'Grey area’: motorised bike conviction quashed

A Wollongong judge has called on the government to better define laws surrounding motorised pushbikes, labelling the issue a ‘‘grey area’’ under current legislation.

Judge Paul Conlon said the present laws, which classify a registrable motor vehicle/bike as one that puts out more than 200watts, were unclear and left magistrates and judges grappling with how to interpret them.

The issue came to the fore on Friday during an appeal hearing for Figtree man Andrew Welsh, who was charged with riding a motor-propelled bike without a licence. Welsh had pleaded guilty to the charge in the local court and was given a 12-month good behaviour bond, however, appealed the decision in the hope the court would forego recording a conviction against him.

File photo.

File photo.

Judge Conlon agreed to the request, acknowledging that Welsh had genuinely believed that he did not need a licence to ride the bike.

The court heard Welsh, whose licence had been disqualified until 2020 for previous traffic infringements, had bought the bike from an online auction site intending to ride it to and from his work as a security guard at Port Kembla.

Before the purchase, Welsh said he was spending a large chunk of his income – about $200 a week – on taxis to ferry him between his home and workplace.

The court heard the bike’s seller had assured him the vehicle complied with the legislation and he would not need a licence to ride it.

The seller even produced a certificate saying the bike had been professionally tested and produced 197 watts – below the 200-watt requirement for a vehicle to be registered and in turn require its driver/rider to be appropriately licensed.

Welsh believed he was able to ride the bike without a licence and, acting on this assumption, sailed past highway patrol officers at a speed of 43km/h while they were carrying out radar duties in Mount St Thomas in March this year.

The officers pulled Welsh over and charged him with being unlicensed and riding an unregistered and uninsured bike.

In court on Friday, Judge Conlon acknowledged there was considerable confusion in the community about the status of the bikes and called on the government to make the legislation clearer.

‘‘There is some misinformation about these bikes... about the need to have a licence to ride them; this isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with this,’’ he said, although he made it clear how he felt about them, labelling the bikes a ‘‘nuisance’’ that shouldn’t be on the roads.

‘‘These bikes are capable of speeds in excess of 30 and 40km/h. It’s clear that anybody riding such a bike needs to be licensed.’’