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Register that bicycle
November 19, 2004 10:54 AM   Subscribe

No bicycling in NYC without a license? That's right, a new law -- apparently the first of its kind in the nation -- proposed this week by bike-bashing Bronx Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano, will carry serious fines and even jail sentences for violators who ride unregistered bicycles on city streets. And yes, there will be a $25 per bike registration fee. Way to encourage alternative transport in this crowded, congested, polluted town. What next? Licenses for rollerblades, skateboards, wheelchairs? How about my running shoes -- during peak traffic they're faster and more hazardous to fellow city dwellers than my beat up old Trek, any day.
posted by jellybuzz (131 comments total)

 
Why, that's crazy.

That would be like giving people tax breaks for buying large SUVs.
posted by flarbuse at 10:58 AM on November 19, 2004


What's the problem?

Mandatory registration of bicycle riders provides a convenient way of compiling a list of all the leftie-commie-terrorists.

This is for the safety of all! Damn all bike-riding hippies!
posted by purephase at 11:00 AM on November 19, 2004


Didn't I find a link to an MPEG here a while back showing a posse of "clean-cut" adult NYC bicyclists being daredevils in busy traffic? So maybe they need not a license but an IQ test.
posted by davy at 11:00 AM on November 19, 2004


This is disappointing. I was hoping that the headline referred to bicycle operator licenses. As a motorcyclist and occasional bicyclist, I'd seriously like to see some kind of operator licensing for vehicular bicyclists.

Mandatory registration for the bicycles themselves seems like a bit much, but, on the positive side, it could lead to more acceptance of bicycles on the streets by motorists. That said, I still think this legislation is misguided.
posted by rdub at 11:03 AM on November 19, 2004


Out here, wherever I am, motorcycle fiends usually gun it and go as fast they can on their foreign bikes. Cops usually just let them go by in speed traps. When asked why, simply put, in a motorcycle vs car collision -- the motorcycle's the one that suffers. That and it's a pain in the ass to catch up with a motorcycle going 160MPH on a highway.

Same thing I would believe would apply to bikes. If it ran into a car, I don't think those daredevils would be the ones walking away okay. Now if a bike going fast hit a person, it's another matter, but bike to people collisions are generally not only rare, but not life threatening. So what's the point of this legislation but to earn income and prevent people from riding bikes?
posted by geoff. at 11:10 AM on November 19, 2004


This makes as much sense to me as scarf registration. How would this benefit anyone? What problems would this solve? Why not just police those biking dangerously and leave it at that?

It seems that if they're having such problems with bicyclists, it's not a matter so much of the law as its enforcement. To me, this reeks of a naked grab for revenue.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2004


My new favourite quote:

They zigzag in and out of traffic, they're on the sidewalk, they're a danger to senior citizens...
posted by purephase at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2004


What about all of the people who ride bikes because they can't afford a car? What about the 16 year old kid who has no other way to get to school?

This is inane and pretty dangerous.
posted by zerolives at 11:20 AM on November 19, 2004


That Counselwoman is a dangerous asshole. GET HER NOW!
posted by ParisParamus at 11:23 AM on November 19, 2004


jings, and I thought Ontario's proposed manadatory helmet law for cyclists, bladers and skaters was dumb.

If this license is per bike, it'd cost bikies a lot of money. It seems that 7 bikes is the average amongst the serious riders I know.
posted by scruss at 11:24 AM on November 19, 2004


"When I was a kid, I had a license plate on my bike," Liu said. "I'm trying to remember which cereal box I got it from."

Heh. Yeah, that's about my reaction, too.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:25 AM on November 19, 2004


And speaking of assholes, hey, poster, IT'S JUST A BILL. THIS KIND OF EURO-CRAP WILL GO NOWHERE.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:26 AM on November 19, 2004


[hijack rant]Back in the mid to late 80s I was a bicycle messenger in Manhattan and each messenger service had to put "license plates" on their messenger's bikes and keep a private record of the bikes. I got two, count 'em, two moving violations on my bike for running redlights. $50 for the first and $100 for the second. They suspended by license when I didn't pay. It's not entirely germain to the topic, but it pisses me off to this day. [/hijack rant]
posted by zorro astor at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2004


And speaking of assholes, hey, poster, IT'S JUST A BILL.

Hey, today it's still just a bill...
posted by jonmc at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2004


I think this has more to do with establishing a legal mechanism to block Critical Mass rides than revenue. The cops are backing off on QOL crimes lately, aren't they?
posted by wolfey at 11:30 AM on November 19, 2004


Do bikes actually endanger pedestirans? I know there was a lot of worry about the riding of those guys in the race movie discussed here but, does anyone actually hear, or read in the papers about pedestrians getting run over by bikes? And is it actually as a result of the cyclists disobeying traffic rules?
posted by leecifer at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2004


bike to people collisions are generally not only rare, but not life threatening.

You got anything to back this up? I've read many instances of people killed by cyclists, a few in Toronto alone in the last 5 years or so. There was also a link on Obscure Store maybe in the last 3 weeks or so of an old woman who was killed by a cyclist.

I'm not for the mandatory licensing but I do believe that there are a LOT of terrible cyclists out there (the idiots discussed in this thread, for example). Sure, most cyclists don't ride like these fools but them's that do paint the activity pretty black for NYC. I can understand people being upset.

In my home province, they're trying to ban Pit Bulls (one of which I own). It's a stupid ass law they're trying to bring in but that doesn't mean I don't see MANY idiots who encourage their pit bulls to be mean/aggressive. Again, I can understand people being upset.

The stupid thing is it is these crazy-ass cyclists (and moron pit bull owners) who are the ones most confused by proposed legislation. Wake the fuck up! If you're not going to be responsible for your cycling someone else is gonna step in and take responsibility for you.

on preview: zorro.. wtf, dude? You're pissed off because you were caught breaking the law (twice) and had to suffer the consequences? See the paragraph above.
posted by dobbs at 11:34 AM on November 19, 2004


"euro-crap"? huh?
posted by mildred-pitt at 11:36 AM on November 19, 2004


In southern California growing up, they wanted all bikes to be registered with the city you lived in, for what reason, I don't know, but even as a kid I remember doing it. There weren't fines for not having it, and I think it might have been voluntary in the end to try and curb bike theft.

But this proposed bill is insane and puts a financial incentive on avoiding riding your bike, which is definitely the wrong message to send.
posted by mathowie at 11:38 AM on November 19, 2004


How would everyone feel if registration (or licensing) were free? Does anyone else think that it should be possible to lose the privilege of riding a bicycle on public streets (due for instance to excessive red light running, etc.)?

I think anything that helps get bicycles viewed as vehicles (with all the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities) is good, and I generally think anything that discourages bicycle riding is bad. This does both, so I'm at a loss.
posted by rdub at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2004


Let me see, here. The tax happy/grudge liberal's are going after the environmental/don't-drive ride-a-bike liberals. And now everyone's boo hooing ~sniffle sniffle

Even the liberals don't like it when liberals try to tell them whats best for everyone.

This should be funny to watch
posted by WLW at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2004


How about attaching a rider *ahem* to this bicycle bill that forces SUV drivers to pay a $1000-per-year access and maintenance fee, to recoup the costs of rebuilding the roads their vehicles more quickly destroy? Fair is fair.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:56 AM on November 19, 2004


I suggest all New Yorkers deluge this counselwoman with oppositional e-mail. What a twit.

The other question, of course, is whether the City has the right to tax bicycles.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:01 PM on November 19, 2004


I think that not only does it sound like a stupid law, but a more or less unenforcable law. How many bicycles travel through NYC every day? Many, many, many--and not just once a month on Critical Mass. Deliveries, messengers, commuters, kids, those bicycle gangs with the undersized silver bikes, and on and on.... Of course they don't follow traffic rules--isn't that the chief benefit of bicycles in New York? They provide an outlet of real freedom for those who ride them for fun (at the risk, of course, of having their heads split open when the majority don't wear helmets) and for everyone who rides them for work--and those who benefit from such services--they allow the city to function in a much smoother way than if they were strictly regulated. I admit that, along with a less-than-fully regulated situation, you have some risks--running red lights and hitting pedestrians. But you have to balance this with what I would say is a real benefit to the city of something that isn't fully catalogued. I think that this is what Paris Paramus was aiming at when he referred to the law as "EURO-CRAP". (Of course, in most cities in Europe you can still smoke in the bars...)

Not only that, but bicycles aren't cars. They're constantly being rebuilt one way or another out of different parts--Is a bike a new bike if you only replace the frame?

The worst-case scenario? A useless law that is selectively enforced by NYC police when they're having a bad day.

But would we be interested in this stupid-sounding law if there hadn't been so much press around Critical Mass NYC? And would that have happened if it wasn't for the arrests immediately preceding the Republican National Convention? Those, furthermore, were the first arrests of Critical Mass riders in New York that I had heard of.

So, I'm wondering about how much this has to do with this Congresswoman just trying to hitch her wagon to a pretty smelly star.
posted by goodglovin77 at 12:01 PM on November 19, 2004


Even the liberals don't like it when liberals try to tell them whats best for everyone.

