I came across this post at I Bike TO, and while I disagree with much of it (and I'm a bit suspicious of the author's grasp of insurance and personal injury law in Ontario), it does fit into something I've been thinking about lately: should we require bicyclists in the city to have licenses? Now, before everyone goes bonkers, just hear me out.
I'm a cyclist, and I love riding in the city. I commute to work on a bike, and I spend many weekend hours in the saddle for fun and fitness. But there are some real problems. The city still lacks the infrastructure to ensure bikes and cars can share the rode with the minimum risk to riders. Motorists remain somewhat hostile to the presence of cyclists on the street. And many cyclists are flat-out dangers to themselves and others. They don't know the rules (or choose to ignore them), ride unmaintained bikes, and lack the skill to safely navigate traffic.
Licensing addresses all of these problems. It can generate revenue to help pay for the implementation of Toronto's Bike Plan, an important benefit for a perpetually cash-starved metropolis. This revenue generation can also improve the relationship of the cycling community with Toronto citizens and other road users. Not only will cyclists be seen as contributing towards a more effective shared-road infrastructure, the bottom-line crowd won't feel like they're being overcharged to build something they don't use.
Licensing also gives Police recourse to stop dangerous cyclists. A bike license would include your home address, so any moving violations could be meaningfully punished through tickets and fines. And for the truly awful riders, licenses can be revoked altogether.
Of course, this licensing system should be thoughtfully designed. It shouldn't be prohibitively expensive - no more than $20 per year, and free for everyone under 16. And we should license riders, not bikes. This means each license is transferable among various rides for the cyclists with multiple steeds in the stable.
There are, as with anything, downsides. Any kind of a fee will likely discourage some from getting on their bikes. Again, this can be mitigated through careful program design. Those who truly can't afford to pay the fee should receive their license at a discount or even free, depending on the situation.
This plan will also galvanize the more militant cyclists, those who adopt the attitude that simply because bicycles are environmentally friendly, health-promoting wonder machines (and make no mistake, they really are) they are somehow exempt from the rules and restrictions imposed on other vehicles. Whenever you say something like "a lot of cyclists don't know what the Hell they're doing", cycling advocates fire back with "Yeah, but motorists don't know how to behave around cyclists, and their vehicles are waaaaaaaay more dangerous." This is true, of course, but somewhat past the point. The bad behaviour of one group can never be the justification for letting another group get away with theirs. It's a curious attitude, and one that doesn't lead to the most positive community relationships.
This is just me thinking out loud. I'm not 100 per cent sure this is a good idea, and there are bound to be a whole host of problems I've overlooked. I'd be really interested to get everyone else's thoughts on this. Leave 'em in the comments, be you so inclined.