Legislating cycling: for the good of cyclists or a form of punishment?

College Street
Photo of errant cyclists by Tino.

Even in the obscure corners that this blog occupies, we hear people enthusiastic about legislating cycling. Writing this post really feels like beating a dead horse long after its been buried and then exhumed and then beaten again. A small segment of the population remains enthusiastic about legislating cyclists and/or bicycles, so I feel a strong need to cover this territory again.

Toronto has studied the issue of mandatory licensing for cyclists a few times already. Each time the city's staff have studied the issue and come to the conclusion that it would be difficult to implement; and won't meet the assumed goals. The proponents aren't even clear on the means, whether it be licensing for cyclists or registration fees for bicycles or both, so the report has had to make guesses about the intentions and means.

What is the purpose of legislating cyclists? How is helping anyone? Let's look at the stated goals and see if they justify the means.

Make cyclists pay their fair share
This fringe also considers cyclists as "freeloaders" who are taking up road space paid for by the drivers. Former mayoral candidate Mammoliti promised to implement a bicycle fee to help ensure that cyclists paid their "fair share". Without an ounce of research they come to the conclusion that drivers pay for the streets through the licenses (complete nonsense) and that therefore cyclists should pay through a bike registration fee. It matters not a whit to them that city streets are paid through our property taxes regardless of the mode of transportation used. Nor does it matter to them the burden placed on society through air pollution, climate change, health care costs brought on by car-bound sedentary lifestyles, sprawl and so on.

Aside from the considerable evidence that cyclists pay more than their fair share, a license or registration fee would not produce much profit. Instead it would merely create its own perpetual motion money machine. The City report pointed out that the cost of obtaining a license to drive a motor vehicle is considerable, much the fee goes simply towards the administration of the system. If cyclists were required to get a license it could likely be more than the cost of their bicycle.

A license for cyclists would just create a bureaucratic black hole. No one would be happy with this result, except for the staff hired to stamp the licenses.

Enforcement
If cyclists have a license, or a license plate, then the police can enforce traffic laws, or so is the claim of proponents. The argument, however, doesn't stand. Police already have the tools for enforcement but often choose to focus on bigger crimes. Any cyclist can be stopped and fined for contravening the Highway Traffic Act. City staff pointed out that the police have limited resources and asked "Do we want them checking up on and enforcing licenses, or do we want them enforcing traffic laws?" Still one must give some benefit of the doubt when even the former Toronto Cycling Committee chair, Adrian Heaps, doesn't know that enforcement is possible without licenses: "Cyclists should be obeying the rules of the road. They should be subject to moving violations just like everyone else,"

Prevent bike theft
The fuzzy idea here is that a license on a bicycle would help prevent bike theft. Well, bicycles already have serial numbers stamped into the frame and cyclists can register their bikes for free. It's unclear how having to attach a removable license plate would reduce bike theft. In fact, it probably doesn't help at all.

Increase education of cyclists
This is an enticing idea, that requiring a license would increase the skill of cyclists and thus increasing their safety on the streets. Surely this is a noble goal. But even here the means fails in terms of practicality and fairness.

First, just who is required to get a license? What about children? Do we ban them from the roadway until they are old enough to pass an exam? What about recreational cyclists? "Sorry, I'd love to go for a bike ride this Sunday but my license expired last year." What about the occasional BIXI user? Forget it. All those people who might be enticed into using BIXI for a part of their journey just won't. What about people crossing municipal boundaries? Tourists aren't going to come with a license. Commuters from the 905 won't have one. What about recent immigrants? The poor? Through such legislation you are effectively making one of the last really cheap forms of transportation illegal. Something that is so accessible to these groups would become inaccessible and force them into paying for public transit or force them to pay large amounts for the privilege of riding a bike.

Second, given that administration eats up much of the cost of licensing, it doesn't really seem like a cost effective education system. Cyclists will have to first fork over the registration fee and then also pay someone to give them lessons. If education was really the goal isn't a more direct route to just include it in our education system? And if they got educated in school, why bother with a license since they'll already know how to cycle safely?

Does anybody license cyclists?
I could find no jurisdiction that has ever attempted to license cyclists. This in itself provides a strong clue that it is unfeasible and pointless. As for putting licenses on bicycles - or registering bicycles for a fee - smattering of jurisdictions have attempted this as listed by the Toronto Star. Toronto itself had a bicycle license law which was repeated in 1957. Most of them have abandoned mandatory bicycle licensing since it is so much work to administer and police have better things to do than to see if some kid has registered their bike.

Given the single-mindedness of the licensing proponents, despite the overwhelming problems, one might conclude that the real agenda here is punishment of cycling scofflaws. No one is saying this explicitly but it's no secret that the proposals for legislating cyclists are coming most strongly from the contingent on the right who just don't like cyclists. Well, if you were part of this group then you probably see licensing as just punishment for uppity cyclists. Best to put them in their place. There is no making sense with this group - they hate cyclists and want them gone. I'm just not sure why they haven't propose licensing schemes for pedestrians, skateboarders and rollerbladers.

As for the other minor group, the hardcore, vehicular cyclists who are also calling for licenses, I can only appeal to reason. Licensing is quite expensive and will produce the desired results of education at a much higher societal cost than just putting the money towards incorporating cycling into public education. It will end up excluding large numbers of people. Gone are the recreational cyclists, the poor, the recent immigrants, the BIXI users and the tourists.

