A Video Message About Bike Licensing, From New Jersey

Via Andy B at WalkBikeJersey, here’s how one Newark newspaperman responded to a recent proposal to mandate bicycle registration in his state. (Congrats on breaking the story, WalkBikeJersey.)

NYC’s own Eric Ulrich is contemplating a similar bill, though not one that would apply to minors. Somehow I doubt any of our local print outfits will respond in similar fashion.

It’s possible that Ulrich will get a look at this video and think twice about pushing for bike registrations, but it doesn’t look like he’s ready to re-examine his bill just yet. Gothamist got the following statement out of the 24-year-old City Council member from southeast Queens:

Being on the road is a privilege, not an absolute right. The city is constantly bending over backwards to accommodate cyclists with the installation of bike lanes and special traffic signals — yet drivers are the only ones who receive tickets for speeding, blowing red lights, and not yielding to pedestrian traffic. This is a common sense piece of legislation that will improve safety for everyone. The bottom line is that we all share the road and must follow the same rules.

If you can cut through all the resentment, made-up assertions, and false equivalence between cars and bikes, Ulrich seems to be saying that his bill will somehow make it easier to ticket cyclists. But — newsflash — there’s bike enforcement going on already. Even before the recent “crackdown,” police were able to hand out hundreds of tickets for sidewalk riding on the Upper East Side each month. This bill would mainly make it easier to ticket cyclists for riding without the ID mandated by this bill.

The next time a legislator seriously considers proposing a bill like this, here’s a helpful exercise for the would-be sponsor: Name one major city that has successfully instituted bike registration. Or, just read this.

  • “This bill would mainly make it easier to ticket cyclists for riding without proper ID.”

    I didn’t know I was required to carry special ID while riding (or doing most other things.) Can you cite a law?

  • I updated the end of that sentence to clarify — this type of bill will mainly make it easier to harass people on bikes.

  • cycler

    I love the attitude in the video though! Jonathan swift would approve. The shots of the kids with license plates round their necks was pretty priceless.

  • Brian Donohue just threw away any chance he had of landing a cushy columnist gig at the New York Post.

    And good for him.

  • When I’m given a segregated bike lane on every street that a car can drive on, then I’ll think about paying 10 bucks for a license.

  • “…yet drivers are the only ones who receive tickets for speeding, blowing red lights, and not yielding to pedestrian traffic.”

    Oh, those poor drivers! It must be so awful now that they are subject to an ongoing crackdown and ticketing blitz, targeting them for all of these offenses! They are the ONLY ones who are being ticketed out there! It’s so unfair! Why, there was even a story of a car driving through Central Park that was followed by the NYPD!

    Wait a minute…

  • AlexB

    It’s really unfortunate that any member of the city council would even consider this. The costs would be so high and the payoff minimal. I don’t think there is a major problem with ticketing cyclists who don’t have ID. The NYPD seems to being doing just fine as is. This notion that bikers are some sort of street menace is bizarre. This is just baffling and sad, especially coming from such a young person.

  • It’s really unfortunate that any member of the city council would even consider this. The costs would be so high and the payoff minimal.

    What are you talking about? It’s worth at least a few thousand in campaign donations.

  • Geneva, Switzerland used to have a bike registration scheme, you’d get a little license plate for your bike for 8 SFF.

    But here’s the problem: it was surrounded on three sides -within commuter range- by France. And there was nothing to stop a french bicycle from being ridden in the city, without plates. The only people I ever saw with plates were either doing it for cuteness, or because they were law-abiding Swiss.

    What geneva did do that actually helped cycle safety was have armed cycling police. Nobody cuts up a swiss policeman on a bicycle in their car, not if you don’t want to be pulled over, delayed, and fined a large amount.

  • Peter F

    Given the NYPD’s present record of enforcing traffic laws, I’m not sure why Mr. Ulrich thinks they’ll do any better at enforcing this one.

    End result – everyone gets harassed and nothing changes.

  • Ken Coughlin

    Kristen Steele of the Alliance for Biking and Walking had a good column on licensing bikes in a recent issue of Momentum (“the magazine for self-propelled people”). http://momentumplanet.com/articles/licensed-to-ride

    Steele points out that not only does bike licensing not improve cycling safety, but it deters some from cycling at all and “opens the door to police harassment of bicyclists.” She notes that “Over the years, mandatory bicycle registration has existed and been repealed, or proposed and shot down, in places such as Portland, Toronto, Detroit, Tucson, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City.”

