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The Portland Bicycle Plan: It's time to register bikes

The Oregonian: The Portland Bicycle Plan: It’s time to register bikes

By Guest Columnist
February 08, 2010, 8:00AM
By Charles A. Kuffner Jr.

Let’s face facts: When the federal government spent tons of money expanding the federal highway system and the states followed suit, it was partially in response to the proliferation of the auto during the "car generation."

What eventually happened was as the number of cars increased, so did the number of accidents, and at the time there were no mandatory-insurance laws to protect the innocent victims of uninsured drivers. The states satisfied that inequity with mandatory insurance as a requirement for registration of a vehicle.

Portland’s planned expansion of bike paths will in all probability lead likewise to an increase in bike riders, with some bicyclists riding in a speedy and reckless manner, posing a potential danger to others, not to mention themselves.

Since bicycles aren’t subject to licensing, registration, inspection, insurance or safety regulations, cyclists operate in a consequence-free zone. When was the last time you saw a law enforcement officer give a traffic ticket to a bike rider going the wrong way on a one-way street or using the sidewalk to avoid a traffic light?

Have the sponsors of the Portland Bicycle Plan thought about the influx of cyclists and the to-be-expected increase in bike/pedestrian accidents? The time is now for the registration of bikes and license plates or some other forms of identification in the event of an accident and mandatory proof of insurance before registration.

Otherwise, who is going to pay for the care of innocent victims of negligent behavior on the part of bikers or hit-and-run bikers? Will it be the same taxpayers who will pay for this $613 million expansion of bike traffic? Certainly it will be in the absence of an alternate way to pay for the new program.

I understand that registration, licensing and mandatory insurance will target only the bike-riding public. But a bike is considered a "vehicle," and in order to get my vehicle onto the road, I have to pay for insurance, license plates and insurance.

What’s the difference?

Charles A. Kuffner Jr. of North Portland is a pedestrian advocate for the Columbia River Crossing Project.