Monday, May 23, 2011

Memphis Bicycle 20518

This is the 30 second PSA from TDOT, the Clean Air Board and Live From Memphis. You'll notice that Emily is in there and while it may seem like the Schwinn she's riding has the bicycle registration license plate it, in fact, does not. Not sure to which bicycle it belongs; Sarah was under the impression that it was Emily's.

My friend Steven offered up his opinion on the whole registration thing:
I'm 90% sure that those were plaques from Memphis Bicycle Co. on Summer Ave. Kinda the equivalent to the Peddler, Outdoors, Inc., etc stickers put on bikes when sold. Not sure about the number though.,

Then here's what my friend Jim turned up:
There was a program at one time where you could register your bike with the Auto Theft division of the Memphis Police Department. The cost was .50 and you got one of those cool little license plates for your bike. It was strictly voluntary and the police held registration events around town to sign people up. I don’t know the exact years of the program, but I found a newspaper article from 1964 and one from 1970 announcing registration events. Here’s a photo of a civic-minded young Girl Scout registering her bike in 1964. No idea how effective the program was in deterring theft, but it was certainly a friendlier approach than earlier registration efforts.

Jim Goes on to add:
Back in the dark days of 1940 there was a big crackdown on cycling and a sweeping new Memphis bicycle ordinance was passed. This made registration mandatory. Every bike had to have a license attached and all riders had to carry a registration card. In fact, you had to have your bike inspected at the police garage before getting your registration. There was also a whole list of crazy new rules and regulations for cyclist with fines ranging from $1 - $50. Here are a few of the possible infractions…
-- Bikes must have brakes, horn or bell, and lights required after dark.
-- Bikes must have a seat. (According to the newspaper, seats were considered “sissy” among the rowdy Memphis youth of 1940. I’m not making this up!)
-- No riding on sidewalks.
-- Unlawful to park on any sidewalks in the city.
-- Cannot remove both hands or both feet while riding or practice any acrobatic or fancy riding.
-- No person operating a bicycle upon a public highway, street or alley or place in the city of Memphis shall participate in any race of speed or endurance, or contest with any other vehicle.
-- No riding double.
I can’t imagine those laws being enforceable as I broke half of them just riding to work this morning! Seems like it would have killed bicycle sales, too. That’s about all I can tell you and hope that helps. Take care.

Thankfully a lot of those laws were taken out of the recently updated ordinances because I saw some racing and stunt riding on the way home from Bikesploitation!

Send pictures of your Memphis Bicycle license plate to

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