Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Opinion: Licensing debate should focus on reform, not revenge

Posted by on August 24th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Bike traffic on N. Interstate

Once again we find ourselves in the midst of the big debate: Should bike riders be required to have a license?

This time it comes up following a decision by the City of Portland to partially close N. Wheeler Ave. The closure prevents all vehicles (not just cars and trucks) from turning right from Broadway and it was done to stop a scary history of right-hook collisions. Bob Huckaby, who owns a business that uses Wheeler for access, was opposed to the closure from the get-go. He saw the move as an unfair penalty on people who drive. In his mind, the right-hook problem exists only because people do not come to a complete stop when bicycling down N. Flint Ave., which is just a few yards upstream from Wheeler.

I agree with Bob. It’s unfair when the actions of one road user negatively impact another. But while I share his concerns about the issue, I disagree that pointing fingers at bicycle operators and calling for mandatory licenses will achieve the goal. Let’s put our energy towards reform, not revenge.

So what would reform look like? I’ve got some ideas. Maybe this will be a start…

— Oregon could become a national transportation leader by making the Department of Motor Vehicles more inclusive. Many Oregonians do not own cars, yet they still operate a legal vehicle on our roadways. As transit, car-sharing, and biking options improve, the number of people who are carfree or low-car is going up all the time. We should move toward a Department of Vehicles (see what I did there?) that respects the way everyone gets around and isn’t so motor-vehicle centric.

— Our current traffic laws are woefully inadequate for people on bicycles. The ORS is full of confusing grey areas and language that doesn’t truly respect bicycles like the vehicles they are. Currently, bicycles are this strange legal hybrid, sometimes treated exactly the same as cars, other times like people on foot. Citizens and advocates have valiantly chipped away at the ORS for years to make it more bike-friendly; but perhaps it’s time for a set of wholesale, ground-up changes that do justice to the bicycle’s unique traits. How about an omnibus bicycle legislation bill in the 2013 legislative session that takes a big swing for fences instead of just a few more bunts? The bill could clean up outdated laws whose grey areas continue to confuse citizens, cops, and judges (stops as yields (in only some cases!), mandatory sidepath, fixed gear bicycles, bike lanes stopping at intersections, and so on). A clearer set of laws will reduce confusion and improve compliance.

— And speaking of new laws, legislators shouldn’t be allowed to pass new traffic laws unless they identify funding to pay for enforcement and education. I am tired of laws that lack real teeth because they are not enforced enough (cell phone use/texting while driving) or never understood (vulnerable roadway user law).

— Perhaps we could set aside more of the funds for enforcement and education from ticket fine revenue. In Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, the Community and Schools Traffic Safety Partnership funds great projects and programs. Part of the funding is from ticket revenue. Can we increase that set-aside amount to bolster that program and others like it?

— Whether people primarily drive or bike, they need more training on bicycle laws — especially if they live in cities where bicycling is prevalent. Like Tom Richards in The Guardian wrote about so well earlier this month, perhaps a cycling proficiency test should be a required to get a driver’s license? Or at the very least, the driving test should include more bicycle-related questions. (And yes, I realize that knowledge of all traffic laws — not just bike laws — isn’t as good as it should be.)

— We could approach private insurance companies to add bicycling proficiency tests to their “Good Driver Discount” programs. And the same thing could go for companies that offer bicycle insurance: If you complete a course to demonstrate you know the laws and how to ride safely, you get a discount on monthly premiums.

Safe Routes to School, a tried and true federally-funded program that teaches elementary and middle-school students how to bike and navigate traffic laws on two wheels, should be available all the way up to high school. The new federal transportation bill gives ODOT more leeway to spend money on this program. If we could teach bike law and bike safety in high schools, we’d not only see better behavior from the next generation of riders, we’d give kids more (less expensive) options for getting around that just the family car.

A bicycle license could be a cool idea; but the devil is in the details. I’m not opposed to a possible new program that would couple some sort of mandatory bicycle law/safety testing (for adults only) with an official state license. If this license came with a similar expectation of institutional respect and resources that I receive as a driver, then I’m all for it. If it comes from someone who is angry because they aren’t comfortable with how bicycle use is changing our streets, and if it feels like a punitive measure, then count me out. A bicycle license should be seen as a constructive idea and a program with benefits for everyone, not as bargaining chip in a dead end debate about who deserves respect on the roads.

This is just a start. I know there are many other layers to this issue and ideas on how to move it forward. Let’s get them on the table. I don’t know how much is possible; but the old and acrimonious debate isn’t working. If we truly want to move this ahead, we need to work together, and it’s hard to work together when everyone’s yelling at each other. For more on bicycle licensing, see my response to Huckaby’s plans at the end of yesterday’s post and read our past coverage.

(Publisher’s note: Thanks to all of you for the insightful and productive comments this past week (nearly 1,000 in the past five days!). Next week I plan to sit down with Bob Huckaby and talk. I have no idea how that will go, but I will keep you posted. — Jonathan)

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  • David August 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I still worry that licensing cyclists will slow the growth of ridership in Portland and throughout the state.

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    • This August 26, 2012 at 10:58 am

      I agree. I’d want to see some fairly huge benefits from being licensed that could not be achievable any other way – large-scale education programs, better resource allocation, and respect are all orthogonal to a license and could be successful without requiring carried documentation.

      Inexperienced drivers are extremely dangerous to others. Inexperienced bicyclists are many orders of magnitude less so; do we want to put up the barrier to entry that licensing represents to reduce the already minimal risk?

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson August 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    The simple fact is that blowing a stop sign on a bike does NOT put anyone at risk other than bicyclists themselves. Its a very different story with motor vehicles. The harping on “bikers’ behavior” on the Wheeler issue misses the point…its motor vehicles and their operators who put others at risk. Its the illegal right turns at Wheeler that are the cause for the City’s action; what a bike rider did before that point is beside the point.
    I’m with the NY Times guy.

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    • David August 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      I hate to say it so bluntly, but you’re wrong. Although it’s rare, it would be possible for a cyclist to blow a stop sign, causing a car to swerve, jump the curb, and run over a family of four.

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      • spare_wheel August 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm

        your example reminds me of towns that pass ordinances directed at ufos. the realm of the probably rather than the possible should be the basis of our laws.

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        • Caleb August 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm

          When it comes to anybody (cyclists, drivers, pedestrians, whatever) blowing stop signs and anybody else reacting, the “probable” realm is just as much a hypothetical realm as is the “possible”.

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          • spare_wheel August 26, 2012 at 12:17 am

            the chance of being killed by lightening is higher than the chance of being killed by a cyclist. motorists are licensed because they are incredibly dangerous.

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      • Ross Williams August 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

        Proving his point. Absent the car, bicycles are generally not a serious danger to anyone.

        People are free to make the case for anything. But bicycle licenses would serve no real purpose. The devil is not in the details, its in the concept. It implies that using a public road is a privilege.

        Outside the transportation geek community and a handful of cranky auto advocates, this concept is a non-starter. The idea that kids need a license to ride their bike is a non-starter.

        If we want to do something about bicycles blowing stop signs, there needs to be stepped up enforcement. The problem is that no one really thinks this is an important enough problem to dedicate a whole lot of limited enforcement resources to preventing it. The most its worth is a few stings aimed at corners where it is occurring regularly. Objectively, its probably not even worth that much law enforcement attention.

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      • Randall S. August 24, 2012 at 7:20 pm

        I hate to say it so bluntly, but this is one of the most foolish things I’ve read all day. “Possible” is not “plausible.” Perhaps you’d like to cite an incident where something even remotely like this has ever happened in the history of motor vehicles, ever?

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      • El Biciclero August 27, 2012 at 9:10 am

        It would be possible for a pedestrian to do the same thing. License those suckers!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      I hear you Lenny. I feel you man. I guess I’m just at the point where I think we can make arguments like yours or like Randy Cohen’s until we’re blue in the face and it won’t move the needle. I think we have to work to balance out the regulatory system first and make the state respect bicycling more as a vehicle first. Then we’ll see compliance by everyone go up.

      Not saying we shouldn’t continue to present views like what you bring up. Absolutely. I look forward to pointing out those kind of things in the debate… But putting myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t really get bicycling, I hear that stuff and it just makes me dig in more and want to fight back, instead of realizing that a big problem exists and working to fix it.

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      • David August 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm

        Although my comment above wasn’t completely serious we definitely need to be careful about how the stop sign issue is presented. Lenny wrote, “blowing a stop sign.” This implies that the rider has no intention of yielding the right of way.

        I’m all for the Idaho Stop Law, but that law does not allow for “blowing” anything. Ahem.

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    • Carl August 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Blowing a stop sign might not generate significant risk, and the harping on cyclist behavior is unfounded. But blowing a stop sign can also force other drivers and cyclists to react suddenly and intensely to avoid hurting someone. That makes it a dick move, regardless of actual risk. There is no good argument for condoning it.

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    • Ed August 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      The incident where riders were injured on a TriMet bus after someone on a bicycle “blew a stop sign” (http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2011/12/trimet_video_shows_bus_driver.html) disproves the fact.

      Allowing bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs could be a better compromise. No need to lose momentum, but still responsible for not yielding.

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    • Elliot August 24, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      “The simple fact is that blowing a stop sign on a bike does NOT put anyone at risk other than bicyclists themselves.”

      In a world filled with only cars, sure. But that’s exactly what we’re trying to get away from!

      In a city, you are surrounded by other people, including pedestrians and bicyclists, not just drivers. Jaywalking and coasting through stop signs aren’t inherently dangerous acts, but do be done safely they require you to yield first. It’s my opinion that most people do not understand the concept of yielding. The pattern I see a lot of cyclists and drivers use around stop signs is: 1) slow, 2) go, 3) look, 4), oops sorry! (and keep going while the other party takes evasive action). It needs to be: 1) slow, 2) look, 3) decide stop or go.

      On my daily commute using three different neighborhood greenways, I see bicyclists run stop signs in front of other bicyclists, I see pedestrians jaywalk in front of bicyclists, I see bicyclists block the crosswalk at signals and fail to yield to pedestrians crossing at corners (unmarked crosswalks).

      It doesn’t take injuring someone to be a jerk. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than just not hurting other people.

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  • Jake August 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I really like all your points, but I struggle with licensing for one reason: it will discourage new people from picking up a bike. I think the end goal for most all of us is the same: a safe environment for all modes of transportation (bikes, cars, pedestrians, and transit alike), but I’m not sure I agree licensing is the best method to get there. I think, at least partially, this is due to my bias towards cycling. However, I still feel achieving a critical mass of bicyclists is a stronger path to that goal than pacifying the ones who ignore the perspective of cyclists.

    Additionally, I think a lot of cyclists DO know the rules, but choose to neglect certain ones because they were designed with cars in mind. Would this change if we had to get licenses? I’m not so sure it would. Totally open to why I’m wrong though.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      I don’t agree licensing is the best way to get there either. But I do think it shouldn’t be dismissed outright without letting people who strongly believe in it have a chance to make their case. As the case attempts to be made, eventually it will either grow stronger under public debate, or it will wither away because it doesn’t make sense.

