Resist Mandatory Bicycle Registration in Philadelphia

Bicycle Registration is an old and tired idea.If you are a Philadelphian who rides a bicycle, call your City Council member to declare your opposition to Councilman DiCicco’s latest proposal to create mandatory bicycle registration laws.  Compulsory registration, increased fees, and potential confiscation of a person’s bike are all on the table. These potential new laws would create more barriers to cycling and widen the gap of inequitable access to active forms of transportation.

Consider who in Philly would be most affected by such a law, and how it would be enforced. Why is there so much focus on vulnerable road users violating the law, when most people involved in serious driving crashes are rarely held accountable?

I vehemently oppose the confiscation of one’s bike as an enforcement tactic.  I do, however, support increased enforcement of existing traffic law for ALL forms of transportation.  There is no reason to increase fines and impose confiscation on laws that are not presently enforced.

If you live in Philadelphia: find out what district you’re inidentify your council member(s).  Contact them so they know why mandatory bicycle registration is bad for everyone!

Oregon recently went through a similar drive to mandate bicycle registration.  Here’s how it was received.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has published a position statement, along with a list of cities that have repealed existing bicycle registration laws.  These cities include Detroit, Houston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque.

“Among other issues, we are concerned about the potential for a registration program to discourage riders, impose financial disincentives, and expose the City to numerous legal issues.”

Here is the press release from DiCicco’s office on the bill:

November 18, 2009

Responding to recent reports of problem bicyclists, Philadelphia City Councilman Frank DiCicco announced today that he will introduce legislation requiring bicycle registration.

“This legislation is about public safety and about being able to identify cyclists that break the law,” DiCicco said.  “How many times have we seen cyclists on the sidewalk, going the wrong way on a one-way street or running red lights?  But there’s no way for the police or for the public to identify the rider.  Registration will help hold problem cyclists responsible.”

DiCicco continued, “Registration will also allow for a point of contact so we can provide educational materials.  It will let us inform riders what behavior is legal, appropriate and what penalties they may face.”

The proposal requires that every rider registers his/her bicycle with the Police Department within six months of final passage of the legislation.  In addition, each bicycle must be registered within ten days of the time of sale.  Registration plates are required to be attached to each bicycle.  The one-time registration will cost $20 and failure to register will result in a $100 fine.  Any bicyclist under 12 will be exempt from registration.

Recognizing that some in the bicycle community may have concerns, DiCicco responded saying “This is the beginning of a conversation.  It isn’t an effort to restrict bicycle usage.  Rather it is an attempt to improve safety and education.  I look forward to working with the Bicycle Coalition as a partner and am open to their suggestions to make this legislation better.  Having said that, we need to get a handle on bicycle enforcement and I’m convinced registration is a piece of that puzzle.”

Bicycle registration is not a magic bullet for holding cyclists accountable.  This proposal is distracting, more of the current energy to blame bicyclists for just being there, whereas people driving around in huge metal machines are often given the benefit of the doubt.  This remains an issue even in bicycle-haven Oregon.

I  look forward to increased traffic education and enforcement of frequent violations (i.e. sidewalk riding, running red lights, speeding, etc.) for both people driving and people cycling.  This type of traffic enforcement in long overdue in Philadelphia, where the current state of enforcement is pathetic.  I think education and enforcement of existing traffic law would be more effective than DiCicco’s bills.

Bike culture in Philly has to change, the red light running will have to stop, and we can do this within current law.  Why change the culture?  Because bicycle riders need to be seen as law-obiding, real, we-pay-taxes-too assets to the city, not the scofflaw menace people on bikes are currently portrayed as.  I believe this is why the Bike Coalition encourages enforcement, but is not behind the mandatory registration bills or increased fines.

Read more coverage in the Philly Daily News.  Photo credit: improbcat

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