These days, bike licensing seems to rear its ugly head every time the topic of cycling comes up.
Not among cyclists, of course.
But with those members of the four-wheeled, non-riding set who consider cyclists a dangerous menace on the roads. And demand some way to identify scofflaws, so they can be ticketed and prosecuted for the harm they cause to all those law-abiding drivers, who evidently live in constant fear of us.
And yet, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 698 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents nationwide in 2007 — 109 of those in California; the overwhelming majority of those were killed in collisions with motor vehicles.
At the same time, over 40,000 drivers and their passengers were killed in motor vehicle accidents. While no statistics on the subject seem to be available, I suspect the number of those killed by cyclists was somewhere in the neighborhood of zero, give or take.
Talk about blaming the victim.
I was thinking about that because of an email I received the other day. A reader, who asked not to be identified, wrote that he had been the victim of yet another hit-and-run while riding over the weekend.
A Hummer had crossed over into the bike lane he was riding in, striking him with its mirror as it drove with two wheels in the lane. Fortunately, he was able to maintain control and wasn’t seriously injured, even though incidents like that can be extremely dangerous, frequently resulting in serious injuries.
The problem came when he attempted to identify the vehicle so he could report it to the police. Only to discover that, just like all those scofflaw cyclists, the SUV had no license plates of any kind – even though California law clearly requires license plates on both the front and rear of most cars, trucks and SUVs.
The difference being, not only is a Hummer capable of causing serious injury or death, this one had just struck a cyclist and fled the scene.
Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Last April’s infamous Hummer Incident began when an SUV without plates struck a cyclist on a group ride, and the other riders blocked the truck to keep it from leaving, since they had no other way of identifying the driver to the police.
And we all know how that ended.
(For those who don’t, after threatening the cyclists, the driver drove over the bikes blocking his way, continuing until the police stopped him with a bike still lodged under his vehicle. The investigating officer concluded the cyclist was at fault and let the driver go without so much as a warning — then told the cyclists if he had been driving the Hummer, he might have used a gun instead of just driving over their bikes.)
And that’s the problem.
You don’t have to ride, walk or drive these city streets very long to notice that, despite the law, more than a few of the vehicles sharing the road with you have no identifying license plates, front or rear. And more that a few of those seem to be high-end Hummers, Navigators and Escalades.
And it’s not just a problem for cyclists. As my correspondent said in his email,
Its an issue for anyone on the road who wants a little insurance against hit-and-runs, but obviously its a bit more urgent for riders.
We need to be able to identify the dangerous drivers if we’re going to be safe on the road.
And we can’t do that if the laws requiring the display of license plates on the vehicles that actually need them isn’t enforced.
Once again, bikes are shut out of the Festival of Lights after opening night. Damien is looking for volunteers to help judge the annual Streetsie Awards. The Eastside Bike Club invites riders — or Ridazz — to join them for the Lincoln Heights Christmas Parade this weekend. A San Diego cyclist gets a ticket for observing CVC21202. Missouri’s Tracy Wilkins is in awe of the Fat Cyclist; evidently, Johan Bruyneel is, too. New York joins the long list of states — not including California — considering a three-foot passing law. Hampshire cyclists are stopped by the police and given hi-viz vests. The perfect gift for cyclists who take the lane. Who was the rocket scientist who put Edinburgh’s new tram tracks parallel to the bikeway? No sentence yet for the Auckland driver who ran down four cyclists. Denmark and Holland are the Galapagos Islands of bicycle culture. Finally, the Orange County Register says it’s time to stop killing cyclists. Or getting killed, for that matter.