[ Previous Page]  [ Home Page ]

The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 5779

September 15, 1980


Motorcycles and mopeds--use on city streets during night hours


Equal protection of the laws


Prohibition of use of certain motorcycles and mopeds on residential streets during night hours

A city ordinance which bars the use of certain motorcycles and mopeds on residential streets between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. does not violate the Equal Protection Clauses of the Federal and State Constitutions.

Honorable Doug Ross

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48909

You have requested my opinion on the legality of the City of Oak Park's action of posting signs stating that motorcycles are not allowed on certain residential streets between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The City of Oak Park passed Ordinance 40-283 which provides the following:

'(a) No motorcycle or moped shall be driven by any person on a residential street between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., except persons going to or from their place of residence, located on such residential street, and further excepting delivery or emergency vehicles.'

Const 1963, art 7, s 29 provides:

'No person, partnership, association or corporation, public or private, operating a public utility shall have the right to the use of the highways, streets, alleys or other public places of any county, township, city or village for wires, poles, pipes, tracks, conduits or other utility facilities, without the consent of the duly constituted authority of the county, township, city or village; or to transact local business therein without first obtaining a franchise from the township, city or village. Except as otherwise provided in this constitution the right of all counties, townships, cities and villages to the reasonable control of their highways, streets, alleys and public places is hereby reserved to such local units of government.' (Emphasis provided).

In People v McGraw, 184 Mich 233, 238; 150 NW 836, 837 (1915), the Supreme Court stated that:

'. . . local authorities may control within reason the use of their streets for any purpose whatsoever not inconsistent with the State Law.' (Emphasis provided.)

'. . . the municipality retains reasonable control of its highways, which is such control as cannot be said to be unreasonable and inconsistent with regulations which have been established, or may be established, by the State itself with reference thereto. This construction allows a municipality to recognize local and peculiar conditions, and to pass ordinances, regulating traffic on its streets, which do not contravene the state laws.' (Emphasis of court.)

In Great Lakes Motorcycles Dealers Association, Inc v Detroit, 38 Mich App 564; 196 NW2d 787 (1972), the Court of Appeals considered a similar ordinance enacted by the City of Detroit. Under its ordinance, the City of Detroit entertained petitions for the barring of motorcycles entirely from certain residential streets. Petitions were reviewed to determine that:

1. A legitimate problem existed, and

2. A majority of the residents in the affected area were in favor of the prohibition.

Thereafter, the Common Council approved signs which prohibited certain motorcycles and mopeds from such streets during the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Although the Court of Appeals in Great Lakes Motorcycle Dealers Association, Inc., supra, stated that the City has a legitimate interest in regulating traffic flow upon its streets so as to eliminate excessive speed and noise, the Court found that:

'. . . [t]he blanket exclusion of all two-wheeled motor vehicles from the designated streets sweeps too broadly in an effort to eliminate the above-mentioned deleterious activities. While some motorcycle riders may well drive vehicles which are excessively noisy at speeds in excess of the posted limits, there is certainly no valid basis for applying the 'Hell's Angels' conception of the motorcycle rider to all motorcycle users.

'Since the problems of excessive speed and noise are not problems which relate solely to the nature and manner of operation of motorcycles, it is unreasonable and arbitrary to deny the use of the public streets to motorcycles, and yet, allow automobiles to continue to use those streets. The proper solution to the problems of excessive speed and noise is the enforcement of the speed and noise laws and ordinances.' 38 Mich App 564, 567; 196 NW2d 787, 788. (Emphasis provided.)

Accordingly, a city ordinance barring motorcycles and other motor vehicles from residential streets during certain hours, based upon the decibel noise level of the motorcycles and other motor vehicles, may be sustained as a reasonable exercise of police power as it relates to noise.

In Belanger v Chesterfield Township, Court of Appeals No. 43089 (decided April 2, 1980) the Court of Appeals again dealt with the issue of the reasonableness of local ordinances covering the use of residential streets by motor vehicles. A Chesterfield Township ordinance which prohibited the parking of motor venicles in residential areas weighing over a specified weight was upheld as a reasonable regulation of the streets. The Court held that the parking ordinance setting the classification of motor vehicles by weight rationally furthered the safety of township residents. The Court found that larger motor vehicles may create unsafe traffic conditions for drivers and pedestrians. Large vehicles may also impede emergency vehicle access to streets.

As in the case of the city ordinance in Belanger, supra, the City of Oak Park Ordinance 40-283 substantially and rationally furthers the public health, safety and welfare. By prohibiting the use of motorcycles and mopeds on residential streets from 10:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. (except the operation of motorcycles or mopeds to travel to or from one's place of residence, to perform deliveries and to travel in emergency situations), the ordinance rationally furthers the public welfare by eliminating the noise and exhaust emissions associated with recreational late-night, early-morning, 'pleasure driving.'

This reading of the ordinance is in keeping with the Court's statement in McGraw, supra, 184 Mich 233, 238; 150 NW 836, 837 that 'reasonable control' of city streets '[a]llows a municipality to recognize local and peculiar conditions, . . .' Just as the ordinance in McGraw, supra, took into consideration the unique local traffic congestion problem, Ordinance 40-283 takes into consideration the 'local and peculiar conditions' the City of Oak Park experienced with the operators of motorcycles and mopeds disturbing the relative tranquility of their residential communities during the late-evening and early-morning hours.

Oak Park Ordinance 40-283, is narrowly tailored to remedy the local problem which residents of Oak Park faced and does so without arbitrarily banning the use of all motorcycles and mopeds at all hours. Great Lakes, supra, is thereby distinguished because the ordinance in question does not involve an overbroad blanket exclusion of all two-wheeled motor vehicle traffic.

Although an ordinance banning any motor vehicle which emits more than a specified decibel noise level would be better suited for the task, a legislative body such as the Oak Park City Council is not prohibited by the equal protection clause from approaching the problem as it did. Legislation requires only a rational basis to separately classify two-wheeled motor vehicles from other motor vehicles for regulatory purposes. Shavers v Attorney General of Michigan, 402 Mich 554; 267 NW2d 148 (1978). It is rational for a municipality such as Oak Park to determine that motorcycles and mopeds constitute the major portion of their late-night, early-morning, residential traffic noise problem and to regulate accordingly.

It is, therefore, my opinion that Oak Park Ordinance 40-283 furthers the public health, safety and welfare without discriminating in an arbitrary fashion, and thus does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of Const 1963, art 1, s 2 and US Const, art XIV, s 1.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

[ Previous Page]  [ Home Page ]