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Proposed bill introduces 'autocycle' into North Carolina lexicon

The vehicle described in North Carolina's House Bill 6 doesn't exist yet, except on paper. That's not stopping lawmakers from pressing ahead with consideration of language that would appear to open the door to making the vehicle legal in the state. A key element of the debate may center on the question of safety.

Reportedly in the spotlight in this instance is the definition of what has come to be known in other states as the autocycle. The text of the proposed measure that lawmakers on the House Transportation Committee were slated to examine this week describes the autocycle as:

"A three-wheeled motorcycle that has a steering wheel, pedals, seat safety belts for each occupant, antilock brakes, air bag protection, completely enclosed seating that does not require the operator to straddle or sit astride, and is otherwise manufactured to comply with federal safety requirements for motorcycles."

Some such vehicles are already for sale by some manufacturers at pretty hefty price points. The one described in this bill is said by some experts to be based on a model that would cost less but has yet to go into production.

A need for working capital is said to be one reason for that, but another appears to be the fact that the vehicle isn't street legal in most states. Only six states have autocycle laws on the books. Another 12 have measures pending.

What lawmakers in Raleigh are being asked to endorse is basically a three-wheeled motorcycle fitted with safety equipment and car-type controls. Drivers and passengers would be fully enclosed, like in a car. As such, supporters say it shouldn't require users to have a special license or wear a motorcycle helmet.

As attorneys experienced in personal injury know, motorcyclists endure significant injury when involved in accidents with other vehicles. That's because they aren't fitted with the same safety equipment. Perhaps it's time to get the law caught up with what could soon be on the road. What do you think?

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