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Gandhi, bike licensing, and a 100 year-old debate

Posted by on December 10th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Gandhi protested against bike
licenses 100 years ago.
(Photo: Wikidpedia)

The topic of bicycle licensing has been growing into more than a buzz lately. It’s often brought up around watercoolers and on web forums, and at this year’s Oregon Bike Summit, one of the keynote speakers (Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Gail Achterman) suggested that licensing bicycles is a “conversation” we need to have, and soon.

If she’s right, we’ll be right there in the thick of it. In the meantime, I’ve come across two interesting articles in the past few days that offer a chance to start that conversation a bit early.

The first is a story in the Times of India about legendary historical figure Mahatma Gandhi, who in his younger days as a lawyer in South Africa (from 1903 to 1905) wrote and protested against a bike licensing law aimed at African natives in Johannesburg. The law required one sector of the population to acquire a bicycle license and to display a numbered badge on the left arm when riding in the city.

“Bicyclers across the region are known as accommodating and uncomplaining — as long as they get their way. Now is the time for them to show it by contributing to the public trough.”
— Seattle Times’ editorial page editor James Vesely

According to the article, Gandhi — who was a bicycle commuter during his time in South Africa (6 miles a day), and used bicycles frequently in subsequent years in India — thought this was “an obnoxious idea and fought it hard.”

The second piece is an editorial published on Sunday by Seattle Times columnist (and editorial page editor) James Vesely that’s bluntly titled Impose License Fee on King County Cyclists.

Vesely, who frequently writes editorials opposing new taxes, says he is looking for a solution to the current economic crisis, and hits upon bicyclists, “known for their community spirit and exalted senses of self.” He goes on to refer to bicyclists as “the most green of our population,” and to detail several multi-use trails and bike lane projects in the works in the Seattle area.

Vesely suggests charging a $25 bicycle license fee, which he calls a “bargain” for all the civic good it could do (he doesn’t go into detail about how much it would cost to initiate and administer such a fee), adding that.

“Bicyclers across the region are known as accommodating and uncomplaining — as long as they get their way. Now is the time for them to show it by contributing to the public trough.”

Story continues below

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And here’s Vesely’s idea about how to enforce the bike license fee (emphasis mine):

“In the same sense, Critical Mass, the earnest congregation of cyclists who sometimes take over our streets, would be beneficial to law and order. A Critical Mass accumulation of cyclists would allow Seattle police to quickly spot those who have a bike license and those who do not, with appropriate fees and penalties.”

The idea that people who ride bicycles don’t pay their own way on the roads has been shown again and again to have no merit (this paper (PDF) by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute sums up the case).

Vesely’s editorial purportedly makes a reasonable economic proposal, but clearly it’s not about the economy — the man holds a grudge, whether against a mythical separate class of “bicyclists” who enjoy special rights that aren’t paid for or deserved, or against Critical Mass, or against the young and liberal — it’s hard to say.

Gandhi’s South African example shows that bicycle licensing has been used punitively against certain segments of the population. There’s no reason that couldn’t happen again. When the discussion on bicycle licensing happens, I hope we are able to separate out the prejudices from the economic realities better than Mr. Vesely and the Johannesburg Town Council of 100 years ago.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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m8adam
Guest
m8adam

Wow. That’s a really amazing piece of journalism.

I know that you guys aren’t into being antagonistic or particularly partisan, but I’d love to see a counter-article written to explain just HOW cyclists pay for the facilities they use and why there are so many better ideas for funding infrastructure than cycling-licenses. (and maybe some numbers supporting the assumption that licensing would be a logistical nightmare).

It just seems that this issue has been getting trotted out for a while now, with anti-bike sentiments being tossed around without opposition.

m8adam
Guest
m8adam

And I do realize the paper you reference addresses the points I was talking about, but people read bikeportland; not so much lengthy research papers.

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

Absolutely, not a chance.

You know, this week, there is an event called “Day without a gay”. It’s a formal protest regarding discrimination.

I think there needs to be a “Day without a bike”, where all of us drive to work, shopping, and such. Once the streets are clogged with cars, parking spaces are unavailable, and traffic is at a standstill, perhaps drivers will realize, we are already paying our fair share.

