Bicycle Licensing . . . for Openers

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There is still one form of getting around that doesn’t require government permission – which is largely free of government “mandates,” too.

It is the bicycle.

One does not need to obtain a by-your-leave to ride one. One can just ride – Just like that! There are no taxes applied for riding one, either. Nor to legally ride it – on government-owned roads (styled “public” but the true owner is the one who controls a thing; does the “public” control the roads?). Ear tags and stickers to show who owns the item – as is the case with cars and motorcycles – are not required.

How long do you suppose it will last?

The only reason it has – to date – is because the principle that government owns everything and so controls everything that has already been applied to cars and trucks and motorcycles has not yet been applied to bicycles.

Wait.

It is not paranoid to think such a thing will happen; it is naive bordering on simple-minded to believe it will not.

People who seek control always seek more control – until they have total control. It is almost a mathematical axiom and surely a psychological one. It is a political axiom that once a principle has been established as regards what may lawfully be done to or required of X, it will be expanded to encompass Y and Z.

It may take some time for this to happen. But it will happen, as inexorably as the incoming tide.

An example will – hopefully – make the point.

If it is accepted that the government can lawfully force anyone to give up a sum of money – the theft styled “taxation” – then it has been accepted in principle that the government can force him to give up all his money. The amount he is actually forced to give up is merely a matter of haggling. The principle has been established that the government has the legal right (the moral right is another matter) to take and implicit in this is that whatever is left is only left by sufferance and only for the moment.

More could be demanded tomorrow – and probably will be.

So, as regards bicycles:

As a question of principle, can anyone offer up a logical argument denying government’s established legal right to regulate these vehicles, just as government regulates other vehicles? They are not motorized? How is this exculpatory? They are capable of velocities comparable to other vehicles; they are certainly capable of exceeding the maximum allowed velocity – i.e., of “speeding.”

And they use the same government-owned roads, which we are permitted to use at the government’s pleasure – not by right.

How is it that bicyclists “get away” – as it will inevitably be styled – with not being licensed, ear tagged and insured?

It is a fact and as such inarguable that a bicyclist could injure someone else and thus the same argument that serves as the basis for the legal requirement that people who drive cars (and ride motorcycles) must carry insurance applies with just as much validity to bicycle riders.

It is absurd to object that a bicycle cannot cause as much harm as a car – or a motorcycle.

In the first place, the potential degree of harm is not the relevant criteria; if it were, then small cars would not be required to carry the same minimum liability coverage as huge trucks. They are both required to carry the same minimum liability, notwithstanding the fact that a big truck is capable of causing much more harm than the small car.

A bicycle is very capable of causing physical harm to persons as well as damage to a car or truck – especially modern cars and trucks, with all their flimsy steel and brittle plastic.

Who is going to pay for that?

The fact that no harm has been caused – and the fact that a bicycle isn’t capable of causing as much harm as a big truck or a small car – cuts no ice, in terms of the principle already accepted that vehicles operating on the government’s roads must be “covered” for what could happen.

How about by-your-leave permission slips and ear tags (e.g., license plates, with annual renewal fees) as well as “safety” inspection requirements?

It should be obvious that the same principles apply here, too. How is that bicycle riders are allowed to run around without license plates and thus any means of identifying the owner when he “runs” a red light or makes a right on red? If a car/truck/motorcycle owner is obliged to waste half a day once a year taking his vehicle to get “inspected” because the government frets it might have bald tires or bad brakes and so present a “safety” hazard, why does the same not apply to bicycles, which are also vehicles?

Wait. It will.

To some degree, it already does.

Note the in many areas, bicyclists are obliged to wear government-ordered helmets, just as motorcycle riders are obliged to wear the same and car/truck drivers obliged to “buckle up” for “safety.” It has already been suggested in some areas that bicycle riders be obliged to obtain licenses and put license plates on their bicycles.

Insurance is coming. Plus more. Why not “safety” technology such as anti-lock brakes, for instance?

Why should bicyclists be able to use government-owned roads without paying for the privilege, just the same as car/truck owners and motorcyclists?

The principles have been established and they will be expanded – especially as people who’ve grown weary of being ear-tagged/taxed/micromanaged behind the wheel turn to bicycles as the last redoubt of free-from-government mobility that’s still on wheels, at least.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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45 COMMENTS

  1. My daily driver is a mid 70’s import. A restomod Raleigh single speed conversion. (NOT a fixie!) My backup is an early 80’s Raleigh, original with Wentworth pitch threads and such. I’m considering doing the same restomod, just so I can keep just one parts bin. In my yoot, there was a bicycle registration policy, administered by the Houston Fire Department, but that was a theft-prevention measure. Most local bike shops have a free skid lid thing for riders under 16. Per Jeremy, supra, I concur wholeheartedly. Dedicated ‘Bike Paths’ become jogging trails, inhabited by walkers of dogs with the canines on 50 foot leads, with the earphones in, who, on hearing the prompt ‘On Your Left’ will invariably come to a complete stop and pivot on the left foot, thereby blocking the entire path.

