Oregon Senate bill would mandate bicycle licenses and registration

Background Reading


A bicyclist uses a bike lane along L St. NW in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt McClain for The Washington Post)

A bicyclist uses a bike lane along L St. NW in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt McClain for The Washington Post)

The article refers to a bill that would have the following consequences:

An Oregon legislator has introduced a bill that would mandate licenses for everyone over 18 years of age who rides a bicycle and would require them to pay a $10 fee to register their bikes. The bill would also prohibit the use of “state highway fund” dollars on “bicycle” projects and repeal ORS 366.154 (a.k.a. the “bike bill”).

I strongly encourage the bicycling community to get out in front of this by developing its own version of a licensing and registration law. We need to make certain that if and surely when this becomes viable it is a law that we can live with. Trying to poke out heads into the sand while crossing our fingers against its passage is not a viable plan of action.

As both a cyclist and an automobile driver I cannot understand why anyone in the Urban Cycling Movement would not want to have its users licensed. We require it of scooter and motorcycle users. We require it of gun owners. In fact no one using the streets and highways of this nation should be out there without licensing. That of course implies that some basic level of training has been undertaken.

Bicycles can and do kill. They are either the cause of deaths of pedestrians or the cyclists themselves. And sometimes deaths that occur because of inept driving on the parts of bicyclists could be avoided with a simple application of Vehicular Cycling techniques learned in the classroom.

If we are going to require helmets and lights and other safety features be applied to bicycle use, then certainly there ought to be formal introductions to how they should be used.

We need to stop trying to ‘have our cake and eat it too‘. We are the laughing stock of the pedestrian world because above all others they know of the virtual lack of care being applied to riding down our streets on bicycles. They are the ones whose crosswalks get ridden through despite their physical presence, against state laws. They are the ones who elderly suffer death when we come flying through those crosswalks and colliding with them.

There needs to be a penalty for bad bicycle behavior. Bad commuter cyclists should lose their use of the bicycle as a means of getting to work.

There is nothing unfair about that request. It makes sense. In fact it would be far easier to pressure the legislatures to revoke driving licenses of drivers and other motor vehicle users if the request was coming from a community which itself enjoys the freedom to behave badly without consequences.

Funding Mass Transit

As far as the ‘bicycle projects‘ source of funding it seems problematic to me that the U.S. Highway Trust Fund will be a sustainable source of money for any transportation projects.

Depending on the long term trends of the pricing of oil taxation of motor fuels could eventually become counterproductive. On the one hand you might see a sustained increase in driving mileage which would mean an increase in the use of gasoline. But the current pricing is ‘artificial‘ in that there is a political and economic struggle going on between the producers of oil and the users of it.

But if you anticipate that the price will stay low and you raise the gasoline tax you automatically negate some of the benefits of its low price. That of course puts a damper on the mileage increases you might have seen. If as I suspect the needs for infrastructure improvement are severe then the pressure is on to increase the tax.

That will mean fewer drivers heading into work. It will also mean that until the highway trust fund is altered those using hybrid and electric vehicles will have an advantage. But eventually that could disappear. If driving is continually discouraged then the pressure will be on the various mass transit options to ‘up their game‘ in terms of handling capacities.

But when that happens it will mean that because the trust fund is dwindling there will need to be an increase in the fares charged users of mass transit. And that will seesaw back and forth as more people come to mass transit.

But at some point there will have to be a consideration of a new revenue stream for mass transit and that will most definitely be the fares charged of mass transit users. Someone will decide that if mass transit is to be sustainable it will mean charging what the service really costs.

If things were really fair it would cost nearly as much to take the bus or train each month as it would to drive.

The current difference in monthly costs is artificial. It is intended to make mass transit more appealing. But if the shortfall in trust fund income is severe enough that raising gasoline taxes has such an adverse effect that drivers are indeed forced to use it rather than drive, then the burden will have been shifted squarely onto the shoulders of the mass transit riders. A burden I might add which is long overdue.

In a fairer world each social program would have to find a more sustainable path to its continued survival. That would mean that mass transit would have to rely on its fees to make it sustainable.