Motorcycle or Not?? Part 1: 3-wheelers

With a certain regularity a discussion arises whether a certain kind of vehicle must be included in our area of collection, or not. Sometimes it is clear, but someone else may have a different point of view than the undersigned. When composing the catalogue we often bump into this kind of dilemmas. Today the question: Is a 3-wheeler (driven electrically or not) a motorcycle????

3-wheeler with clear motorcycle characteristics

To determine this we first look at European legislation, as this is also valid in the Netherlands since November 7th 2011.
In the publication journal of the EU (about motorcycles not less than 3000 pages!) we find that motorcycles are classified under the letter "L" in 7 catagories.
Motorcycles with 3 wheels are put in categories L2e (3-wheeled motorized vehicles with a cubic capacity up to 50 cc with a maximum power of 5.4 hp (= 4 kW) and a maximum speed of 45 km/hr, or an electrically driven vehicle with at most 4 kW) and L5e (3-wheelers with symmetrically placed wheels, more than 50 cc and/or 4 kW).
An other group 3-wheelers is formed by the motorcycles with sidecar (L4e), but we don't have to discuss them here as they are motorcycles beyond all doubt.
From the above we can conclude that 3-wheelers driven by an internal combustion engine or electric motor (thus also invalid vehicles) are reckoned as motorcycles. For category L5e (thus not for L2e) is especially remarked: "not being an invalid vehicle or a motorized vehicle with limit velocity".

What is still specifically Dutch (although we are also in this domain going to European legislation) is the categorization of driving licences required to drive the different kinds of vehicles. For this it is important wether you already had your driving license before January 19th 2013. If you got your license after this date, you may drive a 3-wheeler only with a license A (for motorcycles). In some specific cases driving a 3-wheeler is also allowed with a driving license B (for cars). This is depending on the distance between the axes. For trikes older than this date it is even more complicated. When the trike has a car engine, you must have a B driving license and use safety belts, but you don't have to wear a helmet. But if the trike has a motorcycle engine, you may only drive it with license A and you have to wear a helmet. But allright, for us a trike is a trike.

Personally I have an extra requirement, which is that the vehicle must have motorcycle-like handlebars and not a car-like steering wheel. In my personal view all 3-wheelers with motorcycle handlebars are simply put in my collection.

Car-like steering wheel, thus not reckoned as motorcycle

Motorcycle handlebars, thus reckoned as motorcycle

Hans de Kloet

This is the first article in a series of 4, in which it will be elucidated for several of these dubious cases or/when they are reckoned to be a motorcycle. These guidelines will also be used to decide whether an issue will be included in the new version of the catalogue or not.


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