    Yes, NYC. When Ulrich was likely still in high school, a Bronx (I think) councilmember floated the idea of licensing cyclists. Within a few days she’d received something like 5,000 faxes against the proposal, which quietly died.

  • I agree with Peter F. Why does Ulrich think licensing bikes is going to motivate NYPD to enforce laws they’ve pretty much overlooked up until now. How many times have I had cops look at me like there was something wrong with me because I stopped for a red light? How many times have I actually been told by police to ride my bike on the sidewalk? Let NYPD learn the laws that are currently on the books before we burden them with any more.

  • Is being on the sidewalk a privilege, not an “absolute right”, as well?

  • CityHallMaven

    The point is not whether it is enforceable.

    The point is that when a cyclist hits and injures a pedestrian, and then speeds off, the perp can be traced and made to pay for the victim’s medical bills and pain & suffering.

    Why would anyone object to accountability?

  • M

    Because its drawbacks would be far greater than its benefits.

    Would you also license skateboards, scooters, rollerblades, electric wheelchairs, etc? If not, why not? They’re just as capable of causing injury.

    And what about out-of-city bikes? Would you expect them to register at the border? It’s ridiculous.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The point is that when a cyclist hits and injures a pedestrian, and then speeds off, the perp can be traced and made to pay for the victim’s medical bills and pain & suffering.”

    What are you talking about? As with drivers, if they speed off they aren’t there, whether they have a license or not. If you catch them you can arrest them for leaving the scene of an accident, whether they have ID or not.

    Hey “City Hall Maven,” thanks to self dealing by those who have run governments and businesses over the past 30 years, younger generations are going to be much worse off than your generation has been — even as they are forced to pay your debts. You’ve wreck the transit system and left the U.S. dependent on oil fueled vehicles on deteriorating roads.

    That’s the big picture. Well, I guess younger generations will have to get tough and pedal themselves around. Or is even that too much to ask?

  • Larry Littlefield

    And if your point is that riders should have a two foot by one foot license plate strapped to the back of their bicycles then guess what — they would be stolen.

  • CityHallMaven

    Mr. Littlefield, I expected better from you.

    Let’s dumb this down for you:

    If a car hits and runs, the perp can be traced via the license plate, and restitution and justice made.
    If a bike hits and runs currently, the perp cannot.
    Why is that so hard to understand?

    And why would bike licenses be any more vulnerable to theft than car licenses? Is there a plague of license plate thefts you are aware of and no one else is?

    And what has this to do with a “generation gap”?

    Comments like that is why no one takes Room 8 seriously.

  • CityHallMaven

    M @ $15,”Because its drawbacks would be far greater than its benefits. ”

    That’s your opinion. Try and convince all the folks injured by hit-and-run cyclists before you posit absurd notions of people being hit by electric wheelchairs.

  • M

    Fewer people are injured by hit-and-run cyclists than by many other dangers that no one posts to blogs worrying about. In the big picture, it’s not a big problem. At all.

  • M

    And I noticed you completely ignored the fatal flaw with the bike licensing idea: out-of-city bikes. There is no prohibition against cycling across the city line, and therefore no way to enforce license plates in any city. And where would they even go? To be visible, they’d have to be large, and there’s nowhere to mount a large license plate on a bike. Get real.

  • CityHallMaven

    M: “Fewer people are injured by hit-and-run cyclists than by many other dangers…it’s not a big problem. At all.”

    “Fewer people are killed by AIDS than by heart attacks AIDS is not a big problem. At all.”
    Do you see the absurdity of your logic?

    “the fatal flaw with the bike licensing idea: out-of-city bikes.”
    How many people bike over from NJ or LI? This reductio ad adsurdam doesn’t fly.
    But to answer your question: No law is perfect. Either they escape under the radar, or they register their bikes if they want to come to NYC, just like they would do with a gun licensed in, say, Jersey.”

  • NattyB

    CityHallMAven,

    Go find another blog to troll, aight.