      I always think that if you are confident in the case for what you believe, you should welcome opposing views because in the end yours will win out (or both sides will adopt aspects of the other and the case will be even stronger in the end).

      And to your second point… That’s why I don’t agree with the current debate that simply thinks “bicyclists should have licenses too!” will be a silver bullet to the problem. I wouldn’t seriously consider licenses unless the system was significantly reformed first.

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      • 9watts August 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm

        Yes, but.
        So many examples come to mind where the action or the proposed change makes no sense, have no basis in the absence of cars. As others have pointed out here this week, licenses for car drivers came about historically because cars presented an entirely new category of danger on public roads. The problem – that problem – persists, and no amount of additional punitive or bureaucratic formalization of something as straightforward as bicycling will change that. People ride bicycles the world over. Children, old people, and everyone in between. It is about as straightforward as walking, and no one in their right mind is suggesting we require licenses for that activity.*

        Reducing speeds on surface streets (posting and enforcing this) would go much further toward reducing conflict and danger of mixing people using various modes of travel, but Huckaby’s proposal is just transparently small-minded. As I’ve said here before, I think this kind of resentment can be traced to the fact that bikes (ironically) actually come pretty close to fulfilling the frustrated promise of those car ads that always show the empty road and the beautiful views. To those stuck in traffic, paying off their cars who aren’t looking forward to the next visit to the gas station, having to watch people on bikes (who have, or appear to have, few of these burdens) whiz past if not inspiring could easily be galling, but that is a poor basis for a ballot measure dressed up as an extension of law and order.

        I support your conversation with Mr. Huckaby, Jonathan, and look forward to what you learn but I feel like we’ve been down this road before, and I feel his proposal is based on some important misunderstandings that you well articulated in your response to KATU yesterday, especially #4.

        * training, driver education, bike school, etc. is another matter entirely, and one that as you point out we might all do well to have more of, or require.

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    • adp August 25, 2012 at 5:57 am

      Licensing requirements have not prevented huge numbers of motor vehicles from clogging up the roads.

      I’d be more interested to see how the state spends/misspends the revenue from a bike licensing scheme.

      I’m also wondering if the licensing will be or the actual rider, like a driver’s licensing; or of the bicycle itself, like inspection and registration of a car.

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  • Oliver August 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I know a great place with an established infrastructure and the appropriate skill-set to teach young people proper skills, etiquette and rules concerning bicycling.

    We call them public schools.

    However the people calling for licensing of bicycles as a punitive measure have, in my observation a viewpoint that: devalues these institutions, denigrates their employees, and would likely consider bicycle training of any kind ‘indoctrination’.

    I’m sorry that I can’t be more positive about this, but the dialogue is not being pushed in good faith, and I don’t care to have this or any other discussion with people who are not being forthright about their intentions.

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    • Pete August 25, 2012 at 4:51 am

      I was indoctrinated to an automobile through my public school, and looking back wished I had used my bicycle more in those days. I agree with you entirely it would be good curriculum. (Coincidentally one of you in Portland may be riding around on the cranberry-colored early 80’s Fuji Sports 12 I bought with my paper route money back then).

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  • spare_wheel August 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    bicycle licensing is the equivalent of requiring immigrants to show birth certificates to vote. it is 100% intended to hamper a minority from exercising their rights.

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    • Pete August 25, 2012 at 4:44 am

      I see your point but disagree. It’s the equivalent of immigrants showing green cards to vote, not birth certificates. It is not intended to hamper rights, it’s intended to achieve accountability. Poorly, I might add, but it’s not licensing that treats bicyclists as minorities, it’s American society. (I’ve used this same word in the past and been accused of relating our ‘struggles’ to race, but the reality is we’re frequently assaulted in the media in a manner which would be socially unacceptable if applied to race or sexual preference).

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      • spare_wheel August 26, 2012 at 12:07 am

        sorry but cycling has been an unlicensed mode of transport for over one hundred years. and clearly the current push to license stems from reactive anger rather than accountability. if we license adults do we then make it illegal for a tween to ride their bike to school?

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        • wsbob August 26, 2012 at 10:19 am

          “…if we license adults do we then make it illegal for a tween to ride their bike to school?” spare_wheel

          Children, including tweens ( tweens being generally, ages 9-12), getting to school safely by bike is what Safe Routes to Schools, and Bike Trains are for. It shouldn’t be illegal for kids to make those kind of bike rides as long as they aren’t having to make complicated and challenging lane changes and intersection transitions.

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        • Pete August 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

          We definitely agree, but I was arguing intention. Some people truly believe it will help the situation (we’ve seen that before) – not always is it borne of oppressive motivation. I’ve yet to see bike licensing examples that work (logistically or otherwise), and the overwhelming evidence is that its value is far outweighed by its costs (San Jose, CA got rid of theirs just a few years ago after the city council found out there actually was one).

          And some places already make it illegal to ride a bike to school, licensed or not.

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      • dk September 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm

        Imigrants can’t show their green card to vote, you have to be a citizen to vote. You may want ot go back and take a civics class.

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  • Liz August 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Stop signs and cross walks and stops lights set expectations and help all of us (whether we are on foot on our bikes or in cars) to predict each other’s behavior with regard to what’s going on on the road. Without a doubt, cars that operate illegally can do the most damage. Sadly, we see that way too much and the consequences are absolutely heart breaking. I’m glad to see Wheeler closed to right turns. I hope it leads to some productive changes. But when folks blow through stop signs on their bikes they can hit pedestrians or other bike riders or scare the bejesus out of them in a ways that makes other folks feel unsafe or do something unsafe, like swerve or wobble or trip. And and if its an intersection with lots of car traffic, blowing stop signs pretty much sucks for everybody but the person that blows the stop sign. We all share public transportation space and ideally it would be great if we all thought about each other while we’re out there, which of course does not make up for bad designs, bad planning and rules that don’t work for pedestrians or bike riders. But there’s got to be some way forward to think about how we can all make it safer.

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  • wsbob August 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    It might be improved upon, but people that drive do study for and are tested for competence to operate a motor vehicle in traffic. People intending to ride a bike on their own in complicated street situations often having heavy traffic, should be obliged to do the same.

    There may be practical means by which to have people 12 and older that are intending to ride in traffic, study for road use and demonstrate the skill they’ve acquired for that activity in a road test with a state licensed examiner, just as is done with people wanting to drive a car.

    Whatever their age, people riding bikes in traffic should know how to signal while riding a bike, and know the importance of doing so. They should be trained to have self awareness of how they appear to other people on the road when they do signal.

    They should be instructed in and tested for their ability to safely cross multiple lanes of busy traffic, and travel amongst motor vehicles through complicated series of road intersections such as the example that was provided by Flint-Wheeler-Broadway.

    Having people that are traveling on the road in traffic behind the wheel of a car or riding a bike be better trained for that would be an improvement to the safety of everyone using the road…and would help the road and street system to work better for everyone.

    I think ‘Department of Vehicles’ to name a revised department for managing motor vehicle use, might be o.k. Maybe it should be ‘Department of Vehicle Road Use’.

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    • El Biciclero August 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

      “…people that drive do study for and are tested for competence to operate a motor vehicle in traffic. People intending to ride a bike on their own in complicated street situations often having heavy traffic, should be obliged to do the same.”

      I don’t agree. Ignoring the fact that testing for a driver’s license is woefully inadequate, think about why motor vehicle operators were originally “obliged” to prove competence before being allowed to legally operate their vehicles…

      What thoughts/rationale came to mind?

      Was it because cars were cool and the elite didn’t want the hoi polloi to be able to use them? Was it because horses found cars to be confusing and stopped in their tracks when they saw one? Was it because they were so ugly people wanted to limit their presence on the street? Was it because they were annoying and loud and smelly (actually, this is partly true)?

      Mainly, it was because they were Killing People. People were being killed by cars with incompetent drivers, and society rightly pointed the finger at those drivers for being incompetent and killing people. Cars were–and still might be considered–a menace.

      To me the comparison can be likened to carrying a gun vs. carrying a hammer. One requires a license (in certain cases) the other doesn’t. One is seen as vastly more lethal than the other–even though one could kill with either–and “accidents” with one are vastly more dangerous than with the other. If I have a hammer “accident”, I likely smash my thumb and maybe say some swear words as I get ice out of the freezer. Nothing more need be done. If I have an accident with a gun, somebody could very well die. Even if nobody gets killed, gun accidents result in greatly increased investigation and penalties than hammer mishaps.

      I would favor greater enforcement, with mandatory classroom time for any infraction involving a bike. Educate the ones that (apparently) most need it without punishing the rest of us by requiring envy-inspired “licenses”.

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      • wsbob August 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm

        If you’re really referring to ‘originally’, your analogy is ancient. That was yesterday. The horse and buggy days are long gone. There are many, many more vehicles on the road today than there were back in the early years of last century, making travel on streets and roads far more challenging than it was back then. The demands upon road users and skills required to drive competently are far, far different than they were 90 years ago. There is a need to encourage more road users to have road use skills corresponding to traffic demands of today.

        Stepping up enforcement of traffic violations could be considered, but that approach would likely result in partial success at best in reducing violations. Also, it’s a negative approach in that nobody likes to receive expensive citations. Preparing people with knowledge and skills that enable them to better deal with difficult traffic situations, avoiding traffic violations in the first place is a far more positive means of achieving greater road user safety, road function, and…reduction of road user activity that warrants citations.

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        • Pete August 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

          Yes, today one also has to learn to juggle coffee and an iPhone, all while tuning Howard Stern on Sirius/XM and entering an address into the dashboard-based GPS.

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    • dk September 6, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      I also think anyone that wants to walk should have to pass a test. Knock those f’ing kids down until they can prove they understand the nuances of the roadways.

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  • Steve August 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    There is just simply no way to make licensing a cyclist (to clarify: we’re not talking about bike registration, an even sillier idea) across the entire state of Oregon practicable. It wouldn’t even get on the ballot if limited to Portland or Multnomah County.

    Even if a measure got on the ballot, there’s no way it would pass. In particular, the Estimate of Financial Impact would be the death of a measure that would require creation of a new and totally impractical parallel licensing system involving new rules and laws that would have to be written to facilitate this system and it’s interaction with the drivers’ license system.

    Registering cyclists and/or bicycles is totally unnecessary. The only reason it is for cars is because of the impact and ramifications of owning and operating such a large piece of personal property in the public right-of-way. Reform may be needed, but discussing the merits of an unnecessary and impractical licensing is a terrible way of starting that conversation.

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    • wsbob August 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      “There is just simply no way to make licensing a cyclist… across the entire state of Oregon practicable. …” Steve

      It wouldn’t be so complicated, because licensing for people that bike could use the basic structure already in place for driver testing and licensing. The basic structure would just need the addition of a bike specific perspective.

