Bicycle Thief


As if to prove Nick Gillespie's point about the asinine government tomfoolery people will put up with to live in a great city, New York, NY is pondering mandatory licenses for drivers of … bicycles.

The bill, introduced by City Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano, calls for fines up to $300 and up to 15 days in jail for anyone over 16 years old who rides an unregistered bike or flouts traffic laws.

Link via Metafilter.

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  1. Now there’s a depressing movie.

    I can’t wait until we get to see our first live action helicopter coverage of an unfolding police bicycle chase. Crap like this is why I don’t even bother going to NY much anymore.

  2. Can helmet laws be far behind?

  3. You know, proposing fines for cyclists who break traffic laws is a fine idea. Why, we might call such laws imposing fines of vehicles that violate traffic laws… “traffic laws”. Oh yeah.

    Because they already apply to bicycles, have always applied to bicycles, and always will.

    If cyclists break existing law with impunity, creating a new law criminalizing breaking those existing laws is not exactly going to fix the problem.

    I’m a 100% legal urban cyclist, and I vote. In particular I vote against lazy fuckwit cops who can’t enforce existing laws, against politicians who think grandstanding against cyclists is fun, and against the AAA weasels who think vehicular homicide of cyclists should be a $50 fine. Oddly, I think I smell some of those fumes on this bill. Thank goodness I’m not in New York; the stench would be overpowering.

  4. Milwaukee has had mandatory bike registration for years. I remember having to pay a small fee, maybe $4.00, about 15 years ago. At least today the license is free.

    From: or

    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.”

    It is mainly a nannyish program to facilitate the return of stolen bikes to their rightful owners, should they be recovered by the police. They stopped charging a fee when they realized that so many ignored the law that it didn’t pay to collect it.


  5. I’d like to put in a plug for the small city. It’s not just a choice between Megalopolis and Podunk you know. I live in Grand Rapids MI. A few years ago I lived in Clarkston which is twenty minutes north of Pontiac, and I was still too close to Detroit.

    I don’t buy the big city sell. The fact that it takes forty-five minutes to get anywhere at all (and another forty five to get back) is not merely inconvenience. And that’s a minimum, it’s not uncommon to get stuck in traffic for hours. As to all that wonderful cultural stuff? HA, unless you reside above the 15th floor and have a 24/7 car and driver, you can’t afford it. What you can afford is overrun with various low-life parasites.

    Here in west MI, the natives are a bit too… well Dutch Reformed, for most peoples taste. But I’ve also live in Rochester NY where the locals keep sending Louise M. Slaughter to congress. Anything good that actually comes out of the big city cultural crock pot… actually comes out. You just have to wait a couple of years. And you don’t have to put up with all the naval gazing crapolla that makes up 99% of the “scene” uptown Urbannia. Best of all you are never more than twenty five minutes from anywhere this side of the next city over.

    Small City suburbs; The very best standard of living available.

  6. Once again, NY has proven itself to be the home of stupid, nannyish laws.

    I’m a fairly serious cyclist. This summer, I have been run off the road by rednecks in pickups five times, almost hit by people running stop signs at least twice, and squeezed between parked cars and traffic more times than I can count. Perhaps taking driver’s licensing seriously would be a better idea.
    Finally, I’d point out that natural selection is at work here; stupid or reckless cyclists tend to be taken out of circulation fairly quickly.

  7. Grant,

    Vehicular homicide should be a $50 reward if the biker is blazing through red lights and stop signs, especially if it’s in herds, with $5 per extra DOA.

    They think that because they’re relatively defenseless that they incurr all sorts of new rights. Law is law and if I was a cop I would fill my qoutas much easier by ticketing bikers that impose chaos and disorder as a way of life on the streets.

    Bike licenses only for people with training wheels aged 16+ would be OK by me though.

  8. The NYC government should proceed directly to the best solution. A GPS transmitter with a personal identification code should be installed in every citizen. Every step you take on a public sidewalk, every mile you drive on a public roadway, and every few feet you cycle should be taxed in realtime by debiting your bank account or pre-payed charge card. Infractions such as jay-walking, speeding, and excessive weeving would be assessed in the same way.

