Dear Mr. Rourke:
Thank you for your letter of February 4, 1995. I am pleased to answer your questions about the applicability of the regulations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to your electric-assisted bicycle.
We have reviewed Adam Englund's memorandum of January 26, 1995, which you enclosed. In general, it is a complete and accurate statement of the applicability of our regulations to motor driven cycles. We have the following comments which I hope you will find helpful.
Certification label. The appropriate regulation is 49 CFR Part 567. The statutory authority that it implements, 15 U.S.C. 1403, was recodified last summer as 49 U.S.C. 30115 without any substantive change.
Vehicle Identification Number. "15 USC 565" should be 49 CFR Part 565.
Lighting. While the analysis is correct, we note that Tables III (required equipment) and IV (location of required equipment) give a reader an immediate ready reference to motorcycle lighting equipment.
Horn. This section can be included in the one following, on controls and displays. The reference to 49 CFR "571.125 Warning Devices" is incorrect. The warning device covered by that standard is a retroreflective triangle, not a horn.
We note also that if a motorcycle is equipped with a windshield, it must comply with Standard No. 205 Glazing Materials, and that motorcycles with hydraulic brake systems are required to be furnished with brake fluid meeting Standard No 116 Brake Fluids.
You also have asked three specific questions. The first relates to the requirement of Standard No. 123 Motorcycle Controls and Displays that the rear brake be operable by the left hand (or right foot) control and the front brake operable by the right hand control. This is the opposite of bicycle brake systems. You believe that most riders will expect the electric bicycle to brake like a conventional one and that accidents may occur as a result of confusion. For this reason, you would like to place the rear brake control on the right handlebar, and the front brake control on the left.
The purpose of Standard No. 123 is "to minimize accidents caused by operator error . . . by standardizing certain motorcycle controls and displays" so that a motorcycle operator can instinctively respond to threatening situations no matter what the machine. Your question raises the possibility that the purpose of the standard might be defeated with respect to the electric bicycle by strict application of Standard No. 123 when it is operated by those who are familiar with bicycle braking systems (though this would not be the case if the operator is switching from a motorcycle to an electric bicycle). We do have authority to exempt manufacturers for up to two years from a requirement if it would promote the development or field evaluation of a low-emission vehicle, or if compliance would prevent the manufacturer from selling a vehicle whose overall level of safety equals or exceeds that of a complying vehicle. The exemption procedures are contained in 49 CFR Part 555. Taylor Vinson of this Office will be glad to answer any questions you have (202-366-5263). You also may petition for rulemaking, as provided in 49 CFR Part 552, for an appropriate amendment to Standard No. 123. However, in the absence of an exemption or a change in Standard No. 123, the braking system of the electric bicycle must operate as provided in this standard.
Your second question relates to headlighting requirements for motor driven cycles. You believe that the headlamp specified by Standard No. 108 will reduce the ability of the electric bicycle to perform at night, and, for this reason, would like to use "a high- power bicycle-type headlamp." SAE J584, incorporated by reference in Standard No. 108, permits a motor driven cycle to be equipped with a single beam headlamp. If you wish to use a headlamp that does not comply with Standard No. 108's requirements for motor driven cycle headlamps, you must petition for an exemption, and/or for rulemaking, as discussed in the prior paragraph. In addition to allowance of a single beam headlamp, paragraphs S18.104.22.168 and S22.214.171.124 of Standard No. 108 recognize the limitations of low- powered motorcycles and permit motor driven cycles whose top speed is 30 mph or less to omit turn signal lamps, and to be equipped with a smaller less powerful stop lamp.
Your final question relates to Standard No. 123 and your wish to use a spring-loaded thumb-lever throttle. This is permissible, and no requirements are prescribed for it by Standard No. 123. Your interpretation of Standard No. 123 is correct; a twist- grip throttle is not required, but if it is provided, it must operate in the manner set forth in the standard.
If you have any further questions, you may call Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel ref:108#123 d:3/30/95