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Old 09-13-2008, 09:31 AM
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wsbob wsbob is offline
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Default Licensing...bikes?..or riders?...a workable plan?

As some of you reading are no doubt are already aware, cranky columnist Phil Stanford of the Portland Tribune devoted his column in the Sept. 5th edition of that paper to moan about people riding bikes and the fact that they're entitled to the rights to use the road but are not required to carry license for either themselves or the bike.

Of course having raised this topic by way of an interesting story of a local bike rider and a motor vehicle driver's extraordinary encounter and the events that took place following it, he provoked a slew of the usual back and forth comments/arguments related to the struggle to find a safe, amicable balance between all the different modes of travel using public streets, bikes and cars especially.

To me, almost none of those comments seemed to go much anywhere in terms of answering Stanfords's key point: that some form of licensing should be associated with bikes or their riders on the road as an instrument that could be used to crack down on some of the people riding bikes today that grossly violate traffic regulations.

The exception, out of all those comments (Phil got 114 on the online edition of his column), is one by a commenter, name of "Grouper". Grouper actually has an idea that's worthwhile to consider, and I thought it was worth further discussion. In it he talks about licensing bikes, and as a requirement for getting the license, the applicant being required to pass a simple test of knowledge about the rules of the road.

After reading it, my key thought was that the most important accomplishment of his idea might that it would implement a system where people riding bikes could conceivably be more consistently instructed in riding on the road safely and responsibly. I'm not sure why licensing the bikes themselves is of much value aside from a way to track them when they're stolen. More thoughts I had about this may come to mind later, and I'll add them accordingly. For now, I'll just post the text of Grouper's comment and you can read it for yourself:


You raise some good questions about licensing. As far as rider licensing requirements go, probably it should be limited to a knowledge test over bicycle specific topics, much like the moped knowledge test. By passing the test, you get an endorsement added to your current drivers license, or if you don't have one you could get a stand-alone bicycle endorsement - maybe combined with an Oregon ID card (maybe not). Since Oregon DMV is already set up to do this for Mopeds, the infrastructure is already there. I think it would be a mistake to make it a city ordinance since it would involve creating a new bureaucracy within the city of Portland, and frankly it is sometimes difficult to know when you're in Portland and when you're not.

Anyone over 15 could be required to have a bicycle operator's license, and under 15, riders could ride within a mile of their homes, or with an adult, or they could optionally get a license at a younger age if they will be riding without an adult more than a mile from their home (or two miles, or whatever). As long as someone could pass the knowledge test, they could be licensed at any age.

As far as cost goes, the bicyclist license being considered by Iowa right now is proposed to cost $10 for 5 years which seems reasonable. The Iowa proposal exempts riders on bike paths and city surface streets and is mainly focused on riders who use rural roads. The Iowa proposal exempts out of state riders, and it would be reasonable to do the same as long as the out-of-state person has a drivers license from their home state providing evidence they know the rules of the road *somewhere* - though a temporary 30 day riders permit establishing the person knows the rules of the road as far as bikes go in Oregon would be necessary for out of staters who plan on riding in Oregon for more than 14 continuous days (there could be a special provision for Washington State riders who commute here each day to get permanent licenses like Oregonians). You could franchise out the testing for temporary permits to private places in order to obtain a temporary riders license - say bike shops, G.I. Joes, etc.

This may seem like too much complication for out of state riders, but we do something very similar for out of state hunters who want to come to Oregon to hunt, though they can use an out of state NRA hunters course to fulfill the hunters course requirement we have here. And we have no dearth of them

As far as licensing the bikes themselves, the typical approach is to affix a small license plate to the rear, though some cities do it with an adhesive label on the front fork. While most places that do this are based on city ordinances, a state wide system would make more sense and be more efficient. Bike friendly Davis California charges $8 for the first two years and $4 for two year renewals, and a city ordinance requires all bicycles be licensed (they use a label on the front fork, I think).

