Gardai warn bikes  with petrol engines attached are low-powered motorcycles

Bicycles with engines attached and those with electrically assisted motors which do not cut out at 25km/h are classed as low-powered motorcycles and need to follow relevant legal requirements, gardai have said.

The legal requirements include that the rider must be over the age of 16, and have a valid driving licence, third party insurance, a helmet, a motor tax certificate and a licence plate.

The Garda press office issued the force’s view to IrishCycle.com earlier this year and we are publishing it now after a court case last week at Naas District Court in which a man was using a “bicycle” with a 48cc petrol engine attached to it and was convicted drink driving.

Cycling is considered a type of “driving” in legal terms, but while drink driving can also apply to people in charge of a bicycle, it is understood the accused man was simply convicted of drink driving.

Because of the 48cc petrol engine on the bike, it was classed as a ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’, the legal definition for most vehicles with a motor. The man’s solicitor said that his client did not think it was mechanically propelled vehicle but that he now accepts that it is.

Some media outlets have reported that the judge in case said it was his view that electric bicycles are also covered as mechanically propelled vehicles, but the Leinster Leader reported this as more of an issue of a debate between Judge Desmond Zaidan, the garda inspector and the defence solicitor. The judge said that the State should be asked to come forward with greater clarity on the matter.

Earlier this year, Sergeant Alan Frawley of the Garda press office, said the key issue was if bicycles continued to move without pedalling.

Most electric bicycles on sale in Ireland are classed as “electrically assisted bicycle” because they need the user to keep pedalling for the bike to keep moving — the electric motor only acts as a boost to pedalling and the bicycle will slow down and stop after pedalling stops.

Sergeant Frawley said: “The key to whether or not a vehicle is a mechanically propelled vehicle for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act 1961 lies with its means of propulsion. Each vehicle has to be looked at on its own merits. Thus if a vehicle is or can be propelled other than manually, it is a mechanically propelled vehicle for the purposes of the 1961 Act. E.g. a motor bike is propelled by a petrol engine not by pedalling; or a motorised scooter as it can be totally propelled by its engine.”

“If a vehicle has a source of power which only aids a vehicle’s manual propulsion and cannot propel the vehicle on its own, then the vehicle is not an mpv for the purposes of the 1961 Act. Into this category would fall an electrically-assisted bicycle. This is because the vehicle stops when the pedalling stops,” said Sergeant Frawley.

He added: “In relation to the electric units, electrically assisted pedal cycles are commonly referred to as ‘pedelecs’ to describe bicycles with electric motors or batteries too small to drive them without pedalling. Their speed is limited to 25km per hour and the motor cuts out if pedalling ceases. In contrast, mopeds can move without assistance of pedals. For guidance, if an electric bike can be operated without pedalling, it is a moped, ie a low-powered motorcycle and is subject to motor tax.”

In 2002, The Irish Times reported that the Department of Environment “declared that electrically-assisted bicycles were not liable for motor tax following a review of the status of the machines within the terms of Ireland’s road traffic laws.”

A department spokesman is quoted as stating: “This is because the electric power of a ‘pedelec’ only assists the pedalling effort and is not a source of propulsion in its own right. On this basis, pedelecs are not subject to the legal requirements relating to compulsory insurance and road tax.”

It is unclear to IrishCycle.com where or if the top speed of an electric bicycle is outlined in the Road Traffic Acts. It is defined in the Finance Act 2008, which states: “‘pedelec’ means a bicycle or tricycle which is equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kilowatts, of which output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25 kilometres per hour, or sooner if the cyclist stops pedalling.”

8 Comments

  1. I’ve seen a lot of people on these bikes and scooters with engines. They’re noisy and smelly and polluting and I hope everyone who uses them illegally (ie not having them properly registered as motor-propelled vehicles) is caught and fined.

  2. I’ve just got a question.. not related to the article.

    Does anyone know what the law is regarding ASLs / bike boxes?
    If the light is green, and the way ahead isn’t clear, can a driver pull up into the bike box up to the main stop line?

  3. Interesting. Some people were of the opinion that anything below 50cc didn’t count as a motorbike and therefore no motor vehicle rules applied.

  4. Scooters have them .Any morning on the grand canal cycle path.

  5. @Citizen Wolf – well i hope you choke on that smoke of one of them in that case.
    How can you wish someone something bad eh? just think about it a little bit – people like me are trying to figure out the best cheapest way for commute to save money, and yet you want to punish them for doing that? well that sounds just great! i’ve build one of those motorized bicycles styling it for an 1920’s board track racer, took me 8 months to build from scratch with limited budget and time.
    I am a motorbike enthusiast and love vintage bikes -i can’t afford a real replica, so i build this to enjoy a sunny Sunday ride, yet you want me to be prosecuted for doing something i love? AWESOME you are. And the law. THERE IS NO WAY TO INSURE THOSE so you can’t put road tax on it!!!! that means there is no way to make it legal on the road yes? that has to change! some other countries allow those if you are over 18 – this should be same over here. and you should not need a driving license so you can ride this to work if you loose yours for whatever reason as this happens in real life.
    Don’t complain about them using the cycle path – they are bicycles, just engine assisted, not having tax for normal road use right? so what’s the problem there? I don’t get it, why all the hate?

  6. @Peter — Sorry, but the law is clear: they are not bicycles and need MOTOR tax, insurance, etc.

  7. We use these out country roads all the time and every person we me laughs and loves to these coming and understand how they work . I can understand these used in city’s may be a liability but out in the countryside NO . These are a cheap when to get around but I don’t use them because I have to , it’s because I enjoy it . You wonder why the youth has no trust in the law and are keen rebel , maybe it’s because you give them no choice or alternative . Also I’ve also when down hills on a racer bike a lot faster and the tour de France cyclists can reach over 60mph . The people giving out about these probably have no life and come home suckling up RTE shite and wouldn’t know how to fix a tyre on bicycle never mind build one . You’ll never catch me riding one or stop me if you do because I’m not bending over for nonsense laws as I’ve never committed a crime in my life but this a bridge to far and you can fuck right off :)

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