Cyclists should register their bikes

By | November 13, 2015

Last week on the blog, we took on the Cliché bike-lash comment ‘Cyclists do not pay for the road.’  It turns out that the post piqued a lot of your interest.  I saw a huge spike in traffic!  Thank you.  It seems a lot of you are tired of this crap too!  Well there is no shortage of cliché bike-lash stupid arguments against cycling and cyclists.  I can keep going as long as you show interest, so please view, comment and like these posts if you would like them to continue.

This week, we take on another classic, ‘Cyclists should register their bikes.’  Ugh!  This post is structured like a conversation with a knuckle dragging bike hater.  If you are speaking with such a sad individual at work, a party or other social setting you will be well prepared to shoot down their silliness.  If you run into a bike hating troll online, you can just take a moment to copy and paste from this post.  Just be sure to drop a #cyclebuttcrack or if you copy my work.  Once again, the bike hater’s comments are in Italics.  My reasoned responses are bold.  Additional commentary will be plain text.  So…  Let’s get to it!

  • Cyclists should register their bikes.  I register my car to drive it on the road.  You should be forced to register your bike.  They should also be forced to have a license. 

Oh shut up!  Here we go again.  It is funny how people hate bureaucracy regulations and fees unless they suggest that someone else should be forced to pay for them.  Cycling registration is imposed on cyclists to act as a barrier to cycling on the roads or to collect money from cyclists.  I like to keep these things in mind when crafting my response.

  • Pedestrians use and occupy the road’s public right of way.  Should they be registered? 
  • Don’t be ridiculous!  Cyclists ride their bikes in traffic!  They use the roads.  They are not accountable for their actions they should be registered. 
An old bicycle registration sticker dating back to 1989.

An old bicycle registration sticker on my commuter dating back to 1989.

As a follow up the ‘Cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road’ conversation will likely come up.  A lot of these topics are related.  The notion that a tiny sticker on a bicycle will mean that cyclists will somehow change behavior is laughable.  Such an answer begs for some sarcasm.

  • I remember when vehicle licenses and registration made all drivers follow the rules of the road all of the time.  Vehicle drivers never break the law.  Why do you think that a little tiny sticker will change people’s behavior? 
  • Of course not all drivers follow the law because they register their vehicles, but they can be tracked down if they break the law thanks to their license plates.  Cyclists should be forced to wear a license plate just like a car so that they can be pulled over when they break the law.  If a cyclist does something illegal, I can call in their license plate number and report them.  If they hit my car and run away, we need to be able to hold them accountable. 

Somewhere in this person’s delusional, paranoid fantasy world, cyclists go barreling into cars causing massive damage and somehow ride away unscathed.  I have been hit by a car.  Luckily I was not hurt.  Even so I was not capable of riding away.

  • Cyclists can and are pulled over by the police when they break the law just like a vehicle.  If an officer sees a cyclist breaking the rules, he pulls him or her over.  Furthermore cyclists are far more likely to be the victim of a hit and run than the perpetrator.  I know if I run my bike into a car, I am not likely going to be able to get up and run away.  A lot of drivers get away with hit and run despite the fact that they have a license plate on their car.  Where would a cyclist wear a large license plate?  It would not fit on their bike and they could easily be stolen.  What about people visiting from out of state?  Should they be ticketed for riding without a license when it’s not required in their state?  It would be a logistical and bureaucratic nightmare.

I do not care where they put their license plate.  That is not my problem, but cyclists should be pay, take a test to get themselves licensed and their bike licensed. 

Well we have shifted the course of the conversation.  When someone tells me, ‘I don’t care where they put their license,’ I am tempted to respond with, ‘I know a place you can put your bike license plate.’  Usually I just ignore that part of their argument in the interest of being polite.   We have already destroyed the classic, ‘cyclists do not pay for the road’ garbage.  So instead let’s focus on the ineffectiveness of licensing cyclists and a little discussion on vehicle licensing policy.

  • There are many users of public roads ranging from pedestrians, to cyclists, car drivers, motorcyclists and commercial truck drivers.  Each type of user and vehicle is tested charged and assessed on based on their size, liability and several other factors.  Commercial trucks are the largest vehicles on the road.  They pose the greatest threat on the road when operated in an unsafe manor.  As a result, truck drivers have to complete extensive education and testing before operating their vehicle on the public road.  Car drivers and motorcyclists also have to complete specific testing prior to getting a license to operate their particular vehicles.  However, in most states, anything with an engine smaller than 50cc, the operator is not required to have any special license.  It makes no sense to license cyclists.  They pose less of a threat and have less liability than a scooter.  It makes just as much sense to make pedestrians have a license to walk.  What about children?  Do you expect them to pass a test and get a license before riding a bike around their neighborhood?

    The driver of the an enormous semi has different license and registration requirements than other road users.

    The driver of the an enormous semi has different license and registration requirements than other road users.

Well that takes care of the bicycle operator license argument.  It is now time to bring this argument to its logical conclusion.  This is also a good time to go talk to other people.  Why do we always end up interacting with bike haters?  Sigh.

  • There are many problems with bicycle registration.  It does not work.  It does not generate any revenue, it is expensive to enforce and serves no purpose.   The area where I live has a mandatory helmet law, but it is meaningless.  Police resources are stretched thin and enforcement of bicycle helmet infractions is a low priority.  The same would be true for bicycle registrations.  The other problem is that bicycle registration does not raise any revenue.  My state legislature proposed a $20 bicycle registration fee this last year.  The drafters of the bill even admitted that the legislation was largely symbolic and would not generate any substantial revenue due to the overhead of creating and maintaining a bicycle licensing bureaucracy.  Bike registration is basically a punishment which is intended to reduce accessibility to cycling.  People should be encouraged to cycle.  It eases traffic congestion, eases air pollution and reduces wear and tear on our roads.  This is why most cities that have required bicycle registration do not enforce it or are eliminating the law.  It does not work!

Well there you have it.  In my opinion, this topic is a bit more complicated than the previous, ‘Cyclists do not pay for the road’ discussion.  Of course we could go on into the minutia of the topic, but a discussion which covers the basic is usually more than adequate.  I think it is best not to overwhelm stupid people with too many facts.








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