WHEN I introduced legislation requiring every bicycle to be registered, it certainly grabbed people's attention.
Considering the city's lagging economy and job loss, continued concerns over crime and our struggling public school system, I was surprised by the passionate and emotional response I received. E-mails and phone calls have poured in that range from questioning my intelligence and work ethic to failing to comprehend why I would raise the issue at all to praising me as a hero to pedestrians and motorists.
What has become clear since the introduction of this legislation is that motorists, cyclists and pedestrians have a dysfunctional relationship, and it is time to talk through our problems. This bill and the public dialogue that it's fostered is a good first step.
Pedestrians complain about cyclists on the sidewalk. Motorists worry about bikers swerving in and out of traffic and traveling the wrong way on one-way streets. Cyclists are frightened by aggressive, insensitive and clueless drivers.
Each of these groups has a right to be angry. Most of us know a cyclist who's been injured by an automobile. Most drivers are concerned that they will be blamed for a bicycle accident that may not be wholly their fault. We have all heard of the tragic collisions involving pedestrians and bikers.
It's time to deal with these fears and to address the very real problems surrounding bicycle safety.
Bicycle registration is an attempt, admittedly an awkward one, to do just that. By requiring that every bike be registered, whether with the Police Department or the Parking Authority, it would create a point of contact to educate all bikers. And registration might help enforcement agencies deal with and identify problem cyclists.
Registration could also be used as a tool against bike theft, similar to the voluntary registration program in place today.
But I also recognize the problems associated with this bill. Enforcement would be difficult, the fee structure may be onerous and it doesn't deal with the differences between recreational and commuter biking.
THIS PROPOSAL is not the be-all and end-all in dealing with bicycle safety. Some specific safety measures may have to be added. Registration could be limited to messengers or other professional cyclists, or it may need to be abandoned altogether. One way or another, all these issues will be resolved during the legislative process - which will include a public dialogue between all with concerns.
Some are making this conversation a "Motorist vs. Cyclist" debate. By doing so, they are hurting our ability to accomplish anything. These issues can't be addressed by an "us vs. them" attitude. Each side has valid points, and we must respect them. But it's time that we share responsibility for these problems and work together toward a solution.