Urban Velo

Philadelphia Council Considers Bike Registration

pennstatue KYW Newsradio reports that after two pedestrian deaths in Philadelphia due to collisions with cyclists, Philadelphia City Council is considering bicycle registration.

“My [City councilman Frank DiCicco] bill would require everyone who operates a bicycle over the age of 12 to have his or her bicycle registered. Because we’ll at least have a tag, which we can identify in case there is an accident.”

Kenney [City councilman], meantime, will propose increasing the fines for riding bicycles on the sidewalks. The current fine is $10. Kenney wants it to be $300. He also wants the current $3 fine for wearing headphones while on a bicycle to also increase to $300.

Kenney will also propose penalties for bicyclists who remove brakes from their vehicles, a practice that he says is suddenly gaining in popularity. He suggests either a $1,000 fine for those operating bicycles without brakes, or a penalty of forfeiture of the bike.

Be sure to read the whole news report here. For a look at some of the arguments for and against bike licensing see Urban Velo #6′s advocacy feature, License to Ride.


  1. erokNovember 19, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    lookin’ good William Peen

  2. chigginsNovember 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Wow, well, hard to argue with that. There’s been a couple fatalities, then enforcement needs to get serious about reckless bicycling. For sure.

    But wait, according to this, in 2007 there were 39 cyclist and pedestrian traffic deaths. So I’m guessing that for a number like that, they’ve already really really stepped up enforcement of speed limits, stop signs, and driving on cellphones for motorists, right? I mean, if you get caught texting behind the wheel of a car, you get hit with at least a $300 dollar fine, right?


  3. GregNovember 19, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Brakes are already required by PA law-

    Title 75 of the PA Consolidated Statutes, Chapter 35, Section 3507:

    “(c) Brakes. – Every pedalcycle shall be equipped with a braking system which will stop the pedalcycle in 15 feet from an initial speed of 15 miles per hour on a dry, level and clean pavement.”

    Source: http://www.dot.state.pa.us/BIKE/WEB/bikelaws.htm

  4. Tony BullardNovember 19, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Chiggins called it.

  5. Kyle DerricottNovember 19, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    As a Philadelphian cyclist, I can’t help but take issue with this. The city wants cyclists to take more responsibility for their own actions, yet there is no solid system for educating citizens on the rules and guidelines of riding in the city. Salmoning and sidewalk riding is a rampant problem for everyone, yet only a month ago a friend of mine was doored by a POLICE cruiser! And instead of jumping out and making sure she was ok, the officer proceeded to yell “why weren’t you riding on the sidewalk?!” I think there is just a lot of misplaced blame being thrown around.

  6. Tony BullardNovember 19, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    It’s funny cause I was just reading Freakonomics, where they talk a lot about actual risk in proportion to outrage.

    Turns out people will become more outraged by things that are outside their control, ignoring the actual risk. You’re very unlikely to Mad CXow Disease, but the fact that it’s in other people’s hands causes outrage. But Salmonella poisoning, much more common, is something you can prevent in your own kitchen, little to no outrage.

    So from the driver’s perspective, non-cyclists are out of their control, outrage. Deaths caused by cars, they drive cars, so it’s within their control, little outrage.

  7. David HoffmanNovember 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Amazing how these same issues keep popping up all over the country. If you haven’t read the article that I wrote referenced in Issue #6, I think it’s well worth it. (Not because I wrote it, but because it lays out the real issues at hand with this sort of nonsense.) Looking back at the contributions to Urban Velo that I’ve made in the last several years, this is one of my favorite contributions – and sadly, one of the most timely.

  8. guezNovember 19, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Bike registration: no.
    Sidewalk fines: no.
    Fines for wearing headphones: YES.

  9. RodNovember 19, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    People who ride 2 wheels are considered poor therefore they are judged less than human. At least animals have advocacy groups.
    These laws are made by people who only drive cars so they are expected.

  10. KloggNovember 19, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    The braking system law Greg spoke of above isn’t gonna cut it when it comes to brakeless folks. The problem is the people who write these laws probably have no idea what a track bike is, and all they see are folks riding around without brakes at all.

    I enjoy the fact that riding with headphones is a 3 (THREE) $ fine right now. Is it even worth the paper used to write the ticket to charge someone three dollars?

    I guess uping it by 297$ is a good idea.

  11. AustinNovember 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    How many of this Bike/Pedestrian collisions where Hit and runs my guess is the cyclist get pretty beat up as well.

