Tuesday, October 05, 2021

scooters on shabbos

I've noticed around my neighborhood that riding scooters on shabbos now seems to be a thing.  Meaning, it's not just being done by 5 year old kids, but it's common to see even kids who are of chinuch age (and I've even seen kids over bar mitzvah with scooters and skateboards), and even kids who I would say, judging by their dress and their parents, go to more RW schools riding their scooters in the streets.  For some reason riding a bike is just not done on shabbos by anyone (at least I've never noticed it being done), but a scooter is perceived to be a different animal entirely.

There are three reasons you can't ride a bike on shabbos (Tzitz Eliezer vol 7 # 30, see also here):

1) Uvdin d'chol

2) gezeira lest one leave the techum

3) gezeira lest one come to fix the bike - tikun maneh

Some would add 4) plowing up dirt if you ride over earth.

You can ride a bike for miles, but I don't think the same is true for a scooter, so maybe we can knock off #2.  Similarly, scooters have hard tires that don't go flat and don't have a chain that can fall off, so maybe #3 is not an issue.  But what do you do with #1?  I've never really been clear on how to define uvdin d'chol.  Obviously not everything we do on a weekday is automatically prohibited on shabbos -- uvdin d'chol seems limited things that diminish the kedushas ha'yom in some way or have some connection to a melacha.  Maybe people view a bike as a regular mode of transportation just like cars, and maybe a scooter is just a toy?  

R' Melamed in Pninei Halacha writes that he feels the argument to be stringent is more compelling than the argument to be lenient. Shemiras Shabbos 16:17 writes that even skating should not be done on shabbos, and he allows only a tricycle to be ridden by a little child.

Puk chazei that the velt seems regard scooters as heter gamur, but I'm not sure if that is out of ignorance or whether there are some poskim who are matir and their view has somehow become the norm.


  1. Leniencies on scooters, skateboards and even bikes were allowed by many rabbis during lockdown. I’m not aware of any calls to return to pre-lockdown observance. It makes me deeply uncomfortable; the slippery slope is all too real.

    1. >>>Leniencies on scooters, skateboards and even bikes were allowed by many rabbis during lockdown.

      Who are these Rabbis (assuming they went on record) and what was the basis for the heter?

    2. The cases I know about were in LA, but not (to my knowledge) expressed as written heterim. In one instance, the assistant rabbi of the shul told me the head rabbi (RCA) had been inundated with questions about Shabbos play during lockdown and had told parents they could avail themselves of these leniencies. I taught in a Charedi day school and gleaned from conversations there that the same leniencies were allowed by their rabbis. I certainly recall being horrified to see yeshivish and Charedi families walking on Shabbos with their kids on scooters.

      I saw something similar a few years previously when sneakers with embedded wheels and flashing lights became popular. I was dismayed by how many parents let their children wear these as Shabbos shoes to Orthodox shuls. Even though they were not bar mitzvah age, it struck me as totally inappropriate.

  2. I encountered this issue during a visit to גבעת זאב near Yerushalayim five years ago, when a complaint was made about my grandchildren zooming around on big wheels on Shabbos. The issues of tikun maneh and uvda dechol did come up, but I did not stop the kids from their activities, especially since they were around five years old.
    If I were asked today, I would have to consider two questions:
    First, whether these scooters and boards and skates are more comparable to baby carriages and strollers, which everyone accepts as permissable (despite the attached sun protectors, which function like umbrellas,) or bicycles, which are generally prohibited. Although I remember Reb Chaim Zimmerman's talmidim riding on bikes on Yomtov, this was never accepted in the general community, and I think we were right. It's common for bike riders to carry pumps and patches because tires get punctures or just lose air, and, as you said, the chain is also an issue, so the concern of שמא יתקן is very serious.
    Second, as a matter of public policy and local hanhaga, even אם תמצי לומר that they are no worse than strollers, would being mattir lead to bike riding.

  3. very timely .... todays daf

  4. Uvda d'chol would be more an adult thing - you don't use a bike because people take bikes to work.