The response to my post on Oregon Representative Krieger’s bike registration bill was impressive. Lots of people read the post and lots of people commented. Representative Krieger’s bill got attention at the nationallevel as well. There are a lot of active bikers out there who had a lot to say about this.
To be honest, I’m pretty skeptical about the motives behind bike registration, so I tried to find some studies that had looked at registration. Who knows, maybe registration actually works. If registration actually does improve the status of the bike on the road compared to cars, then maybe my doubts are misplaced.
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I looked, but I couldn’t find any studies that focused on bike registration. However, I did find two studies that reinforce my post’s conclusion: to promote biking there are more important things to do first before we start requiring registrations.
The first study, by the Institute of Transport and Logistic Studies (ITLS), asked why Canadians cycle more than Americans. Canadians choose to ride their bike to work 3 times more often than we do in the states. There are several significant reasons. First, compact communities are more prevalent in Canada, which makes rides shorter for commuting. Second, there are far fewer fatalities associated with bike travel in Canada than in the US, so biking is safer. Finally, gasoline is more expensive in Canada, which makes riding a better savings than it is the US. But bike registration would not improve any of these issues for cyclists.
The second study, completed for the University of California-Davis, took a closer look at 6 smaller bike-friendly communities, including Eugene, Oregon. What makes these communities friendlier to bikes than other places? This study mentioned some of the same issues that the ITLS study did, but it concluded that communities are more supportive of bikes because more people in the community ride bikes. In other words, it’s a self selection issue: when a community supports bikes by building paths and policies then more bike enthusiasts choose to live there, which in turn reinforces a civic culture of biking. Communities that make cycling safe and more convenient with bike-friendly policies like the Idaho stop law and dedicated travel lanes naturally attract riders. Both studies indicate that safer conditions, better land use policies and increased gasoline price could actually lead people who don’t own a bike or use the one they have to change that to start riding regularly.
So even if Krieger’s legislation was intended to elevate bikes to a car-like status (and I doubt that was the intention), registration is still nowhere near as important as a number of other things we can do. I hope there will come a day when bikes outnumber cars, and registration is as commonplace for bikes as for cars. But until then, we have other work to do—more important work—to make cycling more prevalent.
I’m coming around to thinking that what we really need to take biking to the next level in the US is a parking parity campaign—a model municipal zoning code that says that you have to treat bikes as equals when it comes to parking.That means that your county courthouse where there’s an entire structure for below-ground, covered, secure car parking can’t force bicyclists to park out in the rain by locking their bikes to a wavy bike rack any more … you have to offer just as many secure, covered spaces to bicyclists as you do for cars.That means that on every street where there’s on-street parking, you have to turn as many spaces as needed into bike parking so that the numbers are equalized. Luckily, this typically means that you would only remove one auto parking space by converting it to bike parking.Parking parity isn’t everything—but it would be a huge step for consciousness and remove a major barrier to integrating bikes into daily life. Planners and city officials are so habituated to thinking in terms of providing amenities for drivers and so rarely attuned to even thinking of the needs of bicyclists that we need a firm, clear principle that even the most obtuse planner can’t miss.We need to look at the ADA as a model—it took us a long way toward making provision for people with disabilities by demanding parity in public accessibility. Time for an ABA —Americans Bicycling Act—to do the same for bikes, starting with the basics like making people who provide car parking options offer equivalent choices for those not driving a car.
One of the main reasons behind Bike Registration is to make possible the recovery of stolen bikes and help put the bad guys behind bars (where they should be). A seondary purpose is to help secure certain areas; such as university campuses. A free open forum style registry, such as BikeRegistry goes a long way toward doing this. That is, registry couples with a diligent effort to TAG/Mark your registered bike.
Just saw an article in which the Israeli police reviewed all the options on the market; RFID, Twitter, conventional registration, etc. They also chose the BikeRegistry DNA approach to registration and TAGing of bikes to enable recovery in Tel Aviv and cut down on thievery…