Michael DenDekker Explains His Inexplicable Bike License Bill

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 by law enforcement?

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker

Ulrich never actually got so far as to turn his idea into a bill. And since that time, one of the few American cities that maintained a mandatory bike license scheme — Long Beach, California — decided to call it quits because it wasn’t effective.

But that hasn’t stopped Michael DenDekker, an Assembly member who represents parts of western Queens, from one-upping Ulrich. DenDekker introduced a bill in Albany last week that would require not just bike IDs for adults, but kids’ bikes as well. Every soul in New York state who rides a bike would have to carry one. And don’t forget the inspections — under DenDekker’s bill, which currently has zero co-sponsors in the Assembly, you might get into hot water if your bike doesn’t pass muster every year. Bikes: They’re just like cars.

John del Signore at Gothamist got the Queens Assembly Member to explain himself. In addition to cyclist IDs for children and redundant IDs for adults who ride, DenDekker’s ideal bike enforcement set-up includes an automated system to enforce New York’s non-existent helmet law:

We would put cameras in bicycle lanes to make sure that bicyclists are wearing their helmets and have their lights on and are riding in a manner which is accustomed to the lane or if they’re being reckless and endangering and hurting others. I believe it also gives more credibility to bicyclists, making them more a part of the road.

No word yet on whether DenDekker wants bicycles to pass emissions tests too.

  • Chris

    I welcome cameras in bike lanes if it means giving tickets to double parked cars!

  • Marty Barfowitz

    What I want to know is if troglodytes like Ullrich and DenDekker are coming up with this stuff on their own or if someone like Randy Mastro is putting them up to it. And who are they really trying to appeal to with this stuff? Is it just a quick headline in the NY Post for legislators who can’t otherwise figure out how to make themselves useful by solving real problems, or is there a huge constituency in Queens that believes this is a good idea?

  • Moocow

    As a cyclist, what I am really looking for is credibility, just like a politician who doesn’t know what traffic laws exist, while he tries to make more of them.
    How about a police department that won’t properly enforce laws regarding bikes- in the middle of a “crackdown”? NYC bike shops don’t seem to carry any “helments” at all.

  • Moocow is right. I think DenDekker loses all credibility on this issue when he says:

    we have penalties currently for people who are riding without a helmet


    We would put cameras in bicycle lanes to make sure that bicyclists are wearing their helmets…

    These are not the comments of a serious, studious politician.

    Is he also aware that cyclists do not have to ride in bike lanes and that not all streets have bike lanes on which to ride? Because that would make bike lane cameras less than effective.

    Then again, if he’s proposing a law that will mean every street gets a bike lane so long as it also gets a camera, I could be in favor of that.

  • Christopher Bellacose

    Im pretty sure this is a bill more about another revenue stream for NY than it is safety.

  • Chris

    Too bad the bureaucratic overhead would cost more than this scheme would bring in.

  • Zulu

    This bill will never gain any traction. It’s just preposterous to expect minors to get licensed to ride a bicycle.

  • Bolwerk

    Much of our transit and transportation regulation is preposterous. Permitting all the horn honking and congestion we have is even more preposterous, yet it’s done.

  • Joe R.

    It’s been proven time and again every time you raise the bar for someone to ride a bike, the numbers willing to ride go down. When Australia passed a universal helmet law, the number of riders decreased by something like 50%. I’m sure the recent barrage of enforcement in NYC has caused a drop in the number of cyclists over last year (I personally still haven’t ridden yet in 2011 on account of this). And now licensing? Guess that’ll solve the “bicycle problem” for sure because almost nobody will be riding. I’d also like to know to which law he’s referring that states cyclists must helmets (or should I say “helments”)?

  • wkgreen

    I doubt that this will gain much traction either, but it is indicative of an inexplicable back lash of folks who seem to resent the progress made to make this a more cyclist friendly (and I believe a more livable) city. I wouldn’t mind these efforts if they were done in a manner, or in conjunction with improvements that would continue that trend. Copenhagen, for example, has separate traffic lights for bikes. Alas I fear that a reversal is what’s up their sleeve, and if enforced, a registration law would soon render itself unnecessary by discouraging large numbers of people from riding. As for helmets, although I use one myself, they are not a panacea to prevent all bike injuries, and in fact, as evidenced in such cities where cycling is more the norm, the best safety measure for cyclists is not helmets, but increased ridership. Anything that reduces their number imperils the cyclists that remain.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I’m pretty sure this is a bill more about another revenue stream for NY than it is safety.”

