Friday, July 15, 2011

Licensing Bicycles in Ottawa?

Both the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun posted articles about City Council musings regarding the potential of bike licensing in Ottawa.
Councillor Monette’s been suggesting that licensing will:
  • Help pay for cycling infrastructure (as I assume he feels cyclists aren’t property owners and tax payers already).
  • Help Police identify wrongdoers.
  • Aid in reducing bike thefts.
  • Ensure safe cycling.
Personally this issue seems like a waste of time, and I commented on the Sun’s website with the following:
“I find Monette’s inquiry interesting. Foolhardy perhaps, but interesting.
The very concept of licensing cyclists represents the cognitive dissonance so often exemplified by certain City officials. One hand openly promotes cycling, while the other sees the activity as problematic and in need of greater control/administration.
The issue of licensing bicycles in Canada has a storied past and one does not need to look far before it becomes clear that the concept fails to achieve the intended results. For instance, this issue has been examined by the city of Toronto – perhaps the nation’s best candidate for a licensing system – on three separate occasions.
Each study resulted in recommendations to reject licensing due to:
  • The difficulty in keeping databases complete and current.
  • The difficulty in licensing children, given that they ride bikes too.
  • The fact that licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws.
I would add that bicycle licensing will also set an unattractive precedent for other modes of transportation relied upon by city residents. Though bicycles are the most popular alternative vehicle, many residents also rely on mobility scooters, e-scooters, skateboards/longboards, and rollerblades. All these forms of transportation share the roads and pathways with cars and bicycles. Should they fall under the same licensing requirements? Perhaps a glib argument but certainly a consideration.
Given Toronto’s findings, and our own – as referenced by your article, it is clear that any study into bicycle licensing in Ottawa will unnecessarily waste both time and money.
Instead, resources should continue to promote safe and respectful cycling in the city. And officials and residents should take pride in the steps this city has taken with respect to promoting the benefits of biking.
I for one am proud that Ottawa recently received a silver-level cycling friendly community award.
I am proud of the city’s progressive bicycle infrastructure – we’ve introduced the Bixi, downtown segregated lanes, the commuter park and cycle pilot, and the Cycling Safety Training Courses.
In fact, these are accomplishments we should all be proud of. These initiatives help to ease congestion on the roads, mitigate environmental impacts, and improve the health of residents. As both a biker and car owner, I am happy to see these benefits first hand.”
See the article and comments from the Ottawa Sun here: