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Should Bicycles Have License Plates?

Should Bicycles Have License Plates?

An assemblywoman in northern New Jersey, Cleopatra Tucker, introduced a bill last week that called for New Jerseyans to register their two-wheelers—yes, even a tike’s bike with training wheels—with the Motor Vehicle Commission at $10 each and to have every bicycle sport a license plate. The bill (A3657) was widely criticized, drawing “outrage from bicycle enthusiasts and others who called it unnecessary and intrusive government regulation,” according to today’s Star-Ledger. It was withdrawn by Tucker today.

Tucker had proposed the bill in response to several elderly residents in her district complained of being knocked over by children on bikes. The elderly victims, Tucker noted, “had been knocked down, knocked over and they had no way to register a complaint. They couldn’t identify the person.”

Paige Hiemier, vice president of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, described Tucker’s withdrawal of the bill as “a victory for cyclists.” Indeed it is: My husband and son are avid bike riders and having to go register their bikes (and stand in those same lines as we already do for our cars) would be a major, and not so necessary, nuisance. 

My son has been riding on local streets since he was 6 years old, but always with my husband right beside him and ready to explain why, with his neurological challenges, Charlie might be riding on the sidewalk. After more than 7 years on two wheels, Charlie has become a very able bike rider, and rides on local streets, though it is the case that motorists here in New Jersey aren’t always very willing in sharing the road.

And one point to keep in mind: Tucker’s reason for introducing the bill was not necessarily so much about restricting personal freedoms, but (according to her statements) arose out of concerns about elderly residents in her district, in the towns of Belleville and Bloomfield, which are right next to the troubled city of Newark. To accompany its articles about the bill, the Star-Ledger ran a photo of lycra-clad, predominantly white cyclists cycling (some on vintage bikes with huge front wheels) on a suburban street. Tucker’s concerns were not necessarily about such cyclists but, perhaps, rather about children and teenagers who might be a bit more careless in their cycling habits as they pedal in congested urban neighborhoods.

Last October, a judge in New York ruled that a young girl, who was accused of running down an elderly woman while racing a bicycle with training wheels on a Manhattan sidewalk in 2008, can be sued for negligence, according to the New York Times.  While I find this case poses some (to understate the matter) perplexing ethical and legal questions, it does suggest that there are some dangers to children of any age riding bikes on city sidewalks. 
How about building more bike lanes, for a start?

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Photo by gallagher.michaelsean.

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117 comments

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4:13PM PDT on May 23, 2011

This woman should be slapped. Absolutely OUTRAGEOUS!!!!!!!
Will these greedy politicians stop at nothing?

10:26AM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

I live in Hawaii where one has to register all bicycles. There is a decal with numbers on it that is the license number for that bike.

9:22AM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

Bikes used to have a bell on them to warn pedestrians, now they charge past on bridal paths and walkways without any warning. Bring back the bicycle bell!!!

9:19AM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

Its a good idea. I wish all cyclists would wear helmets too!

8:58AM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

Whoa, Care2 There's a lot of haters here judging from the comments. I'm guessing those who had negative things to say about cyclists don't ride bikes at all.
Brief background about me, I own/collect bikes. I'm not going to bore you the types that I have but trust me I know bikes. For anyone to say we are a nuisance to the road is really offending. How can you compare a -250 pound human and machine ( This is a hefty rider demonstrated at this point, average rider w/ bike is 170 pounds) to let's say a 1 ton machine. Even if you were driving a mini cooper it still weighs 1000 pounds more. Most of you remind me of those people who oppose us on nature trails because supposedly we have a negative impact on them. For everyone elses information. There are more offenses caused by motorists against cyclists versus cyclists against pedestrians. There are more motorists and pedestrians who intentionally and ignorantly try to kill us when we are out there. Imagine wondering if that roaring car is going to side swipe you as you pedal helplessly?
As for the plating and registration. If you've never had a $2000 bike or even worse $12K bike stolen from you, you would wish your bike was registered and licensed.

It amazes me how most of you want a clean planet, all for the animals, all for progressive thinking and then you take a step back against bikes because that active person or teen who isnt just playing video games at home got on your way.

Cars are coffins, bikes are not! Viva V

7:42AM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

I detest any legislation which involves everybody being penalised for the bad behaviour of the few, which is what licensing bikes would be. So, there should be targeted policing to catch the handful of nutters but people should continue to have the right to ride their bikes without having to pay extra money, register them & go through the rest of the administrative paraphernalia.

5:59AM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

These people who pay over $1,000+ for a bike can well afford to register their property.

11:11AM PST on Feb 24, 2011

Sidewalks are for people, not bikes of skateboards. Cars and bikes sharing the same road, have their problems, but not ones we can't solve. Austin, a very friendly bike town, has just put in many more bikes lanes. Motorists are generally tolerant. There will always be accidents, but life is an accident waiting to happen. You take your chances in living, and shouldn't sue unless someone is purposefully negligent.

7:37PM PST on Feb 21, 2011

What a GREAT idea! I am also tired of having bicylists hog the roads, weaving in and out of traffic and then complaining that THEY are "disrespected". If they ride on public streets, they should be licensed same as automobiles. I think that requiring small children to license their tricycles is a pretty far out stretch, however. The parents should be held responsible in that situation and not permit small children to ride on sidewalks where foot traffic is heavy.

Past member, don't be foolish (your choice of words) suggesting that a license plate on a bicycle would be more likely to be stolen than that on a car! The only reason to do so is if one is more likely to want to use said bicycle to commit a crime.

Getting back to the main reason, it's to identify those who ride "irresponsibly", but it would also help maintain the roads by bicyclists who want to use them and right now, don't contribute to the maintenance at all by not purchasing gas or any other revenue source that goes into "roads".

7:00PM PST on Feb 18, 2011

Up front & clear, I support it if it includes "rules of the road," and young kids are not a bad place to start.

Walking, biking, go with the traffic, and obey traffic signs. Non of this 'facing traffic.' That's wrong !!!

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