Hopping on his bike for his ride home, Jeff had decided to head home a little earlier than usual on Thursday in an effort to beat the usual peak-hour traffic. Little did he know that this would sadly be his last, as a Sydney bus would strike him at a busy road crossing in Neutral Bay.
This horrific accident would result in the re-ignition of the age-old debate as to whether bicycles should be licensed, this time in parliament. This is not uncommon. Every time a news report to do with bicycles is published, the push for bicycle registrations begins – even when it is often not the cyclist at fault.
Various articles and studies published by regulatory bodies and road safety experts from all over the world conclude that bicycle registration is not an effective way to generate funding for roads or to increase road safety.
Here are the five reasons why bicycle registrations should not be registered:
- Car registration does not “pay for the roads”.
There is a common misconception that motorists pay for building and maintaining roads through fees such as vehicle registration and licenses. Roads are actually funded through general taxation – as taxpayers, we all pay for them. Further, urban/suburban roads – those most commonly used by cyclists – are maintained by local councils. When a cyclist is riding locally, chances are their rent or rates payments help fund the road they’re on.
- The expense of implementing a bicycle registration scheme would outweigh any benefits.
A New South Wales government report prepared by the Sustainable Transport Manager says the annual cost for a driver’s licence covers the administrative costs of issuing that license only. Unless bicycle registration fees were considerably more expensive than car license fees (which is not likely), administration costs would guzzle up any potential revenue raised. And if the costs blew out, the funds would need to come out of everyone’s pockets – not just bike riders.This view is not unique to New South Wales. Bicycle registration has been considered across the globe, and the cost of the concept has consistently been found to outweigh any potential benefits. For example, in Ottawa, Canada it was estimated that a bicycle registration program would cost $100,000 a year, but only bring in $40,000 in revenue.
- Registration would discourage people from cycling.
One of the benefits of cycling is that it is a mode of transportation accessible to all, whether young or old. Sure, keen cyclists would likely register their bikes and continue to cycle. But would casual riders bother to sign up?If Sunday family bike rides or participation in initiatives such as Ride2Work Day and charity rides involved registering and paying a fee, many people would likely miss out on discovering the advantages of bike riding.From a public health perspective, it’s a nightmare as it add yet another barrier to Australian’s getting enough physical activity.
- No nation in the world has bike registration.At least not with number plates and significant fees. A recent literature review conducted for the Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales found that bicycle registration schemes have been trialled and ditched in a number of communities – often because it is too difficult and expensive to regulate. Recently in Houston, the law requiring cyclists to register their bicycle was abolished. It was found that out of the thousands of bicycles being used within the city, only about 100 were actually registered.
- Registering bicycles won’t fix the problem.
Other countries are leaps and bounds ahead of Australia when it comes to cycling, which suggests the real problem lies with our road culture. Getting more people in the saddle and cycling on our roads will increase awareness and bring added safety and acceptance – a goal we should all work towards.
Fun fact: Bicycles have existed for more than a century – longer than cars. Did you know that bicycle registration was debated in Australia in the 1930s, and knocked back? Perhaps, motorists need to become more accommodating of their two-wheeled comrades.
Written by Claire McHardy | Solicitor