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Why cyclists should never pay rego

Date

On Your Bike

After wearing out his knees with basketball and running, Michael O'Reilly became yet another MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra).

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Where to put the number plate? ...  bicycles make up 11 per cent of the vehicles in the Melbourne CBD.

Where to put the number plate? ... bicycles make up 11 per cent of the vehicles in the Melbourne CBD. Photo: Andrew De La Rue

“Pay yer rego!”

It's a cry I've heard many times while cycling, and it always confuses me.

While we're at it, why not register pedestrians? 

For starters, I've already paid rego twice this year: for a car and a motor scooter. When I'm on my bike, these vehicles are at home, taking a break from clogging the road or burning fossil fuels (in fact, my car was getting so much rest, I got rid of it).

Secondly, there is no rego fee for a bicycle. So how am I supposed to pay it?

The idea that cyclists should pay registration is a perennial one for bike-bashers, and seems to revolve around two pet theories.

The first notion, that of “user pays”, falls down on a vast number of points, including:

1. Road construction is paid for out of general taxation. We all fund the roads, even those who only ever walk. Besides, rego revenue falls far short of the amount spent on roads, and is swallowed up by administration fees and third party insurance.

2. Local road repairs are paid for by councils – your rates are subsidising people who drive through your suburb (the bludgers!).

3. Cars are charged by weight and the damage they do. In NSW, a 1.51-tonne car costs $459 to register and a 950-kilogram vehicle, $243; on that sliding scale, what might the owner of a 10-kilogram bicycle pay?

The second theory regards registration plates being used for law enforcement: “I could report the number of a cyclist breaking the road rules, and they'd get a fine.”

This idea fails in so many areas it's hard to know where to start. Have you ever noted the number of a car that breaks the law, and phoned it in to the police? They will sigh and tell you there's nothing they can do.

If visible registration plates prevent traffic violations, then surely we should never see car drivers speeding, tailgating or texting while driving? Besides, cyclists who cause accidents are likely to do the most damage to themselves; in a car crash, the culpable driver has a good chance of escaping unharmed. Is a massive, costly logistical exercise, registering the 1 million bicycles sold in Australia every year, really worth it to maybe catch a few cyclists who treat red lights as give way signs?

Then there are the practical considerations. Would it be the cyclist or the bicycle that is registered? Does three bikes mean three regos? For a number plate to be visible to a red-light camera, it would have to be large and transversely mounted. Where and how would it attach? How many riders and pedestrians would be injured by those plate edges, not to mention car paint jobs scratched?

While we're at it, why not register pedestrians? As was pointed out in a hilarious column on Monday, they're always jaywalking, demanding separate paths and getting themselves run over. Register the lot of 'em!

Wait … if boats have to pay registration, isn't it about time surfers paid too? And displayed registration, so we can film and fine them if they stray into swimming zones?

And it's about now that I should ask you, dear reader, with tears in my true-blue eyes:

What kind of an Australia do we want to live in?

Imagine renting a beachside holiday house, finding a couple of bicycles in the shed … then realising you don't have a bike licence, or forgot to bring it.

Imagine having to explain to foreigners that we are the only nation in the world where riding a bicycle - a global transport solution that is way older than the car - requires a licence.

It would be nanny-stateism gone bonkers. A redefinition of the concept of world's worst practice.

Why hinder a form of transport that has doubled in use in the Sydney CBD in the past year, and makes up an impressive 11 per cent of vehicles in the Melbourne city centre?

Registering cycles would instantly cause use to plummet. Instead of filtering through side streets or using paths over major bridges, former cyclists would be putting more cars on the roads and more people on our struggling public transport networks.

Yes – motorists would suffer.

Happily, despite the mouthings of shock jocks, Shane Warne and people who should know better, there appear to be no official moves to bring in such a retrograde move.

And even though the NSW government is sending mixed messages on bike lanes (while doing nothing), and the Victorian government has cut funding for cycle infrastructure to a big fat zero, sparking protests, cycling participation continues to grow.

Healthier citizens, less pressure on public transport, a reduction in pollution, congestion and parking problems – who would want to put a price on that?

Can you think of any other reasons why bicycle registration is a bad idea?

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376 comments

  • You have 3 road vehicles you should pay 3 regos, whether it is 2 cars and a bike or 3 cars. Cyclists are the only road users that don't have to pass an exam on the rules of the road. If they did have a number plate pedestrians could then report them when they are on the pavement.

    Commenter
    steve D
    Date and time
    June 14, 2012, 12:15PM
    • Steve re read the article and then go have a lie down.

      Commenter
      Mrsydney
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:26PM
    • Steve D, you just don't get it do you. Have another try

      Commenter
      gb
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:34PM
    • Try reporting a car's rego next time you see someone talking on their mobile while driving steve.
      It doesn't matter, nothing can happen to them. Unless you take photos or have a video camera or something like that, there's nothing a citizen can do, it has to be witnessed by a cop.
      Believe me I've tried.

      Commenter
      michi
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:35PM
    • I did re read the article, I should have added "why do cyclists have this over inflated opinion of their importance?" Wow, they must be real special and need us to aknowledge they are superior to all others ... not.

      Commenter
      steve d
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:37PM
    • Jeez way to spoil a good cyclist hate rant with some well founded and logical arguments.... I think unfortunately cycle hate has more to do more with driver frustration and angst (i.e pick on weakest road user) than anything logical. Probably should be some more education and information on best ways to ride in traffic, it is a definite skill, which to be fair to the cycle haters, a lot of riders don't have.. But then generally they're bogan redneck revheads so $%^& em......

      Commenter
      tele12
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:41PM
    • Steve, read the article! It has already covered all of your points in a logical well thought out manner.

      The sooner we move to a user pays (or more equitable) system on the roads the sooner motorists will realise the burden they are placing on the rest of us to fund their form of transportation.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:41PM
    • Just wondering whether you actually read the article Steve? How do you suggest that the registration you want to slap on every bike will work? I actually don't think most cyclists (I'm one) would be against a fee that was in some sort of proportion and could hopefully go towards bike path upgrades, it has always been the logistics that are the problem, as is well spelt out in the article. As far as cyclists being just a pack of law breakers as you suggest? No more or less than drivers and pedestrians from what I can tell.

      Commenter
      davemac
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:44PM
    • Ah.... Good old "comment before reading" syndrome. One day, it'll be on the DSM and treatment will be available.

      Commenter
      stopthatastronaut
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:46PM
    • Michi

      Even recording it on camera does very little for day to day transgressions, still no one will follow it up unless there is some severe injury or property damage. There are a hell of a lot of cameras now (usually not much more than $35 and a memory card) popping up on bikes, cars, motorbikes etc, and peds already have their camera phones. Everywhere is on record these days, still doesn't mean much action in day to day life.

      Commenter
      Andrew K
      Date and time
      June 14, 2012, 12:46PM

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