Ouch. My right-wing hypocrisy detector just redlined.
posted by fungible at 12:07 PM on November 19, 2004


per the League of American Bicyclists:
The League of American Bicyclists supports effective bicycle registration programs that do not impose a significant financial or statutory disincentive to bicycling.

Any registration fees should be dedicated to the costs of establishing and maintaining a registration program or to other programs or facility improvements that directly benefit cyclists.

Mandatory bicycle registration should be imposed only where the benefits of and/or necessity for such ordinances are demonstrable and where the penalties for violation are minimal.

posted by RockyChrysler at 12:07 PM on November 19, 2004


I wouldn't mind if they forced bike messengers to get licenses in NYC. These guys are surly, fucked up crackheads, and 75% of them deserve to get AIDS and die.

Recreational bikers, however, should not have to go through this bullshit procedure. Something I made very clear to this cunt at:
provenzano@council.nyc.ny.us
posted by Debaser626 at 12:08 PM on November 19, 2004


This would appear to be the Web page from which you can "comment" on this bill--give her Hell!
posted by ParisParamus at 12:10 PM on November 19, 2004


Zerolives -- class warfare need not apply to this discussion.

Very few kids indeed ride bikes to school in New York. Sadly enough, I rarely see kids riding bikes anywhere but the park -- just not (thought of) as safe, even when the weather's good enough for it.

And, millions of New Yorkers can't afford cars (due the absurd expense of keeping a car in many middle class and upper class neighborhoods, and outright poverty in other neighborhoods) and the proportion of them who substitute a bike as transportation has got to be in the fractions of one percent to the very low single digits at the high end.

Indeed, it's the abberant nature of bikes as a means of personal transport (as opposed to courier service, etc.) that make legislation like this possible. I don't think you'd see it anywhere where bikes were commonly used.
posted by MattD at 12:10 PM on November 19, 2004


Debaser626, if you used similar language to what you used in your post, I'm sure she's giving your email all the attention it deserves.
posted by dobbs at 12:12 PM on November 19, 2004


dobbs, have a look at this study---Ottawa and Toronto in 1998 (the most recent I could find). There are no fatal ped-cyclist collisions in this study, indeed the most common accident types are falls/collisions involving only the cyclist, and bicycle-vehicle collisions (see Table 2). The authors go on to remark that vehicular cyclists have lower accident rates than "sidewalk" cyclists.
posted by bonehead at 12:13 PM on November 19, 2004


speaking of it, how awesome was that drag race video? answer: so awesome. but yeah reckless and such and such, so maybe the cops can go ahead and continue to stop bicyclists who are being dangerous/reckless and leave the rest of us alone. people who get pissed for getting busted for running red lights/stop signs, well, too bad, you played the game and lost, the rules were posted for everyone to see. registering bicycles is just plain dumb.
posted by garethspor at 12:14 PM on November 19, 2004


apparently the first of its kind in the nation
Are you sure?
In southern California growing up, they wanted all bikes to be registered with the city you lived in, for what reason, I don't know, but even as a kid I remember doing it. There weren't fines for not having it, and I think it might have been voluntary in the end to try and curb bike theft.
Think it was by each city's discretion and as a child heard it was mandatory in my city. Yet in Cali it's 2bucks every three years.

39001. (a) The department shall procure and distribute bicycle license indicia and registration forms to all counties and cities which have adopted a bicycle licensing ordinance or resolution. Those counties and cities shall issue the indicia and registration form to the owner of any new bicycle, and may, upon request of the owner, issue an indicia and registration form to the owner of any bicycle which complies with Section 39007.

39002. (a) A city or county, which adopts a bicycle licensing ordinance or resolution, may provide in the ordinance or resolution that no resident shall operate any bicycle, as specified in the ordinance, on any street, road, highway, or other public property within the jurisdiction of the city or county, as the case may be, unless the bicycle is licensed in accordance with this division.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:15 PM on November 19, 2004


Bicycle registration is already mandatory in Berkeley, although I've never met anyone who has done it. California state law caps the registration fee at $4/yr, and fines relating to violation of the ordinance at $10 (CA vehicle code).
posted by eddydamascene at 12:15 PM on November 19, 2004


hi thom!
posted by eddydamascene at 12:16 PM on November 19, 2004


These guys are surly, fucked up crackheads, and 75% of them deserve to get AIDS and die.

aren't these new guys so darn cute!

dobbs, have a look at this study ...

dobbs, do you have any links to those "many instances of people killed by cyclists"?

i'm not saying you're lying. i've just honestly never heard of such accidents.

i had a guy jump out into a bike lane (in the middle of the block) from between two cars, and then do a little dance back and forth b/c he couldn't decide which way to (hint: go back toward the curb). i braked as well as i could, but i wasn't about to go sliding into possible traffic to my left or the parked cars to my right, so i lowered my shoulder, leaned forward, and hit him square on, probably about 20 mph. i helped him up and he seemed fine, if a bit shaken. granted, he could have possibly cracked his head, but it was pretty much his fault.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2004


All the arguments against paid registration of bicycles could be used against the paid registration of automobiles. What right does the government have to force us to buy license plates, carry registration -- obtain drivers' licenses for our cars? If it's okay for the government to force us to register our cars, it should be okay for it to force us to register our bicycles -- for the same reasons. Personally, I think the minimum government involvement in all our vehicle lives is best.
posted by Faze at 12:29 PM on November 19, 2004


Personally I'm disappointed that this is a vehicle license not a personal license, because way too many cyclists simply don't know how to ride safely.

$25 dollars one off fee? Are you guys kidding me? That's about three overpriced Starbucks coffees (over here at least). It's certainly less than any CDs or DVDs. And you're complaining that this is unfair? Dear gods.

I'd love to see all bikes with plates on them so that police can stop cyclists who run red lights, hit the pavements because the road looks too busy, and ride the wrong way up one way streets. They have impunity through untracability, and it bugs the hell out of me.

If this was suggested in England, I'd vote for it. And I'd pay to have my own bike registered too.
posted by twine42 at 12:30 PM on November 19, 2004


Why should I register my bicycle?
Registration is required per Section 102 2 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances which states:

"102 2. License Required. It shall be unlawful for any resident of the city to operate or use a bicycle, operated alone or in part by muscular power, upon any of the streets, alleys or public highways of the city without first obtaining from the city a license therefor, and unless said bicycle is properly registered and a license sticker is affixed to the frame of such bicycle."
posted by MikeMc at 12:31 PM on November 19, 2004


And speaking of assholes, hey, poster, IT'S JUST A BILL. THIS KIND OF EURO-CRAP WILL GO NOWHERE.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:26 PM EST on November 19


and, speaking of assholes, even PP ought to know the meaning of the word "proposed".
posted by quonsar at 12:37 PM on November 19, 2004


It's not the $; it's the stupid level of government control being attempted--like this is really going to stop someone from being a bike-ahole. Like the police can't arrest someone now who does something illegal? It's just another stupid Euro-like money grab; to take more of the fun and freedom out of life.

And, would I need to pay the fee for my several bikes? What if I swap wheels and frames? Chains?

HOW STUPID. WE MUST NOT LET THE UNITED STATES BECOME EUROPE.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:37 PM on November 19, 2004


Quonsar. I stand corrected. I'm sorry. The whole subject gets my back up.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:39 PM on November 19, 2004


HOW STUPID. WE MUST NOT LET THE UNITED STATES BECOME EUROPE.

Why? I thought they were better than us.
posted by Ryvar at 12:47 PM on November 19, 2004


and ride the wrong way up one way streets.

Are you suggesting the bike riders go around the block to get to the street corner? Pfft. I think if you're riding responsibly, i.e. you're not a bike messenger, it's akin to walking responsibly. There's a pizzeria on the corner of my block, and I sure as hell am not going to ride around the entire block just to go with the flow of traffic. That's just stupid.

Speaking of walking responsibly, I think that there should be legislation which mandates that people do not walk and read at the same time esp. in the subway, or crowded sidewalks. I can't say how many times a week some numb nuts will get off the train reading a book or paper, and continue reading as people attempt to stream by him/her on their way out of the station. I find it's often those people where I get those short fantasies about kicking someone on to the tracks.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:49 PM on November 19, 2004


I have, ever, in my entire life of driving, seen a bicyclist follow the rules once. Just once, ever. I was flabbergasted.

The bicyclist actually signalled their turn.

I think it's about time the bikes be licensed. The police have thousands, if not possibly millions of tickets that need to be laid on these bicyclists for not following the most basic laws. Clearly that's the only way they're going to stop this.

Here's a list of violations I see day in and day out by bicyclists (some of these may or may not apply in your state):

- Lack of signalling
- Lack of nightime illumination
- Lack of ability to pull over and allow faster traffic past (yes, that is the law in most places, even if it just seems like common courtesy to you)
- Lack of ability to actually do what red lights and stop signs tell you to do.
- Lack of safety gear, like helmets
- Riding on sidewalks
- Turning from an inappropriate lane
- Turning into an inappropriate lane
- I have been told stories of (but not witnessed) idiots who hang onto cars rather than pedalling
- Inappropriate lane changes
- Riding in tandem
- Inappropriate street crossing (you must DISMOUNT when you cross the road if you are doing it on a bike path / pedestrian crossing)
- Riding against traffic
- Not leaving enough space to stop

Yes, I see cars do that too, but if they did it as often as bicyclists, I'd see at least 2 or 3 car accidents a day (and, in the case of riding against traffic, which I see bicyclists do all the time, this nearly ALWAYS results in a fatal collision if two cars do this against each other). Likely many more. For bicyclists, it's like the rule book just doesn't exist and laws just don't apply to them.

