SILVER SPRING – County council members are considering changing bicycle registration from mandatory to voluntary following a resident’s complaint.
Concern arose after Steve Silverman posted a seven-minute video on Facebook in which he claimed that Montgomery County Police (MCP) stopped him in the summer because he had taken video of the police officers in an incident he happened to ride past “moments before” police claim that they saw him “talking to a young black man.”
He also took a video of the two officers who stopped him.
In that video, an officer explained that Silverman was stopped because he “ran through the stop sign back there. You are in the roadway. You’ve got to follow the rules of the road.”
Silverman said he did stop and told the officer he would not show his identification, although he did state his name and address.
Silverman was given two criminal citations, one for failing to stop at a stop sign and the other for failing to show a bicycle registration.
Charges were dropped last month, and Silverman was neither fined nor had his bicycle confiscated.
Silverman said he hoped the council would stop passing “ill-conceived laws to punish people who assert their rights.”
When Maryland Delegate David Moon (D-20) saw the video, he alerted members of the council, asking on Facebook, “Any Montgomery County Councilmembers want to repeal this nonsense?”
Moon explained that he works to eliminate laws “that are so rarely used that they lend themselves to select enforcement.”
He particularly questioned the section of the county law that gives the police the power to seize any nonregistered bicycle.
Under county law, all bicycles must be registered for a fee, and the registration decal must be displayed on the bicycle.
County police and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) police may impound any unregistered bicycle until the bicycle is properly registered, according to the law. Park police may dispose of unregistered bikes.
The county police will keep the bike until proof of registration is shown.
The bike also may be given to a nonprofit organization. If it is sold, the money “must be deposited in the Police Relief and Retirement Fund.”
Captain Thomas Jordan, director of public information for the MCP, said that bicycle impoundment is “not the hot topic of the day,” and he said it did not happen a lot.
In an email to The Sentinel, Jordan said he would look into it but that it was “probably not a high number at all.”
When Council Vice President Tom Hucker viewed the Facebook posting, he said he planned to investigate the matter.
“First, I will talk to police and the Department of Transportation,” he said. He will ask if there are “any downsides to switching” registration from mandatory to voluntary.
Hucker is concerned that people may not know they must register their bikes. Those who do register their bicycles probably assume they are doing it so that if it is ever stolen, they can prove it is theirs, he said.
Hucker is concerned that this law could lead to “police hassling people if they do not” have a registered bike.
“I don’t think that was ever the intention,” he said.
On Facebook, Hucker said he would look into the law, adding, “I agree the money should not go to the police retirement fund.”
He also wrote that he is “asking council staff to draft up a bill to remove the mandatory requirement but retain an opt-in program to allow people to identify lost or stolen bikes.”
Councilman Will Jawando also said he would be “happy to take a look. Makes no sense to me at all,” he posted on Facebook.
Other comments were equally critical. One resident posted, “So my 4-year-old could have her Dora the Explorer bicycle with training wheels confiscated by the police?”