    The licensing scheme is stupid because:

    (1) There currently isn’t an issue, problem, or epidemic of hit and run bikers;

    (2) Even if there was licensing, the type of person who would do a hit and run (i) is less likely to have a license plate; (ii) would still likely bike away; and (iii) you can’t see the frickin plate anyway, because it’d be too small;

    (3) no one takes you seriously on this blog because there is a real problem of hit and run automobiles which cause much more loss of life, and for which there is very little accountability, if this wasn’t your first time on this blog, you’d notice that the drivers who kill people, rarely ever face any punishment beyond probation.

    As for this: Try and convince all the folks injured by hit-and-run

    What a load of crap. We have statistics, ya know. There isn’t an issue of folks injured by hit-and-run bikes. Ok. Has it ever happened, ever, in the history of NYC. Yes. But making every single biker wear a license plate, which is too small to be seen, isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference.

    And, I’ve hit someone once on my bike, who, was jay walking at night (I had flashing lights on, and a nosiemaker as it is the law) and walked right into my path from the oncoming traffic lane, into my lane, and I slammed on the brakes, shouted, and unforutnetly hit the lady. I stayed with her for a few minutes until she was able to walk away. It sucked, but, that’s life.

    Seriously, go find another blog to troll, I mean, you really wrote this:

    “The point is not whether it is enforceable.”

    Uhh, thanks for revealing yourself there. If it’s not enforceable, then, it’s just harassment for the 95% of law abiding cyclists out there. Do we really want more laws on the books that police can selectively enforce with their extremely broad lattitude, so we can get $200 summons for turning right on red into central park on a weekend.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Again, Mr. Maven, I don’t believe that proposals to license bicyclists are made by those who want to improve bicycling. They are made by those who see the number of bicyclists going up, and want it stopped.

    Start by instituting a street cyclist training program with a capacity of tens of thousands. Let it run for a decade or so. And then we’ll talk about licensing, and I’ll support it.

    And yes, the generational issues are relevant, across the board. If people don’t read Room Eight, it is because they don’t want to hear about it.

  • CityHallMaven

    My statement “The point is not whether it is enforceable” contains the word ‘whether’, which implies “whether or not”.
    I did not concede one way or the other whether (or not) this bill is enforceable.
    E.g., gun and speeding laws are not 100% enforceable, but we all want them on the books.
    So, enforceability is not the issue.

    However, if your best mode of discussion and argument is ad hominem attacks and juvenile name-calling, you do nothing for your cause. Don’t bother responding. I don’t discourse with people who resort to juvenile methods of debate.

  • CityHallMaven

    Mr. Littlefield, you wrote: “I don’t believe that proposals to license bicyclists are made by those who want to improve bicycling. They are made by those who see the number of bicyclists going up, and want it stopped.”

    I respect your belief, however, I think you beliefs are incorrect.

    First, most of us have ridden bikes at one point in our lives. We all like the machines. It is the operators who are the problem. That is why cyclists are facing this backlash.

    Do you really think people resent the increase in cycling? C’mon, please.

    It is the bad cyclists that cause resentment and to whom this bill is addressed.

    I know someone who was injured by a hit and run cyclist, and had large medical bills without insurance.

    Who must pay for those bills and the bills of countless others who were injured by hit and run cyclists?

    You? The author of this blog? The bike companies? Or the victim?

    Who?

  • NattyB

    “The point is not whether it is enforceable” contains the word ‘whether’, which implies “whether or not”.”

    What’s ad hominmem about that?

    You’re like saying, “well, regardless also means, irregardless.”

    My comment didn’t turn on whether, means, whether or not, or just wheather.

    It turned on specifically the point that, we’re all saying “it’s not enforceable, it’s just harassment.” And you reply, “whether, implies, whether or not,” which means . . . what exactly?

    what part of my comment was slanderous, false, bullying or mean? The part about go post on another blog?

    Blog trolls are people who put comments on blogs whose sole purpose is to tick people off and invite a response.

    Your comments fit that exactly. You’re looking to piss of bikers by making spurious comments that make no sense what so ever.

    I made numerous specific comments and you respond with, “well, regardless also implies irregardless.”

