- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Moped drivers across North Carolina will have to register their bikes by next summer if a House measure approved this week becomes law, which opponents say would hurt low-income people who have no other means to get around.

The bill would require mopeds, starting July 1, 2015, to be registered and titled with the Division of Motor Vehicles so the bikes so can be identified.

It would not make moped drivers to have insurance or get a driver’s license, but would require a license plate. The bill also directs a legislative committee to study whether more regulations are needed.

Supporters said the moves are needed to help law enforcement identify mopeds when they are in an accident or used in a crime.

Rep. Phillip Shepard, R-Onslow, and the bill’s primary sponsor, said this is the starting point as more people use mopeds. The bill would help law enforcement track them and make the roads safer, he said.

“Many of them we do not know who owned them, or where they come from,” he said. “Many of these are used in illegal activities,” he said.

But Shepard acknowledged that many are used by people to get to work and said the bill is not meant to prevent that. He said he hopes the study can shed more light on what other regulations might be needed. Several other states require mopeds to be registered with the DMV, including Virginia and South Carolina.

Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, said the bill is really about the state making money. It hurts and stigmatizes low-income people who may be trying to get back on their feet from a drunken driving citation or trying to make ends, he said.

“People who ride bicycles drink, but no one’s running them down,” he said.

It makes sense for the state to regulate mopeds just as it does with other vehicles, said Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg.

“We regulate a lot of things in this state that have wheels,” she said. Before a study can be done, registration is necessary, she said.

The bill, approved 83-29 on Thursday, still would need Senate approval before going to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk for his requested signature. The Senate has considered moped regulations in the past. Time is dwindling in this year’s legislative session.

John Hill owns a moped store in Greensboro, and said he doesn’t generally support regulation but was glad the bill did not include an insurance mandate, which he says would have hurt low-income riders who depend on the vehicle’s low cost.

“It will hinder the low-wage earner most, anything they do, because now they have a registration fee and a license fee,” said Jones. He says he hopes they won’t be further regulated.

Many of the people who come through his store use mopeds because they can’t afford or drive a car, he said. A moped is their only option to make a living, he said.

“I hope we don’t make it so prohibitive that those people can’t get to work, can’t get to the stores,” he said. “They use this product to help them to and from work.”

The Division of Motor Vehicles estimates that there are 8,000 mopeds sold annually in North Carolina, and 17,000 mopeds currently on roads across the state. Drivers would have to pay either a $15 or $22 registration fee depending on whether the bike has a sidecar.

The first year, 25,000 mopeds would be registered, bringing in at least $375,000 in registration fee revenue in the first year and increase by $120,000 in the following years based on registration renewals and sales growth. Drivers would also pay a $40 title fee, bringing in another $1 million to the state. State law currently allows mopeds to ride on streets where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less.

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