Yes, I say, license those bikes. It's about time bicyclists resepcted the rules of the road.

zorro_astor, I feel bad you got the tickets, but hopefully you don't run red lights anymore. If the police officer wasn't doing it to benefit your safety, he was doing it because all it takes is one car swerving around you to cause him to hit another car.
posted by shepd at 12:50 PM on November 19, 2004


BTW, Kitchener (my hometown, sob) is the culprit town for this round of stupid Ontario laws. Kitchener is always pushing for laws against pit bulls (I'm pretty sure we outlawed them locally or something) and that idiot with the helmet laws is from Kitchener too.

Oh well. At least I voted and campaigned for the other guy (that lost).
posted by shepd at 12:52 PM on November 19, 2004


$25 dollars one off fee? Are you guys kidding me? That's about three overpriced Starbucks coffees (over here at least). It's certainly less than any CDs or DVDs. And you're complaining that this is unfair? Dear gods.

Twine42, it isn't just a matter of being unfair; it is also unenforceable except by police or bureaucrats who want to "stick the knife in" when they want and are in a position to do so, for reasons already discussed.

When the price of oil keeps going up, its heinous that government wants to enact laws that more or less discourage use of alternative modes of transportation. I'd also point out that the government wants to keep its eye on people who by and large are not supporters of the present administration. Those two issues are basically what this bill is about.

Let's see a little balance here. Right now, we have legislators enacting tax loopholes for SUV drivers and trying to enact laws to lock up bikers at the same time. Please show me why there isn't something wrong about this equation.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:52 PM on November 19, 2004


thomcatspike, mikemc, thanks for digging up those regs. i would point out the Councilwoman's bill appears to be the first of its kind in that it carries such stringent penalties -- 15 days in jail for anyone over 16 riding an unlicensed bike? I think (and hope) this would make the NYC bill extreme and unprecedented. But admittedly, I haven't yet completed a nationwide Lexis search.

I do agree think the Critical Mass mess in which the city currently finds itself must factor heavily here. Police arrested 30 participants in last month's ride. With the next ride scheduled for Nov. 26, the city has turned to a federal district court seeking a ruling that the group must obtain a permit to carry on its monthly ride. (The same request was denied last month on a technicality.)
posted by jellybuzz at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2004


The bicyclist actually signalled their turn.

Do pedestrians and drivers respect that signal?

Maybe if the drivers and pedestrians were more bike-friendly there would be more attention paid by the biker to rules that in nearly all cases are ignored by drivers and people around him or her.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2004


There's a pizzeria on the corner of my block, and I sure as hell am not going to ride around the entire block just to go with the flow of traffic.

If you really feel you MUST go against traffic, you walk your bike. No exceptions. The only time it is intelligent to move in an opposite direction to traffic is when walking (since 5 km/h more is not going to squish you any worse, and you can dodge traffic better).

Otherwise, yeah, you damn well better follow the rules of the road. You're a vehicle. Just because you get all sweaty going to the pizzeria doesn't mean you are granted some sort of exception to the rules. Otherwise, people driving Yugos would get to do the same thing to, right?

And the other excuse, that you won't be killing the driver in the car, that's weak. Again, in that case, one should be allowed to break the rules of the road in a car as long as they do it at under 20 km/h.
posted by shepd at 12:57 PM on November 19, 2004


bonehead, thanks for the link. Admittedly, I skimmed the 6 page study but from their conclusion: "Most collisions and falls on sidewalks go unreported. These unreported events did result in injuries and even major injuries, suggesting they should be of concern. "

The majority of bicyle accidents I hear about involving pedestrians do take place on the sidewalk. I had assumed that the same goes for NYC and that it is part of the concern of this legislation.

mrgrimm, I don't have anything bookmarked and completey understand your skepticism.
posted by dobbs at 12:57 PM on November 19, 2004


Are you suggesting the bike riders go around the block to get to the street corner? Pfft. I think if you're riding responsibly, i.e. you're not a bike messenger, it's akin to walking responsibly. There's a pizzeria on the corner of my block, and I sure as hell am not going to ride around the entire block just to go with the flow of traffic. That's just stupid.

Good point. I'll follow your lead and drive the wrong way down the street too... the block is too large!

You're a road user not a pedestrian. Thats why you can be arrested for DUI on a bike. You can't pick and chose the rules you want to obey.
posted by twine42 at 1:00 PM on November 19, 2004


The only reason I've been told to register my bikes out here in Santa Cruz is to aid in their return in the event they are stolen and collected by the cops in some kind of a bust. Otherwise, the only reason was to avoid the ticket and to give the town a little more cash.

I've yet to register any of my bikes though.

On the subject of licensing riders, I'd like to see an addendum to the license tests given to drivers so that they would be forced to learn the rules of the road as applies to motorcycles so they can realize that its perfectly legal to share lanes and their using their vehicles to block motorcycles is actually illegal.

And incredibly dangerous to the bikers.
posted by fenriq at 1:00 PM on November 19, 2004


Maybe if the drivers and pedestrians were more bike-friendly there would be more attention paid by the biker to rules that in nearly all cases are ignored by drivers and people around him or her.

And maybe if bicyclists weren't so apt to ignore the rules of the road, they wouldn't be ignored by pedestrians and drivers?

Someone has to extend the olive branch. And normally, the one to do that is the one with the most to lose. In this case, it's the bicyclist who has the most to lose. One good smash into a car and they're dead.

Right now, we have legislators enacting tax loopholes for SUV drivers and trying to enact laws to lock up bikers at the same time

Not paying taxes on an SUV isn't going to damage property, kill people, or screw up traffic. Locking up bicyclists that manage to kill people through their inability to follow even the most basic rules of the road (riding up one way streets, my God), that seems like a damn good idea to me.
posted by shepd at 1:02 PM on November 19, 2004


btw, thanks, quonsar (i just saw that ;-)
posted by jellybuzz at 1:04 PM on November 19, 2004


Locking up bicyclists that manage to kill people through their inability to follow even the most basic rules of the road (riding up one way streets, my God), that seems like a damn good idea to me.

I'd like to see hard numbers of bicycle-related fatalities which are caused by the cyclist. I really don't think this argument holds water, frankly.

There is a direct correlation between more people driving SUVs (greater numbers assisted by tax loopholes and artificially low gas prices, which all of us pay for through taxation to fight economic and military wars in the Middle East, Russia and Latin America) and fatalities caused by more people driving SUVs hitting people who are not in that SUV at the time of the accident. Imagine a tank running over a person — who's worse off?
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2004


mrgrimm and bonehead, I just got an email from Romensko saying he doesn't recall the link in question so perhaps I'm completely off my rocker.
posted by dobbs at 1:08 PM on November 19, 2004


Bike messengers in Boston are required to register and display their license number. This was allegedly enacted in response to a pedestrian-cyclist collision, where the pedestrian was jaywalking but also a member of city government.

I'm not a messenger but I do bike downtown, and I often see pedestrians crossing in the middle of streets with standstill traffic who then are nearly clipped by cyclists (legally) riding between the cars. I also see lots of messengers riding illegally (usually running red lights) and lots of commuters riding illegally (usually the wrong way down one-ways).

I obey stop signs and signal when I turn, and I'd support licensing city cyclists if the process were largely informational and would improve the perception of cycling. I don't see the point of imposing a fee, though -- riding a bike instead of driving a car is already defraying the overall cost of city transportation.
posted by nev at 1:09 PM on November 19, 2004


Good point. I'll follow your lead and drive the wrong way down the street too... the block is too large!

Apples and oranges.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:10 PM on November 19, 2004


Having biked up and down South Street in Philadelphia, I often see jaywalkers surprised and angrily shocked that they nearly get hit by cyclists who are legally riding the streets, not realizing the collision was their own fault.

Maybe pedestrians should be held to the same one-way restrictions as all other traffic? How about a year of prison or two for jaywalkers? Where's my legislator?
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:13 PM on November 19, 2004


If you really feel you MUST go against traffic, you walk your bike. No exceptions. The only time it is intelligent to move in an opposite direction to traffic is when walking (since 5 km/h more is not going to squish you any worse, and you can dodge traffic better).

Ummm.... yeah, ok. I'm not trying to be an arse here, but I can't fathom why the hell you would "walk" your bike when you could easily ride it (at a leisurely pace, mind you). While I live in the city, my block is fairly quiet, and I often ride on the sidewalk to the pizzeria, giving any rare pedestrians I encounter the right of way. I would ride in the street (against traffic) but my block is very narrow, and there isn't enough room for both a passing car and a bicycle.

Again, in that case, one should be allowed to break the rules of the road in a car as long as they do it at under 20 km/h.

