Two Philadelphia city councilmen want bicycle riders to start getting the same treatment as motorists, and today 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.
Councilmen Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco will propose the legislation 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 yesterday. "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 going with the flow of traffic, but police say violations by bikers are rarely enforced.
DiCicco's bill would require bikers older than 12 to register their cycles within six months of buying them and get license plates. The one-time registration would cost $20, and failure to register would be punishable by a $100 fine.
Kenney's bill would increase the fine for riding on a sidewalk from $10 to $300. The $3 fine for wearing headphones while biking would become $300.
Kenney came up with the idea of raising the fines after The Inquirer wrote about two Philadelphia pedestrians who died last month after cyclists hit them.
"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 bicycle registration would, in theory, make cyclists easier to track down after hit-and-run accidents with 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 have the same safety features as motorcycles, such as lights.
Philadelphia police are planning an enforcement campaign in the coming weeks to educate cyclists about 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."