    Do they also expect to fine 12 year olds 300 dollars,

  12. Joe PeraltaNovember 20, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Nice to start the day with a good horse laff. Pedestrians forced to jump out of the way? Vehicles to screech on their brakes? Sounds like there are 3 Stooges on the loose, as usual responsible for 99% of the outrage.

    The hot air is good for a laff, too. Vehicle laws depend on people’s investment in their expensive car and precious license. Anti-bike laws don’t have that leverage. This comes up every time there’s a bike-ped collision. It peaks – maybe an ordinance passes – then it’s forgotten.

    I was researching a local off-roading ordinance, and was amazed to find I’ve been zipping around the local town for 5 years without a bike license and plates. No telling how many little burgs I’ve been through in the last 5 years that had these laws. Enforcement is highly discretionary.

    As for forcing bikes to behave like cars? That’s the quickest and surest way to get rid of pesky cyclists.

  13. AlexisNovember 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Hope this doesn’t make me look like a n00b, but are there any towns that have successfully implemented a licensing system? I mean, not just have it on the books, but actually enforced it? And what do they do when out-of-town (or even out-of-state) cyclists bike in their city that come from a place that doesn’t require licensing their bikes?

  14. Mike PageNovember 20, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    So if your bike is less than 12 years old, you’re good to go. Sounds OK.

  15. Tom RobinsonNovember 20, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I’m from Milwaukee and I can tell you a little about what things are like here.

    Milwaukee requires RESIDENTS to obtain a license for each bike, though it’s a sticker you have to put on your frame and it’s free. (See the city’s FAQ on this: http://itmdapps.ci.mil.wi.us/bicyclelicenseweb/FrequentQuestions.htm ) The main purpose of this license sticker seems to be helping reunite recovered stolen bikes with their rightful owners, though very, very few people are even aware of this registration and I’ve never heard of the city recovering any provably stolen bikes.

    What the bike license ordinance IS good for, though, is allowing cops to write tickets to cyclists. To my knowledge, the only cyclists ever ticketed for not having the sticker are messengers and Critical Mass riders during the occasional rash of harassment.

    In Minneapolis, I know they have a “brakes-required” law on the books, so there are tickets occasionally written to fixed-gear riders. Evidently, though, going to court and explaining the mechanics of your drivetrain to the judge will get your fine reduced or your case dismissed. (Read more on this at Minneapolis Bike Love: http://www.mplsbikelove.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=12505 )

  16. DougNovember 20, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    The law requires brakes that can stop the bike in 15 feet from 15 mph? That’s pretty fast.

    The formula for acceleration required = 1/2 * (starting speed)^2 / distance. For 15 mph and 15 feet, that’s right at 0.5 G’s. (Let’s assume that reaction time isn’t an issue.)

    A road bike with good tires and good brakes front and back, braked by a skilled rider can stop at about 0.67 G’s, and it goes down from there. Only a rear brake? I’ll bet you can’t even do 0.2 G’s.

  17. DaveNovember 20, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Reguiring a license? I would try to avoid that because getting a license implies granting a privilege. Driving a car has been defined as a privilege while walking is part of the right to move from point A to point B. Though biking is somewhere between walking and driving I would try to stick with the walking analogy on this issue.

    Enforcement: Budget constraints will always limit enforcement. With reckless driving being far more lethal than biking, the enforcement priority should be on driving. (Texting and other forms of distracted driving should be criminalized and a new enforcement priority.)

    But I see nothing wrong with a ticket being issued for a cyclist that blows through a red light with no regard for safety or riding on a sidewalk with pedestrians at more than the slowest creeping speed. I would also enforce rules against cycling at night with no lights or reflectors.

    Pass some version of the Utah law that would decriminalize rolling through stop signs at an “able to yield” speed (a practice I see in cyclists ranging from 18 year old hipsters to 70 year old club riders).

  18. LyleNovember 24, 2009 at 8:47 am

    the law requires that the *equipment* be capable of such a stop, not that the rider have the actual skill. So if, in the hands of a skilled rider, your bike can stop at 0.5g, you’re fine. I agree that a rear-brake-only bike, or a no-brake fixie, would be hard pressed to meet that standard, but it just might be possible. Also note that if your 20-year-old Schwinn just came out of the basement with glazed brake blocks, it won’t meet the standard either. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    The question is, should the standard be set by an objective safety standard, or by the popular equipment? Federal standards for tractor-trailers were recently tightened, to a level that the popular equipment doesn’t reach. Things there will have to change. The new standard requires trucks to be able to decelerate at 0.5g. Is that too high a bar for bicycles?