I think your argument is flawed here. Me+My Bike=220 lbs. Me+ My Car=2000+ lbs. If both objects are travelling at 5 mph, which do you think would cause more damage?
posted by Debaser626 at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2004


You can't pick and chose the rules you want to obey.


Ummm... Yes I can.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:16 PM on November 19, 2004


AlexReynolds : Why exactly? We're both road vehicles. We both take time to slow down. We're both bigger than pedestrians and smaller than lorries. How exactly are they different?

The law says that you go one way, you go one god damned way. Simple.
posted by twine42 at 1:16 PM on November 19, 2004


"Why? I thought they were better than us."

Nope. They're passive sheep who have created a society that relies in this one for its creativity, risk-taking, defense, and operating systems.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:18 PM on November 19, 2004


If the law told you to jump off of a bridge, would you do that too? :)
posted by Debaser626 at 1:18 PM on November 19, 2004


Having biked up and down South Street in Philadelphia

But you shouldn't, because it's one way.
posted by nev at 1:19 PM on November 19, 2004


Lots of bike-ped collisions certainly don't jibe with my experience or that of my friends. We've hit cars (parked), been hit by other cyclists (don't draft if you're not paying attention), fallen while just riding along (usual culpit: wet leaves), fallen at intersections while clipped in, fallen by hitting a curb (that was truly spectacular and resulted in a very impessive, but minor, head wound), and fallen because of the suicide bunnies. I've never heard of a significant bike-walker incident. Well there was that one time with the dog walker and the invisible extended cord lead on a multiple-use path, but that only invovled the cyclist getting a concussion.
posted by bonehead at 1:20 PM on November 19, 2004


Incidentally, Councilwoman Provenzano is hardly a bike-basher -- she does head the council's committee on housing and buildings, and promised a hearing for a bill guaranteeing indoor bike parking in office buildings.

What I happen to think is the most insane thing about this law is the suggested penalty for breaking it: if this is passed as-is and you don't display your bike license, you run the risk of being fined $300 and being thrown in jail for fifteen days. (!)

If they do pass this, I think that a.) the fee should be lower. No more than $10/year. Make it per bicyclist, not per bike. And earmark the monies raised for things like improved bike lanes, bollards, and the like.

By the way, you can send a fax to Councilwoman Provenzano here.
posted by Vidiot at 1:25 PM on November 19, 2004


Maybe pedestrians should be held to the same one-way restrictions as all other traffic?

Sure. I'm unaware of any one-way sidewalks anywhere in the country, but as soon as they put some up, it should be enforced.
posted by kindall at 1:27 PM on November 19, 2004


An interesting, multi-faceted conversation and they're certainly tackling it over at bikeforums.net - Making Cycling Criminal indeed! I find myself puzzled by the assertion that such regulations would be typically European.
My admittedly weak Google skills shown no similar regulations in England, France or Germany, though France in 1908 did require registration.
In fact a Google search shows this sort of regulation is very common at US universities and many states, like Florida have let open the potential for local regulations.
Even China has moved away from bike registrations.
So it seems to me that this type of regulation is very much an American construct - am I missing something?
posted by lirio at 1:28 PM on November 19, 2004


twine42, shepd: if everyone in NYC behaved according to your rules, the entire city would come to a screeching halt, for lack of ability to move.

I'm fine with registering my bike for a nominal fee. It's the absurd jail time and fee for failing to do that, that I object to. If they want to give me a ticket for riding thru a red light, fine (I've been given a warning once in 8 years of riding -- without accident here in the city). Just like driving a car: if I go over the speed limit and get caught, then I deserve a fine. But jail time? Please.
posted by papercake at 1:30 PM on November 19, 2004


Why exactly? We're both road vehicles. We both take time to slow down. We're both bigger than pedestrians and smaller than lorries. How exactly are they different?

Physics 101: Momentum of bodies of vastly different masses.

When cars and cyclists collide, cyclists stick to fenders. It is what is called in the business an "inelastic collision".
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:30 PM on November 19, 2004


And the other excuse, that you won't be killing the driver in the car, that's weak. Again, in that case, one should be allowed to break the rules of the road in a car as long as they do it at under 20 km/h.

People back over their own children going about 1 mph and kill them all the time. You don't have to be driving badly or illegally to do damage in a car. But it's really, really hard to seriously injure someone while riding a bike. That's why bikes get special privileges.
posted by wolfey at 1:30 PM on November 19, 2004


Sure. I'm unaware of any one-way sidewalks anywhere in the country, but as soon as they put some up, it should be enforced.

Up against the wall, granny, this ain't a two-way street. You're goin' downtown.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:32 PM on November 19, 2004


All the handwringing over this proposal is ridiculous.

If you ride a bicycle, you are a user of the road, not a pedestrian. You are, therefore, subject to all the rules the other users of the road are subject to. I am sick and bloody tired of bicyclists bitching and moaning that they get no respect, that people cut them off, that they don't have dedicated lanes... And every single day I watch bikers all over this fair city (Toronto) flouting every single law I know of. They run red lights, bike across the crosswalks at intersections, don't obey crossing areas... I could go on, but shepd already provided a pretty comprehensive list.

Bottom line: want to be respected as a vehicle? Then you'd better bloody well start acting like one, which includes licencing yourself and your vehicle. Bikers tend to get away scot-free from the BS they pull on city streets, because they're untraceable.

Are you suggesting the bike riders go around the block to get to the street corner? Pfft. I think if you're riding responsibly, i.e. you're not a bike messenger, it's akin to walking responsibly. There's a pizzeria on the corner of my block, and I sure as hell am not going to ride around the entire block just to go with the flow of traffic. That's just stupid.

No, that's not stupid. That's the law. You are a vehicle, behave like one. Period. Going against the flow of traffic is indicated only for pedestrians on a street where there are no sidewalks; this allows oncoming drivers to see them much more easily. Biking the wrong way in traffic is what's stupid, kiddo.

These guys are surly, fucked up crackheads, and 75% of them deserve to get AIDS and die.

I can't believe you just said that. Have you ever seen someone in end-stage AIDS? Have you tried to comfort them as they died? I didn't think so. [/hijack]


Also, Zorro, I think I may be missing something... you ran red lights (against the law), got fined (as required, by law), and now you're bitching about it?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:33 PM on November 19, 2004


IMHO, This is the political equivalent of trolling.

Some group of pissed of nieghbors got together and said "we don't like critical mass!" and yelled about it. So this council woman decides to stir the pot, get people riled up with this ridiculous bill and then say "Look a whole heck of a lot of people care about bicycles! We have to have better bicycle laws!" and the initial group of whiners goes home sheepishly.

I hope.
posted by Freen at 1:39 PM on November 19, 2004


A bicyclye may be considered a vehicle, but it is not a motor vehicle. By your logic, a razor scooter, skateboard, rollerblades, or a pogo stick are vehicles, where's the legislation for these methods of conveyance?

Actually, I have seen people in end-stage AIDS, though it wasn't up to me to comfort them... I used to work for the AIDS Center of Queens County. In hindsight, it was perhaps a bit harsh. I'd settle for cancer or brain tumors for the 75%.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:41 PM on November 19, 2004


When cars and cyclists collide, cyclists stick to fenders. It is what is called in the business an "inelastic collision".

So... you're saying that cyclists can put themselves at greater risk because they are more likely to become puree in an accident? The same argument says that walking down railroad tracks is a good idea.

If you crash into my car then you do indeed get hurt. But this is now your fault. Except (in the UK at least) it's legally the fault of the car driver, and (since cyclists have no insurance) I have to pay to get your brains dug out of my grill.

twine42, shepd: if everyone in NYC behaved according to your rules, the entire city would come to a screeching halt, for lack of ability to move.

Going contra to the flow of traffic makes the rest of the traffic flow more quickly? Where exactly does this logic come from?
posted by twine42 at 1:43 PM on November 19, 2004


Perspective on the bicyclist/pedestrian accident issue.

My brother for many many years used the bike 100% for transportation - as in commuting to work, all year around, except for a handful of days when the winter storms were just too bad, in Minnesota. I was never the dedicated cyclist he was but for a lot of years my bike and the bus took the place of a car for me.

That being said, bikers need to realize and acknowledge that there is reason in the argument that if they want to be respected as vehicles, they can't simply consider the rules of the road optional.

That being said, anybody who fails to recognize that bicyclists get much, much shorter shrift in the public planning and execution of transit strategies, and are forced to fit in the interstices of a world that takes the monstrous and dangerous imposition of automobiles for granted. It is cars and now even more so SUVs that are a danger to pedestrians, that are a danger to cyclists, that are a danger to themselves and to each other, and the reason behind this is not some issue of moral superiority but simple physics. I don't think there's anything wrong with requiring licensing and registration of bikes that go on public streets... but how about earmarking 100% of those revenues to bike-supporting public projects, in recognition of the superior public safety and environmental benefit of the bicycle?
posted by nanojath at 1:51 PM on November 19, 2004


nanojath : That does sound fair. But then I guess it's worth noting that very little of the tax reaped from cars is actually spent on transport or the environment.

