When I was a kid my hometown required bicycles to be registered just like automobiles. They actually issued miniature license tags to be attached to the rear fender. It is no longer a requirement in the city, but I read on the Internet recently that there is now a controversial proposed bill in the New York State legislature to require the licensing of bicycles statewide.
I remember we had to have our bikes inspected and pay a small fee when we registered our bikes. There were requirements to have reflectors on the front and back, and on the handlebars we had to have a headlamp, and either a horn which had a rubber ball at the back end which you squeezed to make a sound like a person loudly blowing his nose, or a bell with a little lever that you pushed to make a ka-ching ka-ching sound. Although not required, I and most of my friends also attached a few reflectors on the spokes of each wheel in a circular pattern so that at night when light shown on the moving bike you would see two revolving circles of colored lights.
Along with our bicycle license tag we were issued a pamphlet containing all the rules and requirements. Specific emphasis was given to the fact that bicycles, like motorized vehicles were to be operated on the roads. Riding a bike on sidewalks was prohibited.
I don’t remember riding my bike on the sidewalk much. I only did it in my neighborhood on residential streets where it was unlikely that policemen would be around. I always rode in the street on main thoroughfares, and it was often scary. There were no designated bike lanes back then and drivers were never pleased to have bicycles ahead of them in their lanes.
My very first summer job was as a messenger for an optical company delivering prescription glasses to opticians in the downtown area on my bike. Riding a bike on those streets in heavy traffic was terrifying. Those were the days when downtowns in cities were the epicenter of shopping, government and business for an entire metropolitan area. Every morning I left for work I prayed that I would spend that evening at home rather than the hospital. I risked my life daily for the princely sum of $1.00 an hour.
The reason that I got to thinking about my long ago bicycle riding days was that last night while on my walk I saw a guy riding a bike on an extremely busy six lane road where traffic normally moves at 45 to 50 mph. He was wearing dark clothing and the bike had no headlamp or reflectors. It was so dark out that I could barely make him out from across the street. The guy either had a death wish or was mentally deficient.
I don’t know if my city has any specific regulations relating to bicycles. If there are, it doesn’t appear as if anyone pays any attention to them. Bicycling is very popular here, and most people ride on the sidewalks. They are a hazard to me on my walks both in the day and at night. I have yet to see one bicycle equipped with either a headlamp, bell or horn, or even reflectors. If I see them coming towards me I can get off the sidewalk and let them pass. But I am totally unaware of those approaching from my rear. Less than one in ten bothers to make a warning noise while approaching, so I am unaware of them until they pass me. On several occasions my shirt sleeve has been brushed by handlebars. I have this horrible feeling that one night while on my walk I will veer slightly to avoid an obstacle on the sidewalk and move right into the path of a bicycle approaching from my rear. ………Ouch! 😥