- Why Bicycle Licensing (Almost) Never Works | Chicago magazine | Politics & City Life March 2015 (PDF)
The idea is almost always a money-losing, ineffective mess. Only Honolulu manages to register lots of bikes—and brings in a lot of revenue in the process.
The bicycle licensing issue is a bit like the debate of a few decades ago over whether African-American children could ever be truly educated. Most of the people in the know always blamed either the genetic backgrounds of the kids or the environment. And it was deemed a useless exercise which when it did work was only with a small sampling of kids.
Today’s bicycle community is highly dependent on journalists who will regurgitate whatever the heck they want to hear. Right now the notions that are circulating amongst the True Believers is that bicyclists are not the problem but rather the societal preference of automobiles over other forms of transportation.
To put it in laymens terms if the 99% of the population cannot see that they would be better off riding what the less than 1% ride then we have to force them into compliance.
We have moved far beyond the supposed aim of the Boub vs. Wayne case to be accepted and intended users of the roadway to now wanting the everyone else removed from it.
And if we cannot remove them forcibly from the highways and byways of America we want to bilk them out of their earnings (using speed and red light cameras) or gouge them with exorbitant parking fees until they cave-in and walk away.
But here is the problem. The money that the True Believers want to use to build their idea of the Promised Land is currently being provided by the very automobiles and their drivers that they want to remove. Where is the logic in that?
What perhaps they have not thought out fully is that every single instance of public transportation that survives the pogrom against the automobile would then have to alter its fee structure to match the true costs or not only the use of resources to move the trains and buses around (fossil fuels) but also keep the transportation infrastructure repaired.
My guess is that before long you would discover that there was precious little differential between private car ownership and riding the local Mass Transit offerings now that the subsidies were gone.
So where would the monies needed to fund the repairs come from? Well assuming we were not fighting yet another war it would necessarily have to come from the pockets of the general public. And that would mean that a good portion would be provided by some sort of income tax. We are right this very moment going to be seeing what that future skirmish will look like.
Let’s Get Real!
Bicycling is a nice choice if the weather is great, but not so much when the place where you live gets lots of snow, rain and ice!
So competing against the automobile for both convenience and price will mean having Mass Transit options that look more like privately owned buses with lounges, plush coach chairs and booze. In fact you could probably coax more people out of their cars if you could eliminate transfers and waiting periods.
But that would mean developing highly unique routes that allowed those who normally walk or drive to the train station to find an even closer spot to board a bus that gets them downtown in luxury and relative quiet. It would require a great heater in the winter and very efficient air conditioners in summer. That is the reality of it all.
Think airlines on wheels with flight attendants welcoming you aboard and serving snacks and booze between destinations.
But In The Meantime?
We are not there yet! Automobiles are about to unveil fleets of vehicles with even better gasoline mileage and collision avoidance technology that will virtually erase the liability of drivers altogether.
Just imagine a somewhat luxury vehicle built in Europe or Japan or hopefully in America that can actually drive you to your destination and if needs be loop back to perform other errands for the family back home.
The promise of an autonomous automobile is less than a decade away. It will mean that you can ride to and fro as if you were a passenger in that bus we talked about. You could even drink a cold one and never have to worry about your safety.
And as the price drops on these vehicles it means that the children of hipsters will now be able to afford them. They will of course have bike racks mounted on their cars but get this, they will leave the office and head to the local forest preserve.
They will unpack their bike and take off towards home. The car will be sent on to meet them there. How cool is that? How neat would it be if you were a lawyer who need to get in some exercise before appearing in court in the suburbs and could send the car on to meet you near the court and you rode your bike to the spot!
All you need now is either a real shower or that new lotion that comes in a tube and essentially removes all bacteria and yeast so that you are squeaky clean and smelling like a daisy.
You Will Be Licensed
The fact that every time someone mentions licensing a lapdog journalist is dispatched to deny the need for licensing is evidence that the idea has come of age (once again).
This is not about much more than joining the rest of the real world. If licensing were a burden that doused the fire of those being licensed for the vehicle of their choice the automobile would never have come of age. So that weak/lame notion that somehow bicycles would be thwarted by a license protocol is not very believable.
Teens would jump at the idea of having the occasion to do something that meant they were approaching adulthood. A Bicycle License in those circumstance would have ‘a certain cachet‘.
The real problem is that bicyclists, like it or not, are as arrogant in many instances as the 1% they railed against during the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Like the ultra-wealthy bicyclists feel themselves to be a breed apart. They hold a certain amount of disdain for motorists.
Making them jump through the same hoops as drivers, motorcyclists and scooter operators is like clipping the wings of a bird. No longer are you free to act like idiots on the street if you are suddenly hobbled by a license plate or worse yet a transponder that makes your scofflaw behavior susceptible to fines.
In short you would have to stop acting as if you were teenagers on summer vacation and be involved in the wearing of a ‘shirt and tie‘ or some other sort of business attire and joining the ‘adult world‘.
Sorry, but living a long time means growing old and the two cannot be separated.
Wanting the majority of commuters to be on bikes most certainly means that there is going to be a competition for the scarce parking resources available. And goodness knows that the insurance companies cannot live without having new clients and that means you will be required to have bicycle insurance against the increasing number of collisions between you and your fellow cyclists.
Even worse will be the fact that every pedestrian around will have discovered that the world is in a good mood to offer ‘vulnerable user‘ status to them (remember cars are a thing of the past) and you could lose your house and your life savings if not protected by some sort of liability insurance.
Dang! Growing up is a bitch!
And let’s not forget that those ‘punching bags‘ we use to know as automobile drivers, having given up and joined us means that the maintenance of our roadways is now our (all the bicyclists and mass transit users) collective responsibility. Parking lots will be erected just for bikes.
Cyclists wanting to get from DuPage County into the city will now have to pay for the privilege of riding along the largely vacant Eisenhower Expressway. And riding in places like the Chicago Lakefront Trail or the North Branch Trail will not be very much fun.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry will be out on their bicycles, drunk as skunks, hogging those narrow lanes and deciding to stop and hold impromptu discussions right in the middle of the pathway.
Getting further out will involve taking the train to places like Elburn and then riding further west to reach the Starved Rock State Park Lodge for the evening. But what was once a really cool thing to do is now a bit more challenging. Why?
You are aging. And the more you age the more likely it is that you will be hunting around for a bicycle with a motor. But that would make it a motorcycle or an electric scooter. So unless you plan to spend all your time close to home you are going to need to dig deep and hire a cab or private bus to take you out past the 65 mile limit to reach some solitude. Bummer!