      Of course it would cost money to do this, but whether people would want to pay for probably has something to do with how badly they want safer roads. I believe people ought to at least have a chance to decide if at least some improvement in the skills people intending to travel the road by bike might be expected to gain from study and testing, is something worth spending their money on.

      For someone getting a driver’s license, a cyclist’s license could be as simple as the endorsement on the driver’s license that people riding motorcycles test for to receive.

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      • Randall S. August 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm

        You mean the motorcycle license that requires a $179 class in order to apply?

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        • wsbob August 25, 2012 at 12:44 am

          Randall…sorry about not checking requirements for a motorcycle endorsement before suggesting the motorcycle endorsement process as an example of what might be required to prepare people for a bike license.

          Things change…many years back, there was no such requirement to pay to take a class get a motorcycle endorsement. It was very basic: just drive around in the DMV parking lot, out into the street to the stop sign, U-turn, back into the parking lot with the DMV drive test examiner observing.

          I think prep for a bicycle license should be far better than this, but it shouldn’t cost a pile of money either. Cost for a bike in traffic license or endorsement to a driver’s license should be as nominal as possible, to encourage people to get the knowledge and training, and generally encourage people to ride. In fact, ‘No Charge’ would be best, if the public believed it would be worth it to fund the training and licensing for possible improvements in road safety it might bring.

          To ride a bike in traffic, people already having a driver’s license shouldn’t have to take a bike in traffic test until their ODL is up for renewal, if they should want the endorsement.

          As to what bike in traffic training and testing might be, and what need to be put together to make it available, I’d be interested in reading other people’s ideas about that. I suppose I consider it should start out being something like the more or less informal way many people prepare for their driver’s test, written and behind the wheel.

          That would be family and friends accompanying and instructing the person preparing for the license, perhaps with a learners permit, around in traffic, both riding bikes. After some acquired skill and knowledge on the bike, they’d go to the DMV, or as bikeportland’s editor-publisher suggests…the DV…and ride around in traffic with the ‘bike in traffic examiner’, for 10 minutes or so, demonstrating their competence as a beginning bike road user.

          By the way, below is the link to the outfit that in partnership with ODOT and OSU, offers the motorcycle endorsement classes:


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  • Rob August 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I think the outcomes we want are:

    -road user etiquette and laws are rational and provide safety for all
    -every road user knows proper etiquette and laws (and we can either collectively or individually demonstrate that this is so)
    -a built environment and signage that is as well-aligned as possible to ensuring safety and following rules
    -sufficient enforcement to hold everyone (motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, buses, etc.) accountable

    We can do all those things better, regardless of what we call it. Why not have a productive conversation about how to meet those objectives better.

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  • JRB August 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I support the idea of an omnibus bike bill to overhaul and reform the legal framework in which bikes operate. I think now is as good a time as any to start researching what such a bill would look like. I think its premature to advocate bringing it to the 2013 legislature for a couple of reasons. We won’t know what the make up of the legislature will be until after the November elections and it is quite likely that the votes won’t be there that will result in a bill that would actually promote cycling and make it safer. There is always risk when you start tinkering with the laws as others will try to seize the opportunity to try make changes that cyclists won’t like.

    In addition, my experience in the 2011 legislature was such that even those legislators who are considered progressive were so concerned with appearing anti-jobs or anti-economic recovery/growth that they were unwilling to champion legislation or spending that would seem like no-brainers for them. Jobs/economy/education spending is 90% of where the legislature’s focus is and is likely to remain there next session leaving little room for them to consider much else.

    As I said, I think it’s a good time to think about what reforms we want, continue to build a constituency for those reforms, and look for a good opportunity to make that happen. Maybe its 2013, but we shouldn’t force it, if it isn’t.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson August 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Ok, I should have said “coast thru stop signs,” but my point is that it is very hard to hurt another human being (not impossible) when you are on your bike! It’s just the physical facts that any reasonable person, including auto addicts, should be able to get. How can I hurt that person in an SUV or MIni with my bike? I could pick it up and hurl it at their vehicle, but that would do little damage to them personally. Don’t think I haven’t been tempted, especially when they could kill me in an intsant as they race down the Tillamook bikeway at 30+ mph. On a bike you are mainly a risk to yourself, hence I keep an eye out at every cross street, stop sign or no. “Trust No Car!” Pedestrians are another matter, but even there, show me the data? How many are killed or injured by folks on bikes? Yes, some, but not many. I ususally just say “Hi” to them.
    re bike registration? Great, and have ODOT pay each registrant $120 per year for removing another motor vehicle from essential freight routes, reducing air and water pollution, and maybe even saving the planet.

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  • J_R August 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I’d be willing to add a “bicycle endoresement” to my driver’s license at the same extra cost as a “motorcycle endorsement.” Currently the standard driver’s license is $40 for 8 years and one with a motorcycle endorsement is $68 for eight years. It would be worth $3.50 per year for me to be able to tell motorist that “Yes. I do pay my fair share.” But before I agree to that, I want the same respect and responsibilities for other vehicle operators. That includes prosecuting the motorists who run down bicyclists under the vunerable road users law.

    As far as licensing my bicycles, I’m willing to pay the same as your under-1800-pound boat trailer, snowmobile trailer, or utility trailer. The current cost of registration is $0. What’s fair is fair.

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    • Randall S. August 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      You can start telling motorists that you pay your “fair share” now, since you “already do.” Road funding comes from, amongst other things, driver’s license fees, property taxes, federal taxes, and gas taxes which you indirectly pay every time you purchase any product shipped in order (the freight companies pass costs on to you).

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  • Bay area rider August 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Yeah right it is hard to hurt or kill someone else when riding your bicycle. Here are three cases of pedestrians killed by cyclists in just the past year in the SF Bay Area




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    • CaptainKarma August 25, 2012 at 12:38 am

      I probbly shouldn’t even bother to address this comment, but what the H… “On average in 2009, 93 people were killed on the roadways of the U.S. each day. ” (meaning, by motor vehicles)

      Each day!

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    • Tony August 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      And two of those cyclists are actually facing manslaughter charges!!

      If only anything even approaching 2/3 of automobile attacks lead to charges… well, I bet there would be a lot less automobile attacks.

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      • El Biciclero August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

        Isn’t that remarkable? Kill somebody “accidentally” with your bike, and you’ve got a 2/3 probability (apparently) of being prosecuted for manslaughter. Do the same in your car, and “oh, well–what’cha gonna do?”

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        • Pete August 28, 2012 at 10:21 am

          It was an accident! After all, the biker “came out of nowhere” – probably ran a stop sign. The person feels badly enough already, and certainly didn’t intend to kill someone. Why add to the pain with some technicality like failure to signal a turn or yield right of way? And manslaughter – OMG you bikers are on a witch hunt!

          Motorists are required to renew licenses, certainly the act of doing so ensures they’re abreast of all current roadway laws.

          [you guessed it: sarcasm]

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      • Nate August 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

        WOW! In this context, there is absolutely call for overhaul of transpo policy. I’d be curious – does anyone know a correlative figure for % of drivers charged with more than a moving violation when they hit & kill someone? Anecdotally, I can’t remember hearing of a single car vs. bike/pedestrian crash where the driver was charged with in/voluntary manslaughter, etc.

        Anyone have data on this? Of the quoted 93 ppl per day killed by drivers, how many of those resulted in charges related to loss of life (as opposed to violations, DUIs, etc.)?

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        • Opus the Poet August 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm

          In SF the ratio of drivers ticketed or higher prosecutions is 9%, 91% of pedestrian and cyclist deaths are not even ticketed even when the driver is “at fault”. and there were fewer driver prosecuted for manslaughter than cyclists.

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          • Opus the Poet August 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm

            I forgot to add that this excludes drunk drivers who were prosecuted independently of the wreck. They were excluded from both sides of the ratio so they literally did not count. The ratio was for sober drivers that did not leave the scene.

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    • Pete August 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

      After riding here in the bay area I’m contemplating making a jersey that says on the back “HONK if you don’t get CVC 21202”. Whaddya think? You want one?

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  • Mark A. August 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Driver licenses primarily function as de facto ID cards. I’m not sure the roads would be much safer if there were no driver licenses at all. I’ve read that it takes a full 5 years of driving to reach the average competency level, so driver’s ed doesn’t really do much.

    That said, it would be awesome to get my bike DEQ tested every two years…

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  • Ted Buehler August 25, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Licensing? Not a fan…

    Interesting, though.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler August 25, 2012 at 12:59 am

      Seems like The Authorities are shy of negative press. They don’t want to have cops ticket stop sign runners, either cars or bikes. And they don’t want to get in trouble from the drivers over their loose enforcement of bikes, or of enforcement of cars themselves.

      I’d much prefer a world where we simply enforce existing laws on the books.

      & if bicyclists get pissed at having to stop for stop signs, start looking for ways to improve the speed and flow of bicycles systemwide to offset the delays. Start by flipping lots more stop signs in favor of bike blvds. Then start adding “bicycle passing lanes” wherever possible in the bike lane system, even if its only for 50′. Then improve pavement maintenance and utility cover smoothness on bikeways to cut out the rough surfaces.

      These would make for a safer, happier bunch of bicyclists, and would allow more rigid enforcement of stop signs without any overall delays to bicyclists.

      Ted Buehler

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  • Ben August 25, 2012 at 1:57 am

    I can just see it, tomorrow, we have to pay to have a license. Next week, we have to also pay a monthly tax… Then next year we’ll also have to pay for liability insurance too!
    You want education and training?
    The state already has tons of info, brochures, internet sites. Do yourself a favor, look it up.
    Also, you have parents that should of educated on these things anyways.
    …And my favorite, WHO THE HECK IS GOING TO ENFORCE IT? Yeah, let’s have the Portland Police traffic division use up all its resources to stop cyclists and check for their license and insurance. They can’t even stop people from killing each other on the freeways as it is.
    There are going to be too many cyclists that are simply going to refuse to get one (like myself). Too many tourists, too many children, too many… period.
    Simply put, it will be a disaster. If it does successfully pass, and enforced, Oregon would go from being one of the best states to be the worst state for cycling in a very short amount of time.

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    • Dude August 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Ben, you complain about any fees whether it is yearly, monthly or whatever. It sounds like you want a free ride. You are lucky if you don’t have to pay for a car license, drivers license, insurance, gas, expensive maintenance, expensive tires, disposal fees for tires oil…, high depreciation, high parking costs, tolls….
      What is wrong with paying a measly fee once a year?
      What is wrong with taking a knowledge test before you hit the road? So many cyclists will get into arguments about laws because they have only heard other peoples versions of it and never from the right source. Let them study a pamphlet and take a silly test. That way there is no excuse for ” bikes don’t need headlights in Oregon….”.
      Who’s going to enforce it? After cyclists see other cyclists getting tickets for breaking certain laws they will stop breaking them to so they won’t have to pay a hefty fine. Sam Adams words to the police to leave them alone because they are just a bunch of fun loving people turned out to be a bad policy that has got us to the point we are now. Thankfully Sam will be gone soon, we don’t know what the next guys enforcement actions will be like.
      If someone were to hop on your bike and take it for a joy ride across town it would be easy to pick him up, or the bike at least if it were easily identifiable with a license plate on it. The return rate of stolen bikes would be increased dramatically

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      • El Biciclero August 27, 2012 at 10:26 am

        “What is wrong with paying a measly fee once a year?”