Hold up... you're on of these new types... you aren't allowed to say anything logical here for another six days! :)
posted by twine42 at 1:57 PM on November 19, 2004


I find it impossible to believe that some of you are trying to argue that bikes are JUST AS DANGEROUS as cars. More people were killed by *cars* on sidewalks in NYC than by bikes anywhere in the city.

In NYC:

Motor Vehicle as Cause: Annual Injuries & Fatalities in NYC
Pedestrians Killed by Autos Each Year 250
Pedestrians Struck & Injured by Autos Each Year 13,000
Bicyclists Killed by Autos Each Year 15
Pedestrians Struck by Cars Mounting Sidewalks 483
Pedestrians Killed by Cars Mounting Sidewalks 15
Based on NYC DOT statistics

Bicycle as Cause: Annual Injuries & Fatalities in NYC
Pedestrians Injured by Bicycles Each Year 440
Pedestrians Killed by Bicycles Each Year 1
Based on NYC DOT statistics
posted by occhiblu at 1:57 PM on November 19, 2004


That 15:1 ratio really begs for a crackdown. So much for rational laws.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:14 PM on November 19, 2004


Alex. God told them so. Rationality is for you foolish reality-based law makers.
posted by Freen at 2:25 PM on November 19, 2004


Hey Freen!
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2004


I think I should get a tax break for being a bike commuter.
no joke
posted by samlam at 2:32 PM on November 19, 2004


Twine42: that is why, when i ride my bike, I have a 10 foot spike attached, much like a lance. So if you happen to hit me dead on, and it goes through your skull well, sorry bucko. shouldn't be on the road then. Maybe you should have a plexiglass windshield.

Legally, i believe you are allowed to walk down railroad tracks, something about the right of way, unless the movie the station agent has provided me with bunk information.....

Face it, a car is significantly much more dangerous than a bike.

How often does a bike hit a car? Fairly rarely, with the sole exception of getting a door opened up on you.

Should there be licenses for wheelchairs?

Damn, if bikes are so dangerous that they must be licensed under penalty of law, what about firearms?
posted by Freen at 2:36 PM on November 19, 2004


oh hey alex.
posted by Freen at 2:36 PM on November 19, 2004


Going against the flow of traffic is indicated only for pedestrians on a street where there are no sidewalks; this allows oncoming drivers to see them much more easily

More the other way around, I'd say.
posted by kindall at 2:40 PM on November 19, 2004


Damn, if bikes are so dangerous that they must be licensed under penalty of law, what about firearms?

But firearms don't kill people. People kill people. Or cyclists ride around kill people with firearms. Christ, NYC is dangerous!
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:42 PM on November 19, 2004


lirio So it seems to me that this type of regulation is very much an American construct - am I missing something?

Yes - you're missing the fact that ParisParismus said it was a European idea. Word to the new: any comment with a little yellow ParisParismus under it is inane rubbish designed to annoy the reader. If you think of Metafilter as like a quiet club where you can come to have intelligent discussions, then that guy is like Metafilter's own resident poo-flinging, rafter-swinging, endlessly hooting monkey. He is a repulsive imbecile who has the gift of sometimes being able to write remarks that are too annoying for a person of less than superhuman patience to ignore.

Anyway, I think those who mention Critical Mass are right - this is the harvest that Critical Mass has sown. If I was planning to organize an event for the specific purpose of causing car drivers to become angry with cyclists, to give cycling as much negative PR and accumulate as much crackdown potential as possible, I might come up with something like Critical Mass. If you think of this as a response to Critical Mass, it does three things: (1) levies a small fine on all cyclists indiscriminately, whether part of Critical Mass or not; (2) allows future participants in a Critical Mass to be more easily identified; (3) provides a reason, the absence of a registration sticker, to detain Critical Mass participants who haven't done anything else illegal yet.

I'm not in favor of this plan. I think there ought to be three tiers of cyclist "licenses": (1) the unlicensed, mostly kids, who have bikes for fun, and who ought to be allowed to ride only on the footpath or the road edge, not faster than about 20mph, not in heavy traffic, and must cross roads where it's safe for pedestrians to cross; (2) the competent rider who has a bike for their transport needs, who gets a license for themselves, not the bike, from the Dept of Motor Vehicles after completing a multi-choice test on the road rules that apply to bicycles; (3) and the professionals, like couriers and competition cyclists, who must display plates and whose fees go towards a system to cover medical costs for themselves (and anyone they might hit) if injured on the job.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:47 PM on November 19, 2004


we have legislators enacting tax loopholes for SUV drivers
If you can right off $50K as business car expense then you could right something of equal value off as weel. It is just one more buisness purchase item that counts towards a right off. Not like I buy a SUV and have an automatic $50K tax right off because I own a business. Otherwise every paper boy or gardening service would drive a Hunnner. I know people who have their car in their business name so it can be written off as a company expense, yet you hear no complaints there.

what about firearms?
You have to register firearms, usually done at the time of purchase.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:52 PM on November 19, 2004


For all the people that are linking this proposed bill with the pitbull ban in Ontario, I would strongly advise against it since they have nothing in common.

I have no ill-intention towards the animal, and strongly agree that it's the owners responsibility if their animal attacks a person or another animal, but unless you have personally witnessed an attack, or know someone who has, then your argument has no merit.

I both know someone who has been attacked, and have seen it happen firsthand and it is not a pretty sight. I have yet to see the owner truly held responsible for the attack and if a ban is what it takes to wake people up, then I'm all for it.
posted by purephase at 2:53 PM on November 19, 2004


It sometimes becomes abundantly clear that PP doesn't actually know anything about this "Europe" place he complains about, since it's the kind of place where cities provide free bicycles for citizens to use, amoungst other things.
posted by Jimbob at 2:55 PM on November 19, 2004


I think I should get a tax break for being a bike commuter.
no joke

Recall California having a carpool program that they work with companies issuing prizes and money to those that bike.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:56 PM on November 19, 2004


samlan, I'd support a tax break for people that ride their bikes a majority of the time.

But then we'd need alot more well kept bike paths.
posted by fenriq at 2:59 PM on November 19, 2004


Sorry - too late to read everything, but...has America literally gone mad, and I missed the email?
posted by dash_slot- at 3:12 PM on November 19, 2004


jimbo, I was thinking the same thing about PP. But I think he's just looking for a fight ;-)

What I want to know is, why does it seem that the majority of Americans get so stressed about bicycles? Why is there a problem with vehicles other than cars being on the roads? Why is Critical Mass considered such a bad thing, just because the boot's now on the other foot?
posted by different at 3:18 PM on November 19, 2004


Purephase, the legislations are comparable or analogous because they both stem from ignorance and they both punish the law-abiding because of the law-breaking.

And as to your "unless you've..." argument.... gimme a break. It's totally irrelevant. (But if you want to make it relevant, I personally have permanent scars on both sides of both hands as a result of a dog attack. I'm also against breed-specific bans and I own a pit bull (my second).)
posted by dobbs at 3:32 PM on November 19, 2004


has America literally gone mad, and I missed the email?
yes you did, since computers where not being used when my state had similar laws.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:39 PM on November 19, 2004


All the arguments against paid registration of bicycles could be used against the paid registration of automobiles.

an automobile is considered a deadly weapon. a bicycle is not.

The law says that you go one way, you go one god damned way. Simple.

i live at the end of a one-way street and i bike the wrong way on it every single day, and i'll die before i go all the way around the block. and if nobody's coming either way, i'll be damned if i'm waiting for the light to turn green.

then we'd need alot more well kept bike paths.

not really. bikes should be allowed anywhere cars are.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:40 PM on November 19, 2004


I hold exactly the same attitude while driving, mrgrimm. Damn red lights are moot when I'm behind the wheel! To hell with the one-way streets! And don't even get me started on driving on the right-hand side of the road!
posted by five fresh fish at 4:00 PM on November 19, 2004


clipped by cyclists (legally) riding between the cars

Maybe this is so in your neck of the woods, but if you do that anywhere in Canada, expect some very large fines.


It sounds like an EXTREMELY dangerous thing to do, and a very good way to get yourself killed and scratch the heck out of a bunch of cars in the meantime.
posted by shepd at 4:10 PM on November 19, 2004


Ah crap. This is the thread I've been wishing to participate in for a couple years. Unfortunately, after this, the loft nextdoor to mine caught on fire. So, I missed all the fun.

The only thing that hasn't been mentioned and which I've thought deserved mention through all of the bike vs. car vs. ped threads I've read is that they're always about New York (where I live) and that it might be worth noting that pedestrians behave differently here than anywhere else I've ever been. I expect most transplants to NYC have, like myself, had to adjust to the way groups of peds at corners squeeze the lanes of traffic to get across as fast as possible as soon as there's a little hole. To me, if there's a reason that accidents between peds and bikes happen here, it's got to be mostly because of this type of behavior. I ride a track bike almost every day in this town and of course I run red lights. That said, for fear - not only for my own life - but of hitting someone on foot, I always slow down when approaching a red and am prepared to stop and yeild the right-of-way to anyone that legally possesses it (car or ped - I mean, it's just common courtesy, one which I think pedestrians very often don't extend to cars in this city). But if a pedestrian walks out into the middle of the street at an intersection where I have the green, I will not be so well prepared to stop. To the contraray, I might be sprinting to make the light and there's no way I can be prepared for a pedestrian to step out.

