Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Legislature 2002

Bill considers ways to
register customized cycles

The current system rejects bikes
with changed ID numbers

By Pat Omandam

The state Legislature is moving toward resolving a problem in Hawaii County involving registration of custom-built or after-market motorcycles.

Since last July, Big Island motorcycle owners could not register or re-register their custom bikes because the new county administration enforced last year a 1994 state Department of Transportation letter that said only vehicle identification numbers, assigned by federally licensed vehicle manufacturers, should be used for vehicle registration.

That prompted the county to no longer accept the different set of identification numbers that came with these custom bikes, something it had done for many years previously as part of the registration process.

"Unfortunately, hundreds of motorcycles that were built with custom frames and had already been legally registered, licensed and insured on the neighbor islands were now considered illegal," testified Roy Gomez, state director of Street Bikers United-Hawaii.

"Some took years to build as their diligent owners worked hard to pay for what would one day be their personal pride and joy -- only to discover that by a stroke of a pen, their dream would turn into a nightmare."

The House Transportation Committee will vote tomorrow on a measure that would allow the counties to decide whether to use the federal VIN or another system designed by the county to identify reconstructed vehicles.

The measure, introduced by Big Island state Rep. Jerry Chang (D, Hilo) now has the support of Hawaii County officials, but Honolulu police say there are problems with it.

James Arakaki, chairman of the Hawaii County Council, said the county's previous system of registering custom-built motorcycles did work.

He said this bill provides a practical and reasonable way to resolve the problem.

"Bikes that had been duly licensed and taxed and operated safely for many years were suddenly impossible to re-register. ... Overnight, the rug was pulled out from under these citizens," Arakaki said.

But Honolulu police say along with identification problems, the change in the law raises issues such as the use of stolen parts in the construction of these custom bikes, the potential for insurance fraud and compliance with safety regulations.

Honolulu is the only county with a reconstructed-vehicle law that requires inspections of custom-built and reconstructed vehicles.

As for tracking stolen motorcycles, police said on Oahu there were 218 Harley-Davidson motorcycles stolen between 1998 and 1999. Only two were recovered.

"Without a VIN the only way to identify a custom-built motorcycle would be the frame's part number or factory frame number, if it has one," said HPD Capt. Carlton Nishimura of the Criminal Investigation Division.

"Under this proposal it would be legal for a person to build his or her own frame, which would not have any identification number."

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