Austin Ramsland
Guest

Fantastic article Elly.

peejay
Guest
peejay

I make a point to challenge everybody who brings up the bike license argument every time I hear it at work, and most of the time, the person who suggested it had never thought about the other side at all. I’ve convinced about 75% of the people to change their minds about licensing, once they heard the opposing arguments. So, this is a winnable debate. It’s just that a lot of these people never encounter an informed cyclist face-to-face in their daily lives.

Cruizer
Guest
Cruizer

I’m concerned that, since car licenses need to be renewed every two years, bike licenses might end up being renewable also. Something to advocate for if a renewable bike license looks like it’s becoming inevitable: Since most avid cyclists own multiple bikes, any renewable license should be for the cyclist, not the bike, as an individual can only ride one bike at a time, regardless of how many bikes he or she owns.

If it’s going to be a one-time fee, then it makes sense to license each bike IF the license involves some type of registry to help identify and retrieve stolen bikes.

Duncan Watson
Guest

m8adam,
Roads are paid for mostly out of property tax and sales tax in King County. It would be somewhat difficult to avoid those two taxes by a cyclist.

Every bicycle on the street is one less car. The wear and tear a bike has is nearly inconsequential compared to that of a car or SUV. Additionally cyclists notice wear on roads earlier than cars and report it. This has a side effect of making road maintenance CHEAPER since by the time auto users report issues the road has to be rebuilt (removed and repaved) vs the much cheaper maintenance that can be performed at the cyclist threshold for reporting issues.
-Duncan

Dave
Guest

There’s a really good article regarding bicycle licenses here on copenhagenize.com

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2008/05/rewarding-cyclists.html

There are a million reasons why cyclists already “pay their way” (including the fact that most of them are also motorists), but probably the biggest argument against a bicycle license from an administrative point of view, is just that it has been shown to almost certainly cost more to administer than the revenue it generates.

Let’s hope we can avoid this particular type of legislation in Oregon.

velo
Guest
velo

Bitter, crazy old man. His snide tone and flippant disregard for equal access is offensive. The fact that he is the editor of an editorial page is absurd.

As cyclists we are providing a public good rather then taking from it, we must demand that we are treated as positive influences on society.

glenzedrine
Guest
glenzedrine

I don’t agree with a bike tax by any means, but feel it necessary to point out that using Gandhi’s position is an argument from authority. A logical fallacy. Although he was a very inspirational person, the argument just doesn’t hold up.

anna
Guest
anna

Gandhi’s objection seemed to be to the continued singling out of “natives”, who were brutalized in many ways the colonial system which was in place in SA. This is just my initial reaction to that comparison, but I admit that I am having a little bit of trouble making parallels between a tax which was imposed upon a specific demographic which was defined by their ethnic origins, not their practice of bicycling.

Having said that, I am not sure how to prove that I pay for the utilities which I use. These are community investments, just like schools are a community investment but I do not have children but wholly accept that funds from my paycheck go to administer schools I never use.

I also know that I do not tear up roads with my tires, I do not speed so much that I need a camera to gauge my speed on the road and snap a picture if I’m going to fast, but I pay for those utilities as well with tax funds. I contribute to the jails and “drunk tanks” which we use to address the issue of people who are in no shape to drive until the morning.

no easy answer here. so the “solutions” posed will not be easy, either.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“but people read bikeportland; not so much lengthy research papers.

m8adam,

i completely agree with you and I’ve been cobbling together sources for a story like that on BikePortland for years now! I will add it to the list and hopefully publish it soon.

thanks.

Dave
Guest

Scotland just did a study on the economic effects of raising the level of cyclists to that found in the Netherlands and Denmark, and determined the Scottish economy could benefit on the order of 4 billion pounds per year by increasing the percentage of people cycling by that much. That seems to make the upfront investment in infrastructure pretty well worth it to me.

Dave
Guest

Not to mention adding some good numbers to the argument that cyclists pay their way in society…

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

Absolutely no way!

I must admit Jonathan, that I have wondered and worried about which side of this fence you are on.

Many do not know, but licensing of cyclists has been tried and failed in Portland before. I believe more than once.

