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Michigan reclassifies 3-wheeled vehicles

New law allows open cockpits and removes motorcycle license requirement

Published: October 14, 2017, 10:30 PM
Updated: October 19, 2017, 4:25 AM

Polaris-Slingshot

Volkswagen GX3 Concept

Michigan is the latest jurisdiction to change its motor vehicle designations to reclassify 3-wheeled vehicles such as the Polaris Slingshot, no longer requiring a motorcycle license to operate one.

The move creates a new sub-class of motorcycles, taking into account an autocycle’s unique characteristics, and includes the legalization of operating one just with a valid driver’s license, without requiring a motorcycle designation.

“Policymakers recognize that although Slingshot resides in the motorcycle classification which has long provided for three-wheel designs and non-straddle seating, operator skills are similar to those required for a passenger car,” said Rachael Elia, Slingshot marketing manager.

Can-Am Spyder

In 2015, the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) excluded autocycles from the definition of “motorcycle,” while a federal May 2017 bill defined an autocycle as “a motorcycle with 3 wheels in contact with the ground, front-wheel drive, a fully enclosed occupant compartment, and a steering wheel.”

The amendment removes the closed-cabin requirement, noting that it can have an open cockpit with roll bars for rollover protection. It also removes the need for a windshield and wipers, and states that it cannot be equipped with a straddle seat (motorcycle saddle), which means that vehicles such as Bombardier’s Can-Am Spyder and Yamaha's Tricity are excluded from the autocycle sub-class, and continue to require a motorcycle license to be operated.

Campagna T-Rex

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states have created a class for autocycle in their transportation acts, setting the requirement to be classified as such as having three wheels; 27 of those states require an autocycle have a steering wheel; 19 require an autocycle be equipped with safety belts; 16 exclude the traditional motorcycle straddle-seat; 15 require an autocycle to be enclosed and have pedals; 10 require a roll cage; eight require anti-lock braking systems; and, four require an autocycle to have airbags.