    • Hey JC,

      Does your 80’s Raleigh have Simplex derailleurs?

      Thankfully, BSA (British standard) bb’s are still available, which opens up more possibilities for a single speed mod.

      If one is a track racer, a fixed gear is necessary, if not, it’s an affectation.

      Cheers,
      Jeremy

    • Hi JC,

      The bike I miss most is the yellow, banana-seat chopper I had as a kid. Gearshift on the main tube. That thing was my steed for many adventures, the Rosebud whose name I may croak on my deathbed!

  2. Bike manufacturers are slowly figuring out, after decades of making extremely uncomfortable road racing and expensive downhill full suspension frames, that there’s a need for short-distance transportation. E-bikes are comfortable, come with rack mounting points and are an electric vehicle that is very apartment friendly. Many of them have removable battery packs so you can have one on the charger and one on the vehicle. Easily charged from a basic 15A outlet. Most have USB charging ports, cell phone holders on the handlebars and simple controls.

    Unfortunately it is a further indication of the failure of the system, just like the boom in RVs. Bicycles are in very short supply, as are RVs. Both industries have convinced themselves the boom times are because people are enjoying their product as intended. The reality is people who should be buying homes and cars are “choosing” to live in a travel trailer and drive a bicycle instead of a car because that’s the best they can do. Pulling cars off the highways will lead to a drop in tax revenue, so new fees will be required.

  3. Somewhat related subject, my county officials have their panties in a bunch over mopeds, which are almost exclusively driven by teens or older drunks with suspended licenses. The older guys tie a milk crate to the back. We call those “OWI cycles.”
    For the teens, the freakout is over saaaafety. I remember only one incident that made me concerned. Two 15-16 year olds riding double on a moped in the middle lane on a busy 45 mph 6 lane street at rush hour. We were on the Harley and came up behind them and my husband stayed there to protect them. A cop noticed and motioned us back so he could pull them over. But mostly the kids ride them as safely as kids do anything. On the road, you approach one like you would a bicycle.
    As for the OWI cycles, people are pissed that they found this loophole to their license suspension so they can do awful things like go to work. My stance is that having to ride a moped to work IS punishment, so don’t worry about it.
    But the nanny groups were lobbying for licenses, insurance and helmets. An MC license is required here if the moped goes over a certain speed, but the nannies were lamenting that the rest of them are “the wild west” (a favorite metaphor for nannies bitching about something they haven’t yet gotten their clammy little paws on.)
    I used to vacation at Panama City every year and there was a big fuss about teens on mopeds, which can be rented from about 20 different companies down there. The complaint was presented as a safety issue, but mainly it was the noise. The little brats cruise up and down the main street tooting those annoying little horns constantly. The best solution would be to just ask the rental companies to remove the horns, which would mollify most of the residents, I think, but that probably violates some other nanny law.

  4. yeah license the=m. Cars dont routinely blow through lights and stop signs and act like they own the entire road going 20mph but they do. Plus theyre arrogant jerks who have a superiority complex over us normies in our 4 wheel boxes on their $1300 bikes used twice a year.

  5. I totally support the right of bicyclists “and” motorcyclists to legally ride without helmets. In fact, there should be government tax credits, or other kinds of financial incentives to encourage this.

    We desperately need more organ donors, and this is a great way to help out.

    • Mike I totally agree. No plans to donate my organs nor would I want anyone else’s organs. But if others want to donate their organs, that is fine. Let’s start by making organ donation for politicians mandatory, even while they are “alive”. But not their brains please.

  6. Here’s a question: Has anywhere ever NOT required registration and/or licenses for cars, in the last century? And if so, what were the results? Absolute carnage?!

    I’d truly hate it if they came for bicycles. Right now, you can even build an electric bike that goes “too fast” and “get away with it”. Not that there should be anything to get away from. But I’ve never had anyone stop me on a bike, e-bike or otherwise, for exceeding the speed limit, or even their speed limit for e-bikes, which is said to be 20 MPH.