    I’m pretty sure its about “people like us” vs. “those people” than it is about safety OR revenue. That’s the usual narrative for local pols like these.

    Perhaps bike bashing is the replacement for the ethnic and racial politics of the days of yore, or a supplement of being against tourists or people from Manhattan or people who moved in from Ohio or immigrants or the bridge and tunnel crowd etc. etc. etc. I can’t stand that crap, but the media loves it.

  • I’m with DenDekker, with one condition: we apply his bill to all street lanes. Just imagine:

    We would put cameras in vehicle lanes to make sure that drivers are wearing their seatbelts and not texting or talking on their phones and have their lights on and are driving in a manner and at a speed which is legal or if they’re being reckless and endangering and hurting others. I believe it also gives more credibility to drivers, making them more a part of civil society.

    Bring it on!

  • cheston

    you sir are retarted.

  • Joe R.

    “No word yet on whether DenDekker wants bicycles to pass emissions tests too.”

    That’s too funny. Guess I should refrain from eating beans when they check my bike emissions. 🙂

  • Zulu

    This coming spring/summer season will be a critical factor in the outcome of all these ridiculous and limiting bills. Price of gas is on the rise and if the middle east continues to revolt against their leaders it will drive oil even further up. Just last weekend I saw a considerable increase in riders in the city and it will only keep growing if gas goes up and the MTA hikes their prices again (and they will). Upon the increase in use of bike lanes and green ways it will become more difficult to justify legal or legislative action against bicycles. Hopefully the bike share program will kick in as well and that will provide another element in favor of bicycle transporation in NYC.

  • AviationMetalSmith

    It doesn’t make sense. Adult Bicyclists are not required to wear helmets. The helmet law is for children under 16 years of age.

    And shouldn’t the cameras be primarily for catching motorists who drive their cars in the bike lanes?

  • no wonder Albany is broken.

  • Jeff Borkowski

    Mr DenDekker – are you crazy?

  • Having ridden a bike for 40+ years in the Bronx, Manhattan, and throughout the city, I fully support a legal requirement to wear a helmet at all times. I’ve suffered many collisions with cars and near-misses with pedestrians (sometimes my fault, most of the time not), and the one thing that’s clear is if you’re knocked off your bike, you can very easily sustain a concussion along with the usual broken clavicles and sprained wrists. This is for the cyclist’s protection, not anyone else, just like seatbelts only save the lives of the people wearing them. It’s a minor inconvenience at best, and from personal experience I can assure you it’s not worth the risk of getting a concussion. Can anyone honestly argue that a helmet doesn’t reduce the risk of concussion, and is a legitimate safety precaution to enforce?

    NYS VTL1234 mandates that bikes must have reflectors or reflective material on all sides of a bike, and working head and tail lights between dusk and dawn, and a bell or horn (it also mandates that bikes follow the same “rules of the road” that motor vehicles are expected to follow). Again, this is entirely for the cyclist’s protection, and is fully justified. We tend to complain that cars and pedestrians are causing the accidents, and everything listed herein is for cyclists’ safety alone.

    If cyclists were 100% compliant with these safety regulations, we wouldn’t be having this argument now, and we would have a much better leg to stand on when opposing specious legislation like DenDekker’s. Sure I feel like an idiot pedaling around with my dorky helmet and bike festooned with reflective stickers and a bell, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to claim the higher ground in this argument.

  • car free nation

    For a more nuanced discussion on bike helmets and safety, check out this entry in Wikipedia:

  • fathead

    The revolution inches closer

  • Joe R.

    “Can anyone honestly argue that a helmet doesn’t reduce the risk of concussion, and is a legitimate safety precaution to enforce?”

    Yes, I can, and there’s a growing body of research to support my view, with much on this site:


    Of course, I won’t say your decision to wear a helmet makes no sense for you if it offers you comfort and also makes you feel more confident. However, to force helmets on everyone via regulation is something which isn’t justified from any standpoint, let alone a public safety one. For starters it would drastically decrease the number of cyclists as happened in Australia. I for one wouldn’t ride if helmets were mandatory. They’re more than a minor inconvenience. In the summers they would cause me to overheat. They would block some visibility. They would block some hearing. Hearing is actually the sense I use even more than sight to evaluate things on the road. There would be no upside. I’ve never hit my head in a fall. And I haven’t fallen for any reason since before 9/11, although I can’t remember the exact date. Helmets are statistically useless in falls much over about 10 mph. I go faster than that even up hills. In short, they would serve as little more than a decoration.