Particularly the attempts directed towards bicycle messengers…………..

anna
Guest
anna

p.s.: pls forgive this spam-post, but am I the only one trippin’ on his choice of words? I suppose the most diplomatic guess at his intent is the “low point in a business cycle”.

trough
Pronunciation:
\ˈtrȯf, ˈtrȯth, by bakers often ˈtrō\
Function:
noun

1 a: a long shallow often V-shaped receptacle for the drinking water or feed of domestic animals b: any of various domestic or industrial containers 2 a: a conduit, drain, or channel for water ; especially : a gutter along the eaves of a building b: a long and narrow or shallow channel or depression (as between waves or hills) ; especially : a long but shallow depression in the bed of the sea — compare trench 3: the minimum point of a complete cycle of a periodic function: as a: an elongated area of low barometric pressure b: the low point in a business cycle

Ahron
Guest
Ahron

I’ll pay for a bike license when the infastructure has bicycles in mind. Paying a fee to “share the road,” get yelled at, and side swiped by two ton eco-destroying-vehicles? I don’t think so.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

Alot of the comments on this topic have been directed to how cyclists already pay their way in other tax formats. It would be good to track down just where PDOT, for example, gets its funding. Maybe Roger Geller could get us that information pretty readily.

It seems like a second part of the discussion would be the cost-benefit of a bike being on the road rather than a car. This seems to me to be the stronger argument against licensing fees for bikes. Everyone pays those other taxes & fees, but hard numbers on the transportation system savings from bicycling should put an end to the “free-ride” argument.

It seems like there was a PDOT survey that determined that 80% of bike commuters would drive (versus take the bus) if they weren’t biking. With the Hawthorne Bridge as a simple example, that would mean an increase of 14% of cars crossing the bridge each day. (80% of 20%). At peak times that would add a minute or two (or more) to car commute times each way — increasing time and fuel costs of maybe 10-20 cents (?) for each car driver, each day. With 220 commute days a year, people biking save each current driver $22-$44 a year just to cross the Hawthorne Bridge…

Bike are MORE than paying their way — we’re making transportation cheaper for everyone else too.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Obviously not everyone will, but some of you may be interested in browsing through the comments in a thread I started in the forums some time back. The thread was started relative to a column that the Tribune’s cranky columnist Phil Stanford wrote in response to readers complaints to him, essentially to the effect that people using bikes for transportation get a free ride on the backs of motor vehicle owners.

License Bikes? or Riders? a workable plan?

I don’t think that’s true, and neither do a lot of other people. Despite certain practical and fairly obvious reasons why bike related licensing isn’t such a good idea, the call for such licensing continues to appeal to some people.

Rather than having to do with establishing a more fair distribution of the burden of funding transportation infrastructure, I’d say the source of that appeal to these people is related to general dissatisfaction with poor design and function of road infrastructure. For these people, those that ride bikes for transportation provide a convenient place to lay blame for poor function of the road infrastructure.

peejay
Guest
peejay

wsbob:

Agreed. And of course the infrastructure is poor, even when it’s designed specifically for cars at the expense of every other transit mode or use of public space.

My conclusion is that personal automobile use is incompatible with civilized society, and with itself.

vincentpaul
Guest
vincentpaul

I’m in the minority, I know, but I continue to favor licensing of cyclists. There is merit to the idea that the licensure of users of a shared public resource can produce positive benefits to the community. So often members of the cycling community want to simply slur other road users as mere “cagers” who should shoulder all the burden of safe cyclist/motorist interaction. It’s particularly demeaning to simply state that “despite certain practical and fairly obvious reasons why bike related licensing isn’t such a good idea, the call for such licensing continues to appeal to some people.” Well, there are also some “fairly practical and obvious reasons” that cyclist licensure is a good idea as well. Society certainly has an interest in promoting the efficient and orderly use of the commons. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who has taken a driving test that licensure can impose a certain minimal level of awareness of the rules of the road before a license is granted. Its certainly obvious that Oregon law contains provisions related to the operation of bicycles that are inapplicable to motorists. Licensure can have many purposes. Whether licensure should be used as a scheme to recover the expense of maintaining the commons is a seperate argument. The problem I have with the gentleman from Washington’s argument is that he’s really just making a snide slur at a group of “others” that offend him. My offense at his motivation doesn’t detract from my belief that licensure would lead to a common good.

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

I’ll ask the same questions I always ask…
At what age can you be licensed?
Can you ride a bike if you are younger than the age at which you can get a license?
If the age is close to the age at which you could get a car license, why would you bother getting a bike license?

Nothing would discourage kids from riding bikes more than bike rider licensing.

If you are indigent, how do you pay for a bike license? The best thing about cycling is that once you have a bike, cycling is free. This is especially beneficial to the working poor. Those who could afford a license would have yet another thing for the police to harass them about.

As far as law enforcement goes, the Police can and do pull us over. And when we get ticketed, it costs the same as if we were driving a car. The Critical Mass arguement doesn’t work for me either, because if a motorcycle or car club used the same tactics (corking aka blocking intersections, and yes, some do) and the Police showed up they would scatter and not everyone would get caught.

As far as paying your way goes, I thought the streets were PUBLIC. Should all pedestrians be licensed as well? I really can’t imagine that a bike causes any more wear and tear to the roads than a pair of shoes.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

As a motorist but primarily a pedestrian I care less about Bike “Licenses” and more about Bike “License Plates”. I would read the close call section here to see where I need to look out for dangerous areas, and many times people would write in and put in the license place of the offending car. I have been told in the past that the BTA will often send letters to these people asking them to be more careful based from their license plate number. I don’t know if that is true or not.

I don’t like the fact that I don’t have a similiar way to identify cyclists that are potentially dangerous to me. I have been hit by a cyclist before, who rode off, and as I was on foot and injured, I didn’t have any way to identify that person. I don’t have anyway to ask the BTA to send out a letter.

This really is the bigger part of it for me – not cyclists not paying for roads or whatever – I understand that you already do.

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

glenzedrine #10 wrote: “…Gandhi’s position is an argument from authority. A logical fallacy.”

You are going to have to explain that one.

Joe
Guest
Joe

That guy is nuts!

Eileen
Guest
Eileen

I’m not a fan of the bicycle licensing idea. Am I going to have to get one for my kids? What about people who occasionally ride? Will they forgo the license to save money and then decide not to ever bike because they don’t want to risk a ticket? Will people be denied bicycle licenses if they have unpaid child support?

BUT, I don’t think the Ghandi example is a good one to use because he was talking about discrimination and racism. Of course that was LEGAL in South Africa in those days and is not legal in this country.

I do think that licenses could make bicycling a classist thing which would be terribly and horribly ironic because it SHOULD be the transportation for the masses and something available to anyone with $50 bucks and a little bit of know-how.

Matthew Denton
Guest
Matthew Denton

PDOT budget (sorry, couple years old but it was the first hit on Google.)”

Look at page 2: Gas taxes make up 25% of the budget. Another 10% is made up from parking revenue, which people might be tempted to say isn’t paid for by bicycles, but is: You can, (and many people do,) buy bicycle locker space in the smart park garages, but most of that is car related money…

The rest of the budget is made up of non-vehicle use related revenue. For instance, 4% came from the general fund, (so property taxes&business tax revenue,) 2% came from fees on new construction, (cost of buying/renting a place to live,) 7% came from grants, (some of which are specifically bicycle related, but from general fund money at the state and federal level,) 3% came from sewage bills, (The average homeowners in this city pay more money in sewer bills for dealing with rainfall that falls on public streets, than they pay in state gas taxes to drive on those same streets, but you need to look at the BES budget to see the rest of that money.) 5% comes from drivers licenses and such, (and since almost all bicycle riders do have drivers licenses, that covers everyone.) Directly from property taxes directly: 5% and etc…

The only people that don’t contribute to the cost of the streets are the poor: People that are homeless, for instance, don’t pay property taxes, (or rent to a landlord that pays property taxes,) and they don’t buy very much, so they don’t contribute to businesses that pay business taxes.

jeff s
Guest
jeff s

well, since you mention the Mahatma, i think he said “first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then you win.”

not sure exactly how this applies to the bike licensing question (a passive-aggressive attack, perhaps?) but i do know that we’re not too far from winning.

Time, and peak oil, is on our side.

jeff s
Guest
jeff s

more precisely, Wikipedia says the quote is: “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you”

does the Zoobomb pile qualify as a monument?

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Mat Denton;
Very good argument. It’s been proven over and over that, like schools, community centers, and parks, everyone pays for roads .
Here is the graphic from pdot
http://www.flickr.com/photos/60961560@N00/3090826298/sizes/l/

paul
Guest
paul

Glenzedrine pointed out that the reference to the Gandhi article appeared, in context, to be a subtle citation to authority with which to prove the errency of the second article. I’m not sure that was the OP’s intent. I perceived the two article references as just two chance articles on licensing that the OP had come across.

The article on Ghandi just points out that he found race-based licensing schemes obnoxious for their discriminatory intent. It wasn’t the licensing that Ghandi found abhorrent, it was the discrimination. The article doesn’t say anything about Ghandi’s view on bike licensing generally.

I didn’t interpret the OP as saying, “Hey, a really great guy, Ghandi, thought this bike licensing scheme was obnoxious, therefore, a licensing scheme must be obnoxious). If that was the OP’s intent, it would indeed be a logical fallacy by appeal to authority.

By the by, I posted a comment earlier that doesn’t seem to have passed moderation. I pointed out that there are a lot of perfectly sane people who support licensing for “practical and fairly obvious reasons” to use another posters turn of phrase.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

Matthew: Thanks for that budget information. That’s great.

As for the economic benefit of cyclists on the Hawthorne bridge, another way to think of it is the benefit of each cyclist, as opposed to the benefit for each motorist. With 4 times as many motor vehicles as bikes, the $22-$44 annual benefit to each driver corresponds to a benefit of $44-&176 being provided BY each cyclist.

Zaphod
Guest
Zaphod

I find this whole topic mildly disturbing. The idea of paying a bike tax is perennially being brought up by anti-bike groups and, on the whole, their arguments are weak at best, completely disingenuous misleading fiction at worst.

Lets consider motorized traffic for a moment. The equipment is heavy, fast and dangerous. It requires vast amounts of infrastructure that costs large amounts of money to maintain. Stand where you can see the tangle of interstate structures near the Fremont bridge and consider the magnitude of it all. I’m not going to even begin on the larger societal impacts of motorized traffic.

Now consider people…. people walking in the Pearl. Then consider the volume of pedestrians around the city blocks in downtown Manhattan in New York City, NY, walkers on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, then the Esplanade here in Portland.

With cars on one end and pedestrians on the other, where do bikes fit in? Is the mobility of walking a right? Is driving a right? What about cycling? Is cycling a right?

I submit that cycling should be as free of complexity as walking. Until we tax sidewalks and parks, libraries, public art, and the air we breath, we should not be taxing or otherwise impeding the cyclist.

The rational motorist realizes that taking commuters out of cars and onto bikes speeds their commute. The rational motorist sees a bike corral with half a dozen bikes in it is grateful that he/she’s parking only a block away instead of two. I do not understand the mentality where the very best deal for the motorist (i.e. taking cars off the road) is fought as an “us vs. them” battle. It’s foolish and creating burden through tax or other legislation for cyclists only wrecks automotive traffic while removing choices for those willing/wanting to ride their bikes.

Crom
Guest
Crom

Im sure itd cost 10 times the amount of money brought in by licensing just to enforce the law. What a GREAT IDEA!

James Vesely wrote “We license dogs, our cars, our boats, our motorcycles, our pleasures in hunting and fishing, as well as many other outdoor activities.” Does he really not realize everything he listed requires licensing because of the immense ecological impact they can do if un-monitored?

Actually, after looking up other articles hes written, he really doesnt have a clue.

Ethan
Guest

I am not opposed to added costs that directly translate into infrastructure, education etc. HOWEVER, many many non-cyclists seem to think that the entire world of roads, highways, bridges, parking and all the rest are paid for with their gasoline taxes.

I fear that a bike surcharge or registration fees would reinforce the false notion that bikes do not pay their own way, when in fact anyone who pays taxes and does not drive a car is basically subsidizing motorists, as things stand now.

mike m
Guest
mike m

I am of two minds on this one. On one side I think it is total BS and I just finished an email James about it. Like has been said bikes save wear and tear on the roads and most the roads/sidewalks I ride on suck. I can’t ride on the good ones because the people in cars.

On the other side Jesus said something about giving to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s. So I’ll pay my taxes and hope they go to the common good. Because I do whatever Jesus said.

On the third hand lets tax people who write articles just to get people mad at each other (and include talk show hosts).

