Pedal-powered car/sculpture beats 'unsafe vehicle' rap

The judge determined the pedal-power car was similar to a bike and compared it to Amish buggies

By Graham F. Scott

On Friday April 4th, 2008

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A 1986 Buick Regal without an engine, transmission, or even a floor, was pulled over in Toronto in October 2007 and its maker, Michel de Broin, a Montreal artist, was charged with operating an unsafe vehicle. “Shared Propulsion Car” (2005) is a sculpture/performance art piece in which up to four passengers pedal together to drive the car (the headlights are lit by votive candles). Having already been exhibited in New York and Montreal, the car was pulled over nine blocks from the Mercer Union gallery where it was being exhibited, and de Broin was charged with operating an unsafe vehicle.

Yesterday, de Broin was found not guilty in a Toronto court. He was represented pro bono by Terry L. Fox, an in-house lawyer with the Canadian Automobile Association, who told the National Post he felt the police officer went “overboard” with the charge, given that the car can only go about 15 km/h. The Crown argued during the trial that the votive candles used in the headlights posed a safety hazard, and could cause an explosion if the pedal-car was involved in an accident with a regular car. The judge didn’t buy it, and determined that the car is actually more like a bike, further noting that Amish horse-drawn buggies use candle-powered lights without incident. “Shared Propulsion Car” will be returning to Montreal.