Mini bikes ruling the road; authorities work to curb riders

By David Irvin

They’re the trendiest wheels on the road. But yes, you do need a license to operate a pocket bike on local streets. And at least one retail store owner said last week the mini-motorcycles are not safe in city traffic.
Mary Ortiz said pocket bikes are just too small to be seen by other motorists.
“Even if you are 80, you shouldn’t be on a pocket bike in the road,” she said.
Mike and Mary Ortiz have opened a new store, Outrageous Wheels on east Mabry Drive, that specializes in the mini-motorcycles.
They held a grand opening last week, in part, to promote their idea of creating a park where the bikes can be ridden safely.
Mike Ortiz said his dream is to develop a community facility specifically for pocket bikes.
“We want to make this a recreational-type thing,” he said. “ I’m trying to look out west of town, going toward the (Cannon Air Force) Base. There was an old go-cart track out there.”
Clovis police said they consider the mini-motorcycles — most popular with teenagers — to be in the same class as mopeds, which require a license to operate on city streets.
“If there is a small child riding it, there is a good chance the parent or whoever let them ride it is going to be cited for allowing an unauthorized driver,” said Clovis police Lt. Ron Hutchison.
Hutchison said anyone under 18 riding a pocket bike on the street must also have a helmet and eye protection, according to state law.
Officers feel those safety measures are the very least that riders should take.
“What we’re having is that they travel sometimes up to 30 miles an hour and they have almost no protection for the ride,” Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said. “Their visibility (to the respect of other drivers) is low. We have kids that are riding with no helmet protection. If we have an accident involving one of those, there’s going to be a lot of damage, a lot of injury.”
Berry added that in accidents with cars, pocket bike riders are likely to suffer serious injuries because of the bike’s smaller size and the higher likelihood the rider will be trapped underneath a car bumper.
The miniature bikes mostly come from China, but they are being imported by many companies and being shipped all over the United States, Mike Ortiz said.
Outrageous Wheels is just one of several shops in Clovis selling the bikes.
“I was just amazed at how many people were here (at the grand opening), and how much they wanted to help out with the park,” Mary Ortiz said.
It was an impact that was felt in Portales as well.
“We’ve seen an increase just this weekend,” Berry said. “We made several stops of vehicles. We’re trying to get them off the streets.”
Berry said the department has seen drivers anywhere from 10 to 30 years old, but the majority seems to be in the 15-18 age range. That age range, Berry said, tends to be uninsured as well.
Mike Ortiz said this new way to get around has been a staple in Europe for some time.
“This just now is really hitting the U.S., but they’ve been in Europe forever,” Ortiz said. “Most people over there use them as a mode of transportation … because of high gas prices.”

PNT Managing Editor Kevin Wilson contributed to this report.