The one thing that is similar between the anti-bike brigade and the vehicular cycling enthusiasts is that they both have a lot of contempt for the average cyclist and hold this view of them as scofflaws incapable of following any rules of the road. This an image perpetuated by the media. It's unfair and false. The average cyclist is boring in how they play it safe: stopping at red lights, wearing a helmet, riding on the right side of the road and so on. They're not perfect but it hardly seems reasonable to come down heavy on them.

We have to ask ourselves, if not punishment, why would we even consider this? The communal cost of legislating cycling will end up much higher than any supposed gain.

Comments

So, according to Tino, riding abreast is errant, but salmoning isn't?

But then, cyclists should be allowed to salmon, but shouldn't be allowed to ride abreast.

Pardon me for beginning to think that so-called activists like Tino are just making this shit up.

believe it or not, the oldest human rights measure in common law protects the right of personal mobility, the right to have no unlawful restraints placed on your movement. To quote Blackstone (via wikipedia)

The King is at all times entitled to have an account, why the liberty of any of his subjects is restrained, wherever that restraint may be inflicted.

The car, despite its ironic cultural status as a symbol of mobility and freedom, actually inflicts this restraint on large numbers of people. As Joseph Weizenbaum observed,

...a highway permits people to travel between the geographical centers it connects, but, because of the side effects that it and other factors synergistically engender, it imprisons poor people in inner cities as effectively as if the cities were walled in.

Given that the model of an owner-driven private powered vehicle sets an economic bar for mobility and requires a state credential (driver's license) to exercise it, then in order to make the fundamental common law rights protected by the great writ meaningful, we have to have some effective alternative. I would argue that the bicycle alone provides such an alternative, and therefore given the present state of technology and the current infrastructure of our society, a clear right to use a bicycle exists.

I would also point out that governments cannot require a license to exercise a right. A license means a permission to do something that, without such a license, would presumptively break the law. Thus we need a license to copy software someone else has written, operate two-tonne vehicles fueled by high explosive in public places, or prescribe dangerous drugs. Similarly, we do not need a license to attend a house of worship, grow a garden on our own land, take a walk or write a web-log, because we have a right to do such things. Once we allowing the state to convert rights to privileges, we stand to lose our freedom very quickly.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

Um, that's something I wrote, not Tino. It was meant to be sarcastic.

It's great to have a diversity of comments and critical thinking about issues with the occasional snappy comments to counter any blah-blah-blahging, but the post is under "herb's blog" and the mention of Tino's name is "photo by Tino"... the blatantly wrong target for a swipe = dismissing.

"governments cannot require a license to exercise a right. "

But they do have the right to regulate all kinds of behaviour, including operating bicycles if they so choose. If they choose to impose a licensing regime as part of that regulatory activity they would be permitted to do so.

A more interesting question is whether the City of Toronto Act permits the city to do so, or if this is something that must be done by the province through the HTA.

I should add that the very point of legislation is to oust the common law, and it is well within government's powers to do so.

  1. No city, state or country in the world requires cyclists to have a license.
  2. In locations where cycling is either growing rapidly, or well established, there is an overwhelming acceptance and accommodation for cycling - licensing would have the opposite effect.
  3. In the past 20 years licensing cyclists and/or bicycles has been investigated on at least three occasions by the City and Council rejected it every time because of:
    • the high cost to develop and administer a licensing program;
    • the difficulty in dealing with cyclists crossing the municipal boundary into the City;
    • the challenge of licensing children as well as adults; and
    • lack of support by the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
  4. Bike Licensing would open up avenues of revenue collection, either by insurance, registration fees, or simply on the basis of sustaining a program of Licensing & Enforcement alone.

Licensing cyclists doesn't make any sense, and so far neither have any of the people on this forum who support it!

and rights, as codified in law (and the Canadian Constitution codifies the right of free movement as enforced by habeus corpus) define those things the government cannot make choices about. The government can license behaviour the presumptively violates some law or right, but they cannot license the exercise of a right.

Governments license cars because the improper conduct with a two-tonne battering ram can and does kill. Governments license pilots because planes fly over all our heads, and can cause catastrophic damage in the event of an accident. None of these reasons hold for bicycles, and absent a clear, compelling and direct safety mandate, I do not believe governments can require bicycle licenses.

As Seymour points out, the whole idea of Toronto as a city government trying to license cyclists simply won't work.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

Is it just me, or does it feel utterly ridiculous that we even need to defend the "licensing of bicyclists". This is seriously the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard in my entire life. And we are actually wasting our time typing out a discussion about why it's unnecessary.

Could you imagine what it would be like if we had to renew a license plate for a bicycle every year? I'm laughing out loud just thinking about it.

And for those of us who have multiple bikes - we'd have to register each one of them?

I mean it's bad enough that we elected Rob Ford to be mayor, but if this city actually implemented (and enforced) bicycle licensing, it would have to win some sort of prize as being the saddest place on earth.

Government absolutely has the power to license cyclists. I don't think they should do it, but I assure you that they could, and that so long as the branch of government that did it had jurisdiction to do it that it would be constitutional.

We already have laws controlling how you have to operate your bicycle and what equipment it has to have.

Licenses are no different - they can be implemented, and if you think otherwise you are kidding yourself.

that "Random lawyer" made no principled argument for abandoning eight centuries of mobility rights to the tender mercies of government. I notice the claim that government has the power as opposed to the claim that governments have the right to "license" cyclists. Unfortunately, I have to agree that "Random lawyer" may have a pretty fair assessment of the way the courts would rule on this issue; our courts have fallen victim to the car "culture", as have most other aspects of our society. It would not surprise me to see them defer to a licensing scheme