The only time I have ever hit a pedestrian (including when I was a, thankfully AIDs-free, messenger) was in Boston when a guy walked out, in the middle of the block, in the middle of three lanes of stopped traffic, in front of a bus. I'm not saying bikes never hurt people but, if the issue is protecting people's physical safety is the issue, we should think about what it is that people do that create dangerous situations. Those are not necessarily the same for all "vehicles" and calling a bike a "vehicle" is just a lazy way to reach the conclusion that bikes running red lights and failing to signal is dangerous in the same way and to the same extent as when cars do those things.
posted by leecifer at 4:18 PM on November 19, 2004


[Personal anecdote stuff, which I realize does not constitute research]; I've been a regular bicycle commuter for most of my 30 years of employed adulthood, and have for the past eleven years commuted by bike on every day that the Minnesota climate permits. And I have to say--I have never, while biking, been as terrified or intimidated by cars, as I have regularly been terrified/intimidated, while on foot, by bikers. The worst commuting-related injury I've ever sustained has been from being hit by a bike, while on foot (ripped up my knee, leading to surgery, and meant I'll never run again, which bums me mightily, because I loved running).

For thirty years, my daily bicycle commutes have been peaceful and uneventful; in contrast, on a near-daily basis I have occasion to feel fear when I'm walking across campus and am almost hit by lunatics weaving illegally and at high speed through crowds of pedestrians.

All of which is to say that while the proposed bill may go overboard, still I think there needs to be some mechanism to deal with reckless and negligent cowboys-on-bikes. I'm in favor of the free-licensing concept mentioned somewhere upstream, with teeth in place for those who flagrantly violate the basic standards of safe and respectful conduct of their vehicles. I'm a fervent advocate of bicycling; but I also think bicyclists need to get over their self-righteousness, and understand that just as they may have felt at times threatened by wacko arrogant drivers, in the same way many pedestrians have good cause to feel threatened by wacko arrogant bikers.
posted by Kat Allison at 4:40 PM on November 19, 2004


If both objects are travelling at 5 mph, which do you think would cause more damage?

Did you know a speck of dust can destroy a satellite?

Just because your car has more inertia doesn't necessarialy mean it will do all that more damage. Yes, it will do more, but at a certain speed, the damage level is still minimal. Did you know all vehicles in North America can survive a head on collision at 5 km/h each way without any damage whatsoever? It's required by law.

From personal experience, while on vacation in London a cabbie purposely hit and pushed me with his cab because I, a pedestrian, was in his way. I can assure you that it didn't leave any marks, else I would definately have sued him into bankruptcy instead of screaming foul language at him.

Technically, yes, you can pick and choose the rules you want to obey. Just like I can, right now, choose to commit murder. That doesn't mean it's the right thing to do, and it doesn't mean you get to pick and choose your punishment for breaking laws. And if the law said to jump off a bridge, I am very certain that since you live in a free country, you could contest such a law. I know in Canada such a law would be outlawed.

However, these laws aren't asking you to commit personal harm. They're asking that you become a fully licensed driver, which is no harm to you, as a person, and perhaps will be a societal benefit.

But it's really, really hard to seriously injure someone while riding a bike.

BULL-SHIT. Okay, let's put it this way. A baseball weighs 5 oz, which is easily 10 - 100 times less than the lightest bicycle on the market. Now, I have a professional baseball player toss such a ball at someone's head impacting at 50 km/h. It is unlikely they will die, but very much assurable that the victim will be in hospital for a concussion. That's why batters wear helmets even in little league.

What makes you think it's different on a bicycle? Trust me, if a bicycle hits you square on, you'll be in hospital. Perhaps an RN could comment on this, instead, though.

Here's an interesting fact. 15 vehicle accidents per bicycle accident. Sounds bad against motorists, doesn't it?

That's because the statistic isn't normalized for traffic levels.

Normalized by how many bicyclists (13,000,000) vs. motorists (191,275,719) there is:

1 BICYCLE CRASH PER 1 AUTOMOBILE CRASH

Sorry to ruin your buzz. But it made for great FUD!

Furthermore, the reason why you never hear of pedestrian to bicycle collisions is because they cannot be recorded!

Most of the statistics for bike injuries are severly undercounted. In Texas for instance, the DPS only gets reports of crashes that involve motor vehicles and in which the motor vehicle sustains enough damage that it has to be towed. (Fatalities do get reported even if the motor vehicle isn't damaged.) While I've spent time in the hospital from crashes on at least three occasions, none of those show on the DPS statistics. However, they do show on the lesser reported TDH statistics only because they were in Travis County where the hospitals report emergency room visits
posted by shepd at 4:49 PM on November 19, 2004


I call b.s. on that last quote shepd. That guy is, it seems likely, a cyclist - seeing as he's posting on Bicycle Almanac. I too have "spent time in the hospital from crashes on at least three occasions." One of them involved a car. None of them involved pedestrians. All of them, I admit, come with the territory. That quote would buttress your point if it was a pedestrian saying he spent time in ER three times due to collisions with bikes and none of them were reported, but I really doubt that's what's going on there.
posted by leecifer at 5:06 PM on November 19, 2004


he complains about, since it's the kind of place where cities provide free bicycles for citizens to use, amoungst other things.
Jimbob, Several cities in the Washington State do the same. Some of the cities even offer free bus service.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:13 PM on November 19, 2004


I hold exactly the same attitude while driving, mrgrimm. Damn red lights are moot when I'm behind the wheel! To hell with the one-way streets! And don't even get me started on driving on the right-hand side of the road!

hey, i'm with you. nothing beats "driving British" while drunk. ;)

however, i have a feeling that i can keep running red lights and biking the wrong way down my one-way street (right next to the police department, btw), and the police aren't going to do anything about it.

i don't think you'll have as much success with your driving techniques.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:34 PM on November 19, 2004


i don't have much of a problem with registration, fwiw. i do think $25 is too much. in some cities, you can get a good bike for that much. it should be $5-10.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:50 PM on November 19, 2004


I have, ever, in my entire life of driving, seen a bicyclist follow the rules once. Just once, ever. I was flabbergasted.

The bicyclist actually signaled their turn.


Actually shepd, there are conflicting bylaws in most municipalities in Canada concerning signaling and keeping both hands on a the handlebars. I don't signal because I don't want to take my hands off the handlebars when approaching an intersection.

Most of the issues you mention are all already covered by existing legislation. Cyclists are fined for almost all of these things. I do get pissed off at reckless cyclists because they provide ammunition for the perverse anti-cycling crowd but that is nothing compared to how I feel about most drivers.

I get cut off every single day by someone in a car with air bags and seatbelts. They pass me and then pull right over to the curb completely denying me a lane. Why? I really don't know. I read posts here and letters to the editor in the local papers by people who seem to have an almost visceral hatred for cyclists. I've had bottles thrown at me. I've had people try to hit my by opening their car doors. I've had cars pull up behind me and lay on the horn and force me off the road. Where does this come from? Is it because I am not paying 80 cents a liter? Or because when they are stuck in traffic I can pass them on the inside (if they leave room)? Is it because I am more free? Is it because they have to share the road?

I do find it interesting that here in Ottawa I have more trouble with pedestrians in the downtown core than cars. I swear that I have invisibility cloaking when riding. Pedestrians will wait for a car to go past and then just step right into the road directly into my path even though I am plainly visible. I suspect it is because people are afraid of cars but not cyclists or they figure we can maneuver around them ( by pulling into the path of cars coming up from behind ).

Normalized by how many bicyclists (13,000,000)

Following the link I see 35,000,000 bikes not 13,000,000. The number you report for cyclists is only for one age group. (I can't check the other document to see if your car number based on a restricted age group sample because it isn't loading).
posted by srboisvert at 7:31 PM on November 19, 2004


I'd support a tax break for people that ride their bikes a majority of the time.

You already get a freakin' tax break. You pay no gasoline taxes at all, vastly reduced registration fees, and your sales taxes on your initial purchase of your vehicle were much less. I can't believe people are bitching over $25.
posted by kindall at 8:02 PM on November 19, 2004


What makes you think it's different on a bicycle? Trust me, if a bicycle hits you square on, you'll be in hospital. Perhaps an RN could comment on this, instead, though.

Actually, a friend of the family when I was a kid spent a week in a coma due to an accident at a bike race. He was officiating on foot and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and land the wrong way.