As far as penalties go, I believe the fine in Davis is $55 for riding an unlicensed bicycle. I'd propose the penalty for an unlicensed rider operating a bicycle be the same (after a reasonable "grace period" of course - say for the first year, simply issue warnings) as an unlicensed driver operating a vehicle in the state of Oregon. The demands to get a riders license are modest and mainly just certifies that you know the rules of the road for bicycles. As with motor vehicle operator licenses habitual offenders could have their privilege to ride on a public road way suspended or revoked.

As both the number of bike riders as well as motor vehicle usage increase, we can't have bike riders who either are ignorant of, or habitually ignore the rules of the road (I'd also propose that the Oregon DMV automobile knowledge test start to include at least one bike relevant question to ensure new drivers in Oregon spend some time studying up on the bike laws too).

Will it discourage people from riding bikes? Maybe at first, but the requirement that boaters in Oregon be "licensed" is fairly new, and it doesn't seem to have reduced the number of boaters. The key is making it convenient - you can get a boaters license on-line or take a class which finishes up with the knowledge test. I'd suggest that there are probably about as many boaters in Oregon as there are regular bike riders, and while there is of course a lot of grumbling, compliance is pretty high.


(email verified)

Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 12:45 AM "

Here's Conquistador's initial post with the questions he asked:

"Many people seem to be advocating licensing. Practical questions:
Will riders of all ages be required to have a license? Where will it be unlawful to ride without a license?
Typically there is a training period during which unlicensed people may drive a car, such as when a licensed driver is in the car. How would that work for bicyclists?
Will the bicycle be required to display a plate? Where will that be placed? How big does the plate need to be?
What is a reasonable cost to license a bicycle? Should it be based on weight? Amount of road damage? Environmental damage? Total proportion of road painted as bike-lanes? Per mile or flat rate?
Should we be encouraging people to bicycle? If so, doesn't licensing become a discouragement?
What are the penalties for not being licensed?
What should people who live out of state do when they wish to ride their bicycles in Oregon?
Current licensing facilities are crowded and overworked. Are we willing to build new facilities, and invest in training and equipment for bicycle testing?


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Thu, Sep 11, 2008 at 03:28 PM

Stanford's column of the 5th (unless they take it down):


Last edited by wsbob; 09-14-2008 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 09-13-2008, 10:39 AM
Psyfalcon Psyfalcon is offline
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Why does Iowa need to license people in country roads, but not the city? What the heck are they doing out there to get into trouble?

I still consider bike riding an absolute right, which is not compatible with licensing. I'm not in favor of repealing any right we have now... thats happening too fast as it is. I would suggest as an alternative (and its as far as I will go) that cyclists should carry ID on them. That way, they can be propery cited if they are caught breaking any traffic laws. Have a sliding scale of penalties, but not many people can eat $250 dollar fines forever anyway. If they don't pay, jail them (along with drivers who do the same, or drive without their licence.)

Whats magical about 1 or 2mi away from home for a minor? I live within 1 mile of the Canyon, Farmington, Watson and Hall intersections of Beaverton. If there is a place where people need to know what they're doing, its right there. Ride 3 miles the other way, there is a whole host of parks and paths, yet it would be illegal to ride there.

In NJ, the requirements for a boater license are harder than a drivers license. That has prevented a number of people from taking up boating. I never had the time or money to take an expensive commercial class, and then present my results to the DMV, etc.
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Old 09-13-2008, 12:48 PM
ME 2 ME 2 is offline
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Can I first point out how laughable it is that Phil Stanford is being taken seriously as a voice for public policy. Especially when it comes to bikes. This is the same columnist who once mused that the city of Portland should pass a law banning cyclists from transporting their kids in burley trailers.

On Sanford's comment can you tell me what is a gross violation of traffic regulations? I'm sorry but running red lights and stop signs isn't going to cut it. I see cars regularly do this and even if it does result in an accident the cops will not come out unless some requires a trip to the hospital. Even then the cops won't necessarily issue a citation unless they can build a solid case.

To me that would be a violation of a law resulting in a serious injury or another person. That "other person" would most likely be a pedestrian or another cyclist. Still, what are the chances a bicyclist would cause such an injury?

