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The Seattle Scooter Meetup Group* Message Board › WA state scooter laws

WA state scooter laws

A former member
Post #: 1
Can anyone tell me simply what are the laws regarding motorcycle licenses and endorsements when it comes to 2 stroke, 49 cc scooters? It is really hard to understand whether they count as mopeds or motorcycles. If you know, please post! Thanks so much for your help.
A former member
Post #: 4
A motorcycle license/endorsement is not required for 49cc in Washington State. The laws pertaining to 49cc mopeds and the same as the laws applying to 49cc scooters. For any engine size above 49cc, a motorcycle endorsement is required.

I would highly recommend the motorcycle riding course given by the Evergreen Safety Council. Passing this course will get you a motorcycle endorsement, but more importantly, there is so much good rider safety information you gain taking the course which applies to any size scooter you'll be riding that it's well worth it.

For information on classes, just Goggle the Washington State DOT website, you'll find a link to the Evergreen Safety Council website there.

Hope that answers your question.

Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 24
Hi Folks,

Angelika is correct as far as general practice and enforcement goes. Here is the text of the actual laws:

RCW 46.04.304
"Moped" means a motorized device designed to travel with not more than three sixteen-inch or larger diameter wheels in contact with the ground, having fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power, and an electric or a liquid fuel motor with a cylinder displacement not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters which produces no more than two gross brake horsepower (developed by a prime mover, as measured by a brake applied to the driving shaft) that is capable of propelling the device at not more than thirty miles per hour on level ground.

The Washington state patrol may approve of and define as a "moped" a vehicle which fails to meet these specific criteria, but which is essentially similar in performance and application to motorized devices which do meet these specific criteria.

[For pratical purposes, if your scooter engine has a displacement of under 50 cc, produces less than 2 hp, and does not exceed 30 mph, it qualifies as a "moped." Not all 49/50 cc scooters meet these criteria. If in doubt, you can always check with the state patrol.]

RCW 46.20.500
Special endorsement -- Exceptions.
(1) No person may drive either a two-wheeled or a three-wheeled motorcycle, or a motor-driven cycle unless such person has a valid driver's license specially endorsed by the director to enable the holder to drive such vehicles.

(2) However, a person sixteen years of age or older, holding a valid driver's license of any class issued by the state of the person's residence, may operate a moped without taking any special examination for the operation of a moped.

(3) No driver's license is required for operation of an electric-assisted bicycle if the operator is at least sixteen years of age. Persons under sixteen years of age may not operate an electric-assisted bicycle.

(4) No driver's license is required to operate an electric personal assistive mobility device or a power wheelchair.

(5) No driver's license is required to operate a motorized foot scooter. Motorized foot scooters may not be operated at any time from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise without reflectors of a type approved by the state patrol.

RCW 46.61.710
Mopeds, EPAMDs, electric-assisted bicycles, motorized foot scooters -- General requirements and operation.
(1) No person shall operate a moped upon the highways of this state unless the moped has been assigned a moped registration number and displays a moped permit in accordance with the provisions of RCW 46.16.630.

(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a moped may not be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail.

(3) Operation of a moped, electric personal assistive mobility device, or an electric-assisted bicycle on a fully controlled limited access highway is unlawful. Operation of a moped or an electric-assisted bicycle on a sidewalk is unlawful.

(4) Removal of any muffling device or pollution control device from a moped is unlawful.

(5) Subsections (1), (2), and (4) of this section do not apply to electric-assisted bicycles. Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may have access to highways of the state to the same extent as bicycles. Subject to subsection (6) of this section, electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may be operated on a multipurpose trail or bicycle lane, but local jurisdictions may restrict or otherwise limit the access of electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters, and state agencies may regulate the use of motorized foot scooters on facilities and properties under their jurisdiction and control.

(6) Subsections (1) and (4) of this section do not apply to motorized foot scooters. Subsection (2) of this section applies to motorized foot scooters when the bicycle path, trail, bikeway, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail was built or is maintained with federal highway transportation funds. Additionally, any new trail or bicycle path or readily identifiable existing trail or bicycle path not built or maintained with federal highway transportation funds may be used by persons operating motorized foot scooters only when appropriately signed.

(7) A person operating an electric personal assistive mobility device (EPAMD) shall obey all speed limits and shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and human-powered devices at all times. An operator must also give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian. Except for the limitations of this subsection, persons operating an EPAMD have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian.

(8) The use of an EPAMD may be regulated in the following circumstances:

(a) A municipality and the department of transportation may prohibit the operation of an EPAMD on public highways within their respective jurisdictions where the speed limit is greater than twenty-five miles per hour;

(b) A municipality may restrict the speed of an EPAMD in locations with congested pedestrian or nonmotorized traffic and where there is significant speed differential between pedestrians or nonmotorized traffic and EPAMD operators. The areas in this subsection must be designated by the city engineer or designee of the municipality. Municipalities shall not restrict the speed of an EPAMD in the entire community or in areas in which there is infrequent pedestrian traffic;

(c) A state agency or local government may regulate the operation of an EPAMD within the boundaries of any area used for recreation, open space, habitat, trails, or conservation purposes.

WAC 308-96A-136 Mopeds -- License plates.(1) Will the department[of licensing] issue a license plate for my moped?