    We have countless people killed by cars every year: http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/12/27/in-memoriam-2/

    But instead, you post about a made up problem, the problem of scores of hit and run bikers, something, that isn’t a problem at all. So, go ahead and dress your comments in “civility,” when really, you’re the asshole on this thread.

    Bye now.

  • m to the i

    this law is just unnecessary. the opponents of cycling always say that fewer than 1% of city residents ride a bike. it is their argument against providing infrastructure for cyclists. so why even bother registering bicycles? and as was already mentioned, there is no reason to make a registration scheme for a problem that doesn’t exist.

    and, there is an existing system for registering bicycles as property today. you can go into a local precinct and do it for free. my bike is registered so that i might have the slightest chance to locate it if it gets stolen, a very real problem that is rarely resolved. every bicycle already has an individual serial number on it that would not be visible to the victim of a “bicycle hit and run” unless they turned the bicycle over and looked very closely.

  • CityHallMaven

    Since you asked for clarification, I shall respond.
    Natty, ‘troll’ is an invective, IMHO.

    If you want instead to define it as “people who put comments on blogs whose sole purpose is to tick people off and invite a response”, fine.

    If that is your definition of troll, fine.
    What is your definition of people with a differing opinion than you, or someone who wants to add another facet to ponder, who wishes to engender dialogue amidst the Universal Mindthink?

    Talking about that, remember the old adage: Great minds think alike.

    Fools seldom differ.

  • NattyB

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

    I didn’t make it up. Nor is it my definition. It’s just easier to use one word instead of ten to convey a point.

    Here’s another one for you, we’ve now engaged in a flame war.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_(Internet)

    And it’s not that I have a differing opinion to you, it’s that, you ignore the numerous fair responses you’ve received, just to keep beating your drum of, what about all the people hit by bikers!

    As to the concern of hit-and-run bikers, trust me, if this was a serious issue, there’d be reems of data to back it up and politicians all over it.

    Politicians wents nuts over PPW. But, they just didn’t have the data to back up their claims that PPW was safer without the bike lane. They would rely on anecdotes, like you are, but no actual data. They’d say, “well ped’s now have to cross the bike lane of zipping bikers” but the data just wouldn’t back up their claims that it was more dangerous. More bikes and less lanes = slower cars and less deaths.

    And nobody, is more annoyed by instances of scofflaw bikers, then, the vast majority of law abiding cyclists.

    We may disagree about whether [or not] it’s prudent to enforce all the laws on cyclists (like, treating red lights as red lights like cars, or like Yields in neighbhorhoods where it’d be ridiculous to stop like a car (like Alphabet City)). But as for hit and runs bikers, we’re all against them, because they make bikers look real bad.

    And the facts simply are, numerous people are killed by cars every year in this city, but, the problem of hit-and-run bikers, just isn’t a real problem. Does it happen. Of course. Is it unfortunate that your friend got stuck with a medical bill. Of course. But licensing all bikers simply wouldn’t change the facts of your friends situation.

  • M

    You’re comparing bikes to interstate GUN traffic, and you think MY logic is absurd? I’m done arguing with you.

  • Joe R.

    “And nobody, is more annoyed by instances of scofflaw bikers, then, the vast majority of law abiding cyclists.” ( NattyB # 30 )

    Yep. The vast majority of cyclists out there ( I’d say >95% ) hate the idiots just as much as any other group. The issue isn’t whether this vast majority is 100% law-abiding. Sure, some, including myself, take liberties at red lights when it’s safe to do so. We obey the spirit of the laws even if not the letter. We rarely cause problems. We respect other road users. It’s that few percent who treat the streets like their own personal obstacle course which every reasonable cyclist wants to see reigned in. Wrong-way riders? I hate them, they create a major hazard for me, I want them dealt with. Ditto for red-light runners who pass crowded intersections without looking, or without even slowing down in the slightest. Hand these people’s heads to them on a platter. They make life miserable for people like me. Besides creating a hazard, they raise the ire of the general public against all cyclists. But leave the majority of law-abiding cyclists unless they engage in blatantly dangerous behavoir.

    Licenses won’t solve anything. They’ll just raise the bar which reasonable cyclists must jump, probably result in many ( including myself ) just throwing in the towel. The group that licenses seek to make accountable either won’t bother getting licenses, or will steal plates from legitimately licensed bikes. Besides, it’s not easy to read even a car-sized license plate when a motorist leaves the scene of an accident. Anything reasonably-sized for a bike won’t be readable from more than 10 feet away.

