Licensing cyclists will discourage people from biking

Submitted by Rburke on Wed, 10/23/2013 – 4:18pm

Source: Active Transportation Alliance

35012_D0571Earlier today, a proposal was floated in Chicago City Council by 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell to charge a $25 annual licensing fee for people who ride bikes in Chicago. Along with the fee, she suggested that cyclists undergo an hour of bike safety training. Dowell said the annual fee would help raise money for a cash-strapped city.

Active Trans supports goals of raising revenue for transportation and educating people how to bike safely, but a licensing approach like this isn’t likely to raise net revenues and it would discourage cycling when our goal should be to encourage it.

Cycling frees up parking spaces and reduces congestion for people who drive. More people cycling means less wear and tear on roads, less air pollution and healthier residents. We should encourage cycling, not make it more difficult.

Cyclists already pay gas, sales and property taxes that pay for roads. Cycling takes place mostly on local roads, which rely relatively little on gas taxes. If the city charges residents for cycling, should we charge pedestrians a fee, too, to pay for sidewalks?

If such a proposal were to go into effect, can people who don’t live in Chicago cycle here without a license? How about tourists and people who commute from the suburbs? And how would enforcement happen for Chicagoans vs non-Chicagoans?

Logistically, it would be next to impossible to have roughly 2 million adults in Chicago receive bike education without having it piggyback on state drivers tests, drivers ed or school physical education classes.

Licensing bicyclists would be a very difficult and expensive law to enforce. Because it’s so costly and complicated to implement, no others cities we know of have a program like this.


Living in a society comes with rights and obligations. The Boub vs. Wayne case spotlighted the lack of ‘rights” afforded most cyclists. We now have a recognized ‘right‘ to be on the roadway. Now comes the hard part, trying to work out the obligations that come with those rights. Getting a driver’s license is an obligation that every teenager I have known embraces. They treat it as a right of passage. Cyclists need to embrace their obligations in the very same way. Would it not be a wonderful thing to know that a child of twelve could hardly wait to take the test and get his bicycle license? Would it not be a wonderful thing to have that party for him that signifies he has become an adult where bicycling is concerned?

There are many issues raised in this piece but none of them have not already been dealt with for automobile drivers and so we already know how to work through them for cyclists. We owe it to all of those now departed cyclists of the past 50 years to see this thing through. Now is not the time to shrink from our obligations having fought so valiantly for recognition of our rights.