  9. The few bad apples of the cyclist world is fucking it up for everyone. Its really bad here in Seattle, just last night a person riding through a crosswalk nearly got hit. He circumvented the stop signs by using the crosswalks. The best solution is to ticket this asshole with extreme predjudice. But nooooo, we have to create more useless laws and regulations that ultimately won’t be enforced until you are spotted without a bicycle license plate dangling off the back!

  10. Speaking for my neck of the woods, I would advice the following: Fining fucking bicyclists for breaking traffic law.

    I never see any of those idiots pulled over, and at least around here the nimwits think they can run red lights, turn left on red, cross streets wherever the fuck they feel like it and in general play a big game of chicken with oncoming cars.

    Have the damn idiots can’t even work out which side of the road to ride on.

    And the cops don’t seem to care, and the bikers only bitch about the “Dangerous drivers”. Well fuck YEAH I’m a dangerous driver if you decide to turn across my lane when I HAVE THE DAMN GREEN LIGHT.

  11. It’s a little different for me–living in the sticks and all–but what burns me up is cyclists on the highways (2 lane). There are plenty of back country roads with lower speed limits and less traffic, but no–some wanna cycle at 5PM and wonder why cars are swerving and zipping past. I love slamming on the brakes to avoid nailing some ass at 65. Gawd.

  12. for anyone who wants to enjoy a profanity-laced diatribe against badass renegade cyclists, its about 1/4 way down the page here:

    (the views of the above site to not necessarily reflect those of this poster and his subsidiaries)

  13. s.a.m., et. al,

    This is really about the government generating tax revenue on a pay-for-services-rendered basis, NOT cycling.

    Oregon has launched a pilot project and California is considering taxing auto drivers by the mile.

  14. In Russia, bicycle rides you!

  15. you know, it’s actually not that bad of an idea. although the registration part strikes me as odd.
    i’m run off the sidewalk almost daily by moronic bicycle riders in the city and traffic rules should be enforced.

    or at least pedestrians should be allowed to knock over bicyclists riding on the sidewalk.

  16. I read a sci-fi novel a few years ago about this. Sorry, no details about the title or author have been retained. One premise to the story stuck though: youngsters in L.A., on high-tech skateboards, would tether themselves to cars to get about while avoiding the exhorbitant price of driving.

  17. Richard- I think that was one of Neal Stephenson’s earlier books. I forget the title, but they refered to the activity as “pooning.” The character was a delivery girl who somehow ran afoul of some unsavory folks.

    I just can’t remember the title. Or even be sure of the author.

  18. Drooling: I think you mean Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Great novel, set in a near future America approaching something very close to anarcho-capitalism.

    The skateboarders were actually professional couriers, but they were mostly kids, who couldn’t drive. (Or at least they didn’t have cars.) They used magnetic ” ‘poons” with retractable tethers to hitch rides from cars, yeah. That made them as fast as cars, but more maneuverable, and congested traffic wouldn’t stop them.

  19. They think that because they’re relatively defenseless that they incurr all sorts of new rights

    No, it’s because bicycles are fundamentally different than cars. While I certainly don’t advocate blazing through stop signs, the fact is that if you slow down through a stop sign enough to make sure there are no cars, that’s generally good enough.

    When you’re on a bike, if you’re riding slowly near a stop sign, looking for cars, and you see a car, you can stop on a dime and let that guy through. A car can’t do that (plus they have less visibility) so they need to come to a full stop.

    Furthermore, coming to a complete stop is much more expensive on a bicycle! You have to unclip your feet and re-create all that momentum you lost when you came to a stop. It’s a lot of work to do that if you’re riding through a neighborhood with stop signs every two blocks!

    Bikes are fundamentally different that cars, and there are certainly lots of cyclists who are unsafe, but it’s perfectly possible to be safe on a bicycle while not obeying all the same laws as cars. Bikes are just more maneuverable, have better visibility, and better stopping times.

    In Oregon we had a proposed law that allowed bikes to go slowly through stop signs, but it was (rightly so, I suppose) prioritized pretty low and didn’t come up for debate before the Legislature session closed. My point in bringing it up is as an interesting related fact, not to futher my case, though.

