Here We Go Again!

Background Reading


© Photo: Don Harder

© Photo: Don Harder

Two Aldermanic candidates resurrected the idea of implementing a licensing system for cyclists in a recent debate. DNAinfo Chicago reports both candidates in the 43rd Ward runoff said last week they would be open to such a system when questioned by moderator Kenneth Dotson, president of the Lincoln Central Association.

“Implementing safe bicycling is something we have toiled on in our ward with some success, but there is more that needs to be done,” said Alderman Michele Smith. Smith’s challenger, Caroline Vickrey, said she was on board as well. “I know people who have been hit by bikes in a sort of hit-and-run situation,” said Vickrey. “I think it’s a good idea as long as it would be a reasonable process.”

The idea is one that comes up time and again, often in the face of crippling budget crises or election season. Former Alderman Richard Mell proposed the idea in 2011as a way to crack down on reckless cycling and Ald. Pat Dowell floated an annual $25 registration fee in 2013.

But before certain columnists prepare to write yet another screed about how licensing would rein in scary cyclists while pouring money into the City’s coffers, advocates say such a system wouldn’t make things any safer or bring in any extra cash.

Building and managing the bureaucracy that would implement and enforce a licensing system could cost more than it would take in and drive ridership down. “Punitive measures such as licensing end up costing a city more than they make, and do little to create safety,” Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save The Economy, told Chicagoist. “They disincentivize people from bicycling, whereas measures like low investments in bike lanes help make streets safer.”

We also chatted with John Greenfield of Streetsblog Chicago and he agrees. “If one was required to have a license to ride a bike and we were ticketing people for riding without a license that would be a significant deterrent to cycling,” said Greenfield. As to the number of hit and runs involving pedestrians, statistics are more than vague (a report examining crashes from 2005 to 2010 did not have statistics). Greenfield said that while such occurrences happen, hit and run crashes involving motor vehicles are much more frequent. “It’s a trivial issue in comparison of people seriously injuring and killing pedestrians with vehicles. “There has never been a case of a cyclist killing a pedestrian in Chicago.”

Both candidates in the debate agreed that Chicago needs better bike infrastructure. Smith told DNAinfo Chicago she’s worked with the Active Transportation Allianceon a number of issues, including improving the intersection at Fullerton, Lincoln and Halsted, and separate bike and pedestrian paths along parts of the lakefront.


John Greenfield you wasted a good education at the University of Chicago. While what you are saying is technically true, it simply makes no sense. Yes, there have been no collisions between bicycles and pedestrians (that either of us knows about) but that same statement would have been true a a couple of years ago in both San Francisco and New York.

This kind of fallacious reasoning is why folks who were not infected with HIV originally had no interest in finding ways to combat the disease. As far as they knew it had not reached their community and so ‘no worries‘. Likewise, we could argue that no one has yet been killed while riding the Dan Ryan or the Eisenhower while having illegally entered either on a Divvy Bike.

And of course my favorite excuse is the one which goes, licensing is ‘punitive‘. By that logic we should never as cyclists demand that anyone else be licensed either. Why should anyone riding a motorcycle or a scooter be required to be licensed. Both of these vehicles are cleaner burning than larger minivans (at least they were the last time I checked) and so we should never discourage their use by licensing their riders.

In fact why bother having the drivers of small cars, like the Smart Car or the Prius or any of the cleaner burning automobiles or small trucks like those used to cart around Divvy bikes for rebalancing,  be licensed?

Look folks. I know you think you are being cool and ‘with it‘ in the eyes of the ‘True Believers‘ in the Church of Urban Cycling. But you come off sounding like ‘garden variety idiots‘.

Society has made excuses for not doing this or that for years by claiming that the numbers are not there to justify enforcement. This is especially true in areas of the Urban Landscape where crime rates are high. The old ‘why bother’ excuse is rampant in Big Cities.

Never Be Demanding If You Cannot Comply

But what really ‘sticks in the craw‘ of the average person is having people like you whine about not having your bikes recovered after being stolen. Or wanting to have new lanes just so that less than a third of one percent of the citizenry can get to work by bicycle when there are perfectly good alternatives which need to be used.

Like Divvy, these services are going largely unprofitable because folks like you choose to whine and moan about not having something that nobody else deems important (other than when you cobble together a survey designed to elicit the responses you desire) like bike lanes.

If the same ‘why bother‘ excuse were employed because the numbers are far too low to expect a payback from the investments in these lanes you would both be holding your breathes until turning blue. You would be whining up one side and down the other about the injustice of not giving you your lanes.

And into the bargain you would be irate because the moment a collision occurred between you and an unlicensed motorist or motorcyclist or scooter operator that the State had allowed them to operate in an unsafe manner by not licensing them.

So what the heck makes you think ‘your feces have not odor‘? Kids in high school around the country do not, I repeat do not forego getting their drivers licenses because of either the cost or the trouble. They relish the idea of being able to attain this ‘rite of passage‘. It is only Liberal Wing-nuts who being unable to see past their personal arrogance who bother cobbling together such drivel regarding how licensing would drive down participation in cycling.

If indeed there is anything that pushes people away it is the rampant lawlessness of your precious Critical Mass Rides. Word gets around and parents decide that bicyclists are loonies. And to some degree they are ‘spot on‘.

Remove your heads from your rectums! The smell in there cannot be conducive to smart thinking. Stop with the hackneyed BS. Cars and bikes both kill!

If you think that having red light cameras is a good idea for scofflaw motorists, then you must be over the moon at the prospect of adding license plates to stem the tide of rampant red light running by the vast majority of cyclists.

If only you had the courage to be honest and to stop trying to do your best imitations of Ted Cruz. Stop and listen to yourselves sometime. There is not a dimes worth of thoughtful difference between the Hard Left Members of the Urban Cycling Community and the Tea Party.

What makes you so obviously cut from the same cloth is the arrogance that you demonstrate when it comes to having to follow your own advice to others.

The Golden Rule of Cycling

The Golden Rule of Cycling