Beefa
Guest
Beefa

Its interesting that you posted this article. I had a guy scream @ me yesterday for.. well basically doing my job, so when i asked him if he would rather me be in my truck, he seemed to have thought about it for a second, rolled up his window, and drove away. Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for drivers. 🙂

jim
Guest
jim

Is the license for the bicycle or the rider?
In the 60’s in Cottage Grove we bought an annual license for our bike, it was a little sticker with a number that went on the frame. It was mostly for the police so they could call you in to get your stolen bike back. (that same era they taught us to ride in the lane facing traffic)
Personally I believe they are looking for revenue for pet projects and they may end up using it for things other than bikes (Portland is sneaky that way)
I think they have enough money allready and nead to get their priorities straight on how to spend it, and be accountable for it when it is all gone.
What’s next? a sidewalk toll? walkers need to pay their share? a nickle to cross the street?
Govt. gone wild

cottage

Rich Wilson
Guest
Rich Wilson

This came up on my local bike coalition email list, and someone pointed out that LA has a bike license requirement (bike, not rider). The license is only a few dollars, but it’s hard to get one. You have to go during a few specific hours of the week, and they treat it like a big hassle. However, it does give the cops something extra to ticket you for if they feel like harassing you. The fine is $161.

I don’t think I’d mind requiring anyone who is going to be on a public road be required to have a license. That applies to bikes, segways, electric scooters, golf carts, and anything else. And getting the “which side of the road to ride on” question wrong is an automatic fail.

I know, that would reduce the number of people riding their bikes, and be a hardship to the poor. Not good. I just wish people would use a frickin’ light at night and ride on the right side of the road, fer cryin’ out loud.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I recognize validity in the point Vincent raises (comment #21) about promoting efficient and orderly use of the commons as well as efforts to arrive at a fair means of building and sustaining the infrastructure that’s part of the commons.

As a means of accomplishing this, it’s far easier to say, ‘license bikes/bike riders’, than it is to devise a realistic way in which to put such an idea that will actually do what people have in mind for it to do, in place.

From bike/rider licensing, for which the expectations of people making that call cover the bases ranging from greater enforcement of traffic regulations in regards to riders, and making transport mode specific payments towards the roads they ride on, suggestions about how to put a workable licensing program together for that purpose do not seem to have appeared.

In the area of bikes used for transportation, if the commons were designed and built to actually meet the needs of people that use bikes for transportation, the users would likely be glad to contribute funds in a transportation mode specific way, knowing that construction of this kind of infrastructure could be depended on.

As it is, most bikes as transportation infrastructure in the Portland Metro area seems to be an enhancement of motor vehicle infrastructure. Bike lanes and bike paths don’t get built so much to allow the movement of great numbers of people commuting by bike as they do to relieve streets and roads they adjoin, of cars.

This conveys the message to the public that current bike infrastructure is designed primarily to serve motor vehicle transport, rather than bike transport. What logic confronted by this message would reasonably persuade bike users to further subsidize this type of infrastructure through the licensing of their bikes or themselves to ride them on public roads?

Maybe a sea change is at hand. The Big Three are, at least for now, effectively screwed, and the era of the big honkin urban assault vehicle may at last be going by the wayside. Hopefully, this might bring about a new era of smaller, shorter range vehicles, and with that, better land use planning: land use planning that would locate communities within a 15-20 minute, safe, bike ride from each other rather than a 15-20 minute car ride from each other.

joe
Guest
joe

I think that the inclusion of Mr. Vesely’s editorial in this article demonstrates how difficult it must be to find a coherent argument for this license/tax. Any proposed tax for riding a bike should have an analagous proposal for pedestrians(egads, most places I see a road, I also see a sidewalk)

Government should be encouraging ideas that help our society(riding a bike) and discouraging ideas that cause harm.

tom Miller (identity not verified)
Guest
tom Miller (identity not verified)

Dave @13:

Please post a link (or a source) for the Scotland analysis.

Critter's Keeper
Guest
Critter's Keeper

If there is a bike or cyclist permit/registration I will wear it with honor and pride. However it sure pisses me off to know that our Society Pisses away my tax dollars on Political / Economic stupidity and then says that I as a Cyclist does not pay my fair share.
BS lets put those SO#@@/! on bikes full time (7) days a week and then taunt them with increasing their taxes

Tony Fuentes
Guest

Let’s be clear about this, Mr. Vesely presumptions are off-base but he isn’t proposing to license only black riders or only brown riders and so on.