        — If the fee is truly “measly” (which, if there is any fee, it should be), then the problem with it is that it will only take money out of the system (for admin/testing costs) that could have been better spent repainting stripes or “filling potholes”

        “What is wrong with taking a knowledge test before you hit the road?”

        — Nothing, as long as it doesn’t serve to inhibit new riders from hitting the road. The greatest safety improvement cyclists can make is making more cyclists.

        “So many cyclists will get into arguments about laws because they have only heard other peoples versions of it and never from the right source.”

        — My experience shows that cyclists I speak with know the law much better than drivers. Cyclists don’t generally ignore the Most Holy Stop Sign out of ignorance of the law.

        “Let them study a pamphlet and take a silly test. That way there is no excuse for ‘bikes don’t need headlights in Oregon….’.”

        — Again, I find that taking tests doesn’t really have much of an effect on driver knowledge in practice. “What? Having my right turn signal on doesn’t give me right-of-way?”

        “Who’s going to enforce it?”

        –The Police (not the 70’s-80’s band).

        “After cyclists see other cyclists getting tickets for breaking certain laws they will stop breaking them to so they won’t have to pay a hefty fine.”

        –If that is true, why don’t we just start giving out more tickets for existing laws? Cyclists don’t need a license to be cited for traffic infractions. Give out tickets and send them to “Bike School” as part of the penalty. Oh, same would go for drivers if they were ever ticketed for an infraction that endangered a cyclist.

        “If someone were to hop on your bike and take it for a joy ride across town it would be easy to pick him up, or the bike at least if it were easily identifiable with a license plate on it. The return rate of stolen bikes would be increased dramatically”

        — Ah, the “it’s for your own good” argument. License plates would also be easily stolen, stickers easily removed, etc., creating a whole new class of problems. Stolen bike with stolen license plate–are the cops really going to invest the time to run bike plates to identify stolen ones? Also, actual plates for a bicycle pose a plethora of physical attachment problems. Tell me where you would put a license plate on a bike–a license plate big enough to be easily visible from a distance on a moving bike–and I’ll tell you why it can’t go there.

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        • jim August 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm

          El Bicyclero-
          It nice to see you in such a cheerful mood today.
          have you ever seen those police auctions where they sell tons of unidentifiable bikes? Too bad they didn’t have plates on them so the owners could get them back again. Or are you afraid the hippies will steal the plates to make roofs for birdhouses? Should car drivers be required to take a driving test? Most people would say yes, bikes are no different, there are plenty of people that would study real hard before they took their test and as a result they would turn out to be a more well informed, safer rider. and yes, there are a lot of realy ignorant riders that have their own version of the law that they are convinced is correct. Would they be intimidated by the test? Probably, but so what, they’ll get over it. Should cars be required to have license plates? Probably so, I think in Texas you might only have to buy a plate once and that is it, maybe we don’t need to renew it every year as that is really just a tax, on the fence on that one.

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          • are August 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

            most bicycles are identified by a stamped serial number. a plate could easily be removed. i have not found that you have to study “real hard” to pass the driver license test, and i have not found that whatever studying those other drivers did left them very well informed. there are a lot of really ignorant motorists out there who have their own version of the law they have told me to my fact they think is correct. i do not oppose educating people on how to get along safely in a crowded world, but i do oppose placing restrictions on access to a mode of human powered transport that does not kill a million something people a year worldwide.

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            • are August 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

              to my face, that is

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          • El Biciclero August 28, 2012 at 9:36 am

            “Should car drivers be required to take a driving test? Most people would say yes, bikes are no different…”

            Au contraire…bikes are very different. This is one thing that motorists, and even car-headed cyclists cannot seem to grasp. Is driving a 50-foot-plus “eighteen-wheeler” different from driving a Prius? Is operating a backhoe different from digging with a shovel? Is a nail gun different from a stapler? How about a machete or Samurai sword–are they different from a butter knife? Is a shotgun different from a baseball bat?

            If you can see (and name) the differences between the pairs of items I’ve listed above, then you are starting to understand the difference between driving a car and riding a bike. Yes, all road users should know and follow the law. If they don’t, that’s why police bureaus have Traffic Divisions–to hand out tickets. Tickets can be–and are–given to cyclists right now, no license required.

            Nevertheless, the consequences of legal ignorance or incompetent operation of a multi-ton motorized vehicle vs. the consequences of the same with a bike are vastly different. Like the backhoe and the shovel–operators of both are expected not to damage underground gas lines. But the ease with which one small miscalculation on the part of a backhoe operator could blow up a neighborhood makes it a much greater responsibility than Joe Blow poking around with a shovel. It is the effortlessness with which drivers can kill and destroy that requires them to be held to a (not much) higher standard than pedestrians or bicyclists. The same principle applies to registration of motor vehicles. They are so large, so expensive, and so potentially dangerous that they warrant having an eye kept on them. They belch smoke, drip oil, take up street space, are hard to move if they don’t run, require a title and, in many cases, a loan to purchase. Titles and loans by themselves necessitate some kind of tracking ability for the bank or dealership to keep track of their car until the buyer pays it off. There is rarely such a requirement for bikes.

            The differences are huge.

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            • 9watts August 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

              I want tickets to Huckaby vs El Biciclero. What’s the venue?

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              • Alan 1.0 August 28, 2012 at 10:18 am


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          • Pete August 28, 2012 at 10:38 am

            Are you saying the test you take once to get your license is adequate for ensuring you know how to drive safely on the road among other cars, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians? And what do you think all those fees cover? Most fees you pay are to simply cover the cost of administering licenses, and they rarely do that anyway. When’s the last time you had a pleasant time at the DMV due to the well-paid staff trained in customer service?

            Spend some time simply searching the Internet for stories of how well bike licensing works – and yes in many cases its intent was for identification (of the bike itself) not training the cyclist. Get back to me with examples of people showing that it works.

            Oh, and raise your hand if you’ve ever been right-hooked by a Student Driver with an instructor in the car who didn’t signal or look before she turned!

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  • Robert August 25, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Right hook! Right hook! Why doesn’t someone sue Portland and their goofy traffic department for designing bicycle lanes in such an unsafe manner. Keep Portland weird shouldn’t extend to TE basic principles of traffic design.

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  • esther c August 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I am not opposed to licensing. I think licensing for cyclist would give police a means to keep repeat offenders off the road. I think if one drives perhaps one could get an extra letter on their auto license so they could also ride a bike too, the way one does with motorcycles. If one doesn’t drive one could have a bike only license.

    Minors of a certain age would need their own license when riding unaccompanied on the road. When riding with a parent they would be on their parents license. Children below a certain age could ride on the sidewalk without a license.

    Registering bikes and making it dependent on the bikes serial number would cut way down on bike thievery. Parts of course would still be valuable. And people would still steal them and sell them in a jurisdiction where licensing isn’t required. I think we might see a few less street bums riding around on someones beloved mtn bike though.

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    • Ben August 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Assuming police would even stop anyone from doing so.
      You’re kidding me right?
      No it won’t, the serial number is only on the frame of the bike. Bike thieves know this, so they’ll jack everything else. What then?

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    • CaptainKarma August 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      I cannot even rebut this contributor, it’s beyond my flabbergastric superpowers.

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    • Ron August 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      You’re killin’ me! How many horrendous drivers are off the road because of Portland Police enforcement?

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  • Chuck August 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I think cyclists are not seeing the big picture on this. We are devoting whole streets for them, my ODOT dollars are going to this. Regardless of a situation a car/truck driver is at fault. I think if someone is using bicycle transportation from 6am to 6pm they should have to have an endorsement on their license/ID and have to carry some sort of insurance since it is their main mode of transportation. Should also have to go through ODOT and get a bicycle license plate.

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    • Kristen August 27, 2012 at 9:48 am

      I already HAVE a license and insurance. Because I also own a car. And I’ll be a lot of people commenting here also have have a license and insurance.

      I think EVERYONE should have to renew their licenses every two years and have to re-take the written test before their renewal is processed. Our laws change, and currently there’s no way to make sure that everyone is up to date on knowledge of the laws.

      Regardless of if I have a license or not, I also pay into the system that maintains and creates our city streets. So it’s also MY ODOT dollars you’re talking about.

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      • Kristen August 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

        Shoot, that should read, “I’ll bet” not “I’ll be”. Thoughts too fast for fingers this morning.

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      • wsbob August 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm

        I’ve seen the online available list of sample questions…not very comprehensive… for the driver’s license test, but I haven’t seen the questions on an actual written test many years ago. Could be the written test needs to require more thorough knowledge to pass it.

        And really, even for people that already have been driving for some years, periodically, an on the road driving test might be a good idea, along with an on the road in traffic bike riding skills test. For some applicants, among the list of required documents for renewal, birth certificate, etc., an update on physical condition from a doctor might not be a bad idea either.

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  • Pete August 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan, for thinking big ideas. Cyclists can create a better future if we have the wisdom and confidence to lead the policy discussion.

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  • 2wo Wheel August 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

    There are jerks that drive metal boxes and jerks that ride bicycles. We all can do better at obeying the basic laws of the road.

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  • Paul Tay August 26, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Now for the latest headline from America’s finest news source….Drunken Out of Control Cyclist Runs Red Light, Crashes into Hummer, Kills Driver and Passengers. http://www.theonion.com/

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  • was carless August 26, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I have a friend who was hit by a cyclist blowing a stoplight in the financial district. Broke his leg, and the guy rode off.

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    • Joe Adamski August 26, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      Your anecdote proves nothing except that thoughtless, uncaring people are multi modal.

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  • Joe Adamski August 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I think I’ve seen this movie before. At least 5 times. Each time it ends because there is no political will to follow through, the costs vs benefits don’t pencil out and ‘cycling’ covers everything from a 4yo on her Dora the Explorer bike to transportation cyclists to DUII offenders to gramma on her trike-bike trying to get to the grocers since she can no longer drive- how do you write a coherent policy that addresses the variety of cyclists and no single out any group? Or develop a licensing scheme that does not exclude people from riding, be revenue neutral, at least, if not cost the issuing government more than it collects?
    By the time anyone gets to even a partial solution, everybody else has moved on. It is a solution in search of a problem.

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  • Ryan August 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    We desperately need new law written for cyclists. Stop signs should be treated as yield signs (like 80% of cyclists do anyway). Red lights should be yield signs. I routinely roll through red lights — after yielding to cars first! Sometimes traffic is so bad I’m unable to do this, and so wait out a complete light cycle. That’s life! But under no circumstance should I be obligated to stop and wait for every red light to turn green before proceeding.

    The good news is that if this passes the police won’t be able to do squat about cyclists all over Portland going through reds and stop signs. Far too many of us and not enough of them. The behaviors will continue because it makes sense to do so on a bike.

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  • Greg August 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve not heard a single argument that makes me think licensing people to ride bicycles is an idea presented in good faith.
    I also think bicycle license plates serve no purpose except to limit cycling.

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    • wsbob August 27, 2012 at 12:36 am

      “I’ve not heard a single argument that makes me think licensing people to ride bicycles is an idea presented in good faith. …” Greg

      You could have explained what you meant by that remark, but you didn’t.

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to ‘make people think something’. That’s trickery, and there’s enough of that going on in this world already. What do you need to hear that will help you understand that encouraging people to acquire knowledge, training, skills and testing for riding a bike in traffic, and recognizing the accomplishment by the granting of, for example, a Rider’s License, could possibly be part of a bigger, broader plan that would make streets and roads safer for everyone to travel?

      The fact that encouraging people to work to get a license poses challenges does not mean people proposing the idea haven’t been serious about the idea and believe the idea could potentially offer real benefits to everyone.

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  • q`Tzal August 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    All I seem to be able to think up about this Wheeler/Huckaby scenario is “salt the fields, poison the wells and nuke from orbit” options.

    First of a full time camera needs to have been installed there watching this exact right hook problem playing out in full detail before any action was taken. PBOT is delinquent, not just in allowing this poor road configuration to exist this long but also in not collecting REAL EMPIRICAL DATA of what is happening in these collisions.

    Second: Google goes to a great deal of trouble to obscure visual detail in their map and street view imagery. There is a wealth of other visual records of drivers behaving badly; match up a license place with a known insurer and let the private insurer do the analytics on how they feel about renewing that policyholders plan next cycle. Public traffic camera taking video of public streets are holding a gold mine of info for auto insurance companies that could lower rates for consistently safe drivers. No ticket is written and publicly available video has only changed hands not money or private data. Use technology to obliterate the anonymity that socially facilitates dangerous driving.

    Much as I would love permanent draconian punishment for chronically dangerous drivers I don’t see that as something our current political structure can support in dollars or social push back. Policing SHOULD be a government matter but I seems we can’t afford it.

    But we don’t need police or money as much as we use to; we live in an era of massive free flowing streams of public data. This is the tool against deadly drivers and we just need to find a reliable way to weaponize it.
    You couldn’t expect to get away with running over a child with a horse and buggy in the 1800’s in a small town because people would see you, recognize you and report to someone who could do something about it. We can’t allow steel cage anonymity and convenience to undo social lessons learned over the last 1000 or so years.

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    • Brad August 27, 2012 at 9:32 am

      Nuking that intersection from orbit is the only way to be sure!

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  • Skid August 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

    So at what age can you get a bicycle license? Unless it”s middle school age you’d basically be ending the growth of cycling by outlawing kids from riding bicycles in the street. You’d also be outlawing anyone who can’t afford public transit or a license from getting around by bicycle. The people who need a bicycle the most would be the ones impacted the most.

    The best thing about cycling is its open access for ALL no matter what age you are or how much money you have, all you need is a bike.

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    • wsbob August 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

      “…Unless it”s middle school age you’d basically be ending the growth of cycling by outlawing kids from riding bicycles in the street. …” Skid

      Having a process involved in getting a bike rider’s license, would encourage people to develop knowledge and skills for riding in heavy traffic…for example, like that on Broadway at Flint and Wheeler. Young kids under the age of say..12 years wouldn’t be, or hopefully because their parents don’t allow them too…riding in this kind of heavy traffic; they don’t need ‘ride in heavy traffic’ skills.

      Getting a bike license wouldn’t necessarily have to cost anything to the person receiving it. The question of whether or not a rider’s license should be individually paid for, would be just one detail that could be considered if serious discussion about bike rider’s licenses were to move forward. The value to the public, of having people that travel by bike be more consistently equipped with skills required to safely travel in heavy traffic, might come to be recognized by the public as worth the expense of offering licenses at no individual charge.

      There would be no outlawing people from getting around by bicycle; If the idea of licenses to ride a bike in heavy traffic were somehow satisfactorily worked out and approved, people that didn’t have a license wouldn’t necessarily have to receive one, or pay a penalty for not having one if they were stopped for a violation. If they were stopped for a violation, at that point, they could be obliged to proceed to do the study, pick up the skills and prove they have them through a test.

      Some people seem to think the call for people to acquire licenses for use of a bike in heavy traffic is almost strictly a strategy to discourage people from riding, or cost them a bunch of money. It’s not that. What it is, is one possible means of having people that bike become more proficient with skills and knowledge to help them travel more safely amongst motor vehicles, and all vehicles for that matter in traffic situations, particularly heavy traffic situations.

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  • CaptainKarma August 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Before taxpayer money is spent on studying or voting on this issue, where does this work in the US now? Anywhere? All I ever hear is tried, failed. Wasted time, money.

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    • Opus the Poet August 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      It hasn’t worked anywhere in the world to this point, that is part of the problem. Another part of the problem is interstate travel. When driver’s licenses was first being implemented people driving from one state to another was sharply limited by the infrastructure available. Not many roads crossed state lines and the only other forms of land transportation that did were stage coaches and trains, so there was next to no problem of out-of-state drivers.

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  • El Biciclero August 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    “Having a process involved in getting a bike rider’s license, would encourage people to develop knowledge and skills for riding in heavy traffic…”

    I don’t understand how anyone could be required to have a license to ride in “heavy traffic”, but not need one to ride in “light traffic”. I don’t think it’s possible to require a license only under certain transient and unpredictable conditions. Might as well require a license to ride in the rain, but not when it’s sunny. There is a fundamental problem with characterizing a license requirement as only applicable if one is to ride “in heavy traffic”, or even “in traffic”. What does that mean? When does traffic become heavy enough to require a license? The only way to characterize it is to say a license is required or not. We can’t try to make it sound more palatable by attempting to convince people that it would only be for “hard core” cyclists.

    Also, “having a process” with no legal requirement does not encourage anything.

    “Getting a bike license wouldn’t necessarily have to cost anything to the person receiving it…”

    This must be wrong on two levels: level 1 is cost. If there were no cost to individual licensees, then the funding to administer the system (no, it couldn’t be folded into the present-day operations of the D[M]V at no cost) would come from somewhere else. That funding could be much better used elsewhere. Level 2 is public acceptance. If you think The Public considers cyclists to be freeloaders now, wait until “they” have to pay for their licenses but “we” don’t…

    “There would be no outlawing people from getting around by bicycle… people that didn’t have a license wouldn’t necessarily have to receive one, or pay a penalty for not having one if they were stopped for a violation. If they were stopped for a violation, at that point, they could be obliged to proceed to do the study, pick up the skills and prove they have them through a test.”

    Well, there you go–this is called “Traffic School” and could very well be used as a means to educate those who have a demonstrable need for education. Classes could be tailored to the particular type of vehicle that was in use at the time of the citation. Cyclists stopped on their bikes would go to bike traffic school, and drivers would attend the motor vehicle version. I would argue, though, that compelling violators to attend a class prescribed as a penalty for a traffic infraction is not the same as requiring a license.

    “Some people seem to think the call for people to acquire licenses for use of a bike in heavy traffic is almost strictly a strategy to discourage people from riding, or cost them a bunch of money. It’s not that. What it is, is one possible means of having people that bike become more proficient with skills and knowledge to help them travel more safely amongst motor vehicles, and all vehicles for that matter in traffic situations, particularly heavy traffic situations.”

    The call to require a license is exactly a ploy by non-cyclists or park-only riders to discourage cycling on the street, or at the very least, punish cyclists for their scofflaw ways–if the cops won’t give them tickets, then by golly, we’ll make them pay one way or the other! It’s hard to tell whether requiring a license or requiring a helmet would discourage more folks from taking up cycling for transportation. How is an optional, free license a means of making anyone more proficient? What is the motivator? There are already free or low-cost commuting workshops, basic bike maintenance classes, etc. for those who are already motivated to attend such things.

    A license would either be required (under very explicit circumstances, not just “in heavy traffic”) or not.

    If it isn’t required, then discussion over–there is no need to waste taxpayer dollars on fluff.

    If it is required, then it will cost something to someone.

    If it costs cyclists, then it is a barrier to cycling and a burden on the very poor who use a bicycle to get around.

    If it costs “The Public”, it will be seen as yet another “amenity” for freeloaders who still don’t follow the rules to everyone’s satisfaction.

    It will need to be enforced (else see “not required”). If enforced, it will create a de facto “stop-and-identify” law that applies only to cyclists, and again serve as a discouragement for the “interested but concerned” potential cyclist–one more thing to be “concerned” about.

    If enforced, there will need to be some penalty for getting caught without a license–what will that be? First time? Second time? Third time? It’s a little too easy to seize a bike on the spot if an officer feels particularly grumpy or vindictive–giving any pretext for bike confiscation would be very bad.

    On top of all of that, requiring licenses will do just about nothing to increase compliance with traffic laws among the cycling public.

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  • Garrett August 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I think this issue is being approached from the wrong angle. It may be possible to create a bike licensing scheme that is voluntary but has enough perks that it will be desirable to most people.

    For example, have an optional bike test that can be taken starting at age 13 or 14 for a marginal fee (just enough to cover most admin costs. It looks like Oregon charges $9 for the drive test so it wouldn’t be very expensive) but in exchange for successfully passing, some of the costs of obtaining a driver’s license are reduced (like reducing the number of required hours from 50 to 40).

    Or maybe passing the bike license test removes one point from your license similar to the way traffic school does. Since these are folks that have received a moving violation, this would have an additional effect of educating what are probably the most dangerous drivers on the road.

    And if people were required to retake the driver’s license test every few years when they renew (which I think is a good idea), maybe passing the bike license test would exempt you from one or two of those tests.

    I’m sure other people can think of additional perks to sweeten the pot.

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  • jim August 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I heard the traffic report today there was an accident at wheeler and broadway. can’t stop all of them

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  • Mickey August 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

    The state is going to take up the issue of licensing just to end the virtual noise and conflicts. They’ll use the existing template for licensing and registering bicycles that they use now for automobiles, and for people who think that will be an inconvenience because of the number of bikes they own, talk to someone who collects cars, you will get used to waiting in lines or you will get rid of some bikes. To think that reason, logic, rational choice, or practicality would enter into the licensing bicycle riders debate is ridiculous and ignores the history of US politics, and the technological, economic, and ideological legacy concerning the development of our roadways and their laws, or the fact that reason and logic have very little to do with riding bicycles or driving cars.
    One of the main reasons the state would be in favor of licensing bicycle riders is so they can take those licenses back. The licensing of riders would also encourage the expression of the states’ authority through the citizenry policing themselves and each other, the license being a form of consent to the rules (many bicyclists already voluntarily scrutinize the streets with video cameras for “safety”). This kind of increased obedience to the rule of law I guess would be the ““better behavior from the next generation of riders” the editor is talking about (obviously no brakeless BMX going on in the streets from this hypothetical future generation).

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  • beth h August 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I believe that the idea of a “Department of Vehicles” paints with far too broad a brush. Lumping bicycles and cars into the same system — and the same landscape, with the same car-centric public perceptions — does a grave disservice to those of us who ride bikes as our primary (or only) transportation.
    I would oppose creating a Dept. of Vehicles as much as I insist on calling myself a bicyclist. Because I am one, unapologetically; and because although more people are riding bikes these days we are still doing so in a landscape that heavily favors the automobile. I do not believe that changing terminology (referring to “people on bicycles” rather than “bicyclists” does much to change public perception. Those who rive still resent me for choosing to ride, because on some level I have skirted some of the most oppressive trappings of “adulthood” — automobile ownership, licensure and insurance — and as a result I enjoy a kind of freedom they do not. I don’t mind calling it like they see it. I see it the same way, without a shred of guilt. We all make choices.

    Requiring licensure of bicyclists (and insurance, because that comes next) won’t change that.

    Frankly, it’s far easier to require bicycle riders to be licensed than it is to provide for their safety on the roads — roads which, in the absence of separate bikeways, we must still share with faster, heavier, and far more dangerous automobiles.
    Automobile drivers don’t want to hear the truth about the costs of owning and driving a car. They don’t care about subsidies, they still feel the pain at the pump and when they see their quarterly insurance bill. They don’t want to see bicycle riders enjoy the benefits of “free” transportation. I insist that many of them are jealous of me and the 21 years I’ve lived without owning a car.

    Licensing and insurance without stepped-up enforcement are little more than revenue streams for the state and the insurance lobby, and ways to appease automobile owners without having to do a thing about bicyclists’ safety. I predict that both will eventually become law — without doing anything to improve bicycle safety in Oregon.

    I will deliberately disregard any law requiring me to get a bicycle operators’ license or bicycle operators’ insurance — and I will urge my friends to do the same — until I see some *real* effort to truly enforce the handful of laws written to protect those of us using slower, lighter and more vulnerable vehicles on the roads.

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    • 9watts August 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      Some impressive statements coming out of this discussion. Wow.

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    • El Biciclero August 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      It is my firm belief that nowadays, most folks who call for licensing/registration of riders/bicycles do so with a revenge motive. A lot of people see cyclists just as you describe–as somehow cheating the system. They don’t think it seems “fair” for cyclists to get a “free” ride.

      I’ll tell you about “free”.

      “Free” means inhaling the exhaust and dust spewed or kicked up by drivers. “Free” means drivers frequently coming within seconds or inches of killing or injuring me, and having such a cavalier attitude about it as to be considered contempt. “Free” means paying in time and physical effort for what drivers pay for in cash. “Free” means getting roasted by the sun and drenched by the rain. “Free” means taking a longer (often MUCH longer) route–even though I am already also going slower–than I would take in a car because it is “safer”, or because the direct route is literally and legally off-limits to bicycle travel. “Free” means having my spouse come nearly to tears when I mention trying a new route to work that involves an unprotected left turn. “Free” means having other people consistently think they need to act like my parent and tell me where I “should” or “shouldn’t” be. “Free” means observing 10 to 15 serious traffic violations by auto drivers in one trip home from work–two or three of which directly endanger me–while knowing most folks consider me to be the scofflaw menace. “Free” means reading comments on “news” articles by troglodytes who think it would be funny to watch me die. “Free” means that were I ever to be involved in an altercation with a driver in which police were involved, my story would likely be automatically discounted/disbelieved because I was not also in a car. Oh, and “free” means I still pay taxes that contribute to the construction and maintenance of roads that are destroyed by cars.

      “Free” also means that I can hear birds singing and the actual flapping of ducks’ wings as they pass over my head–on the way to work. “Free” means I can tell what most of my neighbors are having for dinner by the smell as I glide along the street. “Free” means “no gym membership necessary”. “Free” means I can feel the thermal micro-climate fluctuations as I sweep past low-lying woodsy areas. “Free” means I can hear the leaves crunching under my wheels in the Fall. “Free” means I only fill up the car (if I have a car) once a month or less, rather than every week. “Free” means I can do much of my own vehicle maintenance, rather than pay a mechanic the cost of a brand new bike to fix some car problem. “Free” means that I can still feel strong, even as I get older. “Free” means I can stop and chat with friends I might see walking along the sidewalk. “Free” means I care more about the weather report than the traffic report. “Free” means that if I ever do need to take the car (if I own a car) in for repair, I can leave the car and don’t have to get a loaner or bum a ride to get home. “Free” means that using my vehicle often feels more like playing a musical instrument than operating a mechanical device. “Free” means I might avoid a lot of the prescription drugs and healthcare costs associated with sedentary lifestyles. “Free” means I have a much lower chance of backing over my own kid in the driveway. “Free” means I know how to drive a car, but if I don’t have one or the one I have is broken down, I don’t necessarily care. “Free” means that even when drivers yell or rev their engines or attempt to guess my sexual orientation, I know I don’t need to do any of those things to other people to make myself feel big and strong; I am strong.

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  • wsbob August 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Since it seems some of you people such as El Biciclero and 9watts…might as well include bikeportland’s editor Maus…refuse to devote thought to anything other than refuting any possibility that, through eduction, testing, and licensing, the safety of people that bike in traffic in traffic, could be increased…let’s hear more about your suggestion, which seems to be ‘enforcement’.

    I, and I’ll bet some others reading here too as well, would like to read, instead of vague wishful thinking notions, how some of you realistically imagine bike road user safety on heavy traffic commuter routes such as the Williams Ave and Broadway commuter routes can really be significantly improved on a long term basis, by enforcement.

    Some of you seem to think bike/motor vehicle collisions happen almost entirely because people that drive don’t care sufficiently about the safety of bike road users, or that people that drive aren’t worried about getting citations because the penalty isn’t stiff enough. I believe both of those thoughts are misconceptions and wrong conclusions. If you’re thoughts on this are correct though…which again…I think they’re not…then you should definitely put all the effort you can muster, in using police enforcement against road user violations.

    I think there might be fairly wide support from the public for programs that would equip people that bike…especially those intending to bike that never have before, or that have never even driven…with knowledge and skills for riding in traffic. I don’t think there will be a lot of public support for increases in police enforcement at various road situations specifically to somehow attain a higher level of safety for bike road users; a primary reason being the percent of overall road users that travel by bike continues to be very small…less than 10 percent in most places.

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    • 9watts August 28, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      “…refuse to devote thought to anything other than refuting any possibility that, through eduction, testing, and licensing, the safety of people that bike in traffic in traffic, could be increased…”

      let us review what Huckaby views as the problem:

      – not right hooks (hundreds? in Portland/yr)
      – not seriously injured cyclists (~43,000/yr in US)
      – not distracted driving (~3,000 deaths/yr in US)
      – no, it is people riding bikes failing to observe stop signs

      What is Huckaby’s proposed solution?

      – requiring licenses for those who ride bikes.

      His framing of the problem is already skewed toward the vindictive and away from a rational assessment of harm or risk as experienced/meted out on our streets. On top of that the relationship between the problem so identified and the proposed solution is extremely tenuous. I can’t get too wrapped up in this matter of educating cyclists in this context because the framing to me is so preposterous. It reminds me of that legislator, Mitch Greenlick, who wanted to crack down on unsafe bike trailers ostensibly because he was keen on protecting children, but without any statistics to show anyone had actually been injured in or by such an unsafe bike trailer. These are solutions looking for problems.

      He’s demonstrably not concerned with injuries but with what he sees as untoward behavior by one group that he finds irksome. Since he’s not bothered by injuries to people riding bikes I’m not motivated to discuss how a hypothetical and implausible licensing effort *might* conceivably be tweaked to improve things for people on bikes. The whole proposal is a red herring, an obfuscation of the real problems, and not a gesture made in good faith.

      As to your point about enforcement. I don’t think that was something I suggested. I’m for reducing speed limits, reduced speed differentials between modes. That has an enforcement component, but I don’t think it is usefully reduced to that.

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      • wsbob August 29, 2012 at 12:08 am

        Forget Huckaby, at least for the moment. There should be other persons besides him in Portland with ideas about how greater safety might be achieved for people that bike on busy thoroughfares.

        He, so far without offering some suggestions about possibly realistic ways the idea might be put together, recommended licenses for people that travel by bike, and possibly for the bikes they ride. In comments to this thread and others, I elected to accept his idea as encouragement to take it a step further and think of ways the idea of Rider’s Licenses might be used to help improve the ability of people that travel by bike on busy city streets, to do so more safely.

        At least here amongst bikeportland readers, it seems the idea that people riding bikes might have to sharpen their bike specific traffic skills and demonstrate in some sort of simple, official test that they have them…isn’t a popular idea.

        I’m sorry to burden people with unpopular ideas, but the fact is, very few people seem to be willing to think about and venture realistic ideas for dealing with difficult, skill demanding traffic conditions existing for people that must bike on busy thoroughfares, not just on Williams or Broadway-Wheeler-Flint, but on many other complex thoroughfares across the metro area.

        Again, you and anyone else that are not prepared to consider possible approaches to improvements in safety for people that travel by bike, through encouraging them to acquire bike in traffic specific eduction, testing, certified by licensing…state your suggestions for realistic alternatives.

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        • 9watts August 29, 2012 at 8:15 am

          “Forget Huckaby, at least for the moment. …state your suggestions for realistic alternatives.”

          I’m happy to forget Huckaby.

          Now that I’ve forgotten Huckaby I can’t remember what it was we were talking about. Realistic alternatives to what?
          Oh, yes – “how greater safety might be achieved for people that bike on busy thoroughfares.”

          – police forces are reminded of the VRU and how/when it pertains
          – instead of stings at Ladd’s Addition how about scheduling them at Wheeler & Broadway and other locations where serious injuries are known to occur?
          – strengthen requirements/shorten intervals for renewing one’s driver’s license; mandate driver education classes
          – copy the Netherlands in offering early and frequent bicycle riding classes in secondary schools (they manage to decouple this idea of proficiency from the nutty licensing idea)
          – keep thinking about and studying how well the ongoing reductions in speed limits is working out for everyone, what compliance rates are like
          – billboard campaigns that instead of ‘drive more save less’ advocate vigilance around people on bikes. Heck, why not throw in some alarming statistics on those billboards about distracted driving’s effects on the more vulnerable participants in traffic? 3,000 deaths per year ought to be worth communicating, no?

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          • 9watts August 29, 2012 at 8:23 am

            a quick google search revealed this:


            and this:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16AO0_08r3o (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16AO0_08r3o)

            “….Every year in April some 200,000 school children in the Netherlands take a “Verkeersexamen” (traffic test). The 12 year olds will start secondary school in the following school year. An overwhelming majority of these children will get to secondary school on their bicycles. Rides of up to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) one way are no exception. In an effort to make traffic safer the children have been taught about traffic rules since they were very young. Now it is time for their final test.

            In this video some images of the practical test in Utrecht: a 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long bike ride though normal traffic. The children are being monitored and those who pass the test receive a “Verkeersdiploma” (traffic certificate). This year some lucky children in ‘s-Hertogenbosch got the certificate from the hands of the Netherlands’ future queen, Princess Máxima, who opened this year’s test season. With her presence she underlined the importance the Dutch give to children’s traffic safety and education….”

            Here in the United States, I never heard of anything approaching this level of child safety. We concentrate on scaring children straight to avoid strangers, drugs, and even life, but nothing positive like this education in living and coping positively in an increasing crowded world.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 29, 2012 at 9:20 am

      hey wsbob,

      I’m all for more education. I have never said/written that it’s all about enforcement against one type of road user. We absolutely need more education, especially for bicycle riders because bicycle laws and operational skills are not given the same amount of state-mandated and funded educational resources that auto laws/driving are.

      We can expand education for all road users, but it will take some money. Now, is the populous willing to tax themselves to pay for it?

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      • wsbob August 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

        “…We can expand education for all road users, but it will take some money. Now, is the populous willing to tax themselves to pay for it?” Maus (Publisher/Editor)

        I think the public, especially many of the people having to drive motor vehicles and travel the roads with them alongside people traveling by bike, may be willing to pay to for increasing the skills people traveling by bike have for riding in traffic.

        Ideally, one could hope the easier thing would be for some of the people that ride…they being the vulnerable road user…to improve their in-traffic riding skills on their own without some statewide in-traffic bike skills management program having to be introduced to attempt to accomplish this for them. Or, measures of some other type that could be even less popular than requiring people that ride in traffic to study and test for skills to ride in traffic and carry a license proving they’ve done the work.

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    • El Biciclero August 29, 2012 at 9:29 am


      I don’t think anyone is against education with the aim of increased safety. Here is the fundamental problem with proposing licensing instead of enforcement: you can’t require licensing without also requiring more enforcement–if only to ensure people have the required license. If you make licensing optional, so enforcement on that front isn’t necessary, then you lose all** incentive for people to get tested and “licensed”, leaving only existing laws to be enforced. No matter what you pick, it’s all ineffective without enforcement.

      So, as long as enforcement is required, why not enforce the laws that currently exist, but instead of handing cyclists $240+ fines for running stop signs, send them to bike traffic school and cut the fine in half (call it “tuition”)? That likely doesn’t appeal to law enforcement because of the potential loss of revenue…

      **Garrett had a pretty good idea to entice optional “licensing”, or more accurately, “certification” by attaching incentives to getting educated–this is the voluntary, preemptive flip side of what I was proposing with traffic school for recipients of citations.

      Another option that has been proposed is to return some kind of bike education to public schools. If we’re willing to pay for a new slice of bureaucracy to enforce mandatory bike licenses, we should be willing to pay for an after-school Biker’s Ed. class.

      And yes, there is the driver component. I don’t think it is entirely accurate to suggest that uneducated cyclists are the majority of the problem with traffic safety vis-a-vis bikes in conflict with cars. If we want to require something, how about requiring Driver’s Ed. before getting a driver’s license? How about including a more extensive section of the driver’s test for bike-specific laws and applications of laws?

      I would further suggest that lack of education is only a part of the problem when it comes to bad traffic behavior. I think most folks know that STOP means “stop” and the speed limit is a limit, but that doesn’t to one whit to entice people to actually stop or stay at or under the speed limit. People will generally do whatever they think they can get away with. Fear of enforcement is the biggest motivator for most road users to follow the rules.

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      • wsbob August 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm

        “…Here is the fundamental problem with proposing licensing instead of enforcement: you can’t require licensing without also requiring more enforcement–if only to ensure people have the required license. …” El Biciclero

        Doesn’t take long for an officer to write out an additional citation for not having the required license. With a law obliging people above a given age to have a license to ride in traffic, a citation for not having the required road user’s license is probably what would happen if someone traveling by bike was stopped for violating a traffic regulation.

        Development of the simplest but most effective possible, bike in traffic skills procedures, could be one of the more beneficial outcomes of a licensing program for people that have need of biking in traffic.

        If the techniques and procedures that were part of it were heavily publicized for the period in advance of the final date after which possession of a license was required, many people might come to be at least aware of and possibly familiar with many of the procedures this way, rather than through studying a manual.

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        • 9watts August 30, 2012 at 7:17 am

          “… bike in traffic skills procedures, could be one of the more beneficial outcomes of a licensing program for people that have need of biking in traffic.”

          you’ve got it backwards, bob. Tail wagging dog. The Dutch skip this nonsense, and just teach the dogs lots of useful tricks.

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          • wsbob August 30, 2012 at 11:57 am

            Not at all backwards. Give people the knowledge beforehand to avoid getting violations and there could be fewer violations.

            This isn’t the Netherlands, and we don’t have the street road and street infrastructure the Netherlands has. It could be a very long time before Portland and the U.S. has a system similar to that of the Netherlands. I’ve posted the following story link before for it’s explanation of ‘Strict Liability’, but actually, it’s a two part story that also explains how the Netherlands overcomes to no small part, conflicts between motor vehicle and bike traffic…’Sustainable Safety’:


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        • El Biciclero August 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm

          “Doesn’t take long for an officer to write out an additional citation for not having the required license. With a law obliging people above a given age to have a license to ride in traffic, a citation for not having the required road user’s license is probably what would happen if someone traveling by bike was stopped for violating a traffic regulation.”

          Yes, but you’ve said before that “enforcement” isn’t the answer. Here, though, you as much as state that “enforcement” is how to ensure compliance with any license requirement. Your quote above suggests that a cyclist would get stopped for violating an existing law, then possibly have another violation tacked on for failure to be licensed. I am saying that if we can stop and cite cyclists for violating existing laws, we should do that and stop there. The change, if any, should be in the requirements for disposing of the citation–add an educational component to the penalty.

          Before you point it out, I know I said “more” enforcement in my earlier comment; I meant that in two possible ways (ambiguous, I know): “more” as in, “now there’s an extra law to enforce”, and also “more” as in, “we should make more effort at enforcing existing laws”. The latter is what would be required in your scenario, else we have the exact same situation that exists today, licenses or not.

          Further, a “license to ride in traffic” is an ambiguous thing: it is either a license to ride, period, or “no license required”. “In traffic” is open to such a wide range of interpretation as to be a meaningless qualifier.

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          • wsbob August 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm

            “Yes, but you’ve said before that “enforcement” isn’t the answer. …” El Biciclero

            It’s not the answer, exclusive of taking steps to ensure road users that travel by bike have better knowledge and skills to make their way safely through traffic amongst motor vehicles. Enforcement would go on just as it does presently. Citations issued for not having received the license through studying and testing, would be coincidental, just as Driver’s Licenses are.

            I’ve opted to say “license to ride in traffic”, because that’s where the need for an emphasis on bike specific skills to ride particularly exist: big thoroughfares, Downtown…places like that.

            If people were to discuss further the idea of having people that ride get licenses, I don’t know how a lot of specific details would work out, but for example, I think some provision should be made so the emphasis on the requirement for knowlede-skills-license, would be confined high congestion areas, rather than on side streets, out in the country, or just general riding.

            It’s high congestion areas where bike in traffic specific skills are especially needed. People shouldn’t be required to have license to ride a bike. The reason, probably the sole reason for the license, should be to encourage people to learn and consistently use visible, recognizable, safe in-traffic skills where they’re particularly needed.

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            • 9watts August 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

              “It’s high congestion areas where bike in traffic specific skills are especially needed.”


              can you remind me what the problem is that a bike licensing scheme is meant to address? Oh, and how that scheme would help solve that problem?


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              • wsbob August 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm

                Go back and read my previous comments. People seem to have different reasons for obliging people that ride bikes, to have license. My own thought is that the best reason for such a plan, would be to encourage people that ride bikes in traffic, particularly heavy traffic conditions…to learn skills that would help them work better with other road users to help everyone travel more safely in traffic.

                The license would essentially serve the purpose of saying; The holder of the license has learned certain formal techniques and procedures for traveling by bike in traffic, and has been tested for knowledge of and ability to use them.

                Check out what people that want to ride motorcycles in Oregon need to do to get their license to ride. That they’re required to get certain motorcycle in traffic specific knowledge and skills, is, I believe…because relatively speaking, people traveling by motorcycles are a form of vulnerable road user.

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              • 9watts August 31, 2012 at 8:36 am

                But why a license? Why not a certificate? We don’t get a license when we graduate from high school? A license in this context seems to predictably arise from within a punitive mindset. ‘We need to be able to hold them accountable, punish them for infractions.’ But as El Biciclero has pointed out that option already exists. If training, competence, knowledge were really the purpose there are many ways to pursue and accomplish this that omit the pejorative, punitive, vengeful dimensions.

                And, as has been said here dozens of times, the existing licensing scheme we have for cars doesn’t produce the results you are imagining such a scheme would if applied to people who bike, so why go through all these contortions, emulate a system that is failing to instill exactly those skills and competencies you highlight?

                I’ve copied below some interesting language found in a google search for ‘license vs certificate’


                A license is a permission to do something that otherwise is forbidden. In most cases, a license is required or mandatory for engaging in that activity. For instance, a drivers license is considered mandatory to drive a car on the public roads. An exception is that a house may be built by someone who is not a licensed contractor.

                A license is given by the government, and is a government privilege. It therefore presumes that the activity in question is a privilege, not a right. The privilege may be bestowed by the federal, state or local government.

                A license involves the police power of the state. That is, if one violates the licensing law, either by acting without a license, or failing to uphold the rules governing the license privilege, one is subject to prosecution under the civil or criminal laws of the governing body.

                The purpose of licensing, whether admitted or not, is to restrict entry and control a profession or activity.


                Certification is a statement or declaration that one has completed a course of study, passed an examination, or otherwise met specified criteria for certification.

                Certification is not a permission to act, but rather a statement of completion or qualification.

                Certification is a private matter, issued by a private organization. It does not involve the police power of the state, and is not a state privilege.

                Certification is based on the premise that there is a right to work. Certification only provides the consumer with more information about a practitioner. It also gives practitioners a way to increase their competency through a course of study and exams, and to advertise or inform others of their completion of this course of study.

                The purpose of certification is mainly to set standards, educate practitioners and inform the public. It may, however, be used to control entry if combined with state laws. See the section below on ‘combinations’.

                from here: http://www.anma.org/licvscert.html

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              • wsbob August 31, 2012 at 6:09 pm

                “…the results you are imagining such a scheme would if applied to people who bike, …” 9watts

                That I’m imagining? Since you didn’t suggest what you thought they might be, I have little idea what it is you seem to think I’m imagining that encouraging people to study and test for a bike road user’s license would accomplish.