The most common complaint I hear from people is that licenses on bikes would stop cyclists from running lights and stop signs.

I can ride my bike with a license plate and probably run a red light or stop sign 99 out of 100 times without a cop witnessing it, but let's say 1 or 2 motorists see it, they report me and my license plate to the cops. What do you think will happen? Do you seriously think the police are going to try to track me down and issue me a ticket? That costs money. Let's say they do, will the issuing officer show up when I contest it in court and would the witnesses who called it in take a 1/2 day of their time to testify? If not that ticket goes away. If only the cop shows up, its my word against his\her, but the problem is the cop didn't witness it firsthand. I know it is just traffic court, but one of the tenets of our justice system is for a defendant to be able to face his\her accusers in court. I highly doubt a judge would risk passing a judgment based on second hand accounts of an officer.

But still, let's say my accusers show up, which I think is highly unlikely if it involves missing work, and the ticket holds, well then we've probably spent $1000s of tax payer dollars for $242 from me for a traffic violation that resulted in no injury. That's bad public policy.

So back to Stanford's question of how do we hold cyclists accountable for traffic violations. Well one of the things in the PoPo's budget is to conduct traffic stings in "problem" areas, ones with a high rate of witnessed violations, complaints, or where the consequences of a violation are a severe injury (even if it is the violating cyclist who risk severe injury). This the system that is in place to crack down on law breaking cyclists and to send a message to other cyclists to think twice.

What Phil Stanford and many folks fail to understand is that we already have a system in place for addressing problem areas of cyclist traffic violations. It may not be pretty effective in changing behavior, but that is another topic, as stings aren't very effective when it comes to motorists as well.

An option or add on to this system is licenses, but I fail see how it would make that much of a difference in behavior and involve a sustainable rate structure from the perspective of ensuring it pays for cyclist enforcement without being prohibitive.
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Old 09-13-2008, 02:40 PM
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wsbob wsbob is offline
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Originally Posted by ME 2 View Post
Can I first point out how laughable it is that Phil Stanford is being taken seriously as a voice for public policy.
Is that happening? I hadn't heard so. Stanford is just a guy, that by virtue of his high profile position as a local newspaper columnist, is able to draw attention to assorted complaints shared by some of the public related to bikes in traffic. In his column of the 5th, Stanford didn't offer any good ideas for resolving problems that arise from greater numbers of motor vehicles and bikes on the road together. Stanford simply gave voice to a commonly made though seemingly not well thought out response made by some people in reaction to the presence of bikes on the road: license them. It's the commenter, 'Grouper' (remarking in response to comments made following Stanford's column), whose idea for licensing might have something serious to be considered as public policy.

'gross violation' isn't Stanford's phrase. That's my own phrase that I used to describe the way in which I think some people probably regard the behavior of some cyclists on the road....the ones to whom they'd like to think that licensing would help improve that behavior.

I didn't really see the validity either, of Grouper's suggestion that a license should be required for people wanting to ride a bike more than a mile away from home, though I'm guessing that his idea had something to do with keeping bike riders out of heavily trafficked areas, or supervised by adults if they do ride in traffic. That doesn't make a lot of sense for people that actually live in, or close to town. Infrastructure needs to be safely and well enough engineered that any person that knows and follows traffic regulations, and understands something about traffic, can get to where they're going safely by bike in areas where motor vehicles are present.

Overall though, I think Grouper's idea here tries to get a grip on one of the fundamental obstacles related to licensing a mode of travel (and/or those that operate it) ...bikes...that includes operators/riders, of an age comparatively younger than the beginning age for operating a motor vehicle. I haven't paid that much attention, but I can totally imagine there are some 10-12 year old kids(not counting street kids) buzzing around on their bikes in a busy traffic area such as Downtown Portland. Requiring that they, and even younger kids have a license to ride a bike, or that their bikes be licensed as a condition for use on the street seems overbearing...even unrealistic to me. It does seem important though, that anyone riding a bike on a public street or road, regardless of their age, should have a solid a knowledge of the way in which to safely and legally negotiate their way through traffic.

