Not any more

Toronto needs to revisit cycling licences

In Canada on August 4, 2010 at 08:38

There’s a greater push to make Toronto more bike-friendly. Montreal’s BIXI has been brought in to create a bike-sharing program, the TTC offers bike racks and lockers to passengers and, much to the chagrin of all motorists, bike lanes are being implemented unilaterally across parts of the city.

After this year’s election the city should look into licensing cyclists, again.

It's attempted to do this in the past, with little success. I think if the city is planning to make Toronto more bike-friendly this must be the next logical step.

According to the city’s website, there are three reasons why licensing would never work:

1) The difficulty of retaining a complete and current database.
2) The difficulty in licensing children.
3) Licensing does not necessarily change the behaviour of cyclists.

Here’s how I see this program working to address these issues:

1) The city creates a department of cycling. If it wants to privatize this service, I would have no objections, as it may be more efficient.

Cyclists would be required to test every two years. The system should borrow from motorist testing and make it graduated the first time through.

The city should also mandate that cycling stores and associations be brought into this plan and registered. Not only would these stores and associations help pay for the system, they can help educate and enforce the rules.

There would be a $200 licensing fee for cyclists and $500 registration fee for businesses and associations.

Some of the money would go towards addressing the first difficulty in retaining a complete and current database.

This department would hire a team of people located, for example, in city hall to administer and monitor the system, address any questions or concerns, and do the necessary follow-up and work associated with such a system.

A large part of the money should also go towards funding future bike lanes and projects in the city with input from those licensed and registered.

2) Children under the age of 16 would be exempt from licensing, which addresses the second difficulty, but it would be wise if local bike shops, associations, schools, after-school programs and summer camps could be persuaded to teach bike safety on an ongoing basis.

3) I will grant the city the benefit of the doubt that licensing may not change behaviours; it certainly doesn’t for some motorists.

But I think a functioning system, with input from those registered, plus greater enforcement will go a long way to changing current behaviour.

There would have to be stiffer fines and penalties. Maybe even introduce a points system that can affect registration and suspend licences. An enforcement unit could be created, in conjunction with police, to catch cyclists who don’t obey the rules and enforce the law.

I’m not proposing this to punish cyclists, rather, to make cycling safer and tie it in with the future plans of the city in making Toronto more bike-friendly.

This may even go a long way to bridging the divide between motorists and cyclists if cyclists are subjected to the same licensing, laws and rules motorists are.

By creating this system the city is tapping into a valuable resource by requiring cyclists, bike stores and associations to register, because, by default, they will have created their own group of experts to bounce ideas off of. This in turn will make the current cycling plan a more workable one.

I’m not a cyclist, but I know cars don’t rule the road exclusively. It’s time this petty argument between drivers and cyclists ends. There has to be mutual respect from both sides and the city.

Cyclists need to realize they need to respect the rules of the road just like drivers do.

Drivers need to realize they have to share the road and that people have made a choice to ride their bikes and leave their cars at home. Their commitment should be commended and not belittled out of jealousy and annoyance because your commute is now a few minutes longer.

The city needs to admit it's been fighting a “war on the car” and make its intentions clearer when it comes to making this city more bike-friendly.

My hope is that all mayoral candidates adopt bike licences as a plank to their individual transit plans. The time has come to implement this program.

About Robert Kirsic

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