New Yorkers Sound off Bike-Licensing Proposal

By Kristen Meriwether
Epoch Times Staff
Created: December 21, 2012 Last Updated: December 26, 2012
Related articles: United States » New York City
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A cyclist crosses Seventh Avenue while riding on 44th Street in Times Square on June 11, 2012. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

A cyclist crosses Seventh Avenue while riding on 44th Street in Times Square on June 11, 2012. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—The number of cycling commuters has more than doubled since 2007, according to the New York Department of Transportation (DOT). And city streets are expected to become even more crowded next year with the addition of 10,000 bikes, part of a bike share program set to launch in May.

More bikes has also led to more accidents, a problem that mayoral candidate Tom Allon proposes to reduce through licensing of and insurance for bikes. The licensing requirement would only apply to riders 16 and older.

When you deal with a very complex transportation grid like New York City, there has to be training, education, and proper safety, Allon said Thursday.

Allon said the system could be tied into the Department of Motor Vehicles, or exist as a separate program. Allon said he doesn’t want to make it onerous for people because people should be encouraged to ride, but a simple, low yearly fee to keep track of all the bikes in the city might work, Allon said.

He suggested a fee of $25–$50 per year, saying the fee, as well as any fines for noncompliance would offset the administrative costs to implement the program.

Allon said he did not know exactly how enforcement would work, however he likened it to the way parking enforcement is done.

The Epoch Times took to the streets to see what local cyclists had to say about the idea. Here are some of their comments:


Josh Sakofsky, 32, Senior Network Engineer, Manhattan

Josh Sakofsky (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Josh Sakofsky (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Member of a bike racing team
Good luck to him. It is a proposal that will be met with stiff resistance, and I don’t think they will be able to enforce it. What are you going to do about children, what are you going to do about bike share riders? How are you going to deal with that? I just don’t think it is possible.


William Kozar, 39, Art and Antique trade, Bronx

Bikes in the city
I think it will … stop the circulation of stolen bikes if we all have to be registered.


Rutilo, “young,” Bike Messenger, Queens

Rutilo (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Rutilo (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Rides his bike for a living
I think that is crazy. This is personal, it is not a vehicle.


Kana Sasaki, 45, Journalist, Manhattan

Kana Sasaki (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Kana Sasaki (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Loves to bike outside the city, but not in the city
It is not a bad idea, but I am not sure about the insurance part.
They (bikes) are not very safe. I had an incident with someone and I almost collided with a bike. I have seen bikes hit by car and crushed with another pedestrian.


Olivia Leitch, 19, student, Manhattan

Olivia Leitch (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Olivia Leitch (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Recreational bike rider
I don’t really ride my bike to get places in the city. I ride my bike in Central Park, for fun. It is a sport and I enjoy it, it is not something I think I should need a license for.


Leslie Rogers, 24, bartender, Manhattan

Leslie Rogers (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Leslie Rogers (Deborah Yun/The Epoch Times)

Rides a bike as his main means of transportation
If you have to get insurance for it, it is going to add an extra … it is something that is not going to help. I feel some kind of training would help out, but something to the extent where you have to be fully qualified I feel is a little too much. It would cause more of a hassle.


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  • Chris Jasurek

    After a decade-and- a-half of riding daily in Orlando, Fla. (at the time rated the most dangerous city in the nation for cyclists) I can certainly recommend training—for drivers of cars and trucks.

    As for the insurance: in almost every car/bike accident, the car will get a scratch and the bike will be severely damaged. However, even a minor ding and paint touch-up for a car costs a lot of money. Many of the bikes I rode I built myself from parts I bought on sale online or scavenged, based around frames I bought at yard sales. How would I value these bikes monetarily? What would an insurance company give me for a bike for which I paid a hundred dollars total (though I did endless hours of work assembling, adjusting, and maintaining the bike)?

    My current ride, an aluminum Cannondale touring bike, cost me $150 because I bought it used from a friend, though it would cost easily ten times that to replace. But if I collided with a car, fully loaded and at speed, I could easily do $1000 worth of damage to the car with just the tip of a handlebar scraping the paint. On the other hand, my entire bike could be totaled—I have had a couple rides completely destroyed by cars, it doesn’t take much.

    How would all that work out? I get a check for $62.50 and have no bike (and my rates go up,) and the driver gets a check for $1000 to get his paint touched up?

    The real danger to bike riders is drivers who either don’t notice bikes (because they are only looking for cars and trucks, which are actual threats) or drivers who don’t respect bikes (how many riders have heard “Get on the sidewalk!” too many times to count?)

    How many drivers are going to admit that they made dumb maneuvers and caused a cyclist injury? In an auto accident there is usually a way though skid marks and patterns of damage to figure out what happened; not so when a car hits a bike, or simply forces a bike off the road.

    I know I have seen as Lot of cars make a sudden right turn without looking to see if there was anybody in the bike lane, and it was only my survival-driven increased awareness which kept me out from under the wheels—usually by running off the road and sometimes crashing, while the car rolled blithely on.

    This sounds like a great idea to get insurance companies and lawyers even deeper into the daily lives of more people, and frankly neither bring fairness to many situations. Usually it is the insurance companies and lawyers who make out while everybody else loses.

    Another point: “He [mayoral candidate Tom Allon] suggested a fee of $25–$50 per year, saying the fee, as well as any fines for noncompliance would offset the administrative costs to implement the program.”

    Really? $25 per cyclist likely wouldn’t begin cover the increased police activity needed to check for non-compliance. How is “noncompliance” to be monitored? Will police set up roadblocks and demand bike licenses? Or will police only check after an accident? In which case, wouldn’t most cyclists forego the fee and simply hope they don’t get hit, and refuse to report an accident if there was one?

    The things needed to make road-sharing between cyclists and cars safer for everyone are calmness, common sense, and mutual respect. Those things are not legislatible.

  • Opus the Poet

    Last year motor vehicles killed 32K people in the US. People riding bicycles killed maybe 3. We have driver’s licenses because motor vehicles are actually more deadly than bullets, bullets are 9% fatal when they hit a human target (2004 CDC), while motor vehicles are 5% fatal against pedestrians and cyclists at 20 MPH, and 50% fatal at just 30 MPH. We have mandatory insurance (that isn’t enforced very well) because even when motor vehicles don’t kill they can do thousands of dollars in property damage. A SUV at highway speeds can destroy a wood-frame dwelling, and still be capable of being driven from the scene. The person riding the bike does more property damage than anything else when a bike hits something.

    And it has been tried many times, but the fees that make sense to charge for riding a bike don’t even cover the administrative costs of issuing a bike license.


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