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Should moped riders have a motorcycle licence?

moped submission mopeds light motorcycles

Some governments around the world allow unlicensed teenagers and motorists with a full car licence to ride a 50cc moped.

However, there are also riders and authorities that believe moped riders should have a motorcycle licence or that mopeds should be off the road altogether. 

(Laws vary throughout the world, but a moped is usually described as a 50cc two-wheeler or electric bike with a limited top speed of 50km/h. Riders are restricted to roads not over 60km/h and often prevented from carrying a pillion. Queensland and Western Australia have moped laws as do the UK and several USA states.)

For and against mopeds

Critics say mopeds hold up traffic, the underpowered machines are a death trap, the riders have no idea about how to handle a powered two-wheeler and they give motorcycling a bad name.

Those who support moped rules say they provide low socio-economic groups with convenient and affordable transport, reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, help the tourism industry and ease pressure on CBD parking. Some supporters even point out that GP legend Valentino Rossi started riding on a moped as a teenager.

Moped debate

Road safety researcher and Triumph Street Triple rider Ross Blackman says he has heard few rumblings about moped licensing in Queensland in the five years since he did his PhD in scooter and moped safety.

CARRS-Q QUT researcher dr Ross Blackman Motorbike online survey moped mopeds
Ross Blackman

“That might be because there are relatively few serious crashes, despite common perceptions,” says Ross who is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

“However, I’ve noted a number of motorbike riders commenting that moped riders should be required to have a motorcycle licence, and my research did suggest that some moped riders have limited skills and knowledge,” he says. 

But he points out that the Queensland Road Crash Weekly Report shows there have been five moped rider deaths in the past six years (2012 – 2017) and only one since 2013. 

Moped rider hospitalisations have fluctuated yearly between 42 and 80 over the same period. 

“If you compare this to the motorcycle stats and even bicycle stats you can see why mopeds might be a lower priority,” Ross says. 

“I suspect part of the criticism directed at moped riders stems from their limited top speed and acceleration – other road users just get frustrated with them.” 

While some riders and authorities would like to get rid of mopeds or increase training and licensing requirements, Ross says that there are few that want to encourage more people to try a motorcycle or scooter., which “might be seen as unfortunate from a broader transport and mobility perspective”.

2018 Vespa Primavera 50 4T moped mopeds
2018 Vespa Primavera 50 4T is a 50cc scooter

Our view

Anything that safely gets people aboard a powered two-wheeler has to be good for the motorcycle industry and riders.

Crash stats show they are not a concern and they are no more frustrating or inconvenient in traffic than cyclists.

I recently witnessed a flourishing scooter culture in the popular tourist spot of Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.

Noosa scooters moped
Noosa scooter parking

The positive result of this growing culture has been the full support of the local council. It has provided equal numbers of motorbike parking in the main street as a result and is even considering separate scooter lanes.

However, a subsidised one-day course in basic controls, balance and counter-steering would be worthwhile.

  • What do you think of mopeds? Should they be axed, restricted or encouraged? Leave your comments below.

  1. I think you need some form of training if the moped is capable of city traffic speeds. Perhaps not to the standard of a motorcycle, but something rather than nothing. One other thing, I don’t think we should argue its dollar worth. Let’s keep that a separate debate. It’s a safety thing first and foremost.

  2. You comment that Noosa council are considering a scooter lane, reducing road availability for cars etc will just clog up traffic more, why not let then share cyclist lanes and bike paths. Many cyclists ride between 30 kph and 50 kph similar to the scooters in question, many also avoid using bike paths, lanes etc so there should not be too much conflict over usage nor safety.

    This way everyone wins.

  3. If you don’t need a bike license for them they shouldn’t be included in motorcycle accident statistics.
    Anything not capable of highway speeds should be restricted to bike paths only.
    They need to pass a road rule certificate and so should cyclists.
    When I was young and very fit I could maintain 80kph on mostly level roads and got clocked at 123 on a downhill run on my push bike. So not being able to do high speeds is mostly a moped thing and it doesn’t make them safer. I’ve seen a very large person on a slow moped nearly cause a cyclist to crash because he was too slow for the cyclist had to veer round him or rear end him fortunately there was a gap in traffic.

    1. That’s a fair effort as the world record for the flying 200m sprint is 9.347 seconds, which equates to 77km/h. Unless you’re on a recumbent.

      1. Without a speedo I was guesstimating as my favourite road for a good ride was 80kph with 100kph sections , on some of the better 80 stretches I either kept pace with or even overtook some cars and I often noted them looking perplexed at their speedometers and back at me. I was actually training for the Olympic Games at the time but about a month before I was to attend the tryouts I destroyed my ankle skiing and have never recovered enough to even consider competing or trying for a world record .
        Note to anyone planning anything important Don’t listen to friends who invite you to play a sport with a high risk of injury!

  4. I will always remember the time I got my unrestricted licence. There was a young lady there going for her 250cc scooter licence so she could upgrade from her 50cc.
    The instructors asked if she had her manual licence, and she did, so he highly suggested she throw her leg over a Honda 125 for a few laps.
    Needless to say by the second lap she got off it, renounced her scooter and was her way to becoming one of us.

    I think if the government did try to regulate scooters to get licensing, it will just push more people to actual motorcycles instead of the scoots.

  5. What I find dangerous is small scooters with a pillion passenger. They wobble off at the tragic lights and generally can’t keep up with the traffic, particularly if there is a hill involved. And typically the rider and passenger have no safety gear whatsoever

  6. As a long time Motorcycle Trainer in Vic , I have trained many scooter riders that had very little control or confidence on a basic 50cc scoot. I can’t believe there is not more injuries in states that allow them to be riden on a car license.

  7. Uber Eats business if flourishing in BNE. I see MANY students from South America handed an international licence and allowed on a 50cc scooter. This is dangerous as the rider hasnt ridden in Australia before AND no checks are done as to IF they can even ride a scoot. Uber also carry out NO vehicle inspections. Ive seen 50cc Uber Eats scoots riding at night with just parking bulb on. No headlight. I questioned rider who could barely speak english and seemed to think it’ll be fine. The scooter was black. At night !
    IMHO TMR should impliment some form of basic training and cease handing out licences to students on Visas.

  8. Yes training would be good ,but not necessary IMO .

    I leant to ride a Vespa on ice and snow roads( in the UK) ,just got up and back on each time I fell off .
    Same as in my horse ridding days .

    It seams that a lot of folks want to charge people big bucks to do things that we (oldies) used to be able to do ourselves $$$.
    A bit of common sense and have a go ……………………….go a longway .

  9. I want to get a moped to practise b4 going 4 motorcycle licence Eventually getting a bike or bigger scooter. Does anyone know of somewhere in Brisbane or Redlands who is willing & able to give moped lessons et b4 I buy one? Would really appreciate

    1. i will say buddy, the concept of riding a motorcycle and a moped is the same but the frames between the two have massively different engineering. mopeds are nimble and squirrelly because of the minimal rake angle and wheel base, a motorcycle steers heavy at higher speeds: mopeds dont mimic motorcycles very much at all you have to work a clutch and a shifter on a motorcycle ontop of managing its weight which isnt hard but if you arnt prepared to react to some funny physics motorcycle have you will drop it and i think mopeds are a horrible representation of learning to ride a motorcycle. id say either take a class or rock out with your cock out and get a ninja 250. i have 3 vehicles…… 2011 taotao atm50-a1, 2005 ninja 250, and a 2009 sv650s. the ninja is a great option because they are light and maneuverable, capable of riding the highways, good on gas and insurance im talking about $20 cheap and is an overall great machine the greatest thing about starting small and working your way up is that you always have something to look up to, people tell me they learned to ride on a 1000cc and i think they are dumb. motorcycle are easy to learn to ride but hard to master and those people are usually the people who can’t lean or maintain absolute control of the bike. find me on facebook, i can show you some stuff and video of myself and give you a realist place to start if youd liked….

  10. YES!
    Elaborating on the reasons would just be stating the bleeding obvious.
    Oh wait … given the current situation, maybe they’re not so bleeding obvious … >:-[
    Remember – Darwin showed that Mum Nature has ways of maintaining a healthy gene pool …

  11. I disagree, I have a 2015 honda ruckus and when you get 117 miles per gallon and it has a 1.6 gallon tank makes sense to put less of a carbon print then useing your car for basic around town stuff, plus just like everything else its the Individual doing the riding. I’m always keeping a eye out around me, not pulling all the way forward at a red light so just incase cars are marking right turns, I know to stay to the right and merge into traffic when I need to make a left turn, proper dot rated helmet and insurance is what is required in California, that’s my two cents.

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