Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Motorcycle Definition:

A motor vehicle with two wheels in the same plane designed to convey people.

Related Terms: Motor Vehicle

In their book, authors Obenski, Hill, Shapiro and Debes use these words:

"A motorcycle is a machine consisting of a motor and two wheels in the same plane designed to convey people....

"This definition includes scooters and mopeds but excludes anything with more wheels or fewer axles....

"Multi-wheeled vehicles with handlebars do not steer like motorcycles; they steer like cars with handlebars."

However, given the considerable attention law-makers give to traffic law, motorcycles are generally defined in local, state or provincial traffic codes, and more often than not, including scooters, mopeds and 3-wheel vehicles including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). For example, the Alaska Statutes:

"Motorcycle means a vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground; the term does not include a tractor."

In State v. Benolken, a three-wheel all-terrain vehicle was at issue. Justice Coats of the Court of Appeals of Alaska:

"A three-wheeler falls under the definition of motorcycle in (the Alaska Statutes)."

Consider, also, these words of Justice Harwood of the Court of Appeals of Alabama in Standifer v. Inter-Ocean Insurance Company:

"It appears to us that the dissimilarities between a motorcycle and a motor scooter as shown by the evidence are merely distinctions without a difference, and in no way affect the fundamental character or classification of a motor scooter as a motorcycle....

"A motorcycle is nothing more than a cycle propelled by motor power, rather than by man power.... A motorcycle is defined as a bicycle having a motor attached so as to be self-propelled."

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