37

Is there a generic word for bicycle-like vehicles that may have 1,2,3,4 or more wheels?

I want motorcycles excluded; only pedal-driven vehicles should be included.

  • 4
    It may be more complicated, depending on what you are trying to express. This article lists at least 11 types of wheeled, human powered vehicles, including rickshaws and skateboards. Are you limited to pedal driven? What about balance bikes? Trikkes? – bib Sep 2 '16 at 11:00
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    Generally something along the line of "human-powered vehicle" is used. Or "pedal-driven vehicle", if you feel you must be that specific. – Hot Licks Sep 2 '16 at 11:58
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    How about a manually propelled conveyance? Unfueled gyroscopic transport? Hipstermobile? – rojo Sep 2 '16 at 12:46
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    How about providing a sentence where you would use this word you seek? – Drew Sep 2 '16 at 20:08
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    Our legislators cannot find a suitable word. In the traffic act they define "bicycle" to include any number of wheels. – Keith McClary Sep 4 '16 at 5:13
23

Pedal cycle.

At least in British English, it is a recognised generic term, sometimes in a formal or legal context such as insurance

Note that the examples of what is covered don't explicitly include numbers of wheels other than two, the term itself is not limited to 2 wheelers.

  • 4
    "Pedal cycle" is not in anything close to common use. – Brock Adams Sep 4 '16 at 17:16
  • I've seen it written in to some laws. – WBT Sep 4 '16 at 22:46
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    @Brock: Kinda – RedGrittyBrick Sep 5 '16 at 13:36
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    The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1994 stated that a ‘pedal cycle’ was defined as “a unicycle, bicycle, tricycle, or cycle having four or more wheels, not being in any case mechanically propelled unless it is an electrically assisted pedal cycle of such class as is to be treated as not being a motor vehicle for the purposes of the 1984 Act.” - bikehub.co.uk/featured-articles/cycling-and-the-law – armb Sep 5 '16 at 13:43
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    @BrockAdams I wouldn't expect any term for "pedal-powered vehicle with any number of wheels" to be in common use, since the concept itself is not in common use. I live in a city where pedal-powered vehicles are extremely widely used. I'd say that I see a tricycle about once a month, a unicycle about once a year and I don't recall ever seeing something with four or more wheels. So, if I want a term for "pedal-powered vehicle with any number of wheels", I just say "bicycle", which covers 99.99% of what I'm talking about. – David Richerby Sep 5 '16 at 17:47
69

A velocipede:

Velocipede (/vəˈlɒsəpiːd/; Latin for "fast foot") is a human-powered land vehicle with one or more wheels. The most common type of velocipede today is the bicycle.

The term "velocipede" is today, however, mainly used as a collective term for the different forerunners of the monowheel, the unicycle, the bicycle, the dicycle, the tricycle and the quadracycle developed between 1817 and 1880.

[Wikipedia.org]

Note that this is unlikely to be understood by a wide audience. I knew the word existed, but I didn't know its exact definition until I researched it for this answer. I had suspected it was just a synonym for bicycle, and was quite happy to find out it was in fact its hypernym.

  • 1
    Huh, I always thought velocipede was just another term for a penny-farthing. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 4 '16 at 13:12
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    I always thought velocipede was a synonym for boneshaker, an early bike that looks more like a modern bike than a penny-farthing. According to Wikipedia this is correct - "velocipede" was the manufacturer's term - though the word might also have taken on a more general meaning later. – Nathaniel Sep 4 '16 at 15:53
  • I would have decoded "fast foot" and thought it was a quick bug. – WBT Sep 4 '16 at 22:48
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    I'm still pretty sad that Velocipede never caught on. It's so much of a better name than bicycle. – AJFaraday Sep 5 '16 at 8:53
  • Velocipedes were pretty much rendered obsolete by the "Ordinary bicycle" or penny farthing. Which itself was obsoleted by chain drive which allowed appropriate gear ratios. – Brian Drummond Sep 5 '16 at 18:00
34

A cycle

4.
a bicycle, motorcycle, tricycle, etc.
-Dictionary.com

Note: This was posted before the exclusion of 'motorcycle'.

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    I want motorcycle excluded, only pedal-driven vehicles shoud be included. – Anixx Sep 2 '16 at 10:07
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    In that case, "pedal cycle"? – jsheeran Sep 2 '16 at 14:00
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    Oxforddictionaries.com gives A bicycle or tricycle. No mention of a motor--. This fits with what I'm familiar with in the UK (where "bike" may be used for motorbike in context, but "cycle" isn't). – Chris H Sep 2 '16 at 14:00
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    To the downvoter: This answer was posted before the exclusion of motor--. – Mithical Sep 4 '16 at 16:14
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    Cycling is an extremely common term for the activity of riding a human powered n-cycle vehicle, and the common term for someone who rides such is cyclist so this answer is better than it may first appear. Cycling is widely recognized as excluding motorcycling. Furthermore, a common term for some motorcycle riders is biker and many motorcyclists refer to their vehicles as bikes. – barbecue Sep 4 '16 at 19:27
15

Re:

Is there a generic word for bicycle-like vehicles that may have 1, 2, 3, 4 or more wheels?

Technically, yes, see AndyT's answer of "Velocipede".

But practically, no there isn't.
Not every concept has, or needs a word in English. The proof is in the fact that Velocipede never caught on (nor any word like it):

Nobody uses that word


Practically, the word "Bike" is close and and most people will get your meaning.

"Bicycle" shops sell unicycles, bicycles, tricycles (AKA "trikes"), and quadracycles (AKA "Car-Bike" or "Twin bike", among other aliases).

Of course, "Bike" can also mean motorbike. Again, this hints that there is no real need for a unique term.


In terms of: ease of use, (human) power requirements, safety, efficiency, stowability, and support infrastructure, there are huge differences between 1, 2, 3, and 4 wheeled, human-powered vehicles (HPV). Likewise, 5 or more wheels would almost never be a good engineering/ergonomic solution for an HPV**.

So, it makes a great deal of sense to keep separate terms for such devices. They are markedly different experiences from the rider and owner perspectives.


** HPV does not answer the question since it also applies to vast hoards of watercraft, aircraft, etc.

9

HPV. Human Powered Vehicle. This is as broad a term as you can get as long as you aren't worried about circus bicycles ridden by animals.

Vehicle types covered by the WHPVA

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    This would include human powered aircraft and submarines. – stannius Sep 2 '16 at 16:28
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    @stannius, and also paddle-boats, rowboats, canoes, skis, balance/circus balls, etc. – Brock Adams Sep 2 '16 at 19:11
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    I wouldn't use that acronym. – Laurel Sep 2 '16 at 21:41
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    @Laurel Who wants to ride the Human PapillomaVirus? – EKons Sep 3 '16 at 14:35
  • In the context of cycling, HPV tends to refer to pedal-powered vehicle with significantly better aerodynamic performance (and therefore speed) than a normal bicycle. These tend to be experimental and not suited to riding on open roads. So the term isn't a good fit to many likely contexts for the question. – Chris H Apr 23 '17 at 8:44
7

Apparently there was once the word push-cycle, which is probably exactly the word you want - it doesn't mention the number of wheels, and the "push" excludes the motor-driven ones.
But it is not very widespread. Many dictionaries don't mention it at all, and this non-native speaker certainly never heard of it until I stumbled across it just now!

pushbike would be better understood, at least in BE, but this one does mention the number of wheels. Oh well.

2

DMV manuals often refer to "non-motorized vehicles", but they are not limited to pedal-driven vehicles.

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