Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cheese It! It's The Cops!

Yep; I done got my very first traffic stop on a scooter -- and yes, it was while I was on the Vino.

I was heading east down Charlotte Ave., and passed a cop who was stopped in a business lot, signaling to enter Charlotte heading east. I got two blocks before he lit up the blues.

I signal, pull into another parking lot, shut off the scooter, and draped my wrists over the handlebars. The very young MNPD officer approaches slowly, asks for my license. Says he stopped me because I have no tag on the scooter.

"Well, it's my understanding that this scooter is considered, under Tennessee law, to be a motorized bicycle--"

"Nuh-uh. How many ccs is it?"


"49.5. Where does it say that? Do you have a registration?"

"No, sir -- I could be wrong, but I also understand that motorized bicycles do not require registration under state law."

"Does it say '49.5cc' somewhere on the bike?"

"Well, I think so, on one of these stickers..."

"Stand over there, sir."

"Sure." He bends over to examine the several decals that Yamaha affixes to the scooter, including the VIN decal, all the while resting his hand on his weapon, my driver's license between the fore- and middle finger of his shootin' hand.

"I don't see any 49.5cc anywhere, on there, anywhere."

He bends down, kneels on the ground, clearly more at ease (I'm at least six feet away from him, giving him space), looking around the variator casing, and underneath the scooter.

"I could've sworn one of those labels had the displacement. Can you run the VIN, and see if that tells you anything?"

"Yeah, let me write that down. Just sit tight and I'll be back with you in a minute."

Several minutes pass, and I notice he's leafing through a small book. I slowly approach the car, and say, "Officer? I think I have the relevant statutes in my under-seat compartment."

"Do you have any weapons or anything you shouldn't have under there?"

"Of course not. You can open it if you like."

"No, go ahead -- I'll take a look at what you have."

So, I get the relevant statutes, hand 'em over... I figured that'd help him find the spot in his little book that should read exactly the same. Lo and behold, that's exactly what happened.

Cop says, "You don't have ANYTHING that says it's a 49.5cc bike?"

"Not on me, I don't suppose. I mean, if you write me a ticket--"

"I'm not gonna write you a ticket."

"Cool. But what I'm sayin' is, I could pull information off the Yamaha website, and match the VIN to the model, and show a judge that I was doin' what I thought was legal. I've been ridin' it since April, 2007, and this is the first time I've been pulled over."

There was a pause. Then, he says, "Well, dang... I'm tryin' to figure out how you can keep from gettin' pulled over, again." I mention that'd it'd be cool if Tennessee would offer a special plate -- one that didn't cost $85. He agrees, and points out in his code book that registration on motorized bicycles is voluntary, which he thinks is stupid: Why pay $85 when you don't have to?

We made some small talk, then. He'd seen my scooter at Target a few days ago... asked me what kind of mileage it gets, etc. I mentioned that I'd reported an attempted theft on it back in March ("Oh -- that's how you got all the scratches and the broken speedometer?").

He didn't apologize (heh -- do they ever?), but he shook my hand, gave me my license back, urged me to be safe, and went on his way.

Another day in the concrete jungle.


  1. Most exemplary behavior, as one would have expected of you. Absolute textbook politeness to an officer of teh law.

    Did you show him pictures of your boyz??


  2. Well, hell... whaddya gonna do?

    Dude's doin' his job. He expected to see a plate on the bike, and didn't. I figure he's new on the force, from his age... as I say, I've been riding it for 18 months without any problems from the many cops I've been in front of, or passed on the road. It's a rare day I don't pass a cop when I ride, as the west sector station is only a couple of miles away.

    No point in giving a cop grief, anyway, under almost any circumstance. If you do, you're automatically wrong, and it only gets worse from there. It's easier when you know you're not doing anything wrong, though. ;)

  3. Danny Guam (the real one)September 3, 2008 at 7:43 PM

    What I do is have a "toy" license plate same color as the WA plate that has the RCW pertaining to "motorized foot scooters" in WA state law.

