Bad idea

01/18/2007

A bill was recently introduced to the Vermont Legislature 'by request,' meaning that it was at the request of a constituent. Submitted by legislators from Wolcott and Hardwick, the bill purports to address the problem of bicyclists riding more than two abreast on state highways and requires cyclists to ride to the far right side of the highways.

This bill requires anyone riding a bike on a public highway to register their bike for an annual fee of $15, or requires visitors to pay a one-month fee of $8. It allows for penalizing riders $200 for riding more than two abreast or in the center of the traveled lanes.

This is an inane and inept attempt at addressing the inconvenience of combustion vehicles sharing the public roads with human-powered transportation. The answer to not enough room on the roads is not to penalize the cyclists.

Supporters of the bill argue that licensing bikes and their riders will make it easier to identify riders who break the rules but the reality is that bike licenses will be tiny and trying to read them will be more dangerous than waiting for a convenient place to pass the riders.

Proponents of the bill need to recognize that summer tourism, including cycling, makes up a significant portion of Vermont's revenue. Why make it harder for people to come here and ride their non-polluting bikes on our roads while spending money in our shops, restaurants and inns? Why introduce the paperwork deterrent of a bike license?

Some argue that bike riders should help pay for the upkeep and maintenance of roads, but everyone in every state is already paying for roads via state, local and federal taxes.

The bikes are not the problems on Vermont roads. Lack of proper bike lanes and failure to prioritize alternative (non-fossil fuel-based) means of transportation are problems.

Rather than legislation penalizing bikers, perhaps the legislature should consider legislation requiring the registration of SUVs that fail to meet minimum mileage standards or that cannot share the travel lane with bikes due to their massive width.

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