Detroit Police Announce Bicycle License Enforcement

Detroit bicycle licenseThe Detroit News ran an article today about Detroit Police plans to ticket cyclists in Detroit on unlicensed bikes:

In a city that has one of the nation’s highest crime rates, Detroit cops have been given the order to start cracking down on unregistered bicycles.

Starting Aug. 7, officers will start issuing $55 tickets if bikes are unregistered. The dollar-a-year licenses are good for five years.

“You’d think the Detroit cops would have better things to worry about than giving out fines to people who don’t register their bikes,” said Detroiter Marv Adams, 56.

But it’s not enforceable

But the real story is the law is unenforceable under state law.

To begin with MCL 257.606 sub-section (1)(i) states that local authorities can “[Regulate] the operation of bicycles and requiring the registration and licensing of bicycles, including the requirement of a registration fee.” The CIty of Detroit can require bicycle licenses.

However, MCL 257.606 sub-section (3) says that such a requirement “shall not be enforceable until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the highway or street or part of the highway or street affected, as may be most appropriate, and are sufficiently legible as to be seen by an ordinarily observant person.”

Detroit does not have any such signage nor have we heard of any plans to add any. Posting such signs around all the major city entrances would involve a major cost. I am unaware of any city within Michigan that has taken such a drastic step to make bike license registration an enforceable ordinance.

The Detroit Chief of Police has been alerted to the state law.

The Detroit News expects to run a follow up story tomorrow. They have received considerable feedback on this. Needless to say, this police announcement has not made very many people happy.

In these times of high fuel prices and people looking at alternative means of getting around, we shouldn’t be looking to penalize those riding bikes in Detroit.

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20 Responses to “Detroit Police Announce Bicycle License Enforcement”

  1. License Update « Wheelhouse Detroit Says:

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  2. kelli_wheelhouse Says:

    Thanks for following up on this with some hard facts.

  3. Dustin Says:

    This came as quite a shock to me. You’re absolutely right. Bicycle riding should be encouraged as much as possible. It’s ridiculous they would try and penalize riders.

    I ride my bike through 5 different cities all the time. If cities enacted this, would I have to litter my bike with 5 different stickers?

  4. Detroit Bike License Updates | Says:

    […] Woodward Trail « Detroit Police Announce Bicycle License Enforcement […]

  5. Miles Says:

    I have a feeling that only Detroit will do this. It’s to crack down on bicycle theft/drug traffic. You have no idea how many drugs are delivered on bicycle. Heroine courier lifts bike, takes it to NorthWest, drops delivery, ditches bike. Very common.

    Also, they know how more common bikes are going to get within the next five years with the price of gas skyrocketing.

    If anything, I think this will help encourage people to ride their bikes. And licenses are only a dollar. This will help people become active in the bicycle community. It may seem like it will hurt, but I have a feeling it’s going to have a positive effect.

  6. Sandra Says:

    Who’s going to make the police enforce this law? The same people who don’t make them enforce the law of not placing basktball goals in the street? Which is dangerous to motorist and kids playing basketball!

  7. EJ Levy Says:

    So it seems that the police are serious about returning bicycles. The national registry is a great idea and I’m sure insurance companies would recommend it as well. In the meantime I would assume that those bikes sitting in a police warehouse could be donated to one of the organizations that distribute bikes to less fortunate children and adults.

  8. Todd Scott Says:

    Under current state law, only county sheriffs can donate unclaimed stolen bikes to non-profits. Other police must auction them.

  9. gary hael Says:

    I just read an article from Lissa Gilmore in the Southend WSU newsletter saying the law will not be enforced until August 7th and that the $1 licencse, good for 5 years, can be purchased at any police precinct between 9:00AM and 5:00PM M-F. It also said, after August 7, the fine will be $55. I wonder, is it a metal plate? How does it attach to the bicycle? Does it have to be visible or can we just carry it in our back jersey pocket? Does the police department have an official website where we can see the exact details of this new ordinance?

    The August 7 date is good news for me as I plan to lead a group of cyclists from Troy down to the Wayne State area July 19th and I was concerned about getting that ticket for not having the license. Too bad we can’t get one on the weekends when we’re not working. We could have done a ride down to one of the precincts to get them. Guess this is just another reason for suburban folk to stay out of Detroit.

  10. Todd Scott Says:

    It’s a sticker that the police must affix to the seat post of every bicycle ridden in Detroit.

    I’ve posted the Detroit bike licensing ordinance at

  11. gary hael Says:

    Thanks Scott. Is there a way to purchase this on the internet?

  12. Todd Scott Says:

    Gary, It’s available for free on-line at

    Just look for Chapter 55, Article IX, Division 3.

  13. Scott Webster Says:

    I hope the bike I bought a a yard sale aint stolen when get me a bike license.

  14. Ura Pnes Says:

    “attach the license sticker on the saddle post at a point between six (6) inches and nine (9) inches below the seat”
    On the saddle post? Wouldn’t you put it on the frame (maybe the seat tube)? Most people don’t have 6-9 inches of seat post exposed. It would be pretty impossible to get the post into the tube after applying a sticker to it, without tearing the sticker off. I know their intent, but it seems to me that the people writing these ordinances wouldn’t know a bicycle from their a$$. This is a stupid idea at a local level. Like Dustin above, I ride through dozens of villages, townships, cities, etc. My bike would be plastered with stickers if this idea were to spread. I also agree with Gary, it’s just another reason to stay out of Detroit. I can spend my time and money elsewhere.

  15. Todd Scott Says:

    I suspect this ordinance was written in the 30s or 40s. That would explain why it doesn’t necessarily make sense today. We are looking at making changes to this ordinance very soon. Stay tuned.

  16. rick wright Says:

    I will be so glad when WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA come together and bring an end to this kind of DEW-DEW… laws are suposed to be created to benifit the citizens… this is just another clear example of how the government is now and has been for farr to long issuing out laws that do nothing but create revinue for the greedy parracites in the system…. if WE THE PEOPLE dont stand together and end this thing now, next will be regestrations and proff of insurrance, mandatory helments and reflectors that you must purchase to avoid receiving a tickets that will soon lead to going to jail if not paid… WAKE UP!!!! WE THE PEOPLE dont need this spit. MO PIMPIN, MO PIMPIN, MO PIMPIN………

  17. shrestha12 Says:

    Ha now cops are even after cycles. Don’t they have anthing to do.

  18. BillinDetroit Says:

    Rick Wright has a point, no matter how hampered it might be by his spelling and grammar.

    This bike tax should be reserved for the creation and maintenance of bicycle paths so as to make the city freely and safely navigable by cyclists. Right now, you cannot follow Telegraph from I-96 to Plymouth Rd. without considerable hazard.

    I am not arguing for a bike lane in the road … in Detroit, riding in such a lane would be tantamount to suicide … but, rather, for the continuance of the curb ramp program (apparently an off-shoot of ADA) and for maintenance of existing sidewalks and the creation of ‘missing’ sidewalks, such as alongside Telegraph, south of I-96.

    I’m 99.9% certain that a police occifer would be satisfied if the decal was placed anywhere it could be seen from the rear of the bike so long as the number on the decal matched up with the number stamped under the bike crank.

  19. Jane Says:

    What about the Tour Detroit bike tours? Must purchase if bike once?

  20. Todd Scott Says:

    There’s no longer any requirement to license your bicycle in Detroit. The ordinance was removed in 2008. Bicycle licensing is completely optional.

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