NJ Lawmaker proposes mandatory license plates for bicycles.
TRENTON ó If an Essex County lawmaker has her way, every single bicycle in the state of New Jersey will soon have to have a license plate.
The $3,000 mountain bike, the little girlís bicycle with pom pom streamers and training wheels, the boardwalk cruiser with the cute pink basket ó all of them would have to bear the plate, marked "BICYCLE" in clear lettering.
Riders or their parents would plunk down up to $10 a year to register them with the Division of Motor Vehicles. And anyone caught riding an unregistered bicycle on public property could face a fine of up to $100 for each offense.
That, anyway, is the basic outline of a bill (A3657) introduced by Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex) who said she proposed it after several senior citizens in Belleville and Bloomfield called her to complain about kids on bikes.
"They had been knocked down, knocked over and they had no way to register a complaint. They couldnít identify the person," said Tucker.
It there were clearly visible license plates on the bicycles, Tucker said the seniors would have "some kind of recourse in reporting the incidents."
The bill applies to all bicycles ridden on public roads or land. For bicyclists under 15, their parent or guardian could register it for them.
Bicycle enthusiasts hope to deflate the bill.
"Thatís an outrage, for sure," said Paige Hiemier, vice-president of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition. "Basically, itís outrageous for a number of reasons, and most of them are: Who is the legislation aimed at? Whoís going to administer it? How are they going to pay for it? Whoís going to stop the bicyclists and check their registration?"
Environmental advocates also criticized the bill. Sierra Club New Jersey Director Jeff Tittel said the government should encourage people to ride bicycles, but the measure would have the opposite effect.
"We want to get people out of their cars and exercising. Itís much better for the environment and public health," he said.
Gerry Magrini, owner of Montclair Bikery, said the bill would hurt sales and would not be enforceable, and he suspected it would cost more to enforce it than $10 per bike.
"People donít want to pay extra for something like that," he said. "I believe itís unenforceable. Itís cumbersome... I donít see any benefit to it at all, even from a revenue standpoint," he said.
To register their bikes, applicants would have to provide its year, make, model, color, weight and serial numbers, along with their addresses, the date they purchased them, and the amount of state sales tax they paid when they bought them.
No other lawmakers have signed onto the bill so far, and no version has been introduced in the state Senate. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), who controls the fate of bills in the lower house, indicated it isnít high on her list.
"The Assemblyís priority right now continues to be legislation to spark job creation and economic development, especially for working class New Jerseyans," she said.
League of American Bicyclists spokeswoman Meghan Cahill said she is not aware of any other states with mandatory bicycle registration, though some counties and municipalities may have it. She said New Jersey would be the first to require bicyclists to have license plates if the bill becomes law.
Tucker, for her part, may already be back-pedaling on parts of her bill.
"By no means do I want to stop anybody from riding bikes or anything of that nature. It was sort of something to try to do something to protect our seniors," she said. "Itís just a draft at this point and it hasnít gone to committee or anything."