Bike licensing doesn’t work, just ask Boris

Boris Bike number 15547

Anti-cycling forum ranters the world over love to point out that motorists pay for roads (wrong!) so cyclists should steer clear, and in the same sentence, or shortly thereafter, they often bring up the ‘all cyclists should be licensed’ canard.

How would this work? Number plates on the back of bikes. If only law-abiding members of the public could take down bicycle registration numbers, and report these now identifiable law-breaking cyclists, the world would be a better place.

Forget number plates. How about gert big numbers of the side of bike frames? Sound familiar? London’s Cycle Hire bikes have big white numbers on the rear stays. After 1 million+ ‘Boris Bike’ journeys there must be loads of reports of scheme users running reds and knocking over pedestrians? London is the perfect test-bed for the success – or otherwise – of bicycle registration.

So, via Freedom of Information request, I asked Transport for London: How many Boris Bike users have been reported as transgressors of any sort?

“TfL has received two reports that a third party has contacted the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme contact centre about the behaviour of scheme members.”

Cycle hire animation - Boris Johnson

Just two, hey? And the bike numbers were used to nab these numpties?
“The bicycle serial numbers were not reported,” said TfL.
So, next time bicycle registration is raised as an issue – something that will cure all ills – point out that plastering big numbers on bikes does bugger all. (Which makes perfect sense because since when have car registration plates stopped motorists doing stupid things?)

Bicycle registration ideas pop up all over the world. In New Jersey, USA, a lawmaker quickly withdrew her January 2011 proposal for a $10 bicycle registration scheme when she was pilloried for such an unworkable law, which was meant to “protect elderly pedestrians” knocked over by “kids”. Brian Donohue of the Ledger newspaper recorded this funny video – starring his two- and four-year old daughters – showing why putting number plates on bikes just doesn’t go far enough: put them on kids’ backs, too.