If it moves, regulate it.

This is from the OA News from a few days ago.

. . . On another issue, AU is requiring all students, staff and faculty bringing a bicycle to campus to register it with AU’s Parking Services, Smith said.

Although people have previously been asked to register, the requirement will be more strictly enforced now, something Smith said is necessary as the campus has become more pedestrian.

We’re seeing many, many more bikes on campus and because of that we’ve got to get a handle on how many we have …

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(No, you don’t.)

. . . and registering them is a good way to do that, Smith said.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(No, it isn’t.)

You register your car on campus and the same is true for bicycles.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(This is a completely specious comparison.)

Registration is free.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(Don’t count on that lasting forever.)

Smith said the number of bicycles registered with the university will help ensure that an adequate number of bicycle racks are available on campus.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

The reason the University requires you to register cars is specifically to limit and control access: parking space near campus is extremely limited, it’s expensive to build more, and the parking tags regulate who can park in which zones. None of these rationales apply to bicycles on campus, no matter how many there may be. The idea that you just have to know the exact number of bicycles might be brought in at any given time is inane. If you’re seeing many, many more bikes on campus, then evidently you have some idea of the order of magnitude you’re dealing with, and if you want to tell whether you need to install more bike racks, you can do this pretty easily by looking at the bike racks and seeing whether or not they’re full up all the time, or by watching for bikes chained up to lightpoles when the racks are all full. If you see these problems, you need more bike racks. If you don’t, you don’t. The cynic in me would point out that one reason to enforce this policy is that it’s a way of making up for the declining revenues from on-campus cars, by extracting a little more revenue from the bicycles they are going to seize and impound. But really this, and a lot of other policies controlling bicycling that are justified by the same kind of specious comparisons to motor-cars, seems to be driven, more than anything, by a reflexive belief if there’s ever a lot of any damn thing at all, it’s a Problem that has to be counted out and controlled; that any and every important part of civic life, or campus life, must be registered with, and legible to, the controlling authorities. There is no reason at all to enforce this policy, other than an irrational compulsion to control anything that moves in your field of vision. In practice, the effect of the policy will be to waste students’ time, to cost students money, to punish bicyclists, to impound bikes, and to make campus less accessible to the rest of the community. (A lot of us have bikes. But we’re not eligible to register them.)



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2 replies to If it moves, regulate it. Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Gabriel

    A story like this really frightens me because it illustrates the danger of not having law that is widely known and settled (which ironically is very common with states!). My school freely allows bicycles, but this one doesn’t. How are you to know which schools are which? In practice you probably can’t, meaning you’ll find out when your bike is confiscated (or they decide to taze you for having an “unlicensed bicycle”). Or when you step outside the magic “free speech zone”. Or when you face the consequences for travelling to certain Middle Eastern countries and wear the wrong clothing. The state officials gain the power to decide who is a law-breaker and who is a law-abider by selective enforcement of their decrees.