  • CityHallMaven

    Natty,”there’d be reems(sic) of data to back it up and politicians all over it. ”

    Surely you know that DOT revealed in an embarrassing moment that they do not keep stats on ped/bike injuries. So there are no reams of data. I can’t wait till they do.
    I’m a life-long NYer and I’ve witnessed, honestly, more folks hit by bikes than hit by cars, and there are a lot more cars than bikes. So!

    Besides, despite what you imagine, there are politicians “all over it” as this blog has repeatedly pointed out: Ulrich, Vacca, Markowitz, Lappin, Kruger, Stringer, etc.

    And, please, stop the lame debating technique of changing the subject.
    The issue of this post is registering bikes to have accountability for accidents, not about car injuries. Please address the appropriate issue, the issue on hand. Red herrings don’t work with me.

    Finally, your comment: “Is it unfortunate that your friend got stuck with a medical bill.”
    Again, like all the other comments to my query, you avoid it blatantly:
    WHO pays her medical bills? Who? You? The commenters here? The cyclist?
    No, the unfortunate victim pays!! Talk about adding insult to injury.

    Or is this not a concern of yours until someone loved one of yours gets hit?

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Let’s dumb this down for you:

    If a car hits and runs, the perp can be traced via the license plate, and restitution and justice made.
    If a bike hits and runs currently, the perp cannot.
    Why is that so hard to understand?

    CityHallMaven shows fundamental cluelessness about traffic enforcement in New York City. Restitution and justice is rarely achieved when cars run over pedestrians and cyclists in New York City. For the most part, we call these incidents “accidents” and go about our daily business, regardless of whether the driver ran or stayed on the scene. The same would likely be true of licensed bikes. The NYPD and the D.A.’s simply don’t give a shit. Nor does CityHallMaven, I suspect.

    CityHallMaven sounds like someone who is coming new to this ancient and never-ending policy discussion. CityHallMaven sounds like someone who is merely looking for ways to be punitive toward cyclists and decrease the number of cyclists on NYC streets. If you are looking for a policy that makes it more difficult to use a bike as transportation and limits the number of people biking on city streets, licensing is a good way to do that. If you look at the world cities that have been most successful in making bicycles into a safe, convenient, first-class and respected mode of urban transportation, you will find a list of cities that don’t require licensing.

    CityHallMaven, I suspect, could give a crap about what’s good policy or what makes NYC streets safer. If CityHallMaven were actually interested in the safety of NYC streets, he’d be focused primarily on figuring out ways to get motor vehicles to stop running over and killing New Yorkers on a nearly daily basis.

  • CityHallMaven

    Marty Barfowitz = yet another tiring commenter who pitifully tries to shift the legislative intent of this bill from accountability regarding bike-on-pedestrian accidents to the red herring of automobiles, as well as vainly avoiding to address the most basic of moral questions: Who pays for the medical bills or the the damage from hit-and-run cyclists?

  • M

    CHM: Your health insurance pays. Just as it does with a host of other things.

    This is so rare a problem. Why aren’t you concentrating your efforts on a much more common killer: falling trees in city parks?

    And you have not once described how you would issue license plates that are big enough to be seen from a distance as one of the millions of hit-and-run bikers rides away, yet realistically mountable on bikes. Hint: it’s impossible.

  • CityHallMaven

    M, you may be one of the fortunate who has medical insurance. Millions in this country so not. The person I know who was hit did not. She had to pay for it from her own meager savings.

    Even if the injured were covered, why should the victim’s insurance pay? That is not how it works in the real world. In the real world, the health insurance company claims the insurance company of the person who caused the injury. Since the hit and run cyclist run away undetected, the victim’s health insurance company is left stuck with the bill, not the perp or the perp’s insurance. Again, morally and practically, your explanations are bankrupt.

    As for the nonsensical comment that only one in a million cyclists hit peds and the further uncreative comment on how a license tag would be read, I refuse to waste any more time with you, until you address the real issues and stop fishing for red herrings.

  • Maven, you fail to acknowledge the thrust of Marty B’s comment — that a bicycle license scheme would not actually accomplish the intent that you ascribe to it.

