Chuck Williams: Is the General Assembly really considering a registration fee for bicycles?

October 7, 2013 

— There has long been a culture war between cyclists and motorists.

In Georgia, that war is now in the General Assembly thanks to three north Georgia lawmakers who want to force all Georgians who own bicycles to register them with the state.

I thought Republicans, who control all aspects of state government, were against government regulation?

Bikes?

You got to be kidding, right?

Nope.

If you ride a bike on Georgia’s public roads — which could consist of anything from Veterans Parkway to a neighborhood street owned by the city — it would cost you a $15 tag fee. They want to make you buy a silly 4-inch by 7-inch tag.

That goes for the neighborhood kid who rides his bike to school and has to cross a public street to get there. It also goes for the hard-core cyclist who owns a $4,000 bike and rides 200 miles a week on a combination of trails and public roads.

That law draws no distinction between the two. And, if you don’t register your bike with the tax office, you face a $100 fine.

Let me preface this by saying 30 pounds ago, I rode my bicycle across the state of Georgia four or five times. I have made the two-day, 250-mile trip from Columbus to Mexico Beach twice.

I know a little about riding a bike on public roads. I was even behind my wife on Victory Drive several years ago when she was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. That deal stopped her from riding on the street. She won’t do it, and I can’t blame her.

When it is a bike against a vehicle, the bike — and its rider — loses every time.

I know cyclists sometimes frustrate motorists. I get it. I have been in a car behind cyclists climbing Pine Mountain. At certain points, it takes great patience to get around the cyclist.

A pace line — the cycling equivalent of a train — can be frustrating if you’re in a vehicle behind one, especially if the cyclists are drifting toward the center of the lane and not hugging the shoulder.

The new law would regulate pace lines.

“Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall ride no more than four riders per single file line, and at least four feet shall separate each bicycle. At least 50 feet shall be maintained between each line of four riders at all times.”

How, pray tell, do you enforce that?

You don’t.

This law, which was dropped quietly at the end of this year’s session, is not likely to go far.

But it should serve as a wake-up call to every cyclist in this state. If you run red lights and don’t obey the rules of the road, you are doing all cyclists a disservice.

For years, those who want to regulate cyclists have been watching us. That isn’t going to change.

The scrutiny is only going to get more intense as cyclists numbers grow.

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Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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