Registration And License Plates Are In Order For Cyclists

Background Reading

Summary

Cyclists are riding on “borrowed time” of their own making. Make no mistake that cameras are watching and news outlets have no compunction about “outing” the “red light running habits” of cyclists. Eventually we will have earned enough ill-will that it will become “necessary” to bring a halt to the relative anonymity with which cyclists ride the roads we are supposed to be sharing with motorists. The days when cyclists are required to register their vehicles and display some sort of identification tag is coming. Cyclists will fight the legislation but in the end it will pass because it meets the needs of those cyclists who want their bicycles to be easily identified when ridden by a thief and because motorists will demand that there be a leveling of the playing field where “red light” and speed cameras are concerned.

When that day comes be ready to point the finger at all those cyclists who over the years have insisted on their moral right to break traffic laws as part of what it means to be an American. The irony is that the group which most closely mirrors the current crop of Urban Cyclists (namely the Tea Party) will end up being its biggest antagonist in the coming debate.

Does this surprise you?

Does this surprise you?

We will not be able to use arguments in which we claim that the lack of injury makes the infraction harmless. Eventually it will become clear that this is an argument borne out of personal convenient and self-interest and someone on the right is going to insist on a return to that bedrock principle of “personal responsibility“. Cyclists and motorists will be trading barbs and legal initiatives up to and including the point where equity is reached. Fines will likely be tagged as being against not the vehicle itself but instead against the individual’s behavior. And that will make it as expensive to cheat on a bike as it does in an automobile. It should also be the case that “dings” against your driving record will accrue during the operation of either kind of vehicle. After all failure to yield the right-of-way is a foundational principal which has ramifications far beyond how large your vehicle is or it curb weight.

Because accidents can have a ripple effect one will in that not too distant future be able to minimize your behavior on a bicycle versus in your car. The notion of vulnerability will hopefully begin to apply not to how steel surrounds the rider but rather the frequency with which operators die on the roadway. If you look at the statistics here in the United States it rapidly becomes clear that by a very wide margin bicycling represents far less risk to the rider than does driving to the motorist. And it will be come clear that the only meaningful notion of the weight to be attached to an accident where a fatality occurs is based solely upon the lost income for families and the property damage that results from negligence. On both these counts the motorist has the edge over a cyclist.

Cyclists Need Training As Much If Not More Than Motorists

Because we have long since lost the battle for bicycle training in grade schools and beyond and instead opted for Driver Education in our schools (usually a the high school level) as a nation we are largely ignorant of traffic strategies that should apply not just to protected bike lanes (which are the extreme minority in the infrastructure landscape) but we are sadly in need of some review of how and why a bicycle should be equipped for use on the roadway.

Simple things like:

  • What kinds of lights should be worn on a bicycle and how they should be positioned are vital
  • Bicycles should have cyclometers in place as well as some sort of turn sign and stop lights (these two innovations are long overdue)
  • Horns and bells should be routinely required by every municipality for safety purposes
  • Fender skirts should be required for those bikes ridden with coats and other trailing clothing

In short the design features of the bicycle should mirror at minimum those present on rental bikes like the Divvy.

The recent problems plaguing the city of Copenhagen with respect to bicycle collisions at intersections during right turns should make it more than clear that protected bike lanes are not the sole answer to bicycle safety or for that matter bicycle comfort. We have been to my mind negligent in over-emphasizing such lanes to the detriment of a real adult strategies for coping with all sorts of lanes that exist in the real world. If society values personal safety it will make certain that cycle tracks  exist alongside car highways. Neither form of infrastructure can be designed well enough to obviate intelligent strategies for coping with human behavior.