Commentary

NC Republican Betrays Principles, Pushes for Gov't To Be Able To Track Citizens' Bicycles

How much government is too much government?

America, of course, has been struggling with that question for centuries. While liberals and conservatives have debated endlessly with no clear conclusion, here’s a safe bet: When the government makes you ask permission to use a bicycle, things have probably gone too far.

Shockingly, that’s exactly what a new bill in North Carolina is proposing. If it passes, bikes could soon be required to have license plates just like cars.

“House Bill 157, sponsored by Alexander County Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, also will require the owner to register for an annual bicycle registration fee,” WBTV in Charlotte reported.

NC Bike Bill by on Scribd

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Like automobiles, pedal bikes operated on any public roads by a rider 16 or older would need to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Bicycles would have miniature registration certificates or plates attached at the rear, and anyone who doesn’t comply after the first six months would be guilty of an infraction.

While the proposed fee is fairly low — $10 for the year — the proposal is making small government conservatives balk. Now get this: The sponsor of the bill is a Republican.

“My biggest question is … WHY?” Neal Boyd wondered.

Would you support license plates and registration for bicycles?

Boyd is involved in the pro-bicycling group BIKE! Charlotte. “Will people riding bicycles now be required to buy a bicycle liability insurance policy to ride on the road?”

That isn’t part of the bill, but it’s just one of the many “slippery slope” problems that could occur if the bill becomes a law.

“I would love to know the reasoning behind introducing a bill that’s more than likely not even going to fund the actual cost to collect and effectively maintain the program,” Boyd continued.

Ostensibly, the money raised if the law passes would go toward “bicycle safety-related projects, including bicycle lanes, signage, safety education, and bicycle helmet grants for minors,” according to the bill’s language.

Of course, “doing it for safety” has been the initial excuse behind many other programs which only grow and grow. That’s the problem with government plans like this: They start innocent enough but have a pesky habit of sucking up money and freedom as they expand.

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Another aspect of the proposal that should raise conservative eyebrows is the fact that the government would presumably be tracking ownership of bicycles. They would certainly have to if authorities plan on enforcing the law by checking if a bike’s registration plate is up to date or matches the rider.

You can see how quickly this goes off the rails. Now we’re talking about a database in a state government office containing the names of every citizen who dares to ride a bike. And what about enforcement? Will police be pulling over riders to check if they’re 15 and exempt or 16 and breaking the law?

Conservative Republicans, if nothing else, are supposed to believe in keeping government under control. The state is like a weed, growing ever larger and more meddlesome unless trimmed.

There are of course many legitimate and necessary uses for state government, but issuing license plates to pedal bikes seems like a bridge too far. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from a leftist state on the west coast, not fairly conservative, red-state North Carolina.

In what world is this “conservative?” What happened to standing for liberty? We’d like to know — and in fact, we reached out to Rep. Jeffrey Elmore to explain, but as of this article’s publication, he has not responded.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.




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