  7. “License tags are required for bicycles, according to the Perth Amboy municipal ordinance.”

    https://www.nj.com/middlesex/2021/04/perth-amboy-cops-seized-bikes-from-unlicensed-black-and-latino-teens-and-a-social-media-backlash-is-raging.html

    “Guys, please be a little safer for your safety,”

    We all have the right to use our automobiles on the roads without licensing, registration or insurance. Unfortunately the 70IQ squad is the enforcement arm of a criminal origanization. The 70IQ squad might bring violence upon you for exercising this, or any other, constitutional right…

    “The right of a citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horsedrawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but a common right which he has under his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Under this constitutional guaranty one may, therefore, under normal conditions, travel at his inclination along the public highways or in public places, and while conducting himself in an orderly and decent manner, neither interfering with nor disturbing another’s rights, he will be protected, not only in his person, but in his safe conduct.”

    Thompson v.Smith, 154 SE 579, 11 American Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law, section 329, page 1135 “The right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, in the ordinary course of life and business, is a common right which he has under the right to enjoy life and liberty, to acquire and possess property, and to pursue happiness and safety. It includes the right, in so doing, to use the ordinary and usual conveyances of the day, and under the existing modes of travel, includes the right to drive a horse drawn carriage or wagon thereon or to operate an automobile thereon, for the usual and ordinary purpose of life and business.”

    Thompson vs. Smith, supra.; Teche Lines vs. Danforth, Miss., 12 S.2d 784 “… the right of the citizen to drive on a public street with freedom from police interference… is a fundamental constitutional right” -White, 97 Cal.App.3d.141, 158 Cal.Rptr. 562, 566-67 (1979) “citizens have a right to drive upon the public streets of the District of Columbia or any other city absent a constitutionally sound reason for limiting their access.”

    Caneisha Mills v. D.C. 2009 “The use of the automobile as a necessary adjunct to the earning of a livelihood in modern life requires us in the interest of realism to conclude that the RIGHT to use an automobile on the public highways partakes of the nature of a liberty within the meaning of the Constitutional guarantees. . .”

    18 USC Part 1 Chapter 2 section 31 definitions: “(6) Motor vehicle. – The term “motor vehicle” means every description of carriage or other contrivance propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used for commercial purposes on the highways…” 10) The term “used for commercial purposes” means the carriage of persons or property for any fare, fee, rate, charge or other consideration, or directly or indirectly in connection with any business, or other undertaking intended for profit.

    Etc, etc… The evidence is overwhelming.
    Truly too many cases to cite.

    • Those cites are great.

      My personal favorites are Shuttlesworth vs City of Birmingham and US v Miller.

      Unfortunately the law is whatever the tyrant with the forces is able to enforce. We had a civilization where the law mattered at one time, now we have a mechanized barbarism.

  8. Old Man Winter won’t give up, the cold spring weather is downright frustrating. It’s not right.

    “People who seek control always seek more control – until they have total control.” – EP

    Works until it doesn’t.

    It naturally follows that when the majority rejects the fraudulent narrative, opposing views, censored or not, will become the norm and the police state can then be systematically deconstructed with totalitarian non-compliance to every tyrannical rogue government diktat and the criminal prosecution of all those charged with crimes against humanity.

    Globalist Banker Predicted Scamdemic & Genocide of The Useless

    It’s gonna come to an abrupt end, that will be it, forget about it.

  9. There are repeated attempts in many jurisdictions to license bicyclists and require insurance. This is purely a get-them-off-the-road effort. Same with the helmet laws. Although the foam hat mandates have that safety cult religious zealotry behind them.

    It’s another practical example of the slippery slope not being a logical fallacy. They did it with automobiles so they try with it bicycles. Sometimes they even succeed a little.

  10. Eric,

    I know you aren’t big on governmental regulation generally, but why shouldn’t they regulate the use of resources (roads, especially with dedicated bike lanes, and bike-only roads) that they have established for bikes? And shouldn’t they be taxed proportionally under the mulcting scenario that you laid out recently, when it comes to that?

    The electric vehicle revolution is coming to two-wheeled vehicles faster and stronger than it is to four wheeled-vehicles. And this is where the action is, regarding your concern for fun, low-cost & effective transportation for masses of people.

    China has 300 million e-bikes. 2019 production was 36 million e-bikes (of which only 1.5 million were exported). There are 24,000 Chinese manufacturers of e-bikes in the “Made in China” registry.

    Our eldest son is 15 (the one we had in mind when we bought the Kia Forte, so he didn’t have to learn to drive on our manual Volkswagen). He needs to get a new bike & we were talking about what sort of an investment to make. He said he doesn’t need to get a great bike, because there could be evolution in the bike industry that would be a notable improvement over bikes that are available today. I thought to myself, “my goodness, he’s right (as happens really often with him, despite being 15).

