Bike licensing bill in US state of Georgia scrapped after cyclists protest

Proposed law would also have imposed strict conditions on group rides

A bill that would have made it compulsory for bicycles in the American state of Georgia to carry license plates, and which would also have imposed tough rules on groups of riders, has been scrapped in the face of opposition from cyclists.

The proposed legislation – officially, Georgia House Bill 689 – was pulled by the three Republic members of the state’s legislature who proposed it following a meeting in Gainesville on Monday evening.

That meeting, held in the town those three State Representatives all represent, saw cyclists and non-cyclists alike speak out against the bill, reports the website of the NBC affiliated TV channel 11 Alive, based in the state’s capital, Atlanta.

If the proposed changes to existing laws governing motor vehicles and traffic had been enacted, cyclists would have had to register their bikes with the state, with a sticker affixed to the seat post signifying compliance.

Those failing to do so would have faced a fine of $100 as well as a possible misdemeanour charge.

The bill would also have had serious implications for group rides, including club runs.

Riders would have had to remain in single file – currently, they are permitted to ride two abreast – and with at least a four foot gap between them.
No more than four riders would have been allowed to ride together, with a gap of at least 50 feet between each group.

News of Monday’s meeting about the bill spread via social media and through email.

"I've probably gotten about 25 emails about it in the past week," said one local cyclist, Craig Forest.

"They tried it in San Diego and had to repeal it a year later.  There would be widespread disobedience, it would be violated on an hourly basis with cyclists riding in groups."

Kevin Mooney, the manager of Gainesville bicycle shop Bike Town USA commented: "When I first saw it, I honestly thought it was a joke and something that was pretty crazy.”

He continued: "I don't think it's something that's going to go anywhere, I think after the meeting on Monday it will fall through the cracks."

The three State Representatives who sponsored the bill, first tabled in March, were Carl Rogers, Lee Hawkins and Emory Dunahoo, the latter claiming that they had simply been performing an exercise in raising awareness of issues related to cycling.

"I had no intention of signing or passing or voting for this law," he told 11 Alive.

"To me, it was to bring attention to an issue that's gonna be a problem if we don't start working together.

"It was dropped just for someone six months later to pull it out."

State Rep. Rogers added: "I knew there would be a lot of opinions against it, and we heard that. But I knew it would get people in here.”

Some did speak in support of the bill, including Jim Syfan, owner of a logistics business, who told 11 Alive: "It's not meant to stop anyone from riding. What it's meant to do is create an identification process."

"[Most cyclists] are nice guys, they're people, but once in awhile you'll get a guy that will ride in the middle of the road and flip you off.

"This is to identify the guys that are not abiding by the rules," he added.

While some US states permit counties or cities to enact local laws requiring bicycles to be licensed – California being an example, where Ventura County, part of the Greater Los Angeles area, has such an ordinance – Hawaii is the only state where bicycle registration is enforced at state-wide level.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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