Bike Registration Laws: A License to Profile?

Bike licensing and mandatory registration — can we just go ahead and file these under bad ideas?

Bike licensing: Why? Photo: Wild Bell

Putting up barriers to healthy choices like biking makes no sense from a policy perspective — especially since many people cycling are children or very low-income, for whom the registration and licensing process may be especially difficult or offputting. (By the way, if you don’t have a car, how do you legally get to the registration point?)

But in case you needed another reason, James Sinclair at Network blog Stop and Move has a good one for us today: police profiling. Sinclair points to a recent statement from the police department in Clovis, California:

From what I understand, Clovis still has a law on the books requiring that all bikes be registered (with a fee). Fortunately, that law hasn’t been enforced in years, and it’s entirely possible the current PD doesn’t even realize that law exists.

Anyway, in the title of the post, I mention that profiling is included. What do I mean by that? Well, the ABC news broadcast has a very unfortunate quote from a Clovis PD rep.

Calli Biaggi of the Clovis Police Department is quoted as saying:

If we stop somebody and they’re on a bicycle and it doesn’t look like maybe they should have that bicycle, we can run the serial number of the bike and then we can see that its owned by someone else. And then we can contact that person and see if that bike is supposed to be with that person.

Sinclair responds:

That sounds exactly like a healthy dosage of profiling and it shouldn’t be something that department is boasting about doing.

Unless we’re talking about an adult on a bike intended for a small child, how exactly can an officer determine that “it doesn’t look like maybe they should have that bicycle”? We all know what’s actually going on here, and it’s wrong.

Sinclair says he does support voluntary bike registration as a way to assist police in recovering stolen bicycles. We concur.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Velo goes into further detail about the problems with bike licensing. Bike Delaware celebrates the First State’s new status at the country’s 10th bike friendliest. And Copenhagenize is disappointed with New York City’s new pedestrian and cyclist safety campaign, because it is aimed at cyclists and pedestrians rather than motorists.