Moped Safety Equipment Laws USA 1976

Below is another historical article, reprinted from AMERICAN BICYCLIST and Motorcyclist, March 1976, a trade magazine, announcing moped laws to American bicycle dealers:

Dealer checklist: your lines must meet federal standards

by Serge D. Seguin, Chairman, Motorized Bicycle Association

Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued federal motor vehicle safety standards which apply to vehicle equipment. Many of these standards are applicable to motorized bicycles.

In February 1974, several manufacturers of motorized bicycles [Motobecane, Peugeot, Sinfac(Solex)] petitioned NHTSA for recognition of the motorized bicycle as a separate vehicle category and the establishment of safety standards appropriate to it’s low power and speed. Though NHTSA declined to establish a separate category, effective October 1974 it established a sub-category of motor-driven cycle (a vehicle with a motor that produces 5 brake horspower or less). This defined the motorized bicycle as a motor-driven cycle whose maximum speed is 30 mph and relaxed certain motor-driven cycle standards for this new sub-category. The brakes on these lower speed vehicles are exempt from fade requirements. Both brake controls may be on the handlebar. The stop lamp may have a photometric output of one-half of the existing motorcycle standard. Turn signals are not required.

However, the equipment standards for motorized bicycles are very specific and strict – far more stringent than the standards promulgated in the many countries in which the motorized bicycle is now in use as a principal means of transportation. It is important that you, the dealer, be able to recognize if the motorized bicycle you are considering selling meets the federal standards. If it does not, the potential penalties are severe, including recall of “illegal” vehicles and the possibility of a fine for each vehicle sold. There are presently over 15 million motorized bicycles in use throughout the world, and the potential for sales in the United States is great. But in order to realize this potential, the motorized bicycle to be sold must conform to all standards.

Federal standards apply to lights, brakes, tires, controls, and display equipment. Each machine must have a certification label. Look carefully at the motorized bicycle offered to you for sale. Only if it conforms to the following checklist, does the vehicle meet the basic federal standards applicable to motorized bicycles.


  • Head Lamp: One White. Must pass moisture, corrosion, vibration and recession tests. Sealed beam conforms. Headlamp must move up and down for aiming.
  • Tail Lamp: One Red. Should be a combination stop-tail lamp. Must be identified by SAE number. Must have double filament bulb. [later relaxed]
  • Stop Lamp: One Red. Must be activated by either hand brake.
  • Reflectors: Two Amber on both sides at front, Two Red on both sides at rear, and One Red on back, all permantly affixed and identified with with SAE number.

B. BRAKES  In order to meet the federal standards on braking performance, almost all motorized bicycle will need drum brakes. to check the lining thickness of the drum brake shoe, an “inspection window” must be provided in the brake backing plate.

C. TIRES   Each tire must have at least six treadwear indicators so that it may be inspected to determine visually, whether the tire has worn to a depth of 1/16 inch. Some specific markings must appear on the tire:

  1. The symbol DOT
  2. A coded tire identification number.
  3. Tire size in inches
  4. Max load rating in lb, and corresponding inflation pressure in psi.
  5. Speed restriction or rating
  6. Number of plies and cord composition
  7. The word “tubeless” (TL) or “tube type” (TT) as applicable.
  8. The load range letter (most often “B” which is 300lb/tire).

D. CONTROLS AND DISPLAYS  There must be two engine stops on a motorized bicycle. One of them must be located on the right handlebar. It must be labeled “ENGINE STOP” and must have “OFF” and “RUN” positions marked.

  1. An electric horn is required, with button on left handlebar, with marking “HORN”.
  2. [The other engine stop is the] Manual Fuel Shut-off Control. It must have the “OFF” marking when the control is forward, the “ON” marking when the control is downward. Optionally it can have a “RES” or RESERVE marking when the control is pointing upward.
  3. manual choke must have a label “CHOKE”.
  4. The speedometer must be illuminated when the headlamp is activated. Markings must be in mph.

 CERTIFICATION LABEL   Each motorized bicycle must have a certification label – either riveted or permanently affixed so that it cannot be removed without destroying or defacing it. The label must be affixed to the structure as close as practicable to the intersection of the steering post with the handlebars.

The label must have the following information:

  1. Name of Manufacturer
  2. Month and Year of Manufacture
  3. Groos Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
  4. Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) for each axle.
  5. Vehicle Identification Number
  6. Vehicle Type “MOTOR-DRIVEN CYCLE”


Now you know more about why US mopeds are the way they are. This explains why the earlier 1974-1976 US model mopeds all had sealed beam headlights and double filament tail lights. By 1977 most US mopeds switched to single-filament two-bulb tail lights and non sealed beam headlights, after the sealed beam headlight and double filament tail light requirements were dropped.

The rules about lights, controls, tires, brakes, button locations, etc are different in most other countries. They use a non-electric “ring ring” horn, no brake light, no side reflectors. They can have all their buttons on the left. Their lights are smaller and not as bright as USA ones, generally.