    Haven't been stopped yet but I spose it will happen eventually.

    WA law says 10 inch wheels make it a motorized foot scooter even though it's a honda ruckus. I will have to tell it to the judge so to speak if it ever comes to that. Also, no displacement limit in WA law on motorized foot scooters.

  4. Danny Guam -- In TN, we have 3 req's for "motorized bicycle" (requiring no tags, registration, insurance or special endorsement on driver's license):

    * Must be 50cc or less;
    * Must be 2 brake-horsepower or less;
    * Must be designed to have a top speed not to exceed 30mph.

    The Vino meets the first test. The other two, thanks to the pre-Bushian concept of "presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law" means I'm golden.

    In order to prove guilt, the state would have to impound the scooter, and perform expensive tests, and they wouldn't bother with that.

  5. They're cracking down everywhere. The wording in the CO statutes is really squirrely, but it basically says the transmission can't have a design speed exceeding 30 mph. Why they chose the tranny I have NO idea, and what exactly that means is up to the officer.

    I have a feeling the rules are going to get more specific soon.

  6. VV -- Yeah; the laws will be tweaked, no doubt. There's so many more on the roads here, locally, in the last year, it's almost certain to become a legislative target.

    Right now in TN, it looks specific enough to cause the cops to hesitate writing the ticket if there's any doubt -- as I pointed out to my interloper, I think a judge would find in my favor, given that I'm innocent until proven guilty. Proving guilt under the current law is too difficult and expensive to be practical to fully prosecute.

  7. Hi Jones,

    here in Croatia, for scooters <50 cc of displacement we have small license plates, smaller than ones for scooters >50 cc.

    Btw. it is sad to hear first hand about the level of paranoia that cops in USA show when approaching the driver they stopped. All these things about resting hands at the steering wheel, hand resting at the handgun etc. Here in Croatia and in Europe overall, there are no such things, you can exit the car, greet the cop, show him/her the documents, etc. No cowboy stuff, no treating everybody as a criminal. However, I would say this is because in Europe cops do not get regularly shot in the street, compared to USA, so I would say the situation has its own, internal reasoning.

  8. Perhaps someone here could give me some assistance or their view on what happened to me this morning:

    I came down a small back street through Belle Meade - I took a left on to another small back street. Since I had received a ticket earlier this week :-( I was being very very careful to look for speed limit signs, etc. Because I did not notice any speed limit signs I was thinking to myself: "Okay, what would be a reasonable speed limit here." I thought to myself that it would be 35. I looked down at my speedometer, and I was going just around 32 (my speedometer only gives me the speed on the "10s", so anything is give and take 1 or 2 miles per hour). As I am driving around to the right and the road is going slightly down a hill, I look to me right, and there it says pure reflex, I look down and see that I am going to fast then for that speed limit. I start to slow down, and as I keep driving, I see the police sitting on the grass of a private property on the right side, facing the same way as I am driving. He is not out of his car physically, and I was fairly far behind him still. As I pass him, I am already down to 25, but yet he turns his lights on and pulls me over.

    He comes to my car and asks me: "Are you aware what the speed limit is on this street?" I told him the truth that I had first thought it was 35. He says: "You were going 37 in a 25." I was thinking quietly to myself that there was no way. I had my children with me so I did not want to make a big deal out of it. He then stops talking, gets my license, etc. and goes back to his car.

    When he comes back he had written the ticket as 37 in a 25. When I had dropped my kids off at school, I pulled to the side and looked at the ticket - it did not have a check mark by ANY of the possible methods that he could have chosen for having the knowledge of me going 37.

    I then start to think more about it, and wondered:

    1. How could have gotten my speed from so far back when his car was turned the same way I was going?

    2. Why is he asking if I know the speed limit?

    3. Why did he not mark the method of how he "knew" I was going 37?

    I would like to go and get it dismissed, because I know I was not going 37, and he never put down any method.

    What do you all think?

    TN Resident