You know, there is nothing I hate more than blatant pandering. Robert Kirsic wrote this article about how there needs to be licensing for cyclists. So I decided I wanted to see who this Mr. Kirsic was a lo-and-behold on his linkedin profile he was “Communications Assistant at Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council”. To me that is like someone who worked for the cigarette companies demanding that nicotine gum be illegal, or that the Canadian cancer society shouldn’t be allowed to show diseased lungs…
Every couple of years Toronto goes through this hand wringing about licensing bicycles. The city has investigated licensing cyclists on at least three occasions in the recent past:
- 1984: focus on bike theft
- 1992: focus on riding on sidewalks, traffic law compliance and couriers
- 1996: focus on riding on sidewalks, traffic law compliance and couriers
Licensed bicycles would be easier to return to their owners if stolen, but we can see from the arrest of Igor Kenk that bike theft wouldn’t have been affected. The police knew who Igor was and what he was up to, they only stepped in after it got out of control. I lived near the infamous bike shop and everyone in the neighbourhood knew, and we knew if our bikes went missing to go by the shop. You could get upset, but if the police weren’t going to do anything about it who were you to?… Either way, since the 90s the focus with licensing has really been on compliance. The problem is, licensing does not curb bad behaviour. Ever seen a bad or dangerous driver? Guess what? They were licensed.
I cycle almost everyday. It is my preferred commuting method and I am a member of Lapdogs cycling club. I can tell you that we follow the rules of the road to a “t”, not only because we want to set a good example, but also because of how it reflects on the club. If the city is serious about riding on side-walks then they need to get bodies on the street handing out tickets. And I would fully support that! I don’t like dangerous cyclists any more than you do. But it is that simple, licensing won’t amount to shit we have to start ticketing. I have lost count the number of times I have seen someone ride past a cop, or seen a bicycle cop riding on the side walk.
Also, there are issues with attempting to license a bicycle,
- The difficulty in keeping a database complete and current
- The difficulty in licensing children, given that they ride bikes too
- Licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws.
- How do you deal with bike rental or bike share programs like Bixi
- The cost of registration wouldn’t cover the cost of administration
I can tell you as a cyclist one of the oft heard arguments I get from drivers is “I paid to be on the road, you didn’t!”
Ignoring the host of responses such as:
- I own a car and a bike so I did pay,
- I loose 40-50% of my income in taxes so I did pay
- I don’t cause as much wear and tear on the road as a car does, nor pollute which some of the car registration got towards,
- And my vehicle is much less likely to kill someone than a car,
if I had to register my bike I would start taking an entire lane, then remind everyone who complains that I too paid to be there and if they didn’t like it, they could kiss my cycling-toned ass. I already do take a lane which if you look at the vehicle code in Ontario is my right, but motorists frequently drift into my lane forcing me to the shoulder. Once I am licensed I am swinging my bike lock at windows if any car attempts to push me out of the way. The way I figure it is if you drive your car that close to me, you deserve it.
Now of course if there is a bike lane provided I would use it, in fact I would prefer it! But you have to get the fuck out of my bike lane first.
All in all licensing isn’t going to make cycling safer in Toronto. The money would not be used to enhance the bike network, or add bike lane barriers or anything like that. All it will do is deter more people from cycling and punish those of us who choose the better way to commute.