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Rights and Privileges 

As cycling becomes more and more popular, more people choose to ride a bike to work each day rather than drive. We start to hear calls for cyclists to be licensed, or a tax imposed, in the same way automobile drivers are licensed and taxed.

The idea of licensing cyclists usually comes from city governments rather than on a state or national level. The argument is usually along the lines that bike lanes and other facilities cost money, and it only seems fair that cyclists should pay some of this cost.

However, in practical terms any attempt to tax or license cyclists in the past has always turned out to be a bureaucratic nightmare. It always costs more to implement such a plan than the income generated. Plus law enforcement and the court system has to then impose fines on those not having a license.

Sidewalks have been in place in cities everywhere since before the beginning of the last century, and no one has ever suggested that pedestrians should pay for sidewalks. Sidewalks make it safer to walk, bike lanes make it safer to ride a bicycle. And anyway revenues from drivers’ licenses or even road taxes do not pay for roads. So really that should be the end of that argument.      

When automobiles first appeared there were no laws or regulations, you could simply buy a car, jump in and drive it. Pretty much in the same way as we can buy a bicycle today and ride it anywhere.

Later because of wholesale carnage on the roads, laws were passed and licenses issued to drivers. As a result, driving is a privilege, one that can be taken away, whereas cycling like walking is a right. Although cyclists and pedestrians are still subject to the laws of the road. It appears no one can be prevented from walking or riding a bike, even if they break the law.

So what is a right? There are so called God given rights, but as people have the right to choose whether they believe in God or not, how does that work? If you don't believe in God, do you not have any God given rights? Are you obliged to respect other people's God given rights? As it is, the only God given right I can think of is our right to live.

If you look at The Bill of Rights there are very few actual rights. I don’t see a right to ride a bicycle mentioned. There is the right to bear arms, the right to practice a religion of your choice, etc.

After that it appears the function of government (In theory anyway.) is to leave us alone, and we are free to do as we please as long as we follow certain laws wherever they apply. It appears to me that rights are rarely granted, they are simply taken for granted. Is riding a bicycle on the highway is a prime example this?

I know to even suggest such a thing will cause outrage among a great many cyclists, but before we all get our anti-bacterial padded shorts in a twist, let’s think about this. In recent years cell phones have become available and some assume it is their right to own one and talk and send text messages whenever they please, including while driving.

It turns out this is not such a good idea so in some places this practice is being outlawed. Have people lost a right, or was it just an assumed right in the first place? 

A few years ago, people had the right to smoke just about anywhere they pleased. However, that right infringed on everyone else’s right not to breathe secondhand smoke. So, now that right has gradually been taken away, and smokers are now privileged to smoke in fewer and fewer places.

Because riding a bicycle on public roads is for the most part not a danger to other road users, it is doubtful than anyone will stop us doing it. Cycling is a good idea. It cuts down on congestion in our cities, it is better for the environment, and it should be encouraged because it is good for the physical and mental well-being of the participant.

My question is, are there any true rights or privileges? Or is this just an ongoing daily debate among millions of people, on the streets, on the talk shows and in the courtrooms? We all have certain rights, and we get to keep them as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. If they do we may lose those rights, it is happening all the time.

In which case there is little difference between rights and privileges, either can be taken away. We should all remember this and in particular those cyclists who blatantly and regularly flout the laws of the road.


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Reader Comments (5)

You're missing responsibilities; no rights without them. I'm a cyclist, but no apologies for this sounding like a motorist rant.

The best thing about a tax and licensing scheme would be that we could take the license away from the twats who give the rest of us a bad name by running red lights, riding at night without lights and , etc.

July 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSimon D

Taking away the right to ride a bicycle would be an interesting challenge. Bikes are cheap and widely available, and as you point out licensing is a nightmare for those imposing it. Having researched bike counts, I can also say with confidence that people will ride wherever it's physically possible.

In practice bike facilities are often built for motorists, specifically to stop cyclists from getting in their way. Which is an argument for making motorists pay for that service.

July 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMoz in Oz

We have a right to a fair trial, and an attorney will be provided if you can’t afford one (though maybe not a very good one).
We have a right to bear arms, but the government doesn’t hand out guns.

If Health Care becomes a right, and you can’t afford the Cadillac, or a Private Plan, you’ll get what the government can afford to give you.

If Bikes become a right, are bikes going to be provided to those that can't afford one? Or, will the bikes we like become too pricey, from fees, taxes and higher prices to subsidize the crap bikes others get (just how ObamaCare Plans work). More lanes would be taken away from cars. More gas taxes would help pay for all this.
Politics would argue bikes are on the right side of history: they reduce carbon emissions and save the Earth, improve people’s health and happiness, and induce less crowding and fatalities. They would be a necessity.

But I don’t think that would be right.

July 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

> driving is a privilege, one that can be taken away, whereas cycling like walking is a right.

That's brilliant. Although maybe not completely true in every sense, I think fundamentally sound.

> It appears no one can be prevented from walking or riding a bike, even if they break the law.

I'm not sure that's true, what about on an interstate? Or other places where 'no biking' signs are (lawfully) posted?

> it appears the function of government (In theory anyway.) is to leave us alone

Only from a conservative perspective. The progressive perspective is that government's primary purpose is to Solve Problems, to Improve Society, etc.

July 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

Dave, do you know where I can obtain some David Tesch decals? I have my Fuso and now looking at a Tesch frame. It appears to need a re-spray so, need to find the decals. It is the 101 model. Thank you.

July 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJim

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