Beginning Dec. 14, bicyclists in Baton Rouge will no longer need to register their rides.
The Metro Council agreed in November to repeal the city-parish’s bicycle registration requirement, which will allow law enforcement agencies to pursue a new online registration system that would be free and voluntary for bike owners.
The Baton Rouge Police Department, along with Metro Council members Matt Watson and LaMont Cole, proposed removing the registration ordinance earlier this year, saying the city-parish’s current system for registering bikes is antiquated and underused.
The council approved the measure Nov. 14, and it will take effect Dec. 14.
The outgoing ordinance required owners to register their bikes with their local police department and purchase a $5 license tag, which is essentially an identification sticker.
But registrations have been declining over the past decade. Bike tag fees last year generated $22,945, down 47% since 2009, Watson says. Meanwhile, of the 720 bikes that were stolen last year in Baton Rouge, only 65 were returned—or less than 10%—according to BRDP stats presented at a Sept. 12 council meeting.
In part, that’s because many bikes are not registered in the city-parish system, even though it was required by law. One reason for declining registrations, says BRPD, is because the system is old and burdensome.
BRPD Sgt. Mike Gauthier took over bike registration for the department three years ago and started looking into ways to refine the system. Gauthier spearheaded the push to repeal the current registration system in order to pursue a new one.
“It’s a very dated system—the ordinance is from 1951 and the database is from the ‘80s,” Gauthier said in September. “I looked into how other departments around the country did it and found that, if they even offered registration, it was free.”
To replace the old system, BRPD plans to pursue a partnership with an online bike registration company called 529 Garage, which allows for free and voluntary bike registration through an app. And law enforcement agencies can access the registration database for an annual fee.
Having a free, easy-to-use online system could encourage more people to register their bikes, Gauthier says, which would in turn help police return stolen bikes.
A new system, however, is not in place yet. Gauthier could not be reached for comment this morning, but Watson says he believes BRPD still plans to pursue 529 Garage.
“I’m impressed with the system,” Watson says. “It would have my complete support.”