On Sundays Gothamist likes to publish opinion pieces by its contributors, friends and you. The opinions expressed in this piece do not neccessarilly represent anyone besides the author, in this case Joseph Anastasio.

2004_02_19_bikescriticalmas.jpg This week, the city failed to require Critical Mass, a monthly group bike ride through the streets of Manhattan, to obtain a parade permit beforehand. This shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone, as the city was at best on shaky legal ground in its attempt at banning critical mass. However, the judge in the case made a very clear statement that unfortunately the vast majority of cyclists seem to ignore: "Riding a bicycle on city streets is lawful conduct, as long as one observes the applicable traffic laws and rules".

The simple fact that every New Yorker (cyclist or not) knows is that the majority of cyclists have absolutely no regard for traffic laws, or even common sense. You don't need me to tell you this. If you've lived here for more than a minute you've seen cyclists blowing through red lights and weaving through traffic on the sidewalks and in the streets as if both were created solely for their enjoyment. Cyclists seem fond of quoting the fact that 21 died here last year, but no mention is made of whether or not these cyclists had taken any safety precautions at all.

Strangely enough, I recently read in a Village Voice article that cyclists are upset over being penalized for 'minor infractions' such as not having a bell on their bikes. To that I can only counter, A Bell? Talk about an out of date law! New York is a loud city. Requiring cyclists to have a bell on their bike doesn't go far enough. Cyclists should instead be required to have some type of air horn on their bike - loud enough of distinct enough to be heard in a safety situation. Since so few cyclists seem to take such precautions into consideration on their own, it needs to be required by law, and strictly enforced to boot.

Whether cyclists like it or not, a bicycle is a vehicle. In order to drive a car, you need  to pass a written test, a road test, take a 5 hour safety class, get your drivers license, car registration & license plates, insurance, and for your car to pass annual safety inspections. Unfortunately, anyone can learn and ride their bike wherever they want, which the rising number of cyclist death indicates is a bad idea. The same laws that pertain to driving a car should be required of cyclists, (at least in busy areas, such as much of Manhattan - residential areas with less pedestrian and auto traffic need not apply for the obvious common sense reasons).

Forcing cyclists to meet certain requirements will encourage safer riders and establish accountability. This way, the next time a cyclist blows through a red light and nearly hits you, you can copy down the plate number on the back of his bike and make a complaint. If one hits you and you're injured, you can make a claim on that cyclists' insurance. If all of the new requirements stop or discourage certain people from riding, so be it. Do you want people without licenses or insurance driving cars with no plates? If you wish to argue that there is a big difference between a car and a bicycle, tell that to the guy or girl that gets hit by a cyclist and sent to the hospital with broken bones or other injuries. It's time to end the double standard.

And just think, if done right the city can funnel some of the money gained from registration fees and the like associated bicycle ownership towards creating more bike paths, bike lanes, greater public awareness, etc.

You don't have to argue with me about how bicycles are an important transportation alternative, how sloppy many drivers are, and how pedestrians never look where they are going. I've heard all these arguments and more. All I'm trying to say is that if cyclists feel like they're not getting any respect on the street, they need to take a good hard look in the mirror, ride responsibly, and police other riders who refuse to share the road. Otherwise, the above mentioned cyclist regulations may be legally forced down their collective throat by the city government, which may just decide that if it can't win in court with the current laws that some new ones specifically tailored against cyclists will be in order.

Joseph Anastasio is a writer, photographer, and founding member of the ltv squad exploration group and CFNY political action committee.