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.