Multi-passenger, pedaled vehicles could hit the road in RI under bill passed by House


STATE HOUSE – Rhode Island could soon be among the ranks of destinations where tourists can hop aboard “party bikes” for an open-air tour.

The House of Representatives recently passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy to allow “quadricycle passenger vehicles” — four-wheeled vehicles pedaled by multiple passengers and controlled by one operator — on Rhode Island roads in municipalities that wish to allow them.

“Quadricycle passenger vehicles are a tourism opportunity in many other popular tourist destinations, and Rhode Island’s tourism industry should benefit from them too,” said Representative Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston). “They offer a fun, moderately active way to experience a city up close, and I would expect that they’d become income generators wherever they operate, because they’d give our visitors a good look at the restaurants, shops and attractions that they can patronize when they get out.”

The vehicles are known as “party bikes,” “pedal crawlers” and other such names, and in many places serve as mobile bars for sightseers. Representative Handy’s legislation (2022-H 6636A), however, would not allow alcohol to be served aboard them.

There is a business in Westerly that purchased a quadricycle with seats for 12 pedalers in addition to an operator, and cleared its use with the local police chief. But the owners hit a bump in the road — it did not fit any definition of a vehicle or a bicycle in the state’s laws enabling the Division of Motor Vehicles to permit it.

Representative Handy’s legislation establishes quadricycles with up to 16 passengers as legal vehicles for use on Rhode Island roads, but only in municipalities that adopt an ordinance allowing and regulating them and where the police chief also provides approval. It stipulates that they do not need a registration from the DMV.

Under the bill, a quadricycle could have a motor to assist its movement, provided the motor does not allow the vehicle to exceed speeds of 20 miles per hour. Use of them would be limited to roads whose speed limits do not exceed 30 miles per hour.

Operators would need a chauffeurs’ license, or a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement for 16-person models. All owners would be required to carry liability insurance for at least $1 million.

Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) who represents the district where the issue arose, said he believes the vehicles will be a welcome addition in the state’s tourism hotspots.

“We are always looking for ways to boost Rhode Island’s appeal as a destination, so we should be making sure we don’t stand in the way of entrepreneurs offering amenities like these. This is the kind of experience that can add to charm and convenience to a place like Westerly, as well as our other tourism destinations around the state,” he said.

The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives on March 3, and now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) plans to introduce a companion measure.