    He is looking to get an internship next fall across town, 8 miles away. Fort Collins has a great network of bike trails and lanes. 8 miles is just too far for a comfortable bike ride to a job, or to school (also 8 miles away). Even for a 15 year old. But, it’s a perfect range for an e-bike.

    We started looking into it, and I am convinced that this is the electric vehicle for the masses (at least in a temperate & dry place like Colorado). For $1,500, we can get a well-equipped bike that can handle a day’s riding around town (30-40 mile range). They are zippy and fun. I fell so much better about him cruising around on his bike than . . . pretty much any thing else he could be doing.

    It looks a whole lot like the future to me.

    • Bicycle lanes and other road space takings called bicycle infrastructure is often due to the agitation of a tiny group of collectivist malcontents that usually fly under the banner of ‘new urbanists. They are an anti-motoring bunch that uses bicycling as a reason to make life more difficult for motorists. They really do not care about bicycling one bit or at the very most deep down have the same view of it as a childish thing as many other people. From a transportation standpoint, for someone who wants to get from a to b on a bicycle their ‘solutions’ make no sense and are typically dangerous for travel over about 10mph.

      • “From a transportation standpoint, for someone who wants to get from a to b on a bicycle their ‘solutions’ make no sense and are typically dangerous for travel over about 10mph.”

        With regards to your first point, it depends where you are. It’s often faster & easier to get from “a to b” in a city by bike than by car or public transportation. It comes down to the difficulty of parking.

        The second point is exactly why bike safety issues need to be thought through. In 5 years from now, most bikes will go 20 miles per hour, not 10 miles per hour (in my opinion).

        • Hi Jeff,

          Without a familiarity with Brent’s position on bicycles it is easy to misunderstand what he meant. He was talking about the “solutions” offered by “new urbanists” masquerading as bicycle advocates, not the feasibility of getting from a to b on a bicycle. Dedicated bike paths, which always become pedestrian paths, bike lanes that become riddled with glass and trash, etc… often inhibit the practicality of bicycle commuting.

          Cheers,
          Jeremy

    • “ the one we had in mind when we bought the Kia Forte, so he didn’t have to learn to drive on our manual Volkswagen”

      Did you buy him a bidet so he didn’t have to learn to wipe his ass?

      • Glad you are so proud of yourself for learning to drive on a manual. Was it exciting to learn to use a toilet when you got rid of your outhouse?

        • “ Was it exciting to learn to use a toilet when you got rid of your outhouse?”

          I actually learned to wipe and even to flush several years before I experienced the fragrance of your philosophy in an outhouse.

          Do you have a backlit case for the boy’s participation trophies?

          What a proud parent you must be.

          Have you taught him to tinkle sitting down yet? 15 seems like a good age to start that training.

    • Jeff,

      When I was in HS, I commuted 9-10 miles to work-EACH WAY; not only that, I did it on an old Rollfast single speed bike!

    • In a temperate climate an e-bike or scooter is a fantastic option for getting around the neighborhood. The biggest complaint from non-cyclists is getting up hills. An e-bike flattens the hills and cuts out the headwinds. Of course they also pretty much eliminate the exercise benefits, but at least you’re getting some sunshine.

  11. This issue already came up a few years ago in the City of Toronto but didn’t happen. The argument then was that by licensing cyclists, you could track their traffic violation offenses and even revoke their license the same as with motorists; insurance wasn’t part of that discussion but it would’ve come next. Since that time there’s been an increase in cyclist traffic, including electric bikes & scooters, as a primary means of transportation, as well as an expanding series of road-use taxes for more vehicles so it seems pretty logical that at some point that it will be reintroduced. I’m surprised some of these cash-starved cities in the burnt-out districts of the country haven’t already tried to implement it, actually.

  12. An avid woman bicyclist was riding her bike without a helmet, fell, hit her head and died. Happened last summer, she swore to not wear helmets. The irony.

    My grandfather always said it was a lot of work just to give your ass a ride.

    Photos of abandoned bicycles in dumps in China is a sight to behold. It has all turned around and bicycles have become popular again in China.

    The Chins are returning to bike share and avoiding public transport because the covid virus.

    Fear rules the local yokels in China too.

    I rode a bicycle 55 miles on a highway way back in 1971. Kind of parked the thing after that.

    When you have a flat tire on the road, it sucks.

