004, an 18-year-old man riding a pocket bike in Philadelphia died after colliding with a car.
* In September 2004, a youth in Lenexa, Missouri, lost control of his pocket bike in a parking lot, hit a parked car, and died of a skull fracture skull fracture,
n a rupture or break in the cranial bones.
skull fracture Orthopedics A fracture of one or more cranial bones, caused by MVAs, falls, assault, sports, occupational accidents and other forms of blunt trauma .
* This past May, a Kansas City, Missouri Kansas City is the largest city in the state of Missouri. It encompasses parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest in Missouri, which includes counties in both Missouri and Kansas. , rider died when he collided with a car after running a stop sign.
In March, a 22-year-old Houston woman faced a felony child-endangerment charge after crashing the pocket bike she and her 4-year-old son were riding in a high school parking lot. Neither was wearing a helmet.
So far, there have been no civil suits.
"We're not familiar with suits filed regarding these particular bikes, at least relating to their marketing or design," said Swartz.
"I have not had a case involving pocket bikes but have encouraged folks to take them," said Scott. "I see [pocket bikes] as being similar to the three-wheeled ATVs that the CPSC took off the market several years ago. They looked harmless, but, again, they were more dangerous than putting a kid on a dirt bike. Pocket bikes are even more dangerous."
Product recalls often herald litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. , and there have been several involving pocket bikes and similar vehicles. In June, Razor USA recalled 584,000 PowMax battery chargers sold with its battery-powered vehicles--some of them pocket bikes--because of a risk of overheating Overheating
An economy that is growing very quickly, with the risk of high inflation. and burning riders, causing them to lose control. (Razor also recalled about 246,000 electric scooters because the handlebars could accidentally detach.) At the same time, Fisher-Price recalled about 34,000 battery-powered scooters and minibikes because overinflated tires could break the plastic rim within the wheel; both types of vehicle were also recalled in 2003 for faulty motor control circuits.
Regulation of personal motorized mo·tor·ize
tr.v. mo·tor·ized, mo·tor·iz·ing, mo·tor·iz·es
1. To equip with a motor.
2. To supply with motor-driven vehicles.
3. To provide with automobiles. vehicles like pocket bikes falls to various government agencies. For example, motor scooters (sometimes called mopeds)--which have vehicle identification numbers (VINs) and can be registered with state departments of motor vehicles--may fall under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's bailiwick BAILIWICK. The district over which a sheriff has jurisdiction; it signifies also the same as county, the sheriff's bailiwick extending over the county.
2. . Motorized scooters for the disabled are generally classified as medical devices and regulated by the FDA FDA
Food and Drug Administration
n.pr See Food and Drug Administration.
n.pr the abbreviation for the Food and Drug Administration. .
The CPSC assigns codes to the products for which it collects accident and injury statistics, including mopeds or power-assisted cycles (code 3215) and power scooters (5042). In a recent report, the commission linked the latter vehicle--which has two wheels, a platform to stand on, handlebars, and sometimes a detachable seat--with 49 deaths and more than 10,000 injuries requiting emergency-room treatment between July 2003 and June 2004. Only 4 in 10 of the people injured wore helmets, and almost two-thirds of the injuries were to children under 15. Sixty percent of the injured riders were male. Pocket bike riders are likely to share the same demographics.
"Pocket bikes are interesting--they're minibikes, they're not scooters--but it's fair to say that CPSC has jurisdiction over the product," said agency spokesman Scott Wolfson. The commission doesn't currently track pocket bike injuries separately, but they have a product code (5035).
States and local jurisdictions are attempting to regulate the use of pocket bikes. In some areas, the bikes have been banned altogether. Regulation is tricky because of the bikes' uncertain status as "toys."
"There has been no federal action on these toys. But since they have no VIN VIN Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasm, see there numbers, they can never be registered with the state department of motor vehicles In the United States of America, Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV) is a commonly used name of the government agency of a U.S. state which administers the registration of automobiles (e.g., by issuing license plates), and/or the licensing of drivers (e.g. , and thus cannot be operated on state-maintained roads," said Jason King, director of public affairs for the American Association of MotorVehicle Administrators, a nonprofit highway-safety group representing state motor vehicle and law enforcement agencies A law enforcement agency (LEA) is a term used to describe any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). nationwide.
