Pedal Car Vs Ministry Of Transport

[Tim] from the “Way Out West” Youtube channels has started a fun project — building a wooden pedal-car heavily inspired by “Bugsy Malone”. The kids-sized gangsters in that movie got around in kid-sized pedal cars. Apparently kid-sized [Tim] just loved the idea, but just didn’t have the skills or tools to try to build one. But the time has come, and he has spent years putting together a workshop, tools, and skills.

The goal is a 4-wheeled vehicle that can actually be enclosed, to keep the driver out of the rain. It would be petal powered, with an optional electric assist. It should be made of simple materials, like plywood and epoxy. The design would be freely shared, and the overall cost hopefully kept low. Come back after the link to find the rest of the story, including the monkey wrench thrown into the works.

The design has slowly come together, starting with experiments around suspension. The first iteration was a beam front axle, pivoting in the center. That idea works great for tractors, but a pedal car needs some real independent suspension. And for springs and dampers, he’s tried using hay tines, bed slats, tennis balls and bungee cords.

The whole project is all about making something good on a shoestring budget. There are some pedal cars being made around the world, but they aren’t particularly affordable, and haven’t arrived in some of the out of the way places like Western Ireland. The plan was to make a design that counted as an electric bike.

Unfortunately, the European Union regulations around vehicles just don’t account for a 4-wheel e-bike. If the whole thing could weigh in under 25 kilograms, it would count as a scooter, but that’s not really an achievable weight limit. An e-bike is only allowed a maximum of three wheels. There is a classification that sounds promising, the Light Quadricycle, but that class is up to 425 kilograms, and nothing about being pedal powered.

The latest video in the series is an open letter to Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Transport of Ireland. A ruling to put this little prototype car back into a fitting category, or to define an ultralight quadricycle, would go a long ways toward making it a reality. But for now, knowing how slow the government wheels of change can be, [Tim] and his crew are working on making a 3-wheel version that’s actually safe to drive. We wish him them the best of luck, and will be watching for the end product!

47 thoughts on “Pedal Car Vs Ministry Of Transport

  1. Fun video, but I would think the laws that prevent vehicles like this are right to prevent vehicles like this. Yes it’s a prototype, but if the front falls off while you’re in the middle of traffic, then it puts you and other motorists in danger. If it was made of welded metal tubing I could see an argument, but this wooden contraption shouldn’t be on the roads.

    1. It’s valid to suggest that it *should* be regulated. The real problem is that by making a design change that makes the thing decidedly less safe, it fits into another category and sidesteps the safety regulations. The regulations are working backwards, actively making the enterprise more dangerous.

    2. No, in that case it’s the *other cars* who are putting you in danger. As seen in the videos, if his pedal car breaks he just falls on his butt. If some 2-ton monstrosity then runs him over, that’s not his fault. Traffic should be slowed down in general, and cars should be made smaller and lighter. Otherwise everyone will just end up driving tanks in the name of “safety”.

      1. The other drivers have a responsibility to be careful, but you’re at fault too for driving a vehicle which is not mechanically sound. That’s why cars have to get MOT inspected every year, so they don’t just fall apart in the middle of the highway and cause a pileup.

      1. To be fair, Morgans have a steel frame with a wooden body. The Marcos GT from about 1970 is the last car I know of that was somewhat widely produced with a plywood chassis.

  2. Vehicle laws, oh how i love thee. . . and one of the thing i love about the state of New York.

    “. . . as an electric bicycle” – this is the WRONG way to go about doing this sort of thing. Understand your end goal, and work towards it, not around it.

    About 15 years ago, when the motorized bicycle craze was starting to gain steam, kits were expensive and everyone did their own thing. Everyone abided by California regulations, because fucking California.

    So, how do you do it in NY? You don’t.

    A motorized bicycle in NY would legally be considered a moped, which is illegal – mopeds are only registerable with an MSO, which the DMV will only grant to manufacturers of mopeds.

    You could try to register it as a motorcycle, but a bicycle will not pass DOT standards for that.

    A bicycle is no longer a bicycle if a motor is attached, and is therefore a vehicle.

    An unregisterable vehicle is therefore operated without registration, and illegal for use on roads. Further, as it is considered a motorized vehicle, it cannot be operated on pedestrian ways.

    In a nutshell – Not a chance in hell it’ll ever be legal.

    . . . So, with that in mind, why bother chasing legality? If you’re going to do it, just do it – but don’t waste your time chasing some classification that’s a non-starter to begin with. I had a lot of fun and would love to do it again – that said, knowing full well that I’d be fully at my own legal risk.

  3. Regulations in Pennsylvania for anyone interested:

    “Pedalcycle with electric assist.” A vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor system rated at not more than 750 watts and equipped with operable pedals and capable of a speed not more than 20 miles per hour on a level surface when powered by the motor source only. The term does not include a device specifically designed for use by persons with disabilities.


    **** Ok, so what about NON-level surface? ****

        The head tube rapidly detached from the rest of the frame, and then he gracefully skates his helmet across the gravel like a floatplane, then smashes the wheel in with his helmet. The fork gets mangled and lifts him up for a second flight.

        He does some kind of cool superhero slide (twice), but I don’t think that was intentional
        After the attempt to break ground contact permanently, he looks as if he’s been punched by a superhero.
        Human bodies aren’t designed for going fast. This is why death boxes are deadly. They go really fricking fast compared to the 12mph humans evolved with. Also, the metal death boxes weigh as much as a rhino, and some drivers have brains to match. (Talking about cars BTW)

        They are good for reliable commuting, but more than one car on the road negates the benefit.

