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Bicycle licensing short-sighted and discriminatory: Part II


Photo via PBase

This is a two-part article analyzing the necessity--or rather, lack thereof--for bicycle licensing in New York City.

Part I can be found here.

“#4 – Law enforcement officials adopt a formal initiative to write tickets to cyclists as aggressively as motor vehicles.

Maybe the reason they've never been seen getting a ticket in Seattle is because they don't get pulled over for speeding. However, I can personally vouch for getting a ticket for running a red light this past October. I went to court in January and it was overturned.

Cyclists should be ticketed when they directly pose a threat to others' safety. Running red lights at minor intersections or crosswalks when there are no cars approaching does not pose a threat to anyone's safety. Cutting off cars that have the right of way does. Two concrete instances are when they bikes ride on the sidewalk, especially for an extended period, and when they go against the flow of traffic. Sidewalks are for the safety of pedestrians, and unless road conditions make it impossible for a cyclist to be on the road, bikes need to be in the street with the other vehicles. Going against the flow of traffic when not on the shoulder of the road or in a bike lane is most dangerous to both the cyclist and oncoming traffic; it hurts a lot less to be sideswiped than to be in a head-on collision. I also mention these two because cars are most certainly not allowed on the sidewalks or to travel the wrong way either. Bicyclists are not Hell's Angels with a death wish. We are commuters and workers, trying to get from point A to point B.

Cyclists may “get off the hook” not because they lack accountability, but because it's more prudent to reprimand dangerous drivers first, whose irresponsible actions pose an immediate and potentially devastating effect on others, as opposed to reckless cyclists, who will only hurt themselves. Which, I might add, is excellent motivation for bikers to cultivate good judgment about safety and self-preservation. The system works; it is merely prioritizing.

“#5 – And, of course, mandatory liability insurance requirements for bicyclists.”

Aww, poor Chevy...that horrid bike scuffed the bumper. Too bad for the bike—it's now folded in two. Guess that poor two-wheeled sap will have to pony up to get your bumper buffed. Let's hope he can spare the cash after his medical bills.

Cycles bear the burden of damage when collisions occur. Not only would liability insurance be a costly burden, it would also be largely unnecessary. Considering the humble income of most New York City messengers and pedicab operators, none of them are going to afford any kind of insurance. Neither can I, for that matter. I got a bike so I didn't have to pay car insurance. I'm saving a ton of money and I've never damaged a car. For those drivers who are complaining about bills right now, I suggest you try it.

For that matter, why shouldn't cyclists get a break on tabs and fees? Why shouldn't there be a monetary incentive to ride? When cars guzzle up nonrenewable resources and rip holes in the ozone layer and create a smog-filled environment, why not reward those who travel with zero carbon output and look after their health and well-being with regular exercise? It's the same argument that many use for the cigarette tax, which is undoubtedly in place.

* * *

I think my major argument to this question is if licensing cyclists is really going to earn riders the respect and consideration they ask from drivers. I don't think it will. By the arguments presented and the tone set by Mr. Myrick, it seems as though many drivers aren't after equality; they want to be unburdened. Many express concern about cyclists' safety, but at the same time neglect to look at their own behavior while operating a motor vehicle.

As the number of bicyclists increases at the rate it has been, it means people are choosing them over cars, which will feasibly lead to fewer accidents, not more. The notion that “in order to be taken seriously, to be treated as equals on the road, bicyclists’ street cred will be earned by strapping on the same yoke their fellow commuters don to enjoy the privilege of traveling on public roads” is insulting and patronizing. I would love to see Mr. Myrick ride even five miles to work every day—hell, two—for a year, or a month, or even a week, and have to deal with reckless drivers, jaywalking pedestrians buried in their Blackberrys, bridges, bumps, gravel, below-freezing temperatures, 30 mph wind, sunrises, light rain, catcalls, sunsets, grimy faces, and sweaty t-shirts, and then tell us in full earnest that we need to earn our street cred. We all must follow the rules and look out for each other while we share--yes, share--the road.


  • AviationMetalSmith 5 years ago

    How about stricter rules for automobiles? Bicycles don't kill people, but cars do. It has something to do with the multi-thousand pound weight of a car, that can not be lifted by a human , and thus crushes people to death. There should be a five day waiting period when buying a new car, just like a handgun.

  • Michael 5 years ago

    My coworkers will occasionally say they think bicycles should be licensed and pay registration fees. And I say if that ever becomes law I will ride in the street all the time whether a shoulder or bike lane is available or not. You want me to pay for the road, fine I am going to use the whole damn road. The scowl's in a box can wait until it's safe to pass me.

  • JSH 5 years ago

    You totally missed the biggest reason that I regularly treat red light like Yield signs, and that is: getting a head start and clear space/lanes ahead of me. I can avoid doors, people pulling out of parking spaces, busses, people pulling into parking spaces, jaywalkers, double parkers and god knows what other stupidity people pull that endangers me, without battling traffic at the same time.

    I am MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH safer, personally, when there are fewer cars around me. If I blow a red, I get a block where I'm safe(r). QED.

  • Common Sense_ 5 years ago

    I can't wait to be the one scraping your remains off the pavement, red light running idiots. Too bad bikes are deadly instruments for pedestrians. scottcr@opentotry.copm

  • Common Sense_ 5 years ago

    Bicycles can kill people - whether its the pedestrian you didn't see or the car swerving because of your erratic and illegal movements. I dare you to run a red light when I got the green, idiots.

  • Seattle for licenses. 4 years ago

    SEATTLE Bike rage, man on bicycle does $5600 damage to a motorist because of honking. Bicycles, you ARE NOT equal members of the road. You don't pay, you can't keep up and you definitly do not obey most laws. I am sick of 1.4% of people demanding 100% of the rights at the expense of everybody else. The roads are tough and unfriendly for everybody and if you cant handle that then you don't need to be on the roads at all. I can only say that in Seattle that bicycles are the biggest hazard on the roads here. No expensive Green Box's will ever fix that. LICENSE NOW!!