  20. Stevo-thank you. That was driving me crazy.

  21. hey warren:

    grand rapids — not bad. i have some buddies from k’zoo and in the SW part of the state. the east side of the lake is fantastic.

    what do you think of port huron? the bottom of the lake and the river are fantastic. except for that bridge to canada, it’s really cool there.


  22. no one in particular is right. I’m not on my bike every day, but I bike around San Diego to know that following all traffic laws is often a big fat waste of time and is also often dangerous. There are some areas where I illegally ride on the sidewalk because the street is too unsafe (or, at least, on the street, I’ll slow traffic). But just like many drivers, many bicyclists are just jerks. I always get pissed off at pairs of people who feel the need to ride side-by-side when there’s clearly not enough room in the bike lane… or when they sit way out in the road so they don’t have to be too close to the curb.

    Well, I have a lot to say about this stuff… most importantly, for drivers: take your right of way when you have it… it’s annoying when drivers sit at a stop sign waiting for me to go through when they were there first… I usually end up having to stop and wait only because drivers sit there like a deer in the headlights. Oh, and on a personal note, please watch for cyclists when you open your car doors!

  23. You’re pussy-assed software just punked out again. “Too Many Connections” or some shit.

    Remember when like half a percent of Atrios’ readers dropped by and the whole site shit the bed? That one girl’s comment about “this is the best comment system the hallowed free market can come up with?” cracked me up.

  24. Kevrob-
    If the licenses are free where you are, then what is the penalty for biking without a license?

  25. Had to chime in, cause I ride a lot. I agree with No One in Part. and Andy, but will add this:

    My only worry on the bike is the damn cars. It would be lots of fun without them (like as in 3AM, what a blast to ride through the city). Yeah, the motor vehicles are paying for the roads, I know. However, any wreck I am in will hurt me as much as the pedestrian, and most likely much more than any motor vehicle. So, you can figure I care a lot about not hitting anything.

    I will break any traffic law on the books with my bike if it keeps me away from the cars. That includes running stop signs and red lights to keep away from cars that think 1.5 ft. of space next to me is just freakin’ fine. Yeah, I’ve been pulled by a motorcycle cop for running a red light, after coming to a FULL STOP! I ended up paying, but I told the guy, safety comes first, fuck the law – I didn’t use that one word there though.

    Gotta add this: How stupid are drivers that think they can’t cross the double-yellow line on a 2-land road to give you a little more room when no-one’s coming the other way. What kind of mindset is that? “Well, I may come close to hitting, maybe seriously hurting this guy, but I remember the book from traffic school was big on that double-yellow line …” This happens all the time, as Andy and NOIP will agree, I’m sure.

  26. Jimmy, I don’t cross the yellow line because I’m trying to piss the bicyclist off.

  27. FWIW, most of the college towns I’ve been in have required bicycle registration, and in at least one (State College, PA), the local constabulary have been known to ticket riders for moving violations. (I can remember one hapless individual complaining about getting a whopping fine for traveling the wrong way on a one-way street.)

    In some jurisdictions, riding an unregistered bike and/or flouting traffic/riding laws can result in confiscation of the bike in question (not a biggie if it’s a $20 junker – a BIG biggie if your ride is worth a couple grand).

    WRT NYC: sounds to me like a new incarnation of Bloombergish “revenue generation” schemes.


    P.S. There are, apparently, some voluntary (privately-run) bike registration programs, intended to be useful in recovery of a stolen bike – I have no idea how effective they are.

  28. Brian, you may have always wondered how the brillo-pad shaped scratch marks came from on your starboard aft quarter-panel? Don’t wonder any more, OK?

  29. In college, you were supposed to register your bike ($6 or $7) if you wanted to have it on campus and they could ticket you if you didn’t. They liked to say that it makes it more easy to recover a stolen bike, but, of course, though a good number of bikes had been stolen over the years, *none* of them had been recovered because they were registered… it all amounted to a money-making scam.

    Anyway, like most of us, I can’t find a reason other than “money-making scam” to force people to register their bikes. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage if you want to give out tickets or otherwise enforce traffic laws for bikes… except it would mean fewer bikes on the road and therefore fewer violations.

