Salina Cole Rodenbeek says he and some friends who ride their bicycles to work are being eco-friendly and trying to save money on their daily commute to work.
But Salina police say he and his friends are breaking the law.
It’s the motors on the bikes the Salinans ride that have drawn law officers’ attention.
Now Rodenbeek says Kansas needs to tweak its laws, like Arizona did, to treat motorized bicycles the same as traditional pedal-powered bicycles.
About two years ago, Rodenbeek, 27, who earns his living as a welder, came across an Arizona-based company that sells motors and kits to use to mount them on ordinary bicycles.
He was intrigued by the idea. “It was inexpensive and fuel-efficient like crazy,” he said.
Soon, Rodenbeek was searching scrap heaps and junk yards for fat-tire, cruiser-style Schwinn, Huffy and similar-brand bike frames. Those kinds of bicycle frames are the most easily adaptable.
“I wish, if I had more time, I could get more bikes together,” Rodenbeek said.
The idea caught on with more of his friends, and they’ve put together about a dozen motorized bikes this year.
Equipped with 49 cubic centimeter motors that get as much as 175 miles to the gallon of gas, their bikes can cruise at 20 mph along the street or faster downhill.
“There’s a lot of guys riding around town. It’s just a bummer — everybody wants to be eco-friendly but we’re now not being allowed to,” Rodenbeek said.
Recently, one of the riders was stopped by a patrol officer and given a ticket for riding an unregistered vehicle on a city street. The fine in Salina Municipal Court for driving an unregistered vehicle is $50 and court costs are $50, a court representative said.
Officers aren’t against saving fuel. But the law says that any vehicle driven on a street has to be registered and have a license tag, said Lt. Russ Lamer, traffic unit commander.
A motorized bicycle doesn’t have a vehicle identification number, so it can’t be registered, Lamer said. The same holds true for golf carts, which also are illegal to operate on Salina streets, he said. Mopeds have VINs, so they can be registered.