                As with study and testing to receive a driver’s license, and a motorcycle endorsement, people do get an introduction to Oregon law relative to rules of the road. They get tested for their knowledge of that material, and they get an on the road test with a state approved driver’s/motorcycle rider examiner. Something similar to this with a bike specific emphasis could form the basis for a bike in traffic rider’s license.

                That’s not punitive, it’s educational. This is the bottom line: education and skills to better equip people to ride in traffic.

                In the case of providing people with qualifications for bike use in traffic, if it makes people feel better to have the verification of study and testing to be called a certificate, rather than a license, that may not necessarily be a critical detail.

                People stopped for violations would still be subject to citations. For a first violation, maybe there could be a waiver for not having undergone the procedure to get the rider’s license/certificate, but after that one time, they’d be obliged to get one. There could be exceptions to an obligation to learn and test for a license/certificate. For example, I believe people over 41 years having a driver’s license, don’t have to take the state required motorcycle riding class. Some bike in traffic license/certificate requirement exceptions could be considered as well.

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  • Mark A. August 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Is riding a bicycle a priviledge or a right? A bike license makes it a priviledge, like driving a car, which can be taken away upon too many infractions. I feel it is more a of right, like walking. You cannot be banned from walking the streets no matter how much you might jaywalk, for instance.

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    • Mark A. August 28, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      um, privilege, not priviledge

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  • Greg August 29, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Again, you and anyone else that are not prepared to consider possible approaches to improvements in safety for people that travel by bike, through encouraging them to acquire bike in traffic specific eduction, testing, certified by licensing…state your suggestions for realistic alternatives.

    I think licensing bicyclists may slightly improve safety. Licensing certainly doesn’t affect rampant law breaking by people driving cars.
    I think designing better roads and paths will improve safety significantly more, and is in fact how traffic engineers get people to slow down, not by teaching people to follow the speed limits.
    I think licensing is a red herring, with the intended result of limiting the number of people riding bicycles.

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    • wsbob August 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Obviously, not everyone seeking for people that ride bikes to have licenses to ride on streets and roads has a positive objective in mind.

      I think though that probably many more people having to drive…something like 90 percent of the people on the road… are simply interested in being able to rely on people that bike to be more consistently skilled in traveling in traffic on their bikes.

      Law breaking and rampant law breaking people that drive aren’t by any means the majority of people that are driving; they’re a minority. Enforcement is required to deal with the problem they present. Everyone else…people that drive and people that ride, are going to do much better if amongst all, a higher level of ability to deal with challenging traffic conditions is acquired.

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      • Greg August 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm

        Have you watched people drive? 90+% break a law on every trip. Full and complete stops at uncontested intersections are very rare. Speeding on highways is rampant. Drive the speed limit on the open highway and see how many vehicles pass you. See how many get *pissed* off, even if you’re in the slow lane. Signaling turns correctly is infrequent. Yielding to pedestrians is considered optional, even in polite Portland.

        People who drive cars think people on bikes are scofflaws because cyclists break a different set of laws than drivers.

        At the end of the day, most people do what they consider safe to do. Which is where engineering comes into play, changing what people consider safe to do.

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        • wsbob August 30, 2012 at 12:13 am

          I ride, I drive, and I walk. For the most part, the actions of road users I observe does not correspond to what you claim to see. In some situations, like the freeway, certain thoroughfares and neighborhood cut-throughs, there can tend to be a higher than average rate of road user violations.

          Something I’ve observed regularly while riding…experiences I’m relying on for suggestions I’ve made in comments to this story, is that people driving motor vehicles respond positively when I display clearly visible hand signals for a sufficient durations of time.

          Something else I’ve observed traveling in bike lanes, is that if I’m careful to regulate my position adjacent to motor vehicles in the main lane as we transition through an intersection, allowing myself an escape route, I’ve got a good chance of avoiding a right hook, should the person driving, for whatever reason, not acknowledge my presence and proceed to make a right turn.

          These are a couple of the things that prep for a bike in traffic Rider’s License and testing could provide people with before they set out in traffic on a bike. They could provide people that know them, with defensive safety measures that would help to protect against unsafe actions of some road users.

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          • 9watts August 30, 2012 at 7:37 am

            “Something else I’ve observed traveling in bike lanes, is that if I’m careful to regulate my position adjacent to motor vehicles in the main lane as we transition through an intersection, allowing myself an escape route, I’ve got a good chance of avoiding a right hook, should the person driving, for whatever reason, not acknowledge my presence and proceed to make a right turn.”

            Bob, that is precious.
            Have you already forgotten El Biciclero’s delightful description (July 31 response to you see link below) of how we who bike could reduce the chance of injury by staying out of the way of the man in the car, by skeddadling?

            “Regarding riding “style” and “self-fulfilling prophesies”: sure, we can all stay safe if we only ride in parks, or never ride on main arterials, always duck out of the way and sneak around in alleys and “greenways”, hoping they go where we need, or else “just driving” when needing to go somewhere that doesn’t have a “safe” route.”


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            • wsbob August 30, 2012 at 11:51 am

              In the excerpt of my comment that you posted, I was referring to a very specific situational strategy for transitioning through intersections amongst motor vehicles, rather than a very broad generalization about people on bikes avoiding collisions with motor vehicles…which more or less seems to be what El was talking about in his comment that you posted the link for.

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  • Dan August 29, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Law breaking and rampant law breaking people that drive aren’t by any means the majority of people that are driving; they’re a minority.

    I guess you’ve never sat at a corner for a few minutes to watch cell phone usage by drivers. I’ve seen it at 30-40% in places on my commute. What can all these people be talking about?!

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  • Brian August 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    If we’re going to require licenses from cyclists, than we should require that pedestrians have a license too. We spend millions making intersections safer for pedestrians, and what do we get in return? Nothing. Pedestrians don’t pay vehicle registration taxes. These freeloaders do nothing but impede traffic and force engineers to spend countless millions on safety improvements without contributing to the system. Require bicyclists to buy a license plate and have a license and you should require the same of people on two feet too. Just saying…

    Having said that, despite the fact that I pay license fees for a truck and a car and ride my bike roughly 6,000 miles a year, I’d gladly pay $100 a year to register my bike so people would shut up and leave me alone about whether I’m paying my way. In fact, I called the Oregon DMV and asked about obtaining a moped license for my bicycle and they told me I couldn’t purchase one because my bicycle doesn’t have a motor.

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  • Jim Labbe August 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Well said Jonathan.

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  • Alexis August 30, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Bike licensing/registration has been studied a number of times and then discarded, and even implemented and later repealed, because it’s very difficult to make it pencil out fiscally. In general, the cost to administer such a program exceeds the revenue that can reasonably be expected.

    A nice summary from Toroto: http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/licensing/issues.htm
    I didn’t turn up any easily-accessible studies, but there probably are some.

    In a high cost program, the cost of the license far exceeds the fair cost of the user to the system, discourages a desired activity, and is a burden on those who least need burdening. In a low cost program the expense of administering the program exceeds the revenue it generates.

    I’m very surprised to hear BikePortland say anything in support of it, considering the serious problems with the idea.

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  • Jon August 31, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Consider “an unfair penalty on people who drive” versus “an unfair penalty on people who drive well.” A bicycling license seems to be the same thing: an attempt to make cyclists more predictable and therefore safer for all road users, when the person suggesting the license has an unavoidable confirmation bias confirming the perception that most cyclists are poor road users. With that bias, of course immediate and strong steps should be taken to increase education and accountability. With my bias–that drivers aren’t sharing the roads appropriately–I should receive a significant tax credit for the civic good that my cycling creates.

    The problem is that we all make mistakes. Some people are jerks all of the time, but that’s not what I’m talking about. We all drive and/or bike like jerks sometimes, because we’re human and have limited ability to perceive, predict, and react. That’s why quality transportation infrastructure design is imperative as Portland’s population density increases. The root problem isn’t that we have to share our roads with jerks or distracted drivers and riders. The root problem is that we haven’t figured out how to design a truly multi-modal transportation system, and this road/intersection closure is a symptom of that problem–not a biker/driver education problem.

    Yes, part of good infrastructure is education about how to use that infrastructure effectively. I’m all for incentivizing bike training, but I don’t think that giving bike training to all road users would solve the N. Wheeler problem.

    As far as the cost issue–using cyclist licensing as a revenue source–I’d be happy to pay my fair share of the cost my cycling imposes upon the commons if drivers are willing to pay both for the upkeep of their roads as well as the value of the public land dedicated exclusively to automobiles. As far as I can tell, drivers roughly pay for the cost of road upkeep through fuel taxes, registration fees, etc. There is no need to specify who bears the cost of dedicated public facilities when the benefit is distributed evenly among the population, as is the case when most people get around by automobile, which was the case in Portland until relatively recently. However, with increased bike mode share, a significant and increasing portion of the population is paying for the land that bicycles-prohibited roads are built on. Simply put, my rent is higher because of property taxes that I’m paying for because of a government largesse to automobile users. The only justification for that is frictional, which is to say that it would cost unreasonably more to tax based on how much burden each user imposes on the whole than for everyone to pay evenly. This is becoming less and less rational as bike mode share increases. For now, I think we have a roughly a fair trade: drivers pay for the land and upkeep of bike facilities (which are relatively inexpensive) while cyclists (who are a relatively small share) pay for land that does not proportionately benefit them.

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    • 9watts August 31, 2012 at 7:53 am

      “For now, I think we have a roughly a fair trade: drivers pay for the land and upkeep of bike facilities (which are relatively inexpensive) while cyclists (who are a relatively small share) pay for land that does not proportionately benefit them.”

      Let’s not forget that ‘bike facilities’ are to a significant degree what I’d call defensive expenditures, necessitated by the overwhelming presence of the automobile and the dangers these pose to people riding bikes. As such it is a mistake to treat such facilities simply as something done ‘for bikes.’ Without the overwhelming presence of cars, we could skip the bike facilities, and side walks, and most of our expensive transport infrastructure, actually.

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  • dk September 6, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    “I agree with Bob. It’s unfair when the actions of one road user negatively impact another.”

    And How!!! oh, wait, he meant bicycles impacting autos…I thought it meant…never mind.

    I’d be interested to “measure” the negative impacts of each road user against the other.

    Lastly, I’m 100% in favor of testing and liscensing cyclists, I mean the facts are indisputable, look at how effective it’s been liscensing drivers. I don’t think we’ve had a single traffic related death in this country the whole year, it’s clear that the system works!

    Okay, one last lastly, why is it ok for an auto to slow from 30 to 10 at a stop sign, but it’s not okay for a bike to slow from 15 to 5 at the same stop sign?

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  • are September 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

    That’s not punitive, it’s educational.

    requiring someone to have a certification or a license or even to give their name to the state in exchange for exercising a basic right to move under their own power through public space is by definition punitive.

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