    Hey, since there’re so many cyclists reading this… is it legal on a bike to run a red light if you’re going along the continuous part of a T intersection?… I mean, you’re not at all in the way of any cars when you do it, so it seems pointless to stop and wait.

  30. Hey, since there’re so many cyclists reading this… is it legal on a bike to run a red light if you’re going along the continuous part of a T intersection?

    I’d suspect that, unless some particular jurisdiction passes a law allowing it (a la “Right Turn On Red After Stop”), no, it isn’t. As to whether that’s enforced rigorously…

    Incidentally, the granddaddy of the aforementioned private-sector registries appears to be National Bike Registry. Any knowledge about effectiveness? (I suspect, even given the list of police departments subscribing to their database, and even if a police agency recovers a bike, that for most departments, matching a bike – even an expensive one – to its owner has to rank a notch below rescuing granny’s kitty from a tree.)

    Now HERE’s a question: those of you who ride between and among multiple jurisdictions (whether a cross-country charity ride, or whatever): what to you have to do as you cross all those state/county/city/town/village lines to ensure to don’t fall afoul of the locals?


  31. “… what to you have to do as you cross all those state/county/city/town/village lines to ensure to don’t fall afoul of the locals?”

    Keep looking over your shoulder for the Smokies (along with other hazards), or use your Dr. Detroit nerdy helmet-mounted mirror if you have one. If you know one saw you pull something obvious, take an immediate left down a tight alley or across a playground, park or through the up the HUD-required wheelchair ramp of the nearest crackhouse (Joe’s neighborhood) and throught the foyer, living room, and out the back.

    Probably not the answer you were looking for, John, but it’s my answer.

  32. I posted this link on my cycling board. Rather than use the relativist argument about cars already being licensed, the question is why should cyclists be licensed? Its not like we’re pushing two tons of steel around. Long before I could dent your door, my Bontrager 16 spoke front wheel would just fold up. With a run-in with a bus, my carbon frame would just shatter. So since we’re not wielding anything dangerous, why license us? What is the purpose?

    As to laws, I observe all of Newton’s laws, although I sometimes let momentum overcome gravity. I basically ignore traffic laws, since they usually put the cyclist at risk. We’re not surrounded in a cocoon of crumple zones and air bags, there’s just a thin sheet of spandex between us and everything else. So when you see a cyclist doing something you think they shouldn’t, try not to think.

  33. Additionally, cops in the South have a common-sense attitude toward bikes, unlike that NYC business under discussion. I have crossed through a red-light, after looking thoroughly, when a cop was waiting for the light on the other side. (Just a 2-lane rd./2-lane crossing, nothing huge). I looked him right in the eye and nodded hey. I’ve not had the guts to do that other than the once – look him in the eye, that is….

  34. Ayatollah,

    What I said before —> see post at 06:27 today. I think everyone else has left the building …

  35. Jennifer:

    I seem to remember the ticket for not registering your bike was $25.00, but I don’t know what it is now. If the police are convinced you own the bike, I’d assume they’d give you a warning, and clear the ticket when you get the sticker. In days gone by one actually had to have a license plate! If the rider doesn’t convince the officer that the bike is his, it could get confiscated.

    Madison still charges $10.00 for a 4-year permit, and there’s a $50.00 fine for non-registration. In that cycle-happy town, it must bring in some change.


  36. Bikers are fighting a losing battle with physics.

  37. Just wait until you have to get a license JUST TO BE A PEDESTRIAN, i.e., to travel from place to place by foot.

    You laugh now, but what if you had told someone, fifty years ago, that there would someday be laws against smoking OUTSIDE? Or that special taxes on HAMBURGERS would be taken seriously as an idea? Or that people could actually get pulled over and have to pay hefty fines because they weren’t wearing a full-harness SEAT BELT?

    Man, those were the good old days, when you could make jokes about outrageous things that would NEVER, EVER happen!

    On second thought, just keep laughing. Whatever is in store for us brave souls in the “land of the free,” it’s always good to keep a sense of humor.

  38. James-
    Now, now. Here in the Land of the Free we’d NEVER require license and registration of pedestrians; we’ll just require it for their shoes. We’ll also codify into law the old maxim, “No shirt, no shoes, no civil rights.”

  39. You can take our freedom! But you can never take our sense of humor!

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