Personally, I hate cyclists on sidewalks. As a pedestrian, there is nothing unnerving as having something whiz by 6 inches from your ear at 15mph. As a driver, the only time I ever get close to a right-of-way conflict with cyclists is when they are riding on the sidewalk. As a cyclist and motorcyclist, I'm quite aware that if you are not on the roadway, and in the lane, you might as well be invisible.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:06 PM on November 19, 2004


I get cut off every single day by someone in a car with air bags and seatbelts. They pass me and then pull right over to the curb completely denying me a lane.
This is a daily occurence in my bike commute too. Also, why do they race down the block (dangerously passing me in the process) to get to that very clearly red light at the end. Then after I gently coast past them and the light turns green it's pedal to the metal for another block. I try and examine my own car driving for this kind of thing, perhaps it's just unconscious utilization of all that POWER unh! maybe some freudian analysts want to weigh in?

shepd (and friends), if you really aren't just trolling in this fertile thread, and you were really interested in standing in another's pedals, try thinking for a moment about The Road. All these calls for folks on bikes to obey the Rules of The Road are not seeing that The Road is fundementally slanted toward the motor vehicle - the big, wasteful, powerful, noisy, smelly, homocidal, envirocidal motor vehicle. A person who has the courage to stand against the societal pressures to move their body around in one of these big metal boxes clearly deserves some credit. This and basic human-instinct style self-preservation make a flexible approach to the Rules of The Road a must for most dedicated cyclists.
posted by dorcas at 8:16 PM on November 19, 2004


dorcas: A person who has the courage to stand against the societal pressures to move their body around in one of these big metal boxes clearly deserves some credit. This and basic human-instinct style self-preservation make a flexible approach to the Rules of The Road a must for most dedicated cyclists.

I've commuted by bike before. And a lot of my thinking on this was transformed by reading an advocate, also a commuter, who really pushed assertive cycling. He made the argument that the safest way for cyclists to ride was to claim a spot in the lane, be visible, and to act in ways that are predictable to motorists. This means acting as if you are a car, and more frequently than not, obeying the rules of the road. For example, motorists are not looking for small, fast-moving objects going against the flow of traffic on the roadway, or small, fast-moving objects on the sidewalk. So if you ride against the flow of traffic, or on the sidewalk, there is a much larger probability that the motorist will either not see you, or misjudge your speed and/or intentions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:08 PM on November 19, 2004


Here's an interesting fact. 15 vehicle accidents per bicycle accident. Sounds bad against motorists, doesn't it?

I call bullshit. Yes, the may injury rate is 15 vehicle accidents per bicycle accident, but the ratio is 80 vehicle deaths per bicycle death (Table 18). Don't think because the injury rates after adjustment are 1 to 1 (if that is even true), that makes bicycles as dangerous as cars. Cars are much more dangerous because they are heavier, and move faster, therefore more energy to place into the target/victim of choice.

Don't however think I am defending bicyclist that don't follow the rules. I ride my bike everyday, I signal my turning, wear a helmet, and ride in bike lanes when available. Sometimes I break the rules (in a hurry or some other dumb excuse) and I have nearly hurt people, and after that I follow the rules I broke. However, this doesn't make people who ride cars any worse than bicyclists in that regard. I don't think you are going to be able to defend that all, or even most drivers follow all the rules all the time (example: Speed Limit).
posted by litghost at 9:19 PM on November 19, 2004


KirkJobSluder: He made the argument that the safest way for cyclists to ride was to claim a spot in the lane, be visible, and to act in ways that are predictable to motorists. This means acting as if you are a car, and more frequently than not, obeying the rules of the road.

Sure, if you can propel your wobbling contraption at the same speed the traffic is going, by all means do that. But if you decide to ride in the middle of the lane at 20mph slower than the rest of us--which would irritate people equally if you were doing so in a car--then don't expect people to tolerate it with good grace.

I've never cut off a cyclist deliberately. My reaction as a driver to cyclists is to steer well to the far side of the lane, change lanes if possible, go around the puffing, sweating, wobbling fool as they struggle to move forward, giving them enough of a gap that if they were to fall down into the road, (and most of you look like you're about to) then I wouldn't squash your head, and leave them behind ASAP. This is the procedure I was taught, and I recommend it to everyone else.

As for cyclists and traffic laws, the fact that your vehicle is capable of taking you on the footpath, the wrong way up the road, up and down stairs if you lift it, and through narrow gaps is just great as far as I'm concerned: please do all that, and finish your journey as soon as you can. Trying to make you behave like a car, when you can barely match the speed, you haven't a hope of matching the acceleration, and your protective shell is non-existent, is stupid. A bike ought to be treated as either a pedestrian or a vehicle from time to time, whichever one gets it where it's going easier.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:16 PM on November 19, 2004


@ dirtynumbangelboy, dobbs, shepd: do any of you guys ride bikes? If so, do you stop for every light? Do you follow *every* road regulation on the books? Be honest! It's not practicable to make bicycles obey exactly the same traffic laws as automobiles, especially since that they are not accorded the same respect as motorized vehicles.

Plus, I was really pissed off that they suspended my license for it because I wasn't driving a motorized vehicle. I took it to court and told the judge I didn't think that was fair. Know what the judge said? He said my legs counted as a motor.
posted by zorro astor at 11:34 PM on November 19, 2004


I sent the following to Ms. Provenzano:

Dear Ms. Provenzano, I am a resident of Astoria, Queens. I work in mid-town Manhattan at Coldwaters restaurant on 52nd and 2nd Ave. My girlfriend is a proud Brooklynite and we often argue about which borough is better (no comment). In May I purchased a bicycle which I use to commute to work, to go see my girlfriend in Brooklyn and to enjoy beautiful New York City. I ride responsibly, have reflectors on my bike and a light on my person and wear my helmet at night. I pay particular attention to pedestrians and never ride on the sidewalk. I know that there are many bicyclists, like car drivers, who do not ride responsibly, but I do not think that the statistics for this city bear out your ideas on bicycle safety on the roads, at least insofar as reported in the local papers. I can find no factual basis for your assertions, only anecdotal evidence, in any of the news reports I've read on the subject. While a fee for registering my bike would not be hardship for me (though I suspect getting a plate for it would) I do not think the proposed plan and fees would stop reckless riding. New York traffic is notorious for its craziness, yet it also requires registration and has stiff fines and penalties. It took me three attempts to get my driver's license, with long lines, overtaxed staff at the Department of Motor Vehicles and complicated identification requirements. I'm a firm believer in less regulation and I'm not sure if adding another office to take care of bicycle licensing or adding that burden to existing city offices is worthwhile or necessary. Certainly not by the evidence proffered so far. I do, however, think that this plan would discourage a pollution free alternative transport in New York. I wouldn't even call bicycling "alternative" in this city with so many riders, but there I lack my own evidence of numbers. Newsday quoted it as 112,000 or thereabouts in today's edition. However, two aspects you may not have considered is bicycle delivery from restaurants, groceries and other small business. The restaurant that I work for has two bicycles. The one across the street, four. I have not done a study on this, obviously, but the time and money spent on this for some places would be another small bite from restaurateurs for something that seems to me to be unworthy of new laws, regulations or city offices. I also wonder where the New York Police Department will get the manpower to regulate such a law and, if it did find that manpower, whether the Court system could handle the amount of summonses. I would suggest to you, and have suggested to Mr. Peter Vallone, Mr. Gifford Miller, Mr. John Liu of the Transportation Committee and the other members of the Transportation Committee, that added bicycle lanes on city streets might be a better solution which addresses the concerns of pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists. With a truly designated spot on the street, it's safer all around. I'm not sure what the cost of painting the lanes in is or what a study on its viability would cost the city, but I suspect it would be easier to implement and cheaper than your registration suggestion. Thank you for your time and keep doing great work for us here in New York City.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:42 AM on November 20, 2004


Sure, if you can propel your wobbling contraption at the same speed the traffic is going, by all means do that. But if you decide to ride in the middle of the lane at 20mph slower than the rest of us--which would irritate people equally if you were doing so in a car--then don't expect people to tolerate it with good grace.

The point of this style of cycling isn't to behave that way at all times, but to do so when the usual alternative (staying close to the right curb) is dangerous or impractical. On roadways which have no curb, are poorly-maintained on the edge (either through lack of debris removal or because edge potholes remain unfilled), or have high densities of parked cars, it is safest for all road users if the cyclist temporarily takes a lane until the hazard is clear.

In such conditions (usually urban), cyclists often can match car speeds -- I am not a fast rider but I average 15mph and can sprint to over 20 if needed. If the traffic is moving faster, yes. cars may need to pass if possible. Bicycles are legal vehicles on nearly all roads, as are other slow-moving ones like mail trucks, tractors, and grandma. You will wait less time to pass a bicycle than you will at the average stop light, and the reason you wait at a stop light is because of the density of other cars that have to pass. If you want a faster commute, advocate for more bikes, not fewer.
posted by nev at 7:53 AM on November 20, 2004


aa.Sure, if you can propel your wobbling contraption at the same speed the traffic is going, by all means do that. But if you decide to ride in the middle of the lane at 20mph slower than the rest of us--which would irritate people equally if you were doing so in a car--then don't expect people to tolerate it with good grace.

Um, I didn't say anything about the middle of the lane. What I said was in the lane. The best place is far enough to the right side of the lane where a car can pass easily, and far enough to the left to avaid debris in the gutter.

aa. As for cyclists and traffic laws, the fact that your vehicle is capable of taking you on the footpath, the wrong way up the road, up and down stairs if you lift it, and through narrow gaps is just great as far as I'm concerned: please do all that, and finish your journey as soon as you can.

