First The Came For Our Fixies..

Written by Boston Biker on Oct 26

Ok so maybe that is a bit of an overblown title, but Cambridge is back at it again, proposing new bike laws (and taxes?), that in this humble bloggers opinion are a total waste of time and money.

Bicyclists may soon have to register and pay excise taxes on their gear to roam Cambridge, said City Manager Robert W. Healy, giving in Monday to a regular sounding of alarms from residents, City Council candidates and city officials.

“We are hearing the people, we are hearing the councillors representing the people,” Healy said at Monday’s council meeting. “We will spend more time on bicycle enforcement. It’s never going to be perfect — you’re always going to see a bicyclist, just as you can see a motorist, violating the law and there isn’t an officer right on the scene to write a citation. But it is certainly something officers are instructed to enforce.”

There are changes to laws that will have to be made and questions that need to be addressed, Healy said, including making bicyclists show identification when stopped and how best to redirect law enforcement from other tasks.

Read the rest here.

Thing is how is the tiny city of Cambridge going to enforce all the bike traffic from say…Boston. How are they going to prove you purchased that bicycle in Cambridge. Will there be border agents asking for your papers when you cross the Longfellow? People like to shout and make a fuss about licenses for bikers, and registration, and they raise questions about hit and runs etc.

Basically there is no good way to do bike licenses, taxes, or any other bike regulation of this nature on a town by town basis. It simply wont work. It will cost WAY more to implement and enforce than you will get from the program, and it will be challenged in court to the hilt.

On top of all that, its not going to actually do what they want to get done. If they want better rule following, enforce the existing laws better for all user groups, educate all road users, and build more (and better) bicycle infrastructure. Those three have been proven to work, while license and registration schemes have failed many times.

The article does say they hope to simplify and universalize the rules, and increase enforcement (which is great so long as its for every road user), but the tax and tag approach is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Its simple, if you want more cyclists obeying the law, enforce, educate, and engineer.


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5 Responses to “First The Came For Our Fixies..”

  1. By William Furr on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    But then you’d get to have a cute little personalized bicycle license plate: http://crafts.kaboose.com/swf/bicycle-license-plate-craft-photo-350×255-aformaro-img_8812_rdax_65.jpg

    Or maybe more like this: http://chiccyclist.blogspot.com/2009/06/cambridge-bicycle-license.html

    I guess back in the 50s there was a bicycle licensing law in Massachusetts and you had to have one of these. I found an uncorroborated source stating that it was stopped because it cost more than they made back in fees.

    The folks whom this would really hurt would be Cambridge bike shop owners. They would be the ones enforcing this law, which would drive lots of potential bike owners to Boston, Watertown, and Arlington shops instead.

    Or maybe they’ll just go around ticketing parked bicycles without a license or sticker.

    In the Netherlands, 12-year old kids have to take a traffic test on their bicycles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16AO0_08r3o Seems like a good idea to me, and it works well for them. Since we didn’t all do it as twelve-year-olds, maybe we should start again and have every adult in the city do it. Along with retaking their driver’s test periodically, say every 5 years.

  2. By john on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    When is Cambridge going to start enforcing traffic laws for motor vehicle drivers? Registering their cars/trucks hasn’t made people obey traffic laws in Cambridge. Stop signs are ignored all the time, they don’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, rarely use their signals to turn or change lanes, speed all the time, make illegal right on red and I see drivers run reds every day on my walk to central T. Whens the enforcement on drivers going to begin? Do I really need to stop biking and drive if I want to get around Cambridge now? I guess at least I wont have to follow any laws then.

  3. By jthandle on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    This is nonsense. Let’s license pedestrians, too. They use crosswalks. That’s part of the road. They should pay excise taxes on their footwear to pay for the roads, even though excise taxes don’t really pay for the road, but I have to pay excise for my really big mobile and…

  4. By Eoin on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    I live in Cambridge, and I’ll happily pay the necessary fees to support bicycle infrastructure there, as long as I can get a refund on the taxes I pay to subsidize the city’s automobile infrastructure. It would be like getting a raise.

  5. By Erik on Oct 26, 2011 | Reply

    Besides the author’s comment in the opening paragraph, there’s no mention of excise taxes anywhere. I wonder if the author heard “licensing and registration” and simply assumed excise taxes would be part of the equations.

    It sounds like the city council is simply looking for ways to increase compliance with traffic laws and had a throw-shit-at-the-wall session. There seem to be enough cyclists on the city council that unworkable or monumentally dumb ideas won’t come to fruition.

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