A recent piece of legislation proposed by Georgia Representative Carl Rogers requiring cyclists to register their bike with the state (and obtain a license) managed to inspire enough vitriol from the biking community that Georgia lawmakers have already backed down.
The ill-conceived House Bill 689 hoped to force would-be riders to pay a one time fee and obtain a license plate for their bike before riding on city streets. According to Rogers, money acquired from the registration fees would have been pooled into a fund so the state could construct more bike lanes and paths. Those caught riding an unregistered or unlicensed bike on city streets would have been subject to a $100 fine as well as a possible misdemeanor.
In addition to requirements for registration and licensing of all bikes that would share roads with other vehicles, the bill also included strict regulations for anyone intending to ride in a group. Under HB 689, riders would have been required to stay in a single file line with at least four feet separating each rider. Only four riders would have been permitted per line, with an additional 50 feet of space required before another line of cyclists could ride legally.
Unsurprisingly, the town hall meeting held earlier this week attracted a large number of cyclists anxious to share their opinions on the bill.
The meeting lasted over two and a half hours, and by the time it was over, Rogers and the two other lawmakers behind HB 689 decided to back down. Rogers said they would take, “no further action” on HB 689.
Following the town hall meeting, one of the bill’s cosponsors told a reporter, “I had no intention of signing or passing or voting for this law. To me, it was to bring attention to an issue that’s gonna be a problem if we don’t start working together.”
Although the sentiment that this bill was more about safety and less about not wanting to share the road with cyclists might be a more politically compelling story, the reality seems closer to the latter. In the initial press surrounding the bill, Rogers was quick to cite the increasing number of cyclists and the shortage of viable bike lanes. He was quoted as saying that “Cyclist[s] feel that if they own a car or a truck that they pay for the use of the road (for cycling). I disagree.”
Meanwhile, Jim Syfan, the businessman responsible for pushing the legislation in the first place said, “[Most bikers] are nice guys, they’re people, but once in awhile you’ll get a guy that will ride in the middle of the road and flip you off. This is to identify the guys that are not abiding by the rules.”
Basically it sounds like the same old bickering between drivers and cyclists that’s been going on ad infinitum. Drivers feel like cyclists are in the way, and continue to single out any example that confirms their bias. In this case, they overreacted by trying to implement a ridiculous piece of legislation designed to keep cyclists in line.
Fortunately, as is usually the case, there was an equally irked counterbalance of cyclists ready to defend their rights against aggressive drivers who think roads are strictly for motorists. And, when the dust had settled, absolutely nothing had changed.