I was thinking about the recent "All opinions are local" column More bikes? OK, then more rules that I already responded to here. The one in which the author called for cyclists to be registered and have license plates. It's pretty common for people to say "oh you want to be able to ride in the road and be treated like a vehicle, well then your bike must then be treated like a car in every way." It's the "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" line of logic. And it fails for a couple of pretty obvious reasons.
I have faint memories of the ERA discussions when I was a kid, but I remember people saying things that, even at a young age, seemed crazy to me - like "if the amendment passed women would have to wear pants all the time" and "we'd all have to go to unisex bathrooms." [Do men have to wear pants all the time? Underpants maybe. But pants, no.] And the same sort of exaggerated logic is at play here. The problem with the logic, is that we can ask for similar rights, while recognizing certain differences. In the previous post Previously I've written about the technical reasons why plates won't work and why registration is a bad idea, so I won't go into them again.
But, besides the technical reasons why registration, licensing, insurance requirements, taxing etc... don't make sense, there is another reason why bikes should be treated differently - even treated better. And that is that every government at every level has stated some form of the goal to get fewer people to drive. We want people to drive less. Which means we want people to walk and bike more. We've even stated that increased cycling is a goal (Metro just set as a goal quadrupling the number of cyclists accessing their stations, and DDOT has a goal to double bike share by 2015) . As long as that is true, it's OK to treat cyclists and pedestrians better. It's OK to remove barriers and subsidize these activities. It's OK for things to be unfair. If we, as a society, didn't care how people moved about then it might make sense to charge for bike parking or tax cycling. But we do care. And we want people to drive less and bike more.
This is similar to the fact that we tax smoking and drinking like crazy, but don't tax groceries. It's because we want people to smoke and drink less and we'd like for them to not starve. Is it fair? Perhaps not depending on how you define 'fair'. Is that OK? I think so.
This message is always going to be unpopular. People care a great deal about fairness. But I think we have to push the point that the goal is to get more people to bike, not to make things fair. And that trying to argue about what is "fair" and what is not is arguing on their terms and not ours. So I'm going to concede the point from now on, even though I recognize that a fairness argument is there to be made.
Yes, it may be unfair. No, that is not a problem.