  4. his large wheel videos are much more enjoyable and i’m sure any OSHA (yes i know he is not in the us) employees would have heart attacks watching them. that’s what makes it so fun.

    1. OSHA? Unlikely to care. OSHA has no jurisdiction over ‘hold my beer and watch this’.
      DOT would have kittens if he ever took it on American public roads.

      Needs mouse, same as all vehicles.

  5. If the design is good enough and you open source it, there is no need for it to be “legal”, people will build it and use it as they see fit. However if you want a serious design for a USEFUL such mini-vehicle, that people will therefore actually build, regardless of legalities, you do probably want to make it from something more substantial than epoxy-joined plywood. (Aluminium extrusions may be a better starting point). If the front falls off amid traffic and the rider gets run over by a multi-tonne truck that’s the rider’s fault for making themselves something too flimsy, the way for the idea to be popular is to design it well enough that, so long as people constructing it don’t cut too many corners, it is well-built enough that the front WON’T fall off. Don’t chase regulations, ignore them, but do your damndest to design things to be as good as possible before you release the design.

    1. There is a difference between copyright and road laws.

      Road laws state what is legal or not on the road. Whether that’s self-built or not doesn’t matter. Regulations are much stricter in the EU than in the US it seems, where you can get away with sometjing self-built. Here you need a homologation, which is a very expensive process. It’s no problem if you sell 100000 items of one vehicle type, but moreso if you sell one or ten.

          1. Europe is a weird place.

            In Germany speeding fines are very low and tickets can’t affect your insurance rates. People are ashamed of speeding. Not ashamed of getting caught, ashamed of violating the rules. Just weird, rule crazies.

  6. A huge number of bicycles are discarded each year. They would be a good source of lightweight steel tubing and brakes for a better though-out design.

    I note that the author is testing on a dirt surface. I wonder if a vehicle like this can do without a springed suspension if it’s kept on paved surfaces. Let the tires and a cushy seat filter out the bumps, let a low center of gravity take out the worry of tipping over on corners.

  7. Dude wants a pedal car from a movie from decades ago. Unclear why he would ever pursue making it road legal at all? Clearly he already made it, then made a bunch of youtube videos so he is just advertising his self-professed illegal behavior? what am I missing? Oh right purpose is actually YouTube clicks.

    1. Either Tim is the best actor of all time, or he’s really just a tinkerer from Ireland making cool stuff in his from shop, and making Youtube videos for the fun of it.

      And as to why make it road legal? He wants to pedal it to the shop, rather than taking a car. And ideally allow a bunch of the rest of us to do the same thing.

        1. Segways have 3kw peak power.
          IIRC they are not legal on any roads, rather sidewalks.

          A 3kw ebike is well into outlaw territory in the freest local. Should have motorcycle license and insurance.

          Dumb cops, so all good.

    1. Another way to get around the problem and still have a four-wheeled bike is to put two wheels in-line and use the other two as “outriggers” or “training wheels”. That way it’s sure to be a bicycle, especially if you can show that the outrigger wheels can be removed and the bike still rides somehow.

  8. These regulations could be circumvented by making a legal tricycle. As Tim notes, he wants a quadricycle, but if the back wheels are less than 460mm apart (centres of their ground contact), they count as one wheel, according to EU directive 2002/24/EC article 2.8.

    A Dutch company used this to circumvent Dutch taxi laws which only apply to four-wheeled vehicles:

  9. A bit off topic, but I often think that we’re lucky that bicycles were already in common use when the modern road laws were passed. Otherwise it would be crazy difficult to have such “unsafe” vehicles allowed on the road…

  10. Count as an eBike? In Europe?

    I’m thinking any well built pedal car, or even a jankey soap box racer hacked together out of pallets and trash would pick up too much speed just going down a hill to count as an eBike in Europe.

  11. While wood might be easy to get, since there is already metal and welding required, it would be stronger and lighter to make the whole thing from square steel tube. Also the wheel used on the 3 wheel version was completely inadequate as can be seen by the buckling in the turn test. Even in 4 wheel config it would need stronger wheels. On a bike, you lean in to the corner which puts the forces along the radius of the wheel where it’s strong, rather than partially along the face. A fun series though.

  12. The three wheels needs independent suspension so on a turn the outside wheel will be down while the inside wheel will be up keeping the driver aligned and the vehicle stable.

  13. There are a few options on who to contact other than dear Eamo. I’ve had a hard time contacting the Minister about a few green initiatives (he’s the leader of the Green Party here too) and only received the standard Ack letter.

    They might have more luck with contacting the Access Officer in the department of transport (if you want to class it under a disability scooter), but to be honest I think the best way is through your local TD (Congress representative in Ireland) and get it raised as a PQ (parliamentary question) in the Dail (the Irish house of congress) “why is there no class of vehicle between A and B” sort of thing.

    Or they could put it in the category of Class 3 mobility scooter but I’m sure they’ve thought of that as I’m not sure what the vehicle needs to be to put in in the category as a class 3 (other than having lights). Garden tractors/ride on mowers can also be road legal by the way but I know they’ve an internal combustion engine but there are a few that are fully electric now, whether that’s accounted for or not I’m not sure as they’re only now starting to account for smaller electric vehicles on Irish roads.

  14. Julian Edgar of the now – defunct online car magazine “Autospeed” built a couple of pedal trikes. He used his automotive background to come up with some very practical, lightweight suspension designs. Update his trike with electric assists and you’d be done. He built his out of brazed Cr-Mo tubing (bike frame steel).

    Some links within the Autospeed website are dead but I found most of the articles by searching “autospeed chalky.” “Chalky” was the name of his second, improved design. Lots of good pics and discussion of his design choices. If, like me, you hate clickbait videos, these written articles are pure gold.

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