The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 17, 2013

Sunbury bike registration rules left in the dust

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — You won’t have to pedal faster, fearing city police are hot on your trail for failure to register your bicycle.

Not in Sunbury, where police haven’t issued a citation for an unregistered bicycle in at least 10 years, Chief Steve Mazzeo says.

Not in Sunbury, where no one has even registered a bicycle in more than two years, according to the mayor’s office. And definitely not in Sunbury, which is trying to become more bicycle-friendly after residents on Wednesday participated in the first community ride.

An ordinance enacted in 1970 mandates that bicycles must be registered — currently a 50-cent charge that comes complete with an inspection of your wheels by a city policeman.

Watching officers Steve Bennick or Gary Heckman give your new five-speed the once-over may be entertaining and almost worth the 50 cents, but it may be time for City Hall to update its ordinance on biking, which hasn’t happened in eight years, Mayor David Persing said.

Persing himself wants to see more people riding bicycles throughout the city.

But in order to do that, Sunbury will need to re-think its ordinance. As it stands, if you decide to purchase a bicycle and ride around town, make sure Mazzeo or another member of the police department inspects it first.

That’s what the ordinance says.

“The police force shall inspect each bicycle before licensing the same, and shall refuse a license for any bicycle which it deems to be in an unsafe condition,” city code states.

If you decide to break the law by not registering your bicycle, then don’t you dare pedal downtown because if you do, your bicycle could be confiscated and used against you in a court of law.

“If any bicycle shall be found on any street or alley in the city without a license as above set forth, with a mutilated serial number or with no serial number stamped on the frame of the bicycle, it shall be prima facie evidence that such bicycle is being operated without proper registration.”

That’s according to city code again.

Once you are “cuffed and stuffed” for the illegal operation of a bicycle, you would have to appear before District Judge Ben Apfelbaum, who could issue you a citation that could cost up to $300.

But that will take some time, because for your first offense the city will confiscate your bike and place it in the impound yard next to vehicles seized by the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force.

If you’re caught riding a bicycle on the sidewalks, municipal parking lots or Cameron Park in the downtown business district, which includes Arch Street, Market Street and Chestnut Street running from Front Street to Tenth Street, consider your bicycle a goner.

For 30 days.

A second offense shall result in the permanent confiscation of the bicycle and a third offense shall result in the imposition of fine defined at a minimum amount of $25 and a maximum amount of $300, along with permanent confiscation of the new bicycle.

Changing times

Wednesday marked the first community bike ride — and, assuming none of the bicycles were registered — it would appear the city would have been able to rack up enough fines to purchase a few more surveillance cameras to be stored in boxes at City Hall.

And officers might have needed several pickup trucks to haul all the bicycles away.

Luckily, the police department was busy and riders made the seven-mile journey safely.

As a matter of fact, some of those cyclists even spent money at city businesses.

“We all know that certain laws need to be applied to all cyclists, but for the city, loosening the belt may be in order,” Persing said.

“It is one of those things that, 50 years ago, it meant a lot,” Persing said. “It is unenforceable and we don’t have the time. You want people to ride around and enjoy the summer weather, but we will look at these ordinances and take a look at it.

“There are things that we can change.”

Cyclists must follow state rules which say, “a bicycle is considered a vehicle and, as such, is governed by a general set of rules (common to all vehicles) and a specific set of rules (designed for bicycles).”

The law states that every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the same rights as vehicles and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.

Bicycles are considered vehicles under Pennsylvania laws and must obey all the rules of the road that apply to vehicles.