I question also, whether the city or the public is going to be willing to spend money than it does now to chase down, cite and fine law abusing people on bikes. The need continues to exists though, for inventive, effective ways to improve the percentage of people riding bikes in traffic, people using this mode of travel in a way that functions well with other road users that follow traffic regulations and that move about with responsible consideration for others on the road.

I did a little research on Iowa's proposal to license bikes. Turns out, it's not about educating people about riding bikes in traffic safely...it's about making money for maintaining road infrastructure. Retiring republican state senator's legacy: http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0geu8p0q8.../13847217.html I can't figure out the messy code that makes up this link...should read: IA Senator Wants Driver's Licenses for Bikes

Last edited by wsbob; 09-13-2008 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:54 PM
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I'm not really hot on registering bikes per say --- but I would gladly pay up to $20 a year (as a urban rider / commuter) if 3/4 of that went directly to:

- First filling in the gaps in existing well traveled bike lanes
- Second creating new bike lanes

The remaining $5 goes to a network of covered (as in a roof) bike shelter / lock-up facilities. Be nice to know there is a "facility" a few miles down the road where you could get water and or safely stop and change gear for changing weather etc.

And my $20 bike reg receipt should get me some sort of energy credit / tax break
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Old 09-14-2008, 02:29 AM
bikerinNE bikerinNE is offline
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Default bicycles

Licensing Bicycles:

I guess I take this a little personal, more so than the average person. I guess itís because I feel that, if people are slipping on failing to govern themselves responsibly then the government will step in. Being that weíre talking about bicycling, something so simple and so free, licensing would take that away from being a childhood right. I remember as a wee baby, my father would strap me onto the back of his bicycle, into a child seat, and take me on bike rides. My Mother would share those stories with me, and how I would fall asleep in the back, loving every minute. I would ride, as I got older, farther from home, even in grade school Iíd be miles out with my friends. We had no idea of helmets, but then they werenít really a thought. I sustained my childhood injuries, and never stopped riding, broken bones, being knocked out and all, even today I enjoy the bicycle more than the average person. So, what will happen to all those kids receiving fines for unlicensed bicycles? What happened to parents, parenting their own kids? Teaching them to walk their bikes across the busy intersections, holding hands when crossing the streets, donít take candy from strangers, never get into a strangers car? If you are an adult, you know whatís right and wrong. We donít need licensing for bicycles, itís absurd, and wrong. Take responsibility for your kids, and for yourself, keep government out of it.

Below Iíve answered the questions to Conquistadorís questions that WSBob posted.

1.) Will riders of all ages be required to have a license? Where will it be unlawful to ride without a license?
No, riders will not be required to have a license, itís the responsibility of those who ride of legal age to understand the law, and those minors that ride, itís the parentís responsibility to teach them.

2.) Typically there is a training period during which unlicensed people may drive a car, such as when a licensed driver is in the car. How would that work for bicyclists?
It canít work; these are two completely different things. Know your limits and abilities. Common Sense, use it.

3.) Will the bicycle be required to display a plate? Where will that be placed? How big does the plate need to be?
Think of this logically please. If you display a sticker on the bicycle will it be clearly visible anywhere? Commuters, and some tourists stack and place; panniers, bags, and personal equipment on the frame itself, so any plate will be blocked. And, frames are small, so such tags wouldnít clearly be visible on a moving bike, no matter how big (as long is it is with in reason, so as to not be obtrusive).

4.) What is a reasonable cost to license a bicycle?
The same as it costs to register your bicycle with National Bike Registry.

5.) Should it be based on weight? Amount of road damage?
Huh? Asphalt thatís laid on the road today doesnít know we are on the road. Are you aware of a thing called specific gravity, density, and abrasion? These are all tests performed on the asphalt before the street is even paved. Also, the tests start from the gravel being used, and they test how the gravel, or aggregate, breaks down and they measure each piece and weigh the results, screened through sieves. So in conclusion, that wouldnít even be a question to the government.