And Gandhi’s struggle wasn’t against taxes.

I don’t foresee people being lynched, denied employment or housing, or disenfranchised from the political process because they ride a bike.

Equating the political and social standing of bicyclists with the struggle for basic human and civil rights is the flip side of calling bicyclists whiny and elitist. Both sides are specious.

In other words, it is possible to address infrastructure financing and tax policy without having to claim entitlement or co-opting a movement to end government sanctioned violence and discrimination against non-whites; a struggle in which thousands of people lost their lives.

So let’s do that. Please.

Peace.

TonyH
Guest
TonyH

I say NO to licensing bicycles. Reason? It is thinking too small. Why stop there? Why not require a shoe license? Rollerblade license? Stroller license?

bikieboy
Guest
bikieboy

and “…if you try to sit I’ll tax your seat”

StevenJ
Guest
StevenJ

Cyclists own cars. It is not as if all, or even a majority, of riders ONLY ride bikes and in no way contribute to costs of road maintenance. Most riders own cars and pay for associated fees. I happen to commute every day by bike, but I continue to pay for my driver’s license, registration fees, DEQ checks, etc.

James Vesely sounds like the (too) many people who for some reason despise riders.

I, for one, plan to fight this tax. Bike riders contribute to the overall health of a city by eliminating bad air, noise, traffic, and increase riders’ health, which leads to lower healthcare costs.

Someone needs to do a comprehensive economic study of the benefits of NOT taxing bikes.

Taxing bike riders is regressive.

Bent Bloke
Guest
Bent Bloke

I would be in favor of a registration system for bicycles, but not licensing.

What is the purpose of a driver’s license? Revenue? No, it is meant to ensure that only people who have demonstrated they know the rules of the road are allowed to drive. I already have a driver’s license, a bicycle license seems unnecessary and redundant.

Registering, however, makes sense. It would be a revenue stream (provided it doesn’t cost more to administer than it collects), and would also improve theft recovery. And maybe, just maybe, it would shut up those critics who claim bikes don’t pay their way.

Vance
Guest

There is no state in the United states that requires motor-vehicles to have licenses. It’s not a meaningless distinction. Registration, and licensing are two very different things. Vehicle registration is just exactly that, and came about as a means of enforcing alcohol prohibition. A license is a means of proving the existence of the underlying credential which it represents. At issue is the process of registration.

Registering bicycles is an intolerable intrusion upon personal freedom. When articles such as the one we’re discussing are written they uniformly smack of punitive, petty, class-based resentment. After all only the poor, and/or environmentally conscious troglodytes ride bikes, right? While I consider bicycle registration to be a significant encroachment upon personal freedom, I am of the opinion the time may be upon us that licensing cyclists should be considered.

I agree with a few other comments that have been made. Cyclists should not be singled out. Anything, and anyone who are in traffic should be able to prove they are capable of reading, and understanding, traffic signals, road marking, and the, “Rules of the road.”, as it were.

Bicycle registration has proved unfeasible time and again. That’s a dead horse. On the other hand it is just as unfeasible to load a Huffy down with a 250 lb. rider, a 100 lb. trailer and head off into rush-hour traffic. Some rules aren’t punitive. Some are there for the greater public safety.

It’s simple. No one without a class-C Oregon Driver License on the road. Do away with the stupid, and punitive, motorcycle endorsement as well. One’s mode should never be an issue. “What about my kids on their bikes?” Well, it ain’t 1955 anymore and I, for one, question just how prudent letting children ride around in traffic really is. After-all, I got away with driving all over Oregon while heavily intoxicated, in my own youth. I got away with it primarily because it was over two decades ago and there was a fraction of the traffic there is now. Legally, ethically, even morally, it’s outrageous to consider engaging in such behavior these days.

Lastly, registration rarely even recovers the cost of issuing it in the first place. This is not even a source of revenue from motorists who cause exponentially more wear and tear on the infrastructure. The source of funding is mostly the General Fund, which we all pay into, and the gasoline tax applied to the demographic doing the most damage.

Registration=bad. Licensing=good.

a.O
Guest
a.O

I think we should require pedestrian licenses. Have you seen the way they jaywalk?