Two Philadelphia city councilmen want bicycle riders to start getting the same treatment as motorists, and tomorrow they plan to introduce bills that would require cyclists to get license plates for their bikes and increase fines against bikers who violate traffic laws.
The legislation from Councilmen Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco will be proposed during a scheduled session, after which hearings on the bills are expected to be set.
"Overall, it's a good thing that so many people are riding bikes," Kenney said today. "And I think it's possible for all of us to share the roads and sidewalks safely, as long as we all respect each other's space."
Cyclists are subject to most traffic laws, such as stopping at red lights and biking with the flow of traffic, but police say violations by bikers are rarely enforced.
DiCicco's bill would require bikers over 12 years old to register their cycles within six months of buying them and to get license plates. The one-time registration would cost $20, and failure to do so would be punishable by a $100 fine.
The proposed terms of Kenney's bill would increase the fine for riding on the sidewalk from $10 to $300. The fine for wearing headphones while biking - currently $3 - would become $300.
Kenney came up with the idea of upping the fines after an Inquirer article that two Philadelphia pedestrians died last month after they were hit by cyclists.
"The vast majority of people ride responsibly," Kenney said. "But I think we need to step up the enforcement of rules, so that the behavior by those who aren't responsible starts to change."
DiCicco's proposal has been in the works for more than a month, he said, ever since he started hearing more complaints from Center City residents about collisions or near-misses with cyclists.
Requiring bikers to register their cycles would, in theory, make cyclists easier to track down in cases of "hit and run" accidents involving pedestrians.
"With a bike, someone can just keep going and there's no way to identify them," DiCicco said.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) introduced a bill similar to DiCicco's that would require bikes in the city to be registered and to have the same safety features as motorcycles, such as lights.
Philadelphia police are planning an enforcement campaign in the coming weeks, aimed at educating cyclists on the rules of the road.
Strengthening the enforcement of traffic laws on cyclists would protect bikers, motorists and pedestrians, DiCicco and Kenney said. Just as there are reckless drivers, Kenney said, there are reckless bikers and even reckless pedestrians.
"I don't want to go to war with the bikers," Kenney said. "I want to keep people safe."