    That said, a $1000 fine? You could light a car on fire and drive it down the sidewalk for a lesser fine than that.

  19. Northern Liberity’s Variety Show « Betsy Von AwesomeNovember 25, 2009 at 11:20 am

    [...] The Libertines, a dance trio reminiscent of gay Paree, provided entertainment between acts, in addition to a nod to Statler & Waldorf, all lead by an MC who explained the top 8 people on Philadelphia’s Shit List. (Mostly politicians and the obscene new bike rules and fines). [...]

  20. Philadelphia Cyclists Begin Response to Proposed Licensing and Fines at Urban VeloNovember 30, 2009 at 10:50 am

    [...] two weeks ago we reported on a few council proposals in Philadelphia to require bicycle licensing and increase the fines for various cycling offenses, brought about at [...]

  21. mikejgrantNovember 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    bicycle registration, the first step towards communism like china.

  22. DougDecember 1, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Lyle — my point is that the requirements are unreasonably high.

    A bike with only a coaster brake (or any other variation of only a rear brake) couldn’t possibly fit that requirement. So that rules out cruisers, children’s bikes entirely — not legal. I’ll bet even trucks aren’t required to be able to stop that fast (though most passenger cars can do so easily.)

    And any standard upright bike capable of stopping at that rate is going to be very close to doing an endo when it does. It’s appropriate for a bike ridden by an experienced rider, but for a newbie … slightly weaker front brakes would be a good thing.

  23. rodemybokeDecember 3, 2009 at 2:51 am

    mikejgrant is right, little by little

  24. J.C.December 5, 2009 at 8:49 am

    “bicycle registration, the first step towards communism like china.”

    That is one of the dumbest statements I have ever read.

  25. ElvisDecember 5, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    So every time there’s a car accident do they crack down on drivers?
    I got knocked over by a foreign national with no American license, cops didn’t give her a ticket cause she “felt bad” Yeh so did i — missed months of work thanks to shoulder surgery and was stuck riding with my arm in a sling for a while. Where was the crackdown on Chevy drivers?

    as to brakes let’s not get bogged down in semantics. A vehicle operator — that’s what we are — needs to be able to control his bike. If a person can ride a track bike with no handbrake fine, if they don’t have the skill or fitness to do so that’s their fault. A person who might be competant to drive a toyota might kill himself or another person trying to drive a Humvee. You have to know your equipment and your limitations. Trying to mandate registration of bikes or have stricter laws or whatever for equipment is especially absurd since so many regular riders work on their own bikes and are constantly upgrading or changing things. If I repaint a frame that’s getting scuzzy and it changes color do I need to reregister it? what government regulator is going to know the different types of brakes — caliper rim brakes, v brakes, cantilever brakes, disc brakes, cam brakes, coaster brakes, expanding drum brakes, the fixed gear hub of a track bike… and do you think nonbiker cops who don’t even know what basic actions on a bike are against the law or not are going to be able to evaluate all these different brakign mechanisms or even know what they are…?

    If a cyclists deserves a ticket give him a ticket, but cracking down on cyclists or trying to regulate them is one of the most wasteful, misguided, and unjust ideas I’ve heard!

  26. John MasseyDecember 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I hate bikers as I work as a cabbie, but I have to take their side in this case. Philly’s inept city council’s solution for everything is a fine or some form of taxation such as registration. The fact is that biking in Philly is dangerous and no level of enforcement or fines will reduce the danger because the streets are full of bad drivers and bad cyclists. Taxing the cyclists is just another way for the city to shake down the people. Why don’t they just throw cyclists under the bus and let the PPA regulate them like they did us. Nothing but a government shakedown. Philly sucks, I will be moving as soon as I figure it all out. I hope Frank Dicicco’s family dies in a car fire…

  27. Aromatherapy GuyApril 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Are you kidding me? Bicycle registration? Is Philadelphia really that poor?

    Tom has it right. This is what they are up to:

    “What the bike license ordinance IS good for, though, is allowing cops to write tickets to cyclists. To my knowledge, the only cyclists ever ticketed for not having the sticker are messengers and Critical Mass riders during the occasional rash of harassment.”

    Pretty soon they will want to check the tread on our sneakers for walking safety violations.

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