The department will issue a motorcycle series license plate for your moped when you make proper application.

The number on the license plate serves as the moped's registration number as required in RCW 46.16.630.

(2) How do I display the license plate on my moped?

The license plate must be displayed on the rear of your moped as provided in RCW 46.16.240.

(3) If my moped does not meet the standard criteria for a moped, can I get it licensed as such? A Washington state patrol inspection may be required before a license can be issued. The Washington state patrol has the discretion to inspect and define similar vehicles as mopeds. If the vehicle is similar to a moped, it must be identified as a moped by the Washington state patrol inspection before a license can be issued.

Sorry this is not as simple or straighforward as you might wish. But that's how the law is.

Here's the link to the DoL motorcycle safety program, where you can find training sites and read the state Motorcycle Manual:­.

Scooter Gallery Seattle recommends the motorcycle safety classes to all our customers and we'll give a 10% discount on helmets, gloves, and boots to anyone who brings in their class confirmation letter before taking the class and reimburse 50% of the class fee (up to $125) for new riders who buy a scooter from us. We want our customers to ride safe!

Your organizer,
A former member
Post #: 1
I'm wondering if I need to be 16, or need a licence to drive a scooter of any 49cc scooter. I REALLY NEED/WANT ONE, but...i don't know if can even drive one legally... WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME!
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 34
Hi JD,

I'm wondering if I need to be 16, or need a licence to drive a scooter of any 49cc scooter. I REALLY NEED/WANT ONE, but...i don't know if can even drive one legally... WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME!

Yes, you do need a drivers license to drive a 49cc scooter. If a motor vehicle is legal to ride on the street, you need a drivers license. However, I think a moped class scooter is a great first vehicle. You must learn and practice defensive riding and learn how to anticipate and avoid road hazards. And you must wear proper safety gear.

I have a friend who started riding a scooter in high school and rode for many years. But after his 11th accident, he gave it up. He never learned how to watch out for loose gravel, railroad crossing, and other hazzards.

While your waiting to get your license, you might want to read The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Guide to Motorcycling Excellence: Skills, Knowledge, and Strategies for Riding Right, by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well, by David L. Hough. Of course you'll want to read the Washington State Motorcycle Manual, which you can get here:­.

If you're under 18 you must take an approved motorcycle safety course to get a motorcycle endorsement. An endorsement is not required for 49cc scooter, but the safety course is a good idea for anybody who rides a scooter of any size. You can get more info about the course here:­

The Evergreen Safety Council teaches some scooter-only rider courses:­

Once you have some riding experience, you might want to take an Experienced Rider Course and read More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride, by Daivd L. Hough.

If you ride a bicycle, you will learn how to watch for road hazards. It's great practice.

Best wishes to you.

Your organizer,
A former member
Post #: 2
I'm very carfull with road harzards and road side hazards. I don't think that will be a problem. It kinda sucks that I still have to wait 2 or 3 years. OH YEAH...I want to get a scooter, like a higher than 50cc scooter, like a 250cc scooter, but i was wondering if i need a motorcycle licence to drive 250cc scooter. And can i get it when I'm 15? Or is like a car and i have to wait till I'm 16 too?

P.S. I've been riding my 2 wheeled bicycle since I was like 3. Would that help? Are they hard to ballence?
A former member
Post #: 1
I agree with Angelika about taking the Motorcycle Safety course. It is a must for new riders - teaches you a lot and builds confidence. When you sign-up be sure to let them know that you want a scooter. They will provide one, otherwise they will put you on a motorcycle which rides differently than a scooter.

Good luck and happy scootering, Judy
A former member
Post #: 3
A former member
Post #: 1
So, no highways...and no sidewalks. But everything in between is ok? (Normal roads?)

Based on road laws it seems like it's ok for you to ride a moped/scoot on any non-highway road so long as you aren't causing traffic. B/c a speed limit is just a recommended maximum. Not that I'm brave enough to do so.. haha.

Do you guys agree with this? Am I reading right?

A former member
Post #: 10
There are 3 definitions for 2 wheeled vehicles in Washington: moped, motor-driven cycle and motorcycle. The official definition of a moped has already been given below, take specific note of the phrase "sixteen-inch or larger diameter wheels in contact with the ground, having fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power"

Now look at the definition of a Motor-Driven Cycle below.

RCW 46.04.332
Motor-driven cycle.

"Motor-driven cycle" means every motorcycle, including every motor scooter, with a motor that produces not to exceed five brake horsepower (developed by a prime mover, as measured by a brake applied to the driving shaft). A motor-driven cycle does not include a moped, a power wheelchair, a motorized foot scooter, or an electric personal assistive mobility device.

Clearly a motor scooter with 10 inch wheels and no pedals classifies as a motor-driven cycle and not a moped.

Unfortunately many dealers perpetuate a myth that 49cc scooters are mopeds in WA because it makes them easier to sell if you can tell people that they don't need a license. There are states where mopeds are not rewuired to have at least 16 inch wheels or pedals, in those states 49cc scooters are mopeds but not in WA. If you can convince your local Highway Patrol officer to designate your scooter as a moped you can squeeze by, this is possible because less than 5% of officers understand the distinctions between mopeds, motor driven cycles and motorcycles, however, the letter of the law is clear and in the future it may become more well known as scooters become a more popular mode of transportation.
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