is reader-funded journalism. To keep it going and free-to-view, it takes people like you to act now and subscribe today for €5, €10, or €20 per month.

Pedal or not: Even a leaf-blower strength engine makes it a bicycle no more

As well as a safety risk of attaching a petrol motor to a bicycle, the legal risk is highlighted in two articles covering a court case — one from last month and the second from last week.

Basically, in legal terms, a bike with a petrol engine attached is no longer a bicycle. Once a 50cc engine or similar is attached, then your bicycle legally becomes a light motorcycle. Then tax, insurance, and a driving licence are needed to use it on a public road or street.

A standard bicycle is a vehicle in law, but become a motor vehicle (aka a mechanically propelled vehicle) once an engine is attached.

Often heard excuses like “you have to pedal for the engine to engage, so, it’s still a bicycle” are unlikely to work in court, as was the court case covered in the Irish Examiner articles. Saying the engine is only “as strong as a leaf-blower” will also not work.

Electric bicycles are different 

There is an exception for electric bicycles which meet requirements set out in law. Electric bicycles (aka pedal-assist electric ebikes) are classed as bicycles and this is supported by law (S.I. No. 614/2015 by its reference to an EU definition and in the Finance Act).

The legal definition of allowed electric bicycles is defined with fairly plain English as:

“pedal cycles with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of less than or equal to 250 W, where the output of the motor is cut off when the cyclist stops pedalling and is otherwise progressively reduced and finally cut off before the vehicle speed reaches 25 km/h”

The Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019 might update or expand this definition, but the details of it has yet to be published. The bill is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny.

ALSO READ: Explainer: Legal status of bicycles, e-bikes and scooters is reader-funded journalism. That means it's funded by readers like you.

Subscription drive update: reached its target of 270 subscribers by the end of August -- thank you to all who have helped! Our new target is to have 300 subscribers by the end of 2022 -- originally this was hoped to be exceeded by the first year of running the site full time (end of October).

If you can help push above 300 subscribers, please subscribe today for €5 or more. If you have already done so -- thank you!

Please remember, every month there's a natural drop-off in subscriptions due to people getting new cards, cards stolen, Revolut not topped up etc.

*** is a reader-funded journalism publication. Effectively it's an online newspaper covering news and analyses of cycling and related issues, including cycle route designs, legal changes, and pollical and cultural issues.

There are examples, big and small, which show that the reader-funded or listener-funding model can work to support journalism -- from the Dublin Inquirer and The Guardian to many podcasts. To make it work for, it just needs enough people like you to believe!

Monthly subscriptions will give's journalism a dependable base of support. But please don't take free access for granted. Last year had an average of 15,800 readers per month and we know our readers include people who cycle and those who don't, politicians, officials and campaigners.

I know only a small percentage of readers will see the value of keeping this open enough to subscribe, that's the reality of the reader-funded model. But more support is needed to keep this show on the road.

The funding drive was started in November 2021 and, as of the start of June 2022, 250 readers have kindly become monthly subscribers -- thank you very much to all that have!

But currently, it's only around 1.6% of readers who subscribe. So, if you can, please join them and subscribe today via

Cian Ginty

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.