When is a bike no longer a bike? Outcome of Cork traffic case rides on Garda testimony

Garda Lynch prosecuted 28-year-old Willian Dos Santos on two charges of having neither a licence nor insurance for the ‘vehicle’.
When is a bike no longer a bike? Outcome of Cork traffic case rides on Garda testimony

Garda Paul Lynch said the device the defendant was riding was a mechanically propelled vehicle. File photo: Wikipedia

When is a bicycle no longer a bicycle?

That was the debate that was peddled at Cork District Court in an unusual case where it was argued that a bicycle was no longer a bicycle.

Not since Myles na gCopaleen contemplated how many molecules of a cyclist went into his bike and how many molecules of the bicycle went into the rider, was there such an existential consideration of the nature of a bicycle.

It all started when Garda Paul Lynch witnessed a two-wheeled devices whizzing by on Washington Street, Cork, on to Grand Parade and St Patrick’s Street on January 26.

At first it looked like a high-speed mountain bike but when Garda Lynch stopped the cyclist and examined it, he saw that there was a 50cc engine attached to the pedal bike.

“It was a homemade contraption. I believe it was an mpv,” Garda Lynch said at Cork District Court.

The significance of it being an mpv – a mechanically propelled vehicle – was not just a matter of preferred garda parlance. If it is an mpv the cyclist – or driver – would need a licence and insurance.

Garda Lynch prosecuted Willian Dos Santos, aged 28, of Lancaster Quay, Cork, on two charges of having neither a licence nor insurance for the ‘vehicle’.

Willian Dos Santos said of the garda evidence: “What he said is true. He stopped me.” 

However, when Judge Olann Kelleher put it to him that he was “driving at speed,” he replied in relation to the power of the contraption that “it is weak, not strong. You have to use the pedal for the engine to engage”.

Garda Lynch said he brought it for a test drive after seizing it from the defendant and said there was a throttle on it and it was not necessary to pedal it to get the engine going. He added: “It is a petrol engine.” 

Willian Dos Santos said he bought it from a man who delivered food and this previous owner put the engine on it. The defendant said he thought it was a bicycle and did not know it had become a vehicle since the engine was attached.

Judge Kelleher said he would put the case back for two months for the defendant to consult with a solicitor.

Garda Lynch said that a seized vehicle which is not claimed back, might be destroyed. That was in response to a question from Judge Kelleher who laughed when he asked the guard: “Where is the bike now? Are you driving it yourself?”

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