"There are questions about where you can use them," Wolfson said. "Local laws might limit the ability of anyone to take pocket bikes out onto the public roads, so there are questions of where you can ride other than in your own driveway. Use is usually not permitted on sidewalks."
States have taken several approaches to regulation:
* Banning their sale and use. For example, the Connecticut legislature is considering a bill "prohibiting the sale and use of pocket bikes and all-terrain vehicles" in the state "to promote public safety."
* Defining "pocket bikes," then banning them specifically from public roads. For example, a bill pending in the New Hampshire New Hampshire, one of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (S), Vermont, with the Connecticut R. forming the boundary (W), the Canadian province of Quebec (NW), and Maine and a short strip of the Atlantic Ocean (E). legislature defines the bikes as two- or three-wheeled motorized devices with handlebars, ridden while sitting, that are smaller than a conventional moped moped: see motorcycle. , motorcycle, or motor-driven cycle and have gasoline- or alcohol-fueled motors with piston displacement of less than 100 cubic centimeters. The definition covers "mini-cycles," "mini-choppers," and "pocket rockets." The law would prohibit their operation on public roadways.
* Designating pocket bikes as "motor vehicles." In Wisconsin, riders caught with a pocket bike on public roads can be ticketed for operating an unregistered motor vehicle on the street or for operating a motor vehicle without a license. Similarly, in California, bikes cannot be made street-legal, even by retrofitting them with required safety gear like head- and brake lights. They're not legal on any Texas streets.
* Defining pocket bikes as "toy" vehicles, then banning toys from public thoroughfares. A bill before the Colorado legislature would ban vehicles whose wheels have an outside diameter of 14 inches or less and that are not designed, approved, or intended for use on public roadways. These vehicles include "mini bikes," "pocket bikes," "kamikaze kamikaze (kä'məkä`zē) [Jap.,=divine wind], the typhoon that destroyed Kublai Khan's fleet, foiling his invasion of Japan in 1281. boards," "go-peds," and "stand-up stand·up or stand-up
1. Standing erect; upright: a standup collar.
2. Taken, done, or used while standing: a standup supper; a standup bar. scooters."
* Regulating their use without a ban. Maine, for example, has a campaign to enforce state laws that regulate motorized scooters, motorized bicycles, and mopeds; it requires licenses for them all, and only motorcycles are allowed on the roads. The governor has no plans to outlaw pocket bikes. A 2004 Massachusetts law does not ban the vehicles, but it imposes restrictions requiring scooter operators to possess a valid driver's license or learner's permit, wear protective headgear headgear,
n the apparatus encircling the head or neck and providing attachment for an intraoral appliance in use of extraoral anchorage.
n a device that is used to protect the head from injury by radiation. , follow traffic rules, and keep speeds at or below 20 mph. (Springfield's definition of "scooter" includes pocket bikes.)
* Passing a general law. A new District of Columbia District of Columbia, federal district (2000 pop. 572,059, a 5.7% decrease in population since the 1990 census), 69 sq mi (179 sq km), on the east bank of the Potomac River, coextensive with the city of Washington, D.C. (the capital of the United States). "nontraditional motor-vehicle safety amendment" is designed to control the use of small, motorized vehicles, but it doesn't clearly identify the vehicles.
* Classifying pocket bikes so they are technically legal. In Virginia, pocket bikes are legally classified as small motorcycles because they can be ridden above 30 mph. Riders must obey motor vehicle laws to ride them on public roads, including being old enough to hold a valid license.
Local jurisdictions have taken similar steps.
"I think the CPSC is going to need to get interested," said Scott, the Indiana lawyer. "With the current administration, that's probably not going to happen." ATVs were around a long time before people took notice of their dangers, he said.
He cited a primary reason for the dearth of lawsuits so far: "The problem is that most of the cases will [involve] some kid doing something he or she shouldn't have done in the first place and getting hurt. 'Personal responsibility' is a really effective defense." Still, he said, "the case is there."
Until lawsuits focus public attention on the dangers, which could occur long before consistent safety regulations are in place, consumers will need to be on guard.
"Riders and parents buying pocket bikes for their kids should think about professional areas to ride, such as motor sports facilities, that can provide a safe environment," said the CPSC's Wolfson.
"Parents can help significantly reduce deaths and injuries to children by taking simple safety precautions, such as making sure their kids wear helmets, ride only on smooth surfaces, and avoid riding at night," CPSC Chair Hal Stratton said in a statement.