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Non-Traditional Motor Vehicles

Motor vehicles are defined as vehicles propelled by an internal-combustion engine, electricity or steam. All traffic laws apply to motor vehicles, motorized bicycles and other types of non-traditional vehicles except as identified in the applicable DC Code statute or regulation

Types of non-traditional vehicles

motor-driven cycleA motor-driven cycle has a seat or saddle and two or three wheels in contact with the ground and a gas, electric, or hybrid motor with a maximum piston or rotor displacement of 50 cubic centimeters, or its equivalent, with a maximum speed of 30 MPH (miles per hour).



motorized bicycleA motorized bicycle has a post-mounted seat or saddle for each person; two or three wheels (at least 16 inches in diameter) in contact with the ground; fully operative pedals for human propulsion; and a motor capable of a maximum speed of 20 MPH on level ground.  



MotorcycleA motorcycle has a seat or saddle and two or three wheels in contact with the ground, is not a motor-driven cycle or motorized bicycle and can go over 30 MPH.




For additional/uncommon non-traditional vehicle types, visit this chart [PDF].

Requirements for licensing and registering non-traditional vehicles like a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle

  • A driver license
  • Registration and license plate
  • Liability insurance
  • Helmet with a US Department of Transportation certification
  • A motorcycle endorsement from DC DMV if speed can exceed 30 MPH  

For a comprehensive list of requirements based on your type of vehicle, visit this chart [PDF].

Traffic safety requirements for non-traditional vehicles like a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle

Drivers of non-traditional vehicles must know and obey traffic laws.

Here are some tips to help keep you safe as a driver:

  • Do not travel in in bike lanes, trails or sidewalks (except to park outside of central business district).
  • Do not travel in bus lanes.
  • Do not drive on highways (for example, 395, 295, 695).

Proper driving skills

  • Focus on defensive driving.
  • Do not tailgate or let other vehicles tailgate you.
  • Avoid riding between lanes of slow moving or stopped traffic.
  • Ride in the part of the lane where it is most likely that you will be seen.
  • Don’t speed and avoid sudden braking or turning.
  • Pass only when it is safe to do so and do not pass or ride off the roadway.
  • Use signals when turning or changing lanes, always check the rearview mirrors—and make a head check, and don’t crowd the other vehicle when you pass.
  • Watch out for intersections, where collisions are more likely to occur.
  • Stay out of vehicles’ blind spots to stay visible.
  • Be extra cautious during inclement and wet weather and bad road conditions (gravel, wet leaves, uneven road, etc.) 

Proper clothing

  • Wear protective clothing—pants and long-sleeved jackets—with bright, reflective colors on your upper body.
  • Wear clean, unscratched, high-quality goggles or a face shield on your helmet for eye protection.
  • Use durable, comfortable gloves that allow a firm grip on the controls.
  • Wear solid shoes or boots without hanging laces that can get tangled.

Proper vehicle operation

  • Use your headlights, day and night. 
  • Use both brakes together, braking firmly and progressively.
  • Don’t drink and drive.

Downloadable Resources

Click on the flyers below to download what laws, how to legally driver a non-traditional vehicle in the District and traffic laws drivers must adhere to. Flyers are available in PDF format.

Non-Traditional Motor VehiclesNon-Traditional Motor Vehicles

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