Rethinking Bicycle Licensing and Registration


In the wake of bicycle deaths there is always the notion that more education is needed. But that means to hard core urban cyclists that a vigil, a ghost bike and leaflets are the order of the day. And if things are really well organized there will be a push by the more media-connected types to get an article or two published casting the cyclist as the victim without ever mentioning any contributing factors brought on by the cyclist themselves. The aim is always to play the victim.

So in that vein the idea of more education is intended for the motorists who open their doors or pass too closely and never the members of the cycling community whose collective behaviors often serve as a contributing factor to the very deaths they rail against. The folks who get the most mileage out of all of this are the news media who get a ready-made story opportunity and the local printers who don’t mind printing up yet another set of leaflets or brochures.

In addition the local cycling advocacy groups can crank up their membership campaigns by leading off with images made on the night or morning of the vigils with sad faces and images of placards asking the equivalent of the Rodney Jones line, “Why can’t we all just get along?” in the form “Why can’t we Share The Road?”. And then a advocacy big wig will get to stand in front of microphones at the annual contributors dinner and voice his or her concern over the sad state of cyclist safety (carefully skirting the mention of any contributing factors from the cyclists themselves) but holding out hope that with more cycling infrastructure all will be well. And of course that means that the donors will need to open their checkbooks to write those hefty contributions that will get us closer to the end of the ghost bikes.

Not a dry eye in the house and everyone gets to feel good about themselves. The lights will dim and a video clip prepare by one of the members of the local cycling community will flash across a screen. There will be dramatic footage of the aftermath of the accidents or a montage if more than one has occurred during the funding cycle and then the carnage will fade into a scene of some of the newer buffered cycling lanes across the area and perhaps there will be another scene or two of the vigil and then a vignette featuring a cycling mom who has found her way back into the work force by means of her bicycle.

When the lights come up everyone who has not finished their wine, champagne or beer will do so and head over to the coat rack with smiles on their faces as they fetch their fur coats (for the wealthier contributors) or their Chrome bags and cycling helmets for the hard core urban hipsters who want to keep up the appearance of a committed member of the movement. Everyone will feel smugly self-righteous to one degree or another and head home “to sleep, perchance to dream”.

The following day on the ChainLink forum there will be yet another endless discussion about ways to “build off of the success” of the previous evenings fundraiser. The mayor of the town will have already had his campaign chair get a copy of the donor list from last nights gala and will be dialing a few of the more influential ones to ask if there is anything more that his administration can do. And while he is at it would there be a chance that a contribution to the campaign war chest is possible? Why yes, comes the answer. And everyone is again feeling smugly about the way in which they are furthering the cause of “the bicycle friendly city”.

Pause, Hit Rewind

Let’s get back to that issue of “more education is needed“. Who exactly is that message really for? On the ChainLink Forum this is always about educating the motorist. The ChainLink is after all the Mother Ship. We use this as a means to coordinate monthly protests rides which we claim are really not (otherwise we would have to apply for a route permit and fork over some monies). And if there are to be ghost bikes donated and plastic flowers to adorn them purchased we put out requests for these sorts of things and then someone contributes yet another clever piece of artwork for stickers.

We love stickers because they are relatively cheap and they can be plastered just about anywhere they should not be. They are the semi-adult version of the high schoolers graffiti and that makes them popular. And a good sticker can “stick it to the man” by letting him or her know that their two ton gas guzzling behemoths are a cyclists nightmare. They pollute the atmosphere and serve as their own cages, separating them from the fresh air and sunshine and glorious liberation of riding the bicycle.

And then once again some schlub who is possibly new to the ChainLink Forum will ask the extremely rude question, “What about licensing bicycles?” There will be the ChainLink equivalent of a hushed silence after a partygoer has inadvertently cut a very ripe and extremely loud (dare I say it…) fart! Eyes will be averted and coughs in the general vicinity of the offender will be rendered and everyone will be uncomfortable until the composure of the alpha males in the group has been restored. Then there will be a violent descent (verbal of course) onto the noggin of the miscreant who dared resurrect this vile issue and the poor soul will wonder what exactly brought all this on.

