In Iowa, bike registration ordinances are rarely enforced but some remain on the books


Mandatory bicycle registration programs used to be somewhat common in Iowa. In some cases, cyclists were required to demonstrate safety skills to the police chief, providing an opportunity for cops to make nice with local children. Some jurisdictions elsewhere have used registration fees to fund trail projects.

Nowadays, bike registration programs in Iowa are overwhelmingly voluntary, usually for free or $5 or less. Numbered tags help authorities return lost or stolen bikes to their registered owners. In most cases, registration is limited to that perfectly legitimate purpose.

Unfortunately, most well-intentioned laws eventually will be used to harass and intimidate peaceful people. When the government makes a mandate, it invites conflict.

Cycling advocates caution against mandatory registration programs, which they see as a barrier to ridership. Mark Wyatt, director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, told me few cities in Iowa still enforce registration mandates, though many cities have outdated ordinances.

The Marion City Council recently voted to repeal the city’s bicycle registration ordinance, which required the police chief to inspect bikes. Chief Mike Kitsmiller recommended scratching the rule, saying it had been on the books for many years but not enforced recently, The Gazette’s Gage Miskimen reported.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Des Moines all have voluntary bicycle registration, aimed at theft recovery.

Davenport, the state’s third-largest city, still has an ordinance requiring all bikes operated in the city to be licensed. Police there have issued five citations since 2017. You can mail the $5 registration fee to City Hall or pay online, although as of this week you can’t because there is an “error processing payment” message on the website.


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