Montgomery County moves to change law banning unregistered bicycles

Do you have to register your bike in Montgomery County, Maryland? Apparently, yes, as one Silver Spring constitutional rights activist learned after an encounter with police. But some Montgomery County Council members are looking to change that.

Steve Silverman was pulled over on his bike one day last summer after an officer told him he was getting a ticket for running a stop sign. Just before he was pulled over, Silverman had been talking to another cyclist who he had just seen being detained by police.

Silverman, the CEO of OpenPolice.org and the founder of Flex Your Rights, told the officer that he hadn’t run the stop sign. When he pulled out his phone to record the interaction, the officers considered a different law.

“Do you have a registration sticker for this bicycle?” the officer asks on Silverman’s video. He didn’t, and he was then given a citation for not having his bicycle properly registered.

Montgomery County code allows police officers to issue tickets for riding an unregistered bicycle and to confiscate such bikes.

Silverman detailed his experience in a seven-minute video last month and shared his story on social media and with a number of local news outlets.

His story caught the attention of Maryland Del. David Moon, D-Montgomery County, who, in his own Facebook post, called the county measure a “stupid law,” adding, “Any Montgomery County Councilmembers want to repeal this nonsense?”

At least some of them do. A majority of the members have asked to be co-sponsors of a bill introduced Tuesday that will make registration optional for residents.

“I think this fits under the category of, ‘Wait, we have a law like that?'” said Montgomery County Council member Andrew Friedson, D-District 1.

It’s time for some old laws to go, said At-Large Council member Will Jawando, a Democrat.

“Laws are meant to protect the public and keep us safe and serve the public’s interest,” Jawando said. “As we know, racial equity laws for a long time have served the opposite purpose — to exclude and make life more difficult. I think it’s our job to look at laws with a critical eye. This is one of them.”

And, as Silverman’s experience had shown, Jawando said, “This is really an example of over-policing. We have laws on the books, in my opinion, that give wide and broad authority, in some instances, and are used on some communities more than others.”

He added, “I think this is a great thing. I’m glad we are taking this step. It works with our vision of social justice and racial equity, and with Vision Zero.”

Council member Tom Hucker, D-District 5, pointed out a lesser part of the law that the bill will also alter.

“Current law dictates that the fines go to the police retirement fund, which is a strange incentive for officers to issue tickets,” Hucker said. “So this removes that incentive.”

There will be a public meeting on the bill Feb. 11.

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