    If the victim of a bike-on-ped collision requires medical attention and is uninsured, the cyclist should pay. How often does this actually happen?

    According to the state Department of Health, about 81 pedestrians across New York State are hospitalized each year in collisions with cyclists. Subtract from that number the injurious collisions that happen outside of NYC. Then subtract the collisions caused by cyclists younger than 18. Then subtract the collisions where the victim is insured. Then subtract the collisions where the cyclist stayed at the scene. Of the hit-and-run cyclists who remain, how many would afterward be identifiable thanks to some sort of sticker or tag affixed to their bikes?

    We have now arrived at the number of people who, in your scenario, would be held accountable by this bill each year. Neither I, nor you, nor Eric Ulrich can say precisely how many people that would be, but I suspect it approaches zero.

    Meanwhile, you will have set up an expensive registration program at a time when essential services are being cut, a program that serves mainly to inhibit New Yorkers from riding a bicycle and which cities far more hostile to cyclists than NYC have abandoned.

    Maven, if you insist that your own rhetorical points be addressed while refusing to address the points raised by others, then you are just spoiling for a fight. You are not adding to the conversation here, and you have ceded your right to comment in this space.

  • Ian Turner

    Maven,

    I’ll take a shot at your question. I think hit and run crashes involving bicycles should be treated the same as hit and run crashes not involving bicycles, which is to say that generally speaking the victim (along with any relevant insurers) pays for the cost of his or her own medical care.

    Now, what exactly does this have to do with bicycle licensing, again?

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think hit and run crashes involving bicycles should be treated like muggings. The police should get a description and attempt to hunt down and arrest the perpetrator. But a small sticker won’t help, and an auto-sized license plate would be a big problem on a bicycle.

    A requirement would just allow random stops and fines of law abiding cyclists who were unaware of the rule, or had their sticker removed or plate stolen.

    I’m not as anti-license as most on this board, but if it were to be done legitimately, it would have to start with a universal street riding training program with certificates in middle school. Once it was up and running for a few years at full capacity, licenses could be required for those that age with existing older riders grandfathered. And after 25 years, licensing could become universal.

    But I have come to doubt the ability of government to do things like this. What you would get is some combination of raiding of funds dedicated for this purpose, harassement of law abiding cyclists, and rampant fake licenses for scofflaws.

  • CityHallMaven

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Mr. Fried.

    Although that number is supplied by NYSDOH, I wonder if that low figure really, really reflects the actual number of hits in a state of 20 million people. Do your seriously believe that figure to be accurate?

    Eg, I have witnessed several ped/bike accidents. Besides my friend, I also saw a woman being taken away in an ambulance in Manhattan after being struck by a cyclist (who attempted to flee, but was restrained).. And there was a Little Italy resident last year injured on the Grand St bike lane. Gee, as an 8-year old, I was struck by a speeding bike, who only response was to swear at me. I also have had a few near misses as an adult.

    So that is three I am aware of within the past five years, excluding my own experience.

    Accounts on TV from the citizenry also relate injuries.
    So, if I have observed three in a five year period, it is incredible – incredible – to think that only 80 occur annually.

    You surely are away that DOT has no stats on ped/bike accidents. So, I question the 80 accidents figure from DOH.

    But lay aside the injury question. Today on NY1 in a story on Ulrich’s bill, interviewed a woman in support of the legislation who actually did not refer to the injury or insurance question.
    She was terrified by cyclists speeding through red lights, on sidewalks and salmoning. You must admit she has a point.
    She thought this legislation would help curtail these illegal activities. Many people think it would.

    Streetsblog, I thought, was for safer streets and sidewalks, and for less dependence on cars. That suits me.

    What I don’t understand is how it seems to have been highjacked by cyclists who seem to disdain pedestrians and their legitimate problems.

    For example, Ian Turner above suggests – with all sincerity – that if a ped is injured by a hit-and-run cyclist, then it is better for that victim to be further injured by paying for his/her medical bills than to have the assaulting cyclist pay a small fee for registration. He also fails – conveniently – to mention that a hit-and-run motorist has registration and can be traced and made to pay.

    In other words, blame the victim and f*ck him if he complains. Sorry, the ethics I learned don’t work that way.

