Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Not Wheel Smart

A New York Assemblymoron has proposed that all bicycles in the state be licensed, registered, insured and face an annual inspection.
As an avid cyclist, I'm not sure how I feel about this. It's tough enough getting around the city with stop lights every block (roughly 100 yards) and dealing with massive vehicles ten to twenty times my weight trying to intimidate me, just so I can get a little exercise, but not only are the New york City police toughening enforcement of traffic laws as pertains to cyclists (thank god these aren't points on the license!), now comes this.
On the other hand, I'm a careful cyclist. Others are not (particularly bike messengers but they have their own rules to follow). And people do get hit and injured, and many times the cyclist is to blame, so part of me thinks there ought to be an accountability factor in biking in an urban or suburban area. 
I should note that in the four or five months between May and October, I'll put about twenty five hundred miles on my bike, sometimes as many as three thousand. So it's not a casual issue for me to add four minutes to every mile I ride for lights. See, I run red lights at 5 AM with no traffic around because to stop and then start up again on the green requires a massive effort on my part and slows me down and takes me out of my rhythm.
The annual inspection is probably the most ridiculous bit of this bill. Sure, we inspect cars for safety and emissions (and unless you're hooking a monitor up to my butt, we can exclude that last), but most people fix safety issues on their bikes long before any inspection would find them, mostly because the only real safety issues on a bike are the brakes and who the hell wants to ride around with no brakes in heavy traffic? For example, I take my bike in at least twice a season (at the beginning and the end) for a full tune up. Costs me nothing. Costs most people nothing because the shop will usually toss it in for free if you've bought the bike there and if you continue to buy stuff from them (like gloves or a light or what have you). In fact, I'm due to take mine in this month and I plan on buying new pedals and shoes. That ought to get me another five years of free service, so long as the owner's memory remains good.
And at the end of the season, I bring it in for a general tune up. That's usually when the brake pads need aligning or replacing, the chain gets a good cleaning, and the tires get gravel and such picked out of them.
And none of this includes those few times during the season when I just stop in because of some odd noise or other.
Now, I know, not everyone takes as good care as I do, but we're talking about a bike here, not a major mechanical contraption that requires computerized diagnostics and a Ph. D. in mechanical engineering to fix. In fact, many bikers do their own repairs and are quite good at them (Me, I can't change a flat unless I've got a lift, a six pack and the shop owner there).
This is just a silly make-work bill designed to scratch a little more out of the taxpayer, as opposed to going after the corporate felons who evade taxes like they're pedestrians.