6.) Environmental damage? Total proportion of road painted as bike-lanes? Per mile or flat rate?
All new road construction, aside from interstates, are required to have bicycle lanes. What environmental impact is there? I can only come up with positives. What are the negatives? Please tell us.

7.) Should we be encouraging people to bicycle?
Why wouldnít we?

8.) If so, doesnít licensing become a discouragement?
Yes, it really does.

9.) What are the penalties for not being licensed?
Well, we shouldnít be required to license a bicycle, itís not a motorized vehicle.

10.) What should people who live out of state do when they wish to ride their bicycles in Oregon?
They should come over and enjoy their bike rides respectfully. Obey the rules, just as we would do if we went over to there state.

11.) Current licensing facilities are crowded and overworked. Are we willing to build new facilities, and invest in training and equipment for bicycle testing?
I donít think all current licensing facilities are crowded and overworked. I think the facilities in Portland and Salem are crowded, but otherwise I havenít experienced that issue in other cities in Oregon. And, No, I donít think the state of Oregon would consider licensing a bicycle at all. Iíd almost venture to say, most government officials still deem bicycles as toys. Not tools, as I do today. I have right to use a Phillips head screw-driver, just as I do my bicycle.
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Old 09-14-2008, 03:13 PM
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wsbob wsbob is offline
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Default re; ME 2's comment Stanford laughable as voice for public policy

I hadn't been reading Stanford's column for quite awhile. Too much of the same old crusty tales, droning on sarcastically about local political intrigues and what not. Every once in awhile though, he's got a good story, which I thought the 'King of the Road' story was, and was why took the time to read it.

Today, I was looking online for his column of the 11th in the print edition of the Portland Tribune, because in that column, he includes a little tidbit about a conversation he had with the editor of bikeportland, Jonathan Maus, in which Maus is quoted as saying something to the effect that he 'supports licensing of bikes, but not by a government agency'. I'm not sure what he considers a workable alternative might be, but there's no elaboration on that idea in the Stanford column. When I find the column, I'll repost the quote here.

In the process of looking for the column mentioned above, I stumbled across what appears to be an exclusively online column for September 7th. In that column, Stanford is also pitching the idea of licensing bikes, but contained in it are some statements worth noting, which I'll repost here so you can check them out for yourselves:
  • "Like it or not, weíve reached a point where bicycles are such a significant part of Portlandís overall transportation picture that most of this venting just doesnít apply any more." Phil Stanford/Tribune
  • "In other words, biking is here to stay as a practical means of means of transportation. And that being the case, the only real question out there is how to make it work better Ė which is why I brought up the question of license plates for bikes." Phil Stanford/Tribune
  • "Back in the good old days, when bikes were little more than a toy or a hobby, it probably didnít matter. But now that the bicycle has become a significant part of the work-a-day transportation picture, it certainly does. There are lots of reasons it would be difficult to institute such a system here in Portland, and of course the transportation department has thought of all of them." Phil Stanford/Tribune

If you want to Browse the column for yourselves and check the quotes for context: Once you get past the psychodrama, licenses for bikes just makes sense pstanford tribune

Considering his consistently sarcastic tone about so many things, and the audience it would seem he intends to appeal to, I wouldn't have thought he'd view bikes as transportation in quite that perspective, but there it is.
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Old 09-14-2008, 04:31 PM
Jerry57 Jerry57 is offline
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I think licensing bicycles would be a very unfortunate outcome and would put a damper on bicycle use in Portland, but licensing seems like an inevitable result of some very poor behavior by some cyclists. Running red lights always looks bad, but this year I've seen quite a few bicyclists running red lights where traffic had to break to avoid hitting them. There may be nothing that is going to get through to some of the worst offenders so we're probably going to have to learn to live with having license plates on our bikes.
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Old 09-14-2008, 06:00 PM
Psyfalcon Psyfalcon is offline
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How is a license going to stop redlight runners?

If they have a drivers license, they should know better. If went to kindergarten, they should know better. "green means go, red means stop" was part of a prominent game!
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Old 09-14-2008, 07:28 PM
SeaBike SeaBike is offline
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This guy is just an attention troll.
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