A proposed bill making its way through the legislature in New Jersey would require all bicycles in the state to be officially registered through the DMV. Could a similar law be passed in California?
Assembly Bill 3657, introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, creates a legal obligation for bicycle owners to file paperwork with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Registration is renewed every two years, or when a bike changes ownership through sale or otherwise. Owners who fail to register their bike will be subject to a fine, as is currently the case for owners of motor vehicles.
In California, where cycling is popular, no such regulations exist, and cyclists are free to use the public highways in accordance with local restrictions (most freeways are off-limits to bicycles).
Whether or not the New Jersey bill is passed, it raises interesting questions about the rights of cyclists on the nation’s roads. In California, while cyclists theoretically enjoy the same rights as drivers of motor vehicles, the reality is that bicycle-users are second-class citizens on the roadways, and law-enforcement does little to protect riders or prevent abuse by drivers. Indeed, a great many roads do not have adequate cycle-lanes. Where lanes exist, they are frequently used as on-street parking spaces by ignorant drivers who unfortunately enjoy the legal freedom to do so.
If California introduces such a bill, perhaps it would include new protections for cyclists, such as enforcable rights to occupy the roadway without fear of harm, intimidation or assault by drivers. Perhaps the license fee will generate adequate revenues to fund protected cycle paths, alternate routes and secure bicycle-parking. Would the passage of such a bill exclude bicycles used exclusively on cycle-paths such as the American River Parkway?