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Road Rights- License To Ride

By Bob Mionske

If your town is considering mandatory bicycle registration, here’s how to fight back

Did you hear about Michael DenDekker, the New York assemblyman who wanted to make cyclists display $25 license plates on their bikes? Although he eventually withdrew his proposal, lawmakers–including ones recently in New Jersey and Oregon– regularly introduce bills that would require riders to pay for the right to pedal on the road. Some locations already have enacted such laws (see “Pay to Play,” below). Here are some of the illogical arguments often made in favor of the idea. It’s up to us to explain to our legislators why these points don’t make sense.

Myth#1: If cyclists want the right to the road, then they should be licensed.
We’ve had that right since 1887–before the automobile. Like pedestrians and equestrians, we aren’t required to be registered. The first automobiles weren’t licensed either. Only after motorists began amassing an apalling record of injuries and fatalities did states begin imposing licensing and registration laws. The rules were not applied to walkers and cyclists because they weren’t thought to be dangerous–and they still are not.

Myth #2: Cyclists don’t pay their way.
We do pay to maintain roads through taxes like the one on gas that we fork over when we fill our tanks. Therefore, we expect equal access to the infrastructure in which we’ve invested.

Myth #3: Bikes need to be registered because they are vehicles.
Bikes are considered vehicles in many states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. (In places where that’s not the case, cyclists still have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.) But in some states skateboards and wheelchairs are vehicles, too. Like bikes, they don’t pose the hazards that cars pose–and that’s why they’re not required to be registered.

Myth #4: Registration will make cyclists obey the laws.
Does vehicle registration prevent drivers from speeding? Of course not. The real problem: When the laws are not enforced, people tend to ignore them. Motorists drive too fast; cyclists roll through stop signs.

Pay to Play

A look at the range of mandatory bike-licensing fees across the nation

$15 Maui, HI
one-time fee

$10 Madison, WI
every four years

$5 Hays, KS
one-time fee

$1 Hershey, PA
per year

$0
Costa Mesa, CA

Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.

This article, License to Ride, was originally published on Bicycling on July 29, 2011.

Now read the fine print:
Bicycle and the Law, Bob MionskeBob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske's practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem.
 
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to mionskelaw@hotmail.com Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
Important notice:
The information provided in the "Road Rights" column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public web site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this web site. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.

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