Well for one thing, everyone considers licensing to be the brainchild of Satan himself. It is a way of clamping down on cyclists whose very freedom is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they met to ratify their Constitution. At least that will be the essence of the thinking surrounding the verbal thrashing that will have descended on this hapless soul. In the background the less than one percent will be considering when to yank this guys membership and will already have drafted an email to that effect. Life is good.

But in the inimitable words of Samuel L. Jackson, “Wake The F*ck Up!”

There are at minimum three major aims for cyclists:

  • To be taken seriously. Respected as part of the transportation equation.
  • To have their infrastructure needs supplied. The right kind of infrastructure will encourage others to join in commuting to work, saving money all around and it will provide greater safety by minimizing interactions between cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • To have the number of fatalities and injuries plummet to near zero. The Dutch were able to rally their community to make this happen and they are now (along with the Danes) the even of the cycling universe.

Licensing is one of the means by which you actually get taken seriously. If you are worthy of a test and the need to demonstrate proficiencies then you can be said to have arrived. Ask any teenager how good it feels to get that first rite of passage to adulthood behind them, the dreaded driver’s license test. But once they have that license in hand all sorts of doors open for them. They can ride with their buddies to and from school or even an after school job. Their fathers have to take them seriously now because they too can ask for the car keys and expect some valid response. Their peers look up to them and they walk a bit taller.

The very thing that everyone says about licensing, “It will stifle bicycle ridership” is oddly not true about driving a car, why? The secret is to it all is the idea of a rite of passage for a young adult. So we need to build off of this sort of thinking to reach the real targets of our “more education is needed” campaigns, school children.

President Obama Was An Object Lesson

Every racist in the GOP was up in arms when Barack Obama had the temerity to open a dialogue with school children by means of the same vehicle that Ronald Reagan and George Bush had used before him, the closed circuit hookup. They actually went to their local school leaders and forbade them scheduling an assembly hall meeting to listen to this nigger as he attempted to corrupt their children.

They would probably have been calmer had a pedophile priest been given the half hour to speak to their precious offspring but no nigger was going to have the ear of their children without a fight.

Every single cycling advocacy should have had an “ah hah” moment when this happened. What the racists in the GOP understood better than anyone is that “you really cannot educate old dogs“. But if you can win over the puppies you can change the world. Try as they might if President Barack Obama was an appealing figure to their bright young minds, they would have to wonder why their parents found him so very offensive. After all he was merely trying to get them to “stay in school“, “follow their dreams” and “create a better tomorrow“. How bad could this nigger really be?

Sadly, liberal activists as are dumb as stones.

When given raw meat they sniff at it and wonder whether there might be any tofu available instead. (Note: I am a vegan, so I can say this without have to feel too much guilt at offending vegetarians and vegans).

  • If you want to end the careless and unthinking behaviors of motorists, change their minds.
  • If you wish to change their minds, do it early and often.
  • If you are looking for the earliest opportunity catch them as children.
  • If you want to get children “on board” offer them shiny new buttons and trinkets and even an official cycling jacket with cool embroidery.
  • And if all of this works you will assuage the fears of every soccer mom on the planet about their kids bicycling to school.
  • And if the soccer moms can be convinced to ride with their kids to school each morning they will meet afterwards for coffee and reinforce their confidence that bicycle training is a good thing.
  • And if their husbands want any peace in their marriages they will get on board too.
  • And suddenly you have an male electorate who can now understand why taking cyclists seriously is important. Cyclists are their wives and children and hopefully them too.

And it all begins with the notion of licensing a child’s bike.

But hey that really cannot be done and who would pay for such a thing?

Meet Licensing By Another Name…

The website of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reads:

Young Cyclists Show Off Their “Certificates of Registration”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has developed an innovative new program called “BEAR” Bicycle Education And Registration).

The goal of the program is to better educate citizens (adults and children) on bicycle knowledge, safety, laws, and security.

The program will benefit in bicycle theft recovery efforts. The program is a free service offered to citizens who wish to protect their personal property.

Interested persons need only to complete a “BEAR Registration Form” to start the process.  Once bike team members receive the completed form, an appointment will be made with the citizen, and a photograph of the bike, and secret makings will take place.  The citizen will then be issued a “Protected by BEAR” card that will include his/her data base entry number.  In the event that the citizens bike is ever stolen, the detailed information will be easily accessible at the station.