Part of the problem with your argument is that you dramatically overestimate the frequency of accidents that are caused by overtaking bicycles from behind. Overtaking accidents are a tiny minority of car-bicycile accidents. The vast majority of car-bicycle accidents involve conflicts of right-of-way at intersections and roadway entrances. Operating a bicycle on footpaths, the wrong way, and through narrow gaps has a high risk of creating those conflicts.

The other side to the story is to choose routes that minimize interactions with car traffic as well. But nev called it. Average non-freeway car speed in urban areas is only 10mph.

Captaintripps: I would suggest to you, and have suggested to Mr. Peter Vallone, Mr. Gifford Miller, Mr. John Liu of the Transportation Committee and the other members of the Transportation Committee, that added bicycle lanes on city streets might be a better solution which addresses the concerns of pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists. With a truly designated spot on the street, it's safer all around. I'm not sure what the cost of painting the lanes in is or what a study on its viability would cost the city, but I suspect it would be easier to implement and cheaper than your registration suggestion.

I'm skeptical about bike lanes because they create another pontential point of right-of-way conflict.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:38 AM on November 20, 2004


I hold exactly the same attitude while driving, mrgrimm. Damn red lights are moot when I'm behind the wheel! To hell with the one-way streets! And don't even get me started on driving on the right-hand side of the road!

Apples and oranges. Bicycles are NOT %*$@ cars, people! Take a physics class and crunch the numbers yourself.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2004


I read posts here and letters to the editor in the local papers by people who seem to have an almost visceral hatred for cyclists. I've had bottles thrown at me. I've had people try to hit my by opening their car doors. I've had cars pull up behind me and lay on the horn and force me off the road. Where does this come from?

spoken as a daily bike commuter for the past decade who has experienced an array of similar incidents: i believe it's based in simple, too-oft-unrestrained bigotry and/or prejudice (call it what you like). despite your otherwise inescapable station-in-life it's okay to feel like you're better (safer, more affluent, bigger, taller, etc) than the cyclist; the cyclist, by default, is, to the automobile driver, always one rung lower.
posted by RockyChrysler at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2004


I hold exactly the same attitude while driving, mrgrimm. Damn red lights are moot when I'm behind the wheel! To hell with the one-way streets! And don't even get me started on driving on the right-hand side of the road!

Apples and oranges. Bicycles are NOT %*$@ cars, people! Take a physics class and crunch the numbers yourself.


Correct... when you fly through a red light and I hit you, you go flying through the air like a duck just after it's been shot.
posted by twine42 at 1:24 PM on November 20, 2004


Actually shepd, there are conflicting bylaws in most municipalities in Canada concerning signaling and keeping both hands on a the handlebars. I don't signal because I don't want to take my hands off the handlebars when approaching an intersection.

This is the law, and that's not in there (despite what some cops would have you belive! ask for a cite next time). It's pretty clear this wouldn't be in there when you realize you can't drive a manual without letting one hand off the wheel.

Well, it's not in there unless I've missed it, that is.

They pass me and then pull right over to the curb completely denying me a lane. Why? I really don't know.

It's the law, that's why (assuming you plan to overtake).
Vehicles or equestrians overtaken
(2) Every person in charge of a vehicle or on horseback on a highway who is overtaken by a vehicle or equestrian travelling at a greater speed shall turn out to the right and allow the overtaking vehicle or equestrian to pass. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (2).

Vehicles or equestrians overtaking others
(5) Every person in charge of a vehicle or on horseback on a highway who is overtaking another vehicle or equestrian shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision with the vehicle or equestrian overtaken, and the person overtaken is not required to leave more than one-half of the roadway free. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (5).
I'm sorry you're being mistreated by motorists, but the fact remains -- nobody but one person I have ever met on a bicycle has actually followed the rules of the road. I see you're trying, which is nice, and it means you're not deserving of all this hate. But, unfortuantely, by driving that bicycle you've kinda made yourself a part of the group that drivers are loathing. Sorry again!

Be honest! It's not practicable to make bicycles obey exactly the same traffic laws as automobiles, especially since that they are not accorded the same respect as motorized vehicles.

The road was designed for a car, so yeah, its rules will be damn inconvenient for you. Sorry about that. It's the way life goes. But ignoring the rules on that road is just asking to die, and just asking to fuck up the driving record of an otherwise perfect driver. Most of the laws are there to keep you alive. A few are stupid, but that doesn't negate really good ones like STOPPING AT RED LIGHTS AND STOP SIGNS.

If you find that it is such a pain to obey the rules that keep the roads safe, you could consider getting a moped. At least then you could enjoy pedalling AND you wouldn't be so angered by stops.

Guess what, if you read Ontario's laws, you'll find that people driving horses have to make them stop, too. And it's probably a LOT more of a pain in the ass controlling horses than it is for you to control your bike. But I have never, once, ever had an old order mennonite complain to me.
posted by shepd at 11:53 PM on November 20, 2004


As far as registration goes, I'd PAY $25 per bicyclist to see them registered as long as:

(a) They were ticketed for all their offences
(b) Their tickets were tracked the same way car tickets are tracked
(c) I get my $25 back plus $5 extra (victim's surcharge!) when they get a ticket.

I expect to be an overnight millionaire this way, that's how SURE I am that bicyclists don't follow the rules of the road.
posted by shepd at 11:56 PM on November 20, 2004


Actually, I think you missed this:

(5) Every person in charge of a vehicle or on horseback on a highway who is overtaking another vehicle or equestrian shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision with the vehicle or equestrian overtaken, and the person overtaken is not required to leave more than one-half of the roadway free. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (5).

When you pass a cyclist, you still need to leave enough room for the cyclist to operate safely behind you.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2004


Arguing that bikers in Manhattan should be ticketed for running red lights is a total joke. There are more than 1.2 *million* red lights run a day in Manhattan alone by cars, says Transportation Alternatives. There are tens of millions of instances of cars breaking the speed limit in NYC per day that are not ticketed. There are millions of instances of autos failing to yeild to pedestrian right of way per day that are not ticketed. There are millions of instances of double parking (often in bike lanes) per day that are not ticketed.

Let's not even talk about NYC pedestrian behavior, which is on averaage totally idiotic and dangerous. Pedestrians walk WAY out onto the roadway at busy intersections, they hail cabs out in the middle of where bikes are trying to ride and they (I am serious here) often cross sidestreets without looking for traffic at all. Hundreds of peds walk in traffic down 8th avenue with the backs to the oncoming cars, every day. I am involved with a ped in a clear-cut ped-at-fault interaction at least four times a day on my 20 mile commute.

Now, cosider that there are hundreds of people per year killed by cars in New York per year. The last fatality in NYC from being hit by a bike was in 1997 (correct me if I'm wrong but I can't find anything newer.) There are about 20 bikers per year who die from being hit by a motor vehicle.

Also keep in mind that by using a bike as my principle means of transport (400 miles / month) I am saving quite a bit of gas, I am making more room on the subways, I am taking up 1/5 the room on the roads that I ride on, I am healthier which brings down everyones insurance premiums and I am lessening my contribution to the massive oil-related foriegn policy issues that we are facing.

Now, all that said, promote our freedom to bike! Appreciate those who bike, and try it yourself.
posted by n9 at 10:20 AM on November 22, 2004


Shepd -- I certainly hope that with all your spew on the Rules of the Road, that you never, ever break the speed limit. Not by even 5 miles per hour. Because, you know, statistically, if you were to, say, break the speed limit by 5-10 miles per hour on a regular basis, you would distinguish yourself as:

1.) A driver who besides being responisible for the normal, 'acceptable' risk that he will kill someone with his vehicle is now *twice* as likely to do so in the event of an accident (stats I see deal with highway accidents, but I'm sure the danger in city driving is just as severe.)

and

2.) Someone who poses as much danger to those around him as a safe driver and more than 10 aggressive, terrorist NYC bikers.

and

3.) a hypocritical douchebag.
posted by n9 at 11:37 AM on November 22, 2004


KirkJob:I'm skeptical about bike lanes because they create another pontential point of right-of-way conflict.

Perhaps they do, but where they are implemented in Brooklyn (where the majority of them appear to be to me) they seem to work really well without right-of-way problems. In areas where they are less prevalent there are more problems. There's only one I've ever seen in Astoria, Queens and drivers are not cognizant of it because it's unusual.
posted by Captaintripps at 9:39 AM on November 23, 2004


Look at the e-mail I just received!

Dear Constituent:

Thank you for your letter concerning Introduction 497. After carefully
reviewing the legislation, I have withdrawn my sponsorship of the bill.

My intent was to support a bill that addresses the issues of bicycle
safety for both cyclists and pedestrians. I am particularly concerned
about cyclists who ride their bicycles on city sidewalks at high speeds
and endanger pedestrians, especially our senior citizens. Even worse,
many cyclists flee the scene after colliding with and injuring a
pedestrian. My initial belief was that some type of licensing would
help the police or other concerned citizens identify those individuals.
Closer examination of this bill, however, revealed that it did not
adequately address these concerns and instead unfairly punished those
cyclists who ride their bikes cautiously and obey the law.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,



Philip Reed

posted by ParisParamus at 6:24 PM on December 7, 2004


Hey, very cool! Activism can work!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:36 PM on December 7, 2004


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