Why Do Some People Think Cyclists Need License Plates?

Cyclists biking in the cityIf you ask most cyclists, they’ll probably tell you they shouldn’t need a license or plates to ride a bike, but there are some cities that are now requiring registration for bicycles. The basic concept is that riders should have to pay a fee for the right to ride on public streets. A recent article in Bicycle Magazine explained why it thought these laws were misguided, but first, let’s just look at the basic rationale of those who advocate for cycling licenses.

Arguments for Required Registration for Bicycles:

  • If you use the road you should pay. Some advocates of the plates think that cyclists are using the roads without paying to maintain them. They believe that a license fee could force them to pay their share of maintenance costs. In response, some cyclists complain that most of them already pay these fees for their cars, and that bikes cause very little wear and tear on roads.
  • All vehicle need to be registered, including bikes. In some areas, people think that if bikes are treated similarly to cars on the road, they should be registered just like motorcycles and other motor vehicles. This idea is motivated by a desire for consistency in the laws. Some cyclists, however, have responded by saying that wheelchairs and other forms of human-powered transport do not typically require registrations.
  • If cyclists are registered they’ll be more lawful. Some believe that having a registration for bicycles will lead cyclists to be more respectful of the law, since the government may be able to monitor them more closely. Although safety is important to everyone, there are many that are skeptical about the relationship between registrations and responsible cycling.

Laws like these usually come with a relatively small price tag, such as $10 fee every four years in Madison, WI, but many cyclists dislike the very idea of having to pay to be on the road. Many associate biking with childhood, exercise and time for personal freedom. They feel they pay enough already to maintain roads, especially in areas that may not do enough to protect the rights of cyclists. On the other hand, if advocates of the plates are correct, it’s possible that cyclists would merely be paying their share of maintenance costs.

What do you think? Should bicycles need plates to ride on public streets?

Joshua Bonnici is a San Diego bicycle accident attorney and cycling enthusiast who has a passion for empowering victims of negligence.



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