New York councillor proposes compulsory bike registration

Critics concerned scheme would affect cycling numbers

Could bicycle ID tags or number plates, like this vintage one from Hawaii, become compulsory in more areas?

A New York councilman is proposing a registration system that would require all bicycles used within the city to be fitted with an identification tag. However, a recent decision from across the Hudson river in New Jersey could lend strength to opposition to the scheme.

Eric Ulrich told The New York Post that the proposal would help to identify cyclists involved in accidents, while also responding to concerns from sections of his Queens constituency who, he said, felt “intimidated” by cyclists.

“There seems to be a double standard when it comes to enforcing the traffic laws,” said Ulrich. “Bicycles are involved in accidents, unfortunately, across this city. People on bicycles scare the hell out of [senior citizens]. Sometimes they can be an intimidating presence on the city streets.”

Ulrich said the registration process would include a “small fee”. Currently, a number of schools and universities across the US operate both free and paid-for registration programs, although these are largely designed to deter theft and aid recovery of stolen bikes.

Councillor Ulrich’s scheme has immediately raised the ire of New York bicycle advocacy groups, who view the proposal as an inefficient way of aiding the enforcement of traffic laws. They have also expressed concern over the effect a registration system might have on strong growth in bicycle use within the city in recent years.

“We’re adamantly opposed to any legislation that would require licensing or registration of bicycles,” Kim Martineau, a spokeswoman for Transportation Alternatives, told The New York Post. “The deterrent effect it would have on cycling would be enormous.”

Those opposed to Councillor Ulrich’s proposal will take heart from a decision by an Assemblywoman from nearby New Jersey, who last week withdrew a proposed bill that would have required all bikes to bear a numberplate.

Cleopatra Tucker bowed to widespread criticism over her proposal to have bicycles registered with the Motor Vehicle Comission of New Jersey. Like Ulrich, Assemblywoman Tucker had proposed the bill after receiving complaints from senior citizens who said they’d been knocked down by cyclists.

Opponents to Tucker’s bill said the scheme would reduce bicycle usage, with increased spending on cycling infrastructure and education programmes a more effective way of reducing accidents.