Bicycle registration bill pulled by lawmakers

12:48 AM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- Lawmakers backing the bicycle registration bill are pulling the bill after overwhelming outcry from bicyclists from all over Georgia.   

Cyclists and non-riders from all over Georgia packed the Hall County Government Center in Gainesville during a town hall meeting Monday night. An overwhelming majority of the speakers were against the proposed changes.

Under the proposed bill, a bicycle owner would be subject to a $100 fine and could face a misdemeanor if the bicycle is not registered with the state.  

Georgia House Bill 689 would have also required license plates to be put on any bike that shares a road with other vehicles.  Groups of bicycle riders would have to stay in single file lines, no more than four cyclists per line, with four feet between each bike.  50 feet would have to separate each group of four riders.

But Monday night, State Representative Carl Rogers announced he and the other two sponsors would cancel the bill, saying "no further action" would be taken on pushing it forth. 

After the meeting, which exceeded 2.5 hours, sponsors Carl Rogers (R-Gainesville), Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) and Emory Dunahoo (R-Gainesville) said the point of the bill was to bring people to the table to discuss bicycle safety, but they realized this bill itself was not the answer. 

"I knew there would be a lot of opinions against it, and we heard that," Rogers said. "But I knew it would get people in here," he added, pointing to the standing room only crowd.

"I had no intention of signing or passing or voting for this law," Dunahoo told 11Alive's Blayne Alexander. "To me, it was to bring attention to an issue that's gonna be a problem if we don't start working together."

"It was dropped just for someone six months later to pull it out," Dunahoo added.

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For the past week, news of the law had spread all over the state through social media sites and chain emails within cycling groups.  

"I've probably gotten about 25 emails about it in the past week," said cyclist Craig Forest on the Silver Comet Trail.  "They tried it in San Diego and had to repeal it a year later.  There would be widespread disobedience, it would be violated on an hourly basis with cyclists riding in groups."

Bikers in Gainesville, where the bill originated, said they were equally surprised by the bill.  

"When I first saw it, I honestly thought it was a joke and something that was pretty crazy," said Kevin Mooney, a manager at Bike Town USA in Gainesville.

Opponents said the bill's three sponsors were reportedly influenced by local businessman Jim Syfan, of Syfan Logistics in Hall County.  Syfan told 11Alive Thursday he had been pushing a bill like this for years. 

"It's not meant to stop anyone from riding," Syfan said.  "What it's meant to do is create an identification process."

Syfan said if every other wheeled vehicle on a state road has to be registered, why not bicycles?

"[Most bikers] are nice guys, they're people, but once in awhile you'll get a guy that will ride in the middle of the road and flip you off," Syfan said.  "This is to identify the guys that are not abiding by the rules."

Syfan also said it's a safety issue.  The more riders know they'll be accountable to the rules of the road, the more cautious they'll be.  

Gainesville riders said social media sites had exploded with outrage when cyclists started hearing about HB 689.  They plan to show up in numbers at the Monday meeting and bury the bill. 

"I don't think it's something that's going to go anywhere, I think after the meeting on Monday it will fall through the cracks," Mooney said.  

Take our poll below! Do you think bikers should have to pay to register their bikes?

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