    If you’ve suffered “many collisions with cars and near-misses with pedestrians”, then to me it’s clear you need to work on both your bike handling skills and also your judgement. I’ve been riding 32 years, have never hit a car, only had one near miss with a pedestrian. That incident was totally her fault. She jumped out between parked cars from a spot where visibility was blocked by a parked truck. I didn’t expect this because I was riding in the traffic lane, not the far right, keeping up with traffic at about 32 mph, with a car right in front of me. My rationale was nobody will jump into moving car traffic, although I’ll grant that I should have moved left when I saw the blind spot coming up. In any case, I avoided a collision. If I had fallen, I’ve been through worse with only road rash, including a fall once from 37 mph.

    If you’re as prone to accidents and falling as you say, then helmet or not, learn to fall properly. There’s little reason to get anything worse than road rash in most bike accidents if you learn how to fall. Relax, outstretch your arms forward to keep your head off the ground, and dig your toes into the asphalt so as to bring yourself to a stop as quickly as possibly. You can also use pressure on one set of toes or the other to steer yourself in a rudimentary manner so you don’t slide into the traffic lane.

    I’ll agree with you for the most part on the safety equipment. Good lighting is very important if you ride at night like me. I see how bikes without lights are nearly invisible even to me. I hate to think of the hard time motorists have seeing them. Reflective material on the side is good, but forget wheel reflectors. They cause HORRIBLE wheel balance issues. Reflective tape on the rim or tire sidewall makes much more sense. As for bells, not a big fan of them. If I’m riding reasonably, there’s no reason for me to ring a bell to make someone get out of my way. I’d rather just slow down a bit or go around them. It makes for better public relations also as I seem less “pushy” doing that. That being said, I just ordered some bells yesterday from eBay for my bikes just so I have them in case a cop stops me. It’s not a great burden sticking a 1 inch bell on the handlebars to comply with the law even though I can’t see that I’ll ever use it.

    “Rules of the road” and how they relate (or don’t relate) to safety is a subject I could write a book on. I’m not getting into it here except to say we need major reform of the traffic laws with regard to bicycles. Current laws neither guarantee your safety if you follow them, nor necessarily put you in a more dangerous position if you don’t. I know not following the laws is always a talking point for the anti-bike crowd but I don’t feel that’s the major source of the public relations problem we’re having. It’s more cyclists who are inconsiderate and/or dangerous that I see as a much larger problem. A pedestrian doesn’t care if some random cyclist passes a red light at a clear intersection. Chances are good they do the exact same thing. Rather, it’s that cyclist who’ll blow through a crowded crosswalk at high speed, missing them by inches, which justifiably raises their ire. Licensing isn’t going to do much to fix that. It’ll only penalize the law-abiding and also the reasonable but not necessarily 100% law-abiding majorities. In any case, this legislation has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing.

  • Brian Nettnin

    What a clown. Another government employee who is so out of touch. Please remember this and make sure he doesn’t have a job after the next election.

  • Zulu

    After reading Mr. DenDekker explanation of his bill I can’t help but think that he has no interest whatsoever in having it pass. It’s a half hearted effort with no real intent and pie in the sky ideas of how to implement it. It’s the college equivalent of writting a term paper half an hour before it’s due! So, why put the effort in? Why invest the time into something he doesn’t believe in? Well, I speculate he is being asked to propose this bill by other assembly members in return for political favors or what may. The spaguetti is being flung from multiple angles in the hopes that most of it sticks on the wall. The media is being fed by politicians now (winter) as usage of bike lanes and green ways is low and people get behind their fabricated idea of: not-worth-the-effort-given-how-many-riders-use-it campaign. Their time is running out. Spring+$$$ gas+MTA Fare hikes=a lot more bikes. I believe this increase in numbers will force their rhetoric to change.

  • J

    It’s interesting that both liberals AND conservatives oppose this type of measure. Conservatives because it would increase waste through an increase in government size and bureaucracy and liberals because they think it’s a stupid idea. Both are right. This is headed nowhere and barely merits a response.

  • Tony S

    We should call for Dendekkers resignation. He is not acting for the people’s best interest.

