We all know how this goes, and we all know how stupid it gets …so it probably won’t hurt to add a bit more stupid to the pile.
I think it might be pretty safe to say the most common reason – I’ll say people, but those who identify as “motorists” would be the more accurate description – give for why cyclists should be registered, is because they need to be held accountable to the law. And usually tied into that is that they are a menace. A law unto themselves, and a danger to us all.
Obviously that’s stupid. That people on bikes should obey the laws they need to just as everyone else does is one thing (and a true thing). That a given law is justified is another. That cyclists disobeying these laws is anywhere near as great a threat to those around them as people behind the wheel of a car disobeying them, is another entirely.
So, I might as well throw into the mix this analogy:
Calling for a cyclist to be registered (based on the reasons most commonly given) because motorists have to be registered is essentially the same as calling for a water pistol to be registered because a gun has to be.
They both shoot things, but guns can be dangerous and deadly quite indiscriminately and without even trying, while a water pistol could only kill someone with significant effort and if quite a number of elements were lined up just so (but really, it borders on impossible).
When it comes to cars, though they were obviously designed for a purpose quite apart from killing people, they nonetheless happen to be quite an efficient tool for doing just that.
Bikes, on the other hand, are alarmingly less prone to cause such situations. I don’t think that most people need this explained to them, but let’s just say that due to a number of reasons, cyclists have more than enough reasons to keep themselves out of harms way. Two of the reasons why they tend to be rather harmless to others are that we’ll get hurt too, unlike drivers of motor vehicles who hit people, and, partially because of this, we aren’t usually going fast enough to cause anywhere near as much harm to others anyway.
We’re not talking about racing, we’re talking about using a bike to get from A to B.
Now that I think about it, this distinction might be why so many Australians are so persistent in their call for cyclists to be registered. I don’t think it is stretching the truth to say that when the average Australian hears the word “cycling”, they think of sport. Lycra. Speed. Pelotons. All of the images that the media is still fond of reinforcing, in a negative sense, but also the image of cycling that even some of our larger cycling advocacies tend to support.
More specifically, too many people here tend not to think of cycling as transportation, or legitimate road users, and a result of that may be some resentment and frustration that comes out in unreasonable claims and demands.
Anyway, the water pistol. They’re fun (I guess), they’re harmless, and they provide relief to the system that they are a part of (occupying high-energy kids and freeing up some time for adults, providing exercise, fun, and relieving stress, etc).
Bikes do the same thing. And more.
Guns are dangerous. They don’t have to be, and if used responsibly in the right settings they can even be quite safe. Still, they can also be deadly when used irresponsibly or with malice, and can go from one to the other in an instant. That’s why their users have to be registered.
That’s also why motor vehicle users have to be licensed and registered. Sure, some of it is for revenue raising purposes, but licensing became a requirement because of the huge potential of cars to wreck havoc, and the same reasoning applies to the modern application of license plates being clearly displayed.
People on foot, horseback, and bicycle have never, nor should ever, need such regulation, and ironically, the only reason why this has become an issue at all is because of the imposition of cars upon our communities.
Anyway, everyone needs to calm down about cyclists and registration, and next time you decide to throw your toys out of the pram regarding this issue, try remembering that you are special. You deserve special treatment, but not for the reason you’d like to think.
Sadly, we’ve become used to the way of thinking that cycling in traffic is like bringing a water pistol to a gun fight. In more advanced parts of the world, if you drive, you get special treatment because you brought a loaded gun to a water pistol fight.
Header image: source