Officials welcome 3-wheelers on Md. roads

"If you enjoy driving a convertible car, but want the power and handling of a go cart - this vehicle is very exhilarating," Pete's Cycles Vice-President John Leach said.  (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
“If you enjoy driving a convertible car, but want the power and handling of a go-kart — this vehicle is very exhilarating,” said John Leach, vice president of Pete’s Cycles. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation) (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
A motorcycle driver's license does not authorize someone to legally drive an autocycle in Maryland. Drivers must have a class A, B or C driver’s license. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
A motorcycle driver’s license does not authorize someone to legally drive an autocycle in Maryland. Drivers must have a class A, B or C driver’s license. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation) (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, center, pictured with his grandson and Pete's Cycles Vice-President John Leach. "I was shocked by the growl that the thing had when I started it up," Rahn told WTOP. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, center, pictured with his grandson and Pete’s Cycles vice president John Leach. “I was shocked by the growl that the thing had when I started it up,” Rahn told WTOP. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation) (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
"I'm [6 feet, 1 inch] tall and have a fair girth and did not have a difficult time getting in or out," Rahn said. "The seats are surprisingly comfortable, not what I was anticipating." (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
“I’m [6 feet, 1 inch] tall and have a fair girth, and did not have a difficult time getting in or out,” Rahn said. “The seats are surprisingly comfortable — not what I was anticipating.” (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation) (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
"I made serious Gampa points today," Rahn said of sharing the experience with his grandson who is visiting from New Mexico. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
“I made serious ‘Gampa’ points today,” Rahn said of sharing the experience with his grandson. who is visiting from New Mexico. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation) (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
"I was surprised by the sound of it," Rahn said. "The sound seemed to promise a performance curve that lived up to the shape."  For the photo opportunity the pair removed the motorcycle helmets that are required for autocycle use in Maryland. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
“I was surprised by the sound of it,” Rahn said. “The sound seemed to promise a performance curve that lived up to the shape.” For the photo opportunity, the pair removed the motorcycle helmets that are required for autocycle use in Maryland. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation) (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
Some autocycles have hard tops such as this model by Tanom Motors that’s based in Culpeper, Virginia. A coupe model as pictured would not require a driver to wear a helmet in Virginia. A roadster convertible version would require a driver to wear a helmet in most states. (Courtesy Tanom Motors)
Some autocycles have hard tops, such as this model by Tanom Motors that’s based in Culpeper, Virginia. A coupe model, as pictured, would not require a driver to wear a helmet in Virginia. A roadster convertible version would require a driver to wear a helmet in most states. (Courtesy Tanom Motors) (Courtesy Tanom Motors)
Reverse trikes with two wheels in front have gained in popularity in the past 10-15 years. “A trike, if you remember [from childhood], can easily tip over,” said Tanom Motors co-owner David Young. “A reverse trike is very stable – you can slide it - and it’d be off the road but you’d really have to hit something to get airborne to tip it over.” (Courtesy Tanom Motors)
Reverse trikes with two wheels in front have gained in popularity in the past 10 to 15 years. “A trike, if you remember [from childhood], can easily tip over,” said Tanom Motors co-owner David Young. “A reverse trike is very stable — you can slide it, and it’d be off the road, but you’d really have to hit something to get airborne to tip it over.” (Courtesy Tanom Motors) (Courtesy Tanom Motors)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe test drives a Tanom Motors Invader at the Virginia 2015 Governor's Transportation Conference. (Photo by D. Allen Covey, VDOT/D. Allen Covey)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe test-drove a Tanom Motors Invader at a conference in Virginia Beach last year. (Photo by D. Allen Covey, VDOT/D. Allen Covey) (Photo by D. Allen Covey, VDOT/D. Allen Covey)
(1/9)
"If you enjoy driving a convertible car, but want the power and handling of a go cart - this vehicle is very exhilarating," Pete's Cycles Vice-President John Leach said.  (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
A motorcycle driver's license does not authorize someone to legally drive an autocycle in Maryland. Drivers must have a class A, B or C driver’s license. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, center, pictured with his grandson and Pete's Cycles Vice-President John Leach. "I was shocked by the growl that the thing had when I started it up," Rahn told WTOP. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
"I'm [6 feet, 1 inch] tall and have a fair girth and did not have a difficult time getting in or out," Rahn said. "The seats are surprisingly comfortable, not what I was anticipating." (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
"I made serious Gampa points today," Rahn said of sharing the experience with his grandson who is visiting from New Mexico. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
"I was surprised by the sound of it," Rahn said. "The sound seemed to promise a performance curve that lived up to the shape."  For the photo opportunity the pair removed the motorcycle helmets that are required for autocycle use in Maryland. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Transportation)
Some autocycles have hard tops such as this model by Tanom Motors that’s based in Culpeper, Virginia. A coupe model as pictured would not require a driver to wear a helmet in Virginia. A roadster convertible version would require a driver to wear a helmet in most states. (Courtesy Tanom Motors)
Reverse trikes with two wheels in front have gained in popularity in the past 10-15 years. “A trike, if you remember [from childhood], can easily tip over,” said Tanom Motors co-owner David Young. “A reverse trike is very stable – you can slide it - and it’d be off the road but you’d really have to hit something to get airborne to tip it over.” (Courtesy Tanom Motors)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe test drives a Tanom Motors Invader at the Virginia 2015 Governor's Transportation Conference. (Photo by D. Allen Covey, VDOT/D. Allen Covey)

WASHINGTON — The autocycle, a type of three-wheeled vehicle, is now welcome on Maryland roads. The state’s transportation secretary held a news event Monday to introduce the latest vehicle to join Maryland’s transportation mix.

“They have merged together a healthy motorcycle and a very foxy-looking car,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn. “It’s just fun.”

Autocycles are subject to the federal safety standards that apply to motorcycles. But they have three wheels and features common to cars, such as a steering wheel, foot pedals to control speed, seat belts and permanent seats that don’t require drivers or passengers to sit astride.

Virginia approved the vehicles in 2014; it was among the first of about 20 states that now allow the vehicles under various rules.

“Three-wheel vehicles in general have been around almost since the beginning of motor vehicles,” said David Young, co-owner of Tanom Motors, which builds autocycles in Culpeper, Virginia.

Trikes like those ridden in childhood are most common, where there’s one wheel in front and two in back. Autocycles are “reverse trikes,” with two wheels in the front and one in the rear, which makes them more stable.

The slingshot autocycles Rahn drove at Pete’s Cycles in Bel Air, Maryland, are made by Polaris. A base model starts at $21,999; the deluxe model starts at $28,499.

“You could easily spend another [$10,000-$15,000] on add-ons such as wheels, stereos and a sunshade,” said John Leach, the vice president of Pete’s Cycles. “We plan to have inventory for sale by Labor Day.”

Rahn’s experience with the vehicle suggested to him that the autocycle could be used for commuting, but likely would not perform well in winter conditions when roads are icy with snow.

“I’m not a salesperson for it, but my take on it is — you would buy it [just] for fun,” Rahn said with a chuckle.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up