    After five miles of bike riding, you’ll be thirsty, you’ll buy a two dollar bottle of water. If you drive a car for five miles, you’ll use a quart of gasoline to travel that far, costs you maybe 70 to 80 cents. An electric bike will make it easier but not really more convenient. Still subjected to the elements. You’re vulnerable.

    Drive a car.

    • The news media thinks bicycle helmets are magical as does the safety cult. They are not. Would you drop your television set in its original packaging from eye level on to a concrete curb and expect it not to be broken? Well the styrofoam around it is likely better performing than the bicycle helmet. That package is designed to survive abuses by the likes of UPS. It’s just a piece of styrofoam with vacuum formed plastic sheet over it. That’s what it is. It’s rated for a 6′ fall. If the same woman fell down the stairs and hit her head and died nobody would be moaning about helmets. But if you’re going to wear a foam hat for bicycling you should wear one for climbing stairs too.

      As to China that isn’t what you think. China has those take a bicycle and go new urbanist things all over the place. So people take a bicycle, go where they are going and toss it. It’s like Divy bikes on steroids over there. It’s just nutty collectivist wasteful nonsense run amuck and has nothing to do with normal bicycling and everything to do with politics and central bank free money.

    • The only time I’ve been seriously injured on a bike (compression fracture to a vertebrae), I was wearing a helmet. Everyone said how great it was that I was wearing it, and how if I hadn’t it would have been so much worse. Maybe that’s true, but based on the failure type (it shattered) the helmet did next to nothing.

      I once got hit by a Mustang from the side. No helmet, hit my head a little, no serious injuries but it wrecked my rear hub which cost me $30 to repair (which was a fortune then), made me late to a seminar, and I had to carry the bike home which was very annoying.

      In my opinion helmets are highly overrated, and are no substitute for riding skills and awareness of one’s surroundings.

      • Hi Publius,

        I agree that helmets are overrated and certainly should not be required. There are times that I wear mine, and times that I don’t, I think that I have the ability, and the right, to make risk calculations for myself.

        “…but based on the failure type (it shattered) the helmet did next to nothing”.

        Bicycle helmets are designed for single impact protection, the fact that it shattered does not mean it didn’t do anything.

        Cheers,
        Jeremy

        • Actually it does.

          Shattering indicates that the material absorbed almost none of the impact energy—the impact was too harsh & too sudden for the foam to do anything (high speed crash). Significant energy absorption compresses the foam which slows down the impact and protects the noggin. Helmets that do their job might have a scratched shell, but otherwise appear undamaged.

  13. When I was using a bicycle as my one and only means of transportation other than my feet, about 55 years ago, the town where I lived DID require a license to ride one on the public roads. And it DID require a safety inspection, to make sure it had working tires and brakes. And it DID require an admittedly tiny fee to acquire one. Fortunately, the peace keepers of the time (not law enforcers) did not consider it worth their effort to enforce, and the public simply chose to ignore it, and it went away. Not a good optic for the police to be seen writing tickets on ten year old kids on bicycles. I doubt current law enforcement is as much concerned with the optic of such. More likely throw them to the ground and tase them. Especially if they try to ride away.

    • Berkeley, CA where I grew up in the 50’s, required bike licenses and, yes, there was one prick cop in town who got his rocks off issuing citations to ten year old kids.

  14. “Why not “safety” technology such as anti-lock brakes, for instance?”

    Then why not permanent training wheels?

    Come on man.

  15. ‘in many areas, bicyclists are obliged to wear government-ordered helmets’ — EP

    It’s been almost 30 years since helmets for everyone were mandated by Rockland County, NY, a popular destination for NYC-based cyclists who cross the George Washington Bridge and head up the west bank of the Hudson River.

    State law only requires children under 14 to wear helmets on bicycles. But micromanaging counties can stack on their own ‘gotcha’ laws to mulct the unwilling and the unknowing for $100 fines.

    A bike shop handed me a helmet just to test ride a bicycle around their own private parking lot. Didn’t really like the idea of wearing a helmet that’s been passed around — cooties, you know.

    But hey — hygienic risks are SO worth it, for saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety! 🙂

  16. I took a turn earlier this year on my bike and had a slip, and hit the tarmac. Some snow removal equipment had deposited some petroleum byproduct on accident earlier in the Winter and I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
    I was glad I had my helmet on, but I am even more glad that the area I live in doesn’t presume to make it illegal to ride without one.
    I live in one of those red states on that map. I like the idea of being able to bike to work, and really, no need to carry my de facto gold-starred centrally-issued national ID card. I can’t be hut-hut-hut’ed for that YET!
    Love your articles!

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