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A couple of things to consider when reading Chris Shott’s District Line article “Tour de Force” (1/17):
First, the alleyway behind the 4200 through 4400 blocks of Connecticut Avenue NW is very well-lit, at least as well-lit as Connecticut Avenue is. To choose the alleyway over avenue traffic at the time I did was a significant risk reducer, given that it was half an hour before last call on a Friday night. The bicycle did have a flashing red light on the back, so it was visible to approaching traffic. Riding in the alleyway was about as suspicious as riding a mountain bike in the forest.
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Second, the Metropolitan Police Department has made no proactive efforts to deter bicycle theft in the District or in the region. Registration is a purely retroactive effort and is as effective as bicycle owners’ keeping record of the serial numbers on their bike frames. The impounding officer’s efforts in my case were not consistent with any effort on the department’s part to take on the bicycle-theft issue.
Third, the 31-year-old mandatory registration law does not serve the public or the bicycling community. It does, however, empower police to make a legal activity legally questionable so that they can use personal property to stop and detain people at random, therefore preventing bicyclists from using their bicycles for other legal activities—riding them to or in a political protest, for example.
According to the FBI national-bicycle-registry Web site, the majority of bicycle thefts occur on and near college campuses. A quick walk through any campus will confirm this to be true, but a greater number of these thefts are of parts stolen off improperly locked bicycles, leaving the registered frames to rot on the lock. This is another way that bicycle registration fails to protect property at the expense of the bicycling public. Cmdr. Moore’s suggestion that the area four blocks north of the University of the District of Columbia campus is a high-bike-theft area is a frail justification in hindsight. Neither the FBI nor the District has a successful model to base a mandatory registration program on. No other municipality can show an effective statistic of deterrence or reclamation to justify mandating registration.
Bicycle-theft deterrence is still the responsibility of the bicyclist. Mandatory registration laws do not serve the public and need to be revised—off the books.
When they mandate registration of our shoes, what will they charge us with for walking barefoot?