Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Bicycle Definition:

A muscle-propelled two-wheeled vehicle.

Related Terms: Motor Vehicle

The legal definition comes with two facets. First, what is a bicycle and then whether a bicycle is recognized as a vehicle and subject to the relevant motor vehicle statute.

In Best v Lefroy,  a automobile came upon a bicyclist and due to a misunderstanding, believed he should pass the bicycle on its right, this caused a serious collision with the bicycle.

The plaintiff successfully argued that as a bicycle was a vehicle pursuant to the relevant traffic statute, the law "requires a person traveling upon a highway in charge of a vehicle overtaking any (other) vehicle to turn out to his left." As this had not been done, the defendant was found liable.

In his decision, Justice Swanson adopted these words in defining a bicycle:

"... a vehicle consisting of two wheels ... propelled by the feet of the rider."

In a 1953 fatal accident case (Life Casualty), the Alabama Court described a bicycle as:

"... a light steel vehicle consisting of two wheels arranged in tandem, united by a frame with the rider's seat upon it; propelled by his feet acting on the pedals connected with one of the axels, at present that of the rear wheel; and steered by a handle-bar guiding the direction of the front wheel."

In Alberta, the Vehicle Equipment Regulation defines a bicycle as:

"[A] cycle propelled solely by human power on which a person may ride that has 2 wheels...."

Jurisdictions differ in their treatment of bicycles although most hold them to be vehicles and thus to abide by the rules of the road and the applicable traffic legislation and the mandatory wearing of specified safety equipment such as certified helmets.

Most jurisdictions hold mopeds to be bicycles but they differ substantially as to whether or not a tricycle is a vehicle. Other jurisdictions include motor scooters within their definitions of bicycles.


  • Best v Lefroy 67 DLR 455 (British Columbia, 1922)
  • Life & Casualty Insurance Company of Tennessee v King 71 Southern Reporter 2d 131 (1953)
  • Vehicle Equipment Regulation, Alberta Regulation 322/2002.

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