    Thanks again for your response. I am outta here on this thread.

  • M

    the real point here is that there are virtually no instances of this giant problem you’re getting all worked up about. You clearly have other issues that are causing you to get all worked up over this extraordinarily rare problem.

    Who pays for the victim’s medical care for hit-and-run car collisions, which are actually frequent and cause a lot of damages? Shouldn’t you concentrate your moral outrage on that real problem, not this extremely minor problem?

  • Maven is now on the discussion moderation list. I sent him/her the following message after the latest comment, which I’m posting because it bounced back from the (apparently non-existent) address s/he uses to comment here:

    It seemed pretty clear that Ian was saying that in some cases, hit-and-run motorists cannot be traced or found, because no one got the plate #, and in those cases the victim has to absorb the cost. In other words, it’s a terrible situation that will occur with bikes too, to some small extent, regardless of whether there is mandatory bike registration.

    I can’t in good conscience allow comments to be published that ascribe malicious intent to other people, where none existed. All it accomplishes is to aggravate readers and make it harder to engage in reasonable discourse. If you can’t abide by that, I can’t let you continue to comment on Streetsblog.

  • trailer

    Putting the licence plates on bikes is problematic. As seen on the video, the plates should be worn by the person. This way also the pedestrians, joggers, skateboarders, councilmembers etc. can be licenced. You know what a menace the hit-and-walk pedestrians are? If I try to walk with my eyes closed, I’m soon hit by one! They’re everywhere!

  • BicyclesOnly

    I think ~80 sounds like an accurate estimate of the number of people who are hospitalized in collisions involving cyclists each year. Sure, there are many more incidents in which a cyclists makes contact with a pedestrian without permission, but who really cares if it doesn’t result in a serious injury. No doubt there are plenty of cases where pedestrians knock or otherwise cause cyclists to fall off their bikes that aren’t reported. Cities are crowded. People bump into each other. Get over it.

    What I find particularly unhelpful are all the anecdotes about hit-and-run cyclists. We all have anecdotes we can marshal to support our points of view, and sometimes they are helpful in elucidating a point, but they have no persuasive weight in establishing what is “really” going on because they are unverifiable. I agree with the commenters who point out that if this was a major problem, you would see more press reports of it and greater NYPD attention paid.

  • Blog trolls are people who put comments on blogs whose sole purpose is to tick people off and invite a response.

    I don’t think “Maven” is a troll, then. The Maven’s primary goal here seems to be to yell at people who are gaining power at the expense of the political establishment and ignoring the Maven’s awesome wisdom and experience.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I agree with CityHallMaven that we need universal, single-payer health coverage.

    What this has to do with the licensing of bicycles, I have no idea.

  • Gary

    CityHallMaven: likely a young staffer for Eric Ulrich, or possibly even Ulrich himself.

    And unquestionably a troll by the commonly accepted definition.

    This is a poor policy proposal and it will go nowhere. Time to find a new angle to get favorable press treatment in the NY Post.

  • Joe R.

    I’ll agree it stinks if a person injured by a cyclist has to pay for their own medical bills. Same if a pedestrian’s actions cause a cyclist to swerve around them, and the cyclist gets injured in the process. However, neither problem is going to be solved by requiring registration of cyclists ( or pedestrians for that matter ). Many cyclists use their mode precisely because they’re poor. I’ve known some who earn so little even paying for subway fare would be a hardship, so they bike to work instead. And someone like this is supposed to pay hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in medical bills should they hit someone either due to reckless actions or pure accident? I’m not at all confident that in the event a pedestrian gets injured by a cyclist the police will properly assign blame. A pedestrian may wander into a bike lane, get injured, and then sue the cyclist for their injuries, saying the police report shows the cyclist was at fault.

    Given that pedestrian injuries by cyclists severe enough to require hospitalization are relatively rare, it might make sense to just have Medicaid or some other public health program pay for them. It would be better of course if we had single-payer universal coverage, but that’s another discussion entirely. In any case, having the public pay for both cyclist and pedestrian injuries wouldn’t be a huge burden given their low frequency. It’s nice to say that in theory a cyclist who injures a person should be held financially responsible. In practice, that wouldn’t be possible. Medical care just costs too much. Even motorists aren’t directly financially liable for injuries they cause for that reason. This is why they have insurance. And since I bought up insurance, no, it makes even less sense to require non-commercial cyclists to carry liability insurance than it does to license them. As for commercial cyclists, most already have such coverage via their employer’s business liability insurance. They make up the bulk up cyclists in Manhattan by far.

    I agree with BicyclesOnly that 80 sounds about right for the number of cyclist-caused injuries requiring hospitalization. Let’s look at physics. 90% of people hit by an auto traveling at 20 mph survive. 90%. An auto traveling at 20 mph has about 30 to 40 times the kinetic energy of a cyclist moving at 15 mph. It’s easy to extrapolate then that most people hit by a bike will walk away with minor, or no, injuries. The human body is designed to deal with falls from running speed. That’s essentially what a bike-ped collision is. Again referring to BicycleOnly’s comment, if neither party is seriously injured, then why worry about it, or involve the police? It’s a crowded city. People bump into each other. Even in rare cases where bikes kill people, it’s not necessarily because they were going too fast, had too much kinetic energy. Sometimes people might just fall the wrong way, hit a vulnerable part of their body, and die, even in low-speed collisions. It happens. It’s a freak occurence when it does. Why should a cyclist ( or a pedestrian whose actions cause a cyclist to be seriously hurt ) be castigated when 99.99% of the time the same type of crash only would have resulted in minor injuries? That’s why I said have the public pay for injuries like this. They occur so rarely that we can afford it.

  • Joe R.

    “I’m not as anti-license as most on this board, but if it were to be done legitimately, it would have to start with a universal street riding training program with certificates in middle school. Once it was up and running for a few years at full capacity, licenses could be required for those that age with existing older riders grandfathered. And after 25 years, licensing could become universal.” ( Larry Littlefield #40 )

    I agree 100% with the idea of having some sort of universal training in middle school. Right now I see many riders who have poor judgement, poor bike-handling skills, and some with a really bad attitude. This all points to lack of training. The thing is, why are we surprised? We’re doing a great thing encouraging cycling. The side effect of this is you have many adults on the street who haven’t ridden since they were kids. When they were kids they likely rode on the sidewalk or in parks, so they have zero experience street riding. They basically have to learn how on their own. Some eventually do, others remain clueless. Making things even harder are laws prohibiting adult cyclists on sidewalks. The less crowded sidewalks in the outer boroughs especially can be a great incubator for new cyclists, basically serving the same function as protected bike lanes. That’s actually how I got started 32 years ago, when I was 16. First I mostly rode on the sidewalks. After a few weeks, I rode on less crowded streets but stuck to sidewalks on arterials As time went on, I rode on the sidewalks less and less. By the time I had been riding 15 years, I pretty much avoided sidewalks altogether ( exceptions are when the street is impassable for any reason ). The thing is it wasn’t illegal to ride on sidewalks when I got started. Now a new cyclist is forced in the street from day one.

    Getting back to your licensing idea, I tend to share your doubt about the ability of governments to do something like this. I also don’t want a reason for the police to randomly stop me, just to check if I have a license. Basically any licensing scheme opens the door to police harassment.

    All that being said, there is one niche where licensing might serve a valid purpose but this is really getting ahead of ourselves. Remember the idea I always throw around of elevated bike lanes with aerodynamic velomobiles running at high speeds? If we ever do something like this, it would be revolutionary. However, we must also acknowledge that piloting a machine on one of these bikeways at 45 mph is something well outside the realm of what any cyclist has learned, including experienced cyclists like myself. It’s not all that dissimilar to driving an auto on a highway. It might make sense then to obtain training, and a license, in order to be able to use a high-speed velomobile on such a bikeway. You could use RFID tags for the license, and have gates which won’t allow you on the bikeway unless you have a license. But like I said, this is really getting ahead of ourselves. For regular bikes on city streets, some sort of school training program would be sufficient to eventually ensure that most riders would have decent judgement and bike-handling skills.

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Remember last month when Council Member Eric Ulrich came out with the idea of creating a complicated new bureaucracy to register and identify New Yorkers who ride bikes, a proposal that would build an expensive and redundant personal identification system on top of our existing ID systems, opening the door to increased harassment of cyclists […]