Address the Federal Definition of a Motorcycle with NHTSA

Address the Federal Definition
of a Motorcycle with NHTSA

Reprinted with permission from the
Motorcycle Riders Foundation
April 9, 2019


April 9, 2019

We are asking you to take the a few minutes to ask your elected officials to join their colleagues on a letter being sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to ask them to address the decades old definition of a motorcycle at the end of this week.  The letter must be sent in the next 48 hours to ensure your member of Congress will be included in the letter. 

One of the priorities for the MRF this year is addressing the definition of a motorcycle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in charge of the federal definition. The current definition is 40 years old and so broad that autocycles are classified as motorcycles which creates ambiguity surrounding licensing, registration, insurance and safety courses.

NHTSA defines the term “motorcycle,” as “a motor vehicle with motive power having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with ground” (49 CFR 571.3).

ABATE of Iowa led the charge at the state level to update the definition of a motorcycle in Iowa. However, some states have not been able to address this issue in their statehouses. Now the MRF is seeking to change the definition at the federal level, which will ensure vehicles that are classified as motorcycles are indeed motorcycles. Leaders from ABATE of Wisconsin helped lead this push at the federal level. They came to Washington, DC earlier in the year and met with their Senators and Representatives as well as leaders of the Motorcycle Caucuses.

Those meetings resulted in a letter from Congressman Burgess of Texas and Senator Johnson of Wisconsin to NTSHA asking questions about the current definition of a motorcycle.

Congressman Burgess and Senator Johnson want their colleagues to sign onto the letter and join them in asking these crucial questions of NHSTA. We need you to contact your Congressman and Senators and ask them to join this letter. We want the definition of a motorcycle to be a motorcycle, and that starts with putting NHSTA on notice that the current definition is unacceptable.

We have all seen these autocycles on the road, and we know they aren’t motorcycles. Let’s make sure the bureaucrats in DC understand the difference!


 Take Action 



Tiffany Cipoletti

Director of Operations

Motorcycle Riders Foundation



All Information contained in this release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. Motorcycle Riders Foundation. All rights reserved. Ride With The Leaders ™ by joining the MRF at or call (202) 546-0983.


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