Bicycle Licensing and Increased Fines Proposed in Philly

Councilmen Kenney & DiCicco of Philadelphia introduced bills yesterday that would increase penalties for sidewalk riding, riding with headphones, and riding bikes without brakes. One of the bills would also require bicycle registration and license plates. Local bicycle advocacy groups oppose the bills, pointing out that the existing fines would be sufficient if the laws were enforced, and that bicycle licensing programs have been largely unsuccessful in many cities across the country.

From the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia:

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia opposes bills that are being introduced today by Councilman Frank DiCicco and James Kenney to increase penalties and require license plates on bicycles.

“This is the wrong approach,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, Campaign Director. “Bicyclists shouldn’t be singled out when the problem is all road users – motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians – bending the law to suit their own needs, with little if any consequences. The absence of adequate enforcement has led some road users to develop bad habits that endanger themselves and others.”

“These bills won’t make Philadelphia’s streets safer,” said Advocacy Director John Boyle. “The problem is not that penalties are too low, the problem is that tickets are rarely given out. It is pointless to increase penalties as proposed by Councilman Kenney when the current penalty system has existed only on paper,” he added. Other cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Washington DC, Detroit, Albuquerque, and the states of Minnesota and Massachusetts have all repealed laws similar to Councilman DiCicco’s proposal. Los Angeles’ Police Department Chief directly recommended to LA’s City Council that their program be discontinued. Said Boyle, “Bicycle license plates are impractical and unworkable. Let’s learn from other cities’ experiences and not waste time and resources on an ineffective program.”

Bicycle licensing schemes are discriminatory against low income individuals who most depend upon bicycles for transportation, and the funds generated by these programs are rarely used to improve conditions for bicyclists.

Read the full press release
“Increased Penalties” Bill
“Bicycle Registration” Bill
“No Brakes” Bill

Councilman James Kenney:
Councilman Frank DiCicco:

12 Responses to “Bicycle Licensing and Increased Fines Proposed in Philly”

  • Aaron says:

    Have you ever been to Phillie? I was there on business a few months ago. Apparently they’re so hurting for parking spaces that they now allow people to park IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!!! I’ll have to link to a picture at some point. Or, maybe you can use it as the image for this article to show how silly this is. They need to discourage people from DRIVING if anything, and get more people on bikes.

  • Jeremy says:

    Thanks for posting this Alan, I really appreciate it.

    Aaron, as you witnessed first hand, Philly should be coming up with ways to get more people to ride bikes , not creating obstacles. If you have the time please call or email these councilmen.

  • Bob P. says:

    I rode through Philadelphia in September, on a tour from NJ to VA. Will the law require me to stop and register my bicycle on the way into town?

  • Jeremy says:


    I talked with Councilman DiCicco’s assistant today and brought up this very concern as Philadelphia is home to quite a few colleges and many college students are not legal residents of Philadelphia but come here just for school. According to the bill if you are not a resident you are not required register your bicycle. Of course this might not stop the police from stopping you and asking.

  • Bob P. says:

    I should have read it first, it only pertains to residents of Philadelphia, plus it looks like a recumbent would not need to be registered based on the seat height.

  • Bob says:

    Is there no end to how stupid the bureaucrats can get? Of all the things in Philly that they should be concerned with, they wanna license bicycles? Why don’t they try to reduce crime, or drug use, or violence? How about helping the homeless, the sick or the elderly?

    Not that it’s much better on the island that I live on, I’m still thankful I don’t live in a big city.

  • Karl McCracken (twitter: @karlonsea) says:

    I think that this is a case of a “man bites dog story” – Kenney & DiCicco have jumped on the issue as one that has grabbed the press and are looking to be seen to be doing some thing about it.

    Two pedestrians were killed by people riding bikes – this is a tragedy, and they are right to want to do something about the root causes of this.

    Yet every year, more than 150 pedestrians are killed by the drivers of motorised vehicles in Pennsylvania. Like the body count from a protracted war, this has been going on for so long that people just accept it as business as usual.


  • Frits B says:

    In Holland we had bicycle licensing 80 years ago. It wasn’t doable then, and certainly wouldn’t work now. Don’t politicians ever ask before making ridiculous suggestions?

  • Alan says:


    This one feels more like a publicity stunt than an honest effort to improve public safety.


  • Matt says:

    Here in Minnesota there used to be a bicycle licensing requirement. It was $10 which I think ran for three years (it was before I moved here). The proceeds of the licensing fees were completely used in the administrative costs of the program. It was eventually dropped. Go back a hundred years, and there were bicycle licenses affixed to the front fork with twisted wire and sealed with a bit of melted lead (like access panels to calibration on gasoline pumps) so they couldn’t be moved from bike to bike.

  • randomray says:

    Another pointless law . I live right outside Philly and have to wonder how pedestrians were killed by cyclists . Were the cyclists swerving to avoid cars parked in the bike lane , they always are . Or were the pedestrians jay walking or maybe they jumped in front of the cyclists on purpose . No really , I actually had a pedestrian jump in front of me on purpose in Philly . The accident in question was probably just a sad accident of inattention . Philly is a great city but , the police have so many more important things to do . Just some egocentric politicians that want their name in the paper .

  • Mohjho says:

    My concern with bicycle fees is with the people who rely on their bicycle as the only means of travel. Low income folk who are living on the margin have enough problems paying for food, shelter, and children. Now they can’t even afford to ride a bike in the city. Licensing also gives authorities further abilities to stop and harass otherwise non-threatening citizens just trying to get somewhere on a non-licensed bike.

    My own town has bicycle registration. It’s not cheap, and I see no benefit. The sticker looks like crap on my beautiful Surley and I have yet to see stickers on any other bikes. What can you say about a law that serves no purpose and is ignored flagrantly and without consequence?

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