Monday, October 17, 2011

Stu Bykofsky's really bad bicycling idea

 Traffic Court President Judge Thomasine Tynes, the new love of my life, wants to require the registration of bikes, just like other vehicles. When that idea was proposed two years ago by Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney, pedalists howled like coyotes.

How dare they be asked to register? Condensed, and translated, the cyclists said, kind of like Dr. Seuss: "We are green! We are keen! We do not pollute the air! Registration is not fair!"

Bicycling for Dummies 101 (There may be a quiz at the end): Under Pennsylvania law, bicycles are vehicles and must obey vehicular laws. That includes riding in the same direction as traffic, no blowing red lights, full stops at stop signs, no sidewalk-riding in business districts unless, chronologically, you are a child. (Acting like a child isn't good enough).

If bikes are vehicles, you logically can ask why they shouldn't be registered like other vehicles - and the judge has.

Tynes' reasons include the ability to return stolen bikes, raising revenue and law enforcement. Having a visible license plate would help cops find bicyclist hit-and-run artists. Just like cars.

Byko goes on to point out that states like Kansas have a law requiring bicycles to be registered. That may be, but I know of very few people who actually did that when they bought a bike—the few who did were die-hards who owned really expensive bicycles they'd want to trace in the event they were stolen. Registration worked as a means to assist bike owners, not—as in Byko's vision—to bring the weight of the state down on them.

Hey: I want to punch every bicyclist who brushes past me or my 3-year-old son on the sidewalk. It may happen if he ever gets knocked down. But Bykofsky's plan is too much—a scheme that would make outlaws of a great many bike owners, or force the rest into Philadelphia's soul-destroying bureaucracy. Bykofsky has written wistfully about the destruction of downtown Detroit and the possibilities for re-creating the city that such devastation has offered; his bike-registration plan would probably harm the vibrancy of Center City Philadelphia to such a degree that it would help bring about his dark vision.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

As a habitual bike rider, I don't see the harm in this ordinance. As in the examples you cite, cities pass these things, riders ignore them, police ignore the riders ignoring them, and life goes on much as usual.

Andrew S. said...

Byko is a bit of a douche, but I’m not as opposed as some to various registration and licensing efforts around bicyclists, as long as they’re oriented to some good public policy goal rather than just trying to harrass people into not riding bikes--which is the subtext of his article. He gives away the game by drawing so heavily on the Chinatown battle which is not even remotely about the behavior of cyclists. One suitable public policy goal might just be to remind people that there are some actual rules for riding your bike on public roads, and there are good reasons for such rules.