Additionally, deputy Personnel who conduct routine stops of cyclists, will be able to immediately recognize the secret “BEAR” markings, and with a phone call, identify the owner of a “BEAR” registered bike.

To get startedclick here to download the registration form. Just fill out and mail to:

LASD – West Hollywood Station
780 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069

Sealing The Deal

You Get To Wear A Neat Button!

I was an Eagle Scout as a child. I even went on to enter an Explorer troop. It made sense and gave me a purpose for my life. But at that age what really “sealed the deal” were the uniforms, badges and medals. The LASD understands this all too well. They have an array of nifty buttons and badges too.

And there is a very neat embroidered patch and pin for each new Bear. You can see a copy of the pin (almost life-size to the right). The patch could be affixed to a nice yellow windbreaker (were I in charge of the program) and that would identify each child to a motorist as a Bear.

Each year the newest Bears in the community could march along with their parents in the annual Fourth of July parade. That jacket would be a visual reminder that each child in their community had passed a special test and proved their proficiency at driving their bike all the way around the parking lot of their school. And then afterwards there would be an on sidewalk test for the younger ones and eventually a street test for those over the age of twelve.

A Beautiful Embroidered Patch!

I would even venture to sell moms and dads who escorted their kids to school on bikes jackets that matched those of their offspring. I would even offer jackets with special lettering for those parents who actually took the proficiency tests and the its written companion. This embroidered windbreaker would be the thing that provided some sense of belonging to those parents who met for coffee after each mornings ride.

The one appearing to the right would be what the actual children received. But how about one read Bear Parent? Now how offensive and threatening does licensing sound when you do it this way?

You get kids eager to be involved and parents along for the ride. They could sit in on the classes held and even join the proficiency tests. Why not have a Momma Bear and Poppa Bear button as well? After all the aim here is to get the parents engaged enough to encourage their children to see the world from the perspective of the bicycle seat. And if some of that rubs off on the folks in the household who are actually driving motorists, all the better.

Imagine a monthly ride in your community with parents and children who were not protesting in the manner of a Critical Mass Ride but were actually celebrating the bicycle as a method of travel in their local communities. Imagine how much easier it would be to pass Complete Streets ordinances in such a community. Imagine too the reception to buffered lanes for safer traveling in the downtown district of your community.

Suddenly you are looking at a movement that is not so urban-centric but is welcomed all across the county in both the towns where Liberals and Conservatives actually come to understand what it means to “Share The Road”.

Now We Have A True Reason For The LCIs

It is high time we got back to understanding the value of Vehicular Cycling. The League of American Bicyclists has a cadre of trained experts in cycling who could be enlisted to train the Bears and Parent Bears of each community. They have for a very long time had little to do except the occasional bicycle rodeo. But with a true licensing program adopted at the state level we could bring together all of their training materials into attractive booklets to use as teaching materials. Parents would be able to read them to their younger children (while being introduced themselves to ideas that they might not have considered). Suddenly the idea of dooring makes sense because it represents a very real danger to their own high-school age children riding the streets on Sharrow Lanes that abut the Door Zone.

You no longer have to spell all these terms out for parents, they already know what it all means. The only persons who lose out are the perennial activists who will have to move on to yet another movement to find some meaning in their lives. But for those of us who really and truly care about cycling having it licensed and incorporated into the school curriculum would be a beautiful thing.

Online Bike Safety Website Under Development

October 10th, 2012

Source : League of Illinois Bicyclists

By spring, LIB plans to unveil a first-of-its-kind bike safety lesson website, intended to better mainstream bicyclist and motorist education in Illinois. Users will learn key safety techniques and relevant state laws in an interactive quiz format. Modules, each with bronze, silver, and gold levels, are initially being developed for adult cyclists, motorists, and 4th/5th grade children. Database tracking will allow easy use by schools, driver education programs, and individuals – with participation incentives planned from Share the Road license plate income. Look for more on this exciting resource as we approach launch date.

1 Comment

  1. As cyclists, I don’t think we take legal issues surrounding cycling as seriously as we should. Things such as bicycle accidents, bicycle insurance, attorney and advocacy should be thought of and talked about BEFORE we get into an accident.

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