Bike Registration - Fair Cop or Diversionary Tactic?
Over on Urban Velo today there’s a piece about how Philadelphia City Council is considering bicycle registration. This is on the back of recent cases in which there were two pedestrian deaths resulting form collisions with bikes.
In addition to mandatory registration of all riders over the age of 12, legislators are calling for
- Increasing fines for riding on the pavement (sidewalk) from $10 to $300
- Increasing the fine for riding while wearing headphoens from $3 to $300
- Introducing a penalty for riding a bike without brakes - the suggested level is $1000, or forfeiture of the bike
To me, all but the first one - rider registration - seem quite sensible. Bikes that travel at least four times faster than pedestrians should be segregated from them, so you shouldn’t ride your bike on the pavement. Riding with headphones on means that you can’t hear the approach of other vehicles, and makes it more likely that you’ll perform a turn / manoeuvre that puts your life in danger. And as for riding without brakes, I have four words:
Really. Not. So. Smart.
If mixing pedestrians and bikes isn’t sensible due to their differing speeds & resultant momentum (bike at 12mph has approximately 18 times as much kinetic energy as a pedestrian at 3mph), then SURELY it must be essential to keep bikes and cars segregated. A 1,300kg car at 30mph has over 100 times the kinetic energy of the cyclist its driver hits (and 1,800 times that of the pedestrian).
So providing decent, segregated bicycle facilities must logically be a priority for local authorites who want to get serious about bikes on the pavement.
Wtih the prospect of a $300 fine for wearing headphones, would the same logic apply tio pedestrians who step into the path of a cyclist or innocent, hard-pressed motorist? Or how about the boy racers who drive along with their steroes so loud that they cannot possibly be aware of the reality of their situation - with a car full of the loudest bangingest techno, trying to gauge speed and risk is surely impossible. Presumably new laws will be passed to crack down on these two sets of delinquents too?
Ultimately, I think this whole thing in Philadelphia sounds like the result of a "Man Bites Dog" story. In 2001 there were 188 pedestrians killed in road traffic incidents in Pennsylvania, while in 2005, that figure was 162 deaths . So there we have it:
Two pedestrians killed in incidents with bikes = big news
Over 150 pedestrians killed in incidents with motorised traffic every year = Business as usual.