  • @ Joe R.: I’m not going to get into an argument with you over the efficacy or safety of bike helmets in urban riding. You are probably referring to this article:


    which states

    Although one frequently cited but much-criticised study claims that helmets reduce head injuries by 85%, all other studies predict more modest benefits, such as 39% [1] or none at all (for some types of cyclists, e.g. cyclists over 15 riding on-road).

    Having sustained a concussion, I will take a 39%-85% reduction in the likelihood of it occurring again. The last study citing “none at all” was a study in Australia with a very small sample comprising predominantly suburban and rural traffic.

    As for my track record, I never said I was prone to accidents. I’m a very experienced cyclist, practice safe riding skills, know how to fall, and ride about 3000 miles per year commuting to an office in Manhattan. But in spite of my best intentions, I’ve been cut off numerous times by taxis and gypsy cabs abruptly pulling to the curb in front of me, where the passenger has flung open the door directly in my path. I’ve had taxis and cars swerve into the bike lane numerous times to avoid another car, similarly cutting me off. These incidents have not necessarily caused me to fall, but i have collided, sometimes very hard, with the vehicles. On other occasions I’ve had cars cut across several lanes of traffic to make an abrupt right or lefthand turn, again cutting me off, and in case, hitting me broadside and knocking me to the ground, where I sustained a concussion and other injuries (I was not wearing a helmet, but this was some 25 yrs ago). No matter how safe a rider you are, you are vulnerable to actions by reckless motorists. Perhaps you’ve been luckier than I.

    If you honestly believe helmets obstruct your vision and hearing, and “overheat” you in the summer, I’d be happy to provide you with links to several brands and models with excellent ventilation, visibility and no impact on hearing. Whether you find it uncomfortable to wear a helmet or not, it’s somewhat reckless to advocate against wearing them in a crowded dangerous urban environment like NYC.

    Or, you can ignore my advice, and keep the organ banks full of healthy young organs…it’s a win-win either way.

  • Marcia Kramer’s Nariz

    This guy just makes me laugh with his ideas, I just can’t get angry with him. It’s kind of like watching Charlie Sheen.

    Cameras? Cameras? We can’t even get red-light or speed cameras without years of wrangling.

    There should be an IQ test for people to serve office. Sadly, I live in his district.

  • Marcia Kramer’s Nariz

    And by the way, you know that there can’t be far away and Albany legislator (equal chance Republican or Democrat) who wants to make people to pay a buck to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Really, I predict it in about 2 months.

  • Joe R.

    @John Barnes,

    I’m not advocating against wearing helmets. I might even wear one myself if I engaged in cycling where it was likely I might hit my head despite my best intentions, at speeds low enough that the helmet would offer some benefit (off-road trail riding on rocky paths comes to mind). I’m simply advocating against making laws requiring people to do so. Just look at the countries where cycling is most prevalent. Not only is it statistically safer than here, but helmet use seems very low, even frowned upon. My attitude here tends to be like the Japanese regarding their bullet train-make accidents all but impossible via actions and training and equipment, rather than worry about protection should they occur.

    As for luck, I’m not sure how much that enters into the equation. I choose to avoid as much traffic as possible by riding late nights. You obviously don’t have this luxury if you bike commute. There may be other differences between us. I tend to be hyper aware of my situation, use premonitions, use all my senses, have reflexes like a cat. It’s all served me well thus far. I’ve also tended to not “overdrive” for any given situation. It’s the old theory of leaving yourself an “out”. After a while, this becomes second nature. The idea here is to look at traffic, think what might happen if any cars made sudden maneuvers, and where might you go. I won’t go so far as to be arrogant enough to say you got yourself into the situations you described because I wasn’t there to see what happened. I might say though that thinking a bit about “what if” might not be a bad idea. Also, I always tried to learn from every fall or near miss. I’m of the opinion that every time this occurred, I was somehow at fault. Either I missed seeing something, or I failed to leave myself an out. In short, I failed to compensate for other people’s errors. After enough things happen, you just learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m sure it’s not luck at this point because nobody has a run of luck lasting a decade. A friend of mine is going on 40+ years driving without an accident. Same thing here-it isn’t luck. You see and learn and don’t repeat what gets you in trouble. Off-topic but this all reminds of Clint Eastwood’s line in “Unforgiven” – “I was lucky in the order, but I’ve always been lucky when it comes to killin’ folks.” So in my case, can I simply say “I was lucky the last ten years, but I’ve always been lucky when it comes to biking”? I doubt it. Just like Clint’s character, I’ve developed skills which might make my record seem lucky to those on the outside simply because they’re second nature to me at this point. I barely notice why I do things, like maybe drifting left slightly because I perhaps caught a light on inside a car a block down, thinking he might swing his door open. Other times it’s nothing more than a premonition, at least until maybe I see a big pothole or some other reason why I changed course seemingly as if a giant hand was moving me. I just know this all works well for me.

  • John Barnes,

    If cyclists were 100% compliant with these safety regulations, we wouldn’t be having this argument now

    Of course we would. The whole point of these kinds of regulations is to discourage cycling. I suggest you write your elected officials to advocate for motorist helmets instead. Your argument boils down to this:

    “Vehicle operators who are licensed and whose vehicles pass inspection are breaking the law by operating them in an unsafe way, so everyone else on the road should be forced to adhere to a whole code of pointless regulations.”

    Fight the real enemy.

  • While I appreciate DonDokken’s heartfelt sentiment, I would venture to say that anyone who is not a die hard cyclists could care less about the “street cred” of cyclists. And “credibility” protects us from being run over by SUVs about as much as helmets do, right?

  • Daphna

    @john barnes
    Bicyclists are told to follow the same rules of the road that motorists must follow out of default. Nobody ever looked at the situation and drafted appropriate rules for bicyclists that would keep them safe and provide safety for other road users around them. Motor vehicle rules as applied to cyclists are not for the cyclist’s protection as you write, nor are they justified. Bicyclists have been lumped in the category of motor vehicles out of simplicity, not out of need or safety.

    Secondly, you are wrong that we would not be having an argument now if cyclists were following all safety regulations. There is a backlash going on right now against cycling that has nothing to do with cyclists’ behavior. People are afraid of change. They have learned to adapt to the roads as they are and can not envision that streets could be redesigned to be better. They have learned to cope with the crowds and the congestion and can not see that a different allotment of street space might make it safer, easier or faster for them.

    Bicyclists could follow every rule of the road and every safety rule and even go above and beyond and wear the helmet and bright colors to be visible and there would still be a backlash against biking from a vocal minority.

    Case in point: I was biking yesterday in a parking-protected bike lane, going the proper direction, with the green light, was ringing my bell to warn pedestrians and was yielding to them even when I had the right of way, and was moving only about 8 mph. A woman yelled at me to slow down. Mind you, 8 mph is extremely slow but her perception was otherwise.

    That is what the bike backlash problem is: a perception problem, not a reality problem. I was behaving like an angel and could not have followed the rules to any greater degree, and I still encountered nasty hostility.

  • Joe

    I say this moron needs to voted out of office. I can’t believe people sent this person to Albany. Undoubtly this is a person of little or no moral character. His thoughts of how to raise revenue leave something to be desired. With bloated goverment, extreme waste in many areas,inflated pay scales, benifits to persons such as this, one would think wisely to reduce spenting and find ways of saving the taxpayers money. Otherwise as time goes by many more will find ways to leave New York for greener pastures and less taxes & fees.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Breaking News: DenDekker withdraws licensing proposal!

    That’s Ix-Nay On The NY Bicycle License Plates Idea, Says Assemblyman Michael DenDekkerBY Celeste Katz

    So much for that “license plates for bikes” idea.


    The people have spoken, says

    Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, and they’re not digging his idea, so he’s listening up and pulling out:

    “I am withdrawing proposed legislation A. 5429,” he said in a statement. “I introduced

    this bill in response to numerous complaints from my constituents regarding bicyclists who were not following local and state laws, and causing dangerous conditions for pedestrians and motorists alike.  In this way, the original intent of this bill was to enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety through increased accountability.  However, we will now explore future options to achieve stricter enforcement of the bicycle regulations.”

    The proposal was slammed by constituents and

    legislators alike, leading DenDekker to move on to the next thing.

  • Doug

    As an environmental planner involved in many transportation issues, I must say that DenDeckker’s bill is counter-productive on so many fronts. Even on the revenue front, inadvertently promoting a means of transportation with greater traffic impacts, greater parking demands, greater energy use, and with significant pollution problems over a more healthful and sustainable form of transportation will, in the long run, lead to greater economic costs than the stream of revenue that this proposal would provide. This bill is poorly researched and poorly thought out.

  • baloonot

    I’m glad the bill was pulled.
    Oh, so much for the importance of
    a phone call to albany.

    Sheeple….umm sorry, I mean.. (People)
    need to know who is representing them.


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