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Is riding a bicycle on Shabbat permitted within an eiruv, being ridden only on pavement (so no unintended plowing), for transportation and not exercise, and with the understanding that repairs aren't possible (so you'd have to get off and walk it)?

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    And while you're at it, what about scooters (or should that be a separate question)? – yydl May 15 '11 at 2:42
  • It appears from the responses so far that this is controversial, with some holding one way and some the other. I can only credit one answer, so I would welcome an answer (or edit) that brings these differing positions together in one place. – Monica Cellio May 18 '11 at 13:12
  • I know people who, as advised by the rabbi, stopped driving to bet kinesset on shabbat and took up biking instead. – Baal Shemot Tovot Jun 19 '12 at 4:09
  • Part of the Gezerah is a fear that you might come to fix it, as you alluded to, but remember that a Gezerah remains in effect even if you personally are not likely to violate the laws against which the Gezerah is meant to protect. For example, I once asked my Rav if I could shampoo my hair on Shabbath because pulling my hair out is a Pesik Reisha DeLa Niha Leih - an inevitable consequence which (however) is unappealing to me - because a)I don't want to lose my hair and b)I have Yirath Shamayim and specifically don't want to violate the Isur DeOraitha. He chuckled, but the answer was no. – Seth J Aug 28 '12 at 15:08
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    @SethJ How can you talk about a Gezira in this case? There weren't any bicycles in Talmudic times as far as I know. – Robert S. Barnes Oct 1 '13 at 18:38
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There are several issues that poskim have with a bicycle on Shabbat:

  • Carrying/transferring in a public domain. (The bike is not considered part of the rider.)
  • The bicycle may break, causing the rider to perhaps forget himself and fix it.
  • Riding a bike is uvdin d'chol (weekday activity), and not appropriate on Shabbat.
  • One might ride over soft soil, thereby transgressing the biblical prohibition against plowing. (Though the transgression in this case, I think would be Rabbinic.)
  • A bicycle is muktza, as its primary use is for riding in public domains, which is generally hotza'ah (carrying), thus it is a kli shem'lachto l'issur (utensil that is designed primarily for a prohibited use).
  • Even in a walled city, or one with an acceptable eruv, one may inadvertently ride outside of the eruv, or even outside of the t'chum shabbat.

For one or more of these reasons, many contemporary poskim prohibit riding a bicycle on Shabbat, though there have been those that have permitted it. As Joshua Lee linked in the comments, see here for a short discussion.

You implied in your question that perhaps riding a bike would be permitted with the understanding of the reason behind it being potentially prohibited, such as with the understanding that one may not ride over soft soil, or with the understanding that repairs may not be done. In general, the knowledge behind the reasoning of a rabbinic prohibition does not entitle one to transgress it. For example, the Sages felt it was necessary to forbid dancing on Shabbat, lest one come to bring musical accompaniment and further come to fix the instrument(s) if they break. This holds even if one understands that it is forbidden to fix instruments on Shabbat. We are still worried he may come to transgress a biblical prohibition.

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    You can't compare an opinion of modern Talmedai Chachmim to a gezirah of our Sages from Talmudic or earlier times. One is universally binding, while the other is only binding on those that personally follow that particular Talmid Chacham. – Robert S. Barnes Oct 1 '13 at 18:35
  • Kli Shemelachto LeIssur is mutter for Gufo, such as here. – Shmuel Brin Oct 3 '13 at 19:47
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As mentioned in my answer to the question "If no one else was available, could a mohel ride a bicycle on shabbos to perform a circumcision?":

According to the Ben Ish Chai, one can ride a bicycle on Shabbos inside an eiruv for leisure. Outside of an eruv, a mitzvah purpose might be needed, which includes attending shul to daven with a minyan, and certainly would include performing a bris. So, in summary, the Ben Ish Chai allows riding a bicycle, even outside of an eruv for a mitzvah purpose, and inside an eruv for even relaxation.

  • I merged your old unregistered instance into your new one. Please register your account, so that the system can better keep track of your many contributions! – Isaac Moses May 16 '11 at 2:14
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    @Curiouser My wife told me that in the Syrian community in Brooklyn they ride bicycles on Shabbat, and that they base it on the Ben Ish Chai's position. – Robert S. Barnes Oct 1 '13 at 21:37
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Most people do not consider it proper on shabbat. Perhaps it has to do with the fear that you may come to fix it, but no actual gezerah was made forbidding it. It may also have to do with "uvda d'chol", a somewhat vague prohibition on doing weekday activity. Though there are some who allow it if you're in a place that does not have a minhag against it.

Joshua Lee posted this link in the comments that expands on this answer: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/Display.asp?PageIndex=48&ClipID=310 .

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    Citation would be nice (who are these "most people" and "some", and is there a source for the other statements?). – msh210 May 15 '11 at 3:55
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    dailyhalacha.com/Display.asp?PageIndex=48&ClipID=310 Here's one from Google. ;-) Apparently the Ben Ish Chai allows it, but Rav Ovadia Yosef, the pre-eminient contemporary Sephardic posek, forbids it. Ashkenazic authorities tend to forbid this even more frequently... @msh210 – Ploni Almoni May 15 '11 at 5:30
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    @arielk the source is Rav Pealim 1:25 Hashmatot. – Hacham Gabriel Dec 28 '11 at 20:02
  • @JoshuaLee - I heard in the name of Rav Shlomo Aviner that Rav Ovadia Yosef said that the Ben Ish Chai changed his mind and forbade the bike. But there are some however who say that is not the case. – Adam Mosheh Jun 19 '12 at 4:28
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The Kaf Hachaim 404:8 argues with the Ben Ish Chai's ruling cited by Curiouser and forbids it.

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The Tzitz Eliezer (1:21:27) says that one may not travel on a Bicycle on Shabbos or Yom Tov for three reasons:

  1. One may leave the Techum.
  2. It's a "Weekday Activity".
  3. One may fix his tire.

Also, the Yaskil Avdi said that he heard that the Ben Ish Chai retracted his heter.

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It is assur for a few reasons

For one as you mentioned because of uvdin dechol, is not subjective. Rather it's defined as something that is primarily a non Shabbos activity. So just because you have no time to do it during the week doesn't remove the technical defintion or classification of the act of biking.

Secondly it's forbidden to ride it in a place where there is no eruv.

Furthermore it is forbidden because it's common to fix the chain or the spikes if it breaks. So it's forbidden for that fear. However, there are poskim (מראה הבזק) that would allow to use a bike if there is absolutely no concern of fixing it. However this opinion does not account for the uvdin dechol issue, as well as it disagrees with the most major halachic authorities.

This is all the more so an issue, as in the OP’s question, the riding for transportation and NOT for exercise, as for transportation is exactly the reason why it is Uvdin Dechol (see Rav Ovadia below)

See here

See Rav Ovadia in Yalkut Yosef as well:

יש להורות למעשה שלא לרכוב על אופניים [המיועדים לאנשים גדולים] בשבת. ואין לפרוץ גזר בזה. [ילקוט יוסף שבת כרך ה עמוד נו]. ונכון מאד להחמיר שלא לנסוע בשבת על אופניים, אפילו כשרוצה ללכת לדבר מצוה, וכמו שהסכימו כן הרבה אחרונים משום עובדין דחול. ובאיסור שבת החמורה ראוי לחוש לדבריהם להחמיר. [יביע אומר ח''י חאו''ח סימן נד אות יב, ושם בהערות על רב פעלים ח''א בתחלה]. אבל אופניים קטנות תלת אופן [שלש גלגלים] המיועדות למשחק הילדים, מותר להניח לילדים שישחקו בהם בשבת, באופן שאין שם בטריה ולא נדלקת מנורה. [ילקו''י דיני חינוך קטן עמוד רטז]

See here as well with a bit more clarification into the opinion of Rav Ovadia:

Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a (in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 4 page 43, as well as in his Responsa Yabia Omer Volume 10 in his comments on the Responsa Rav Pe’alim) agrees that riding a bicycle on Shabbat is prohibited based on what the Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (113a) writes, “’If you shall turn away your foot because of the Shabbat-by not making your ways,’ your mode of walking on Shabbat should not be like your mode of walking during the weekdays.” The Poskim derive from this Gemara that one may not run on Shabbat, as we shall discuss in the following Halacha. Thus, since bicycle-riding is meant for traveling a long distance which is not the usual way of walking on Shabbat, it is forbidden to ride bicycles on Shabbat. He proceeds to bring many sources to defend his opinion, one of which is based on the Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (25b) which states that one may not go out in a chair on Shabbat. This refers to the custom of an important figure sitting in a chair and being carried around by people to his destination of choice (as is common in some lands in the Far East even today). Our Sages prohibited this practice on Shabbat, for this is not respectful to the Shabbat as this is considered a weekday mode of travel. Maran Shlit”a brings other reasons to be stringent as well. Thus, halachically speaking, one should not be lenient to ride a bicycle on Shabbat; even if one is doing so for the purpose of performing a Mitzvah, one should still act stringently regarding this matter. We shall, G-d-willing, discuss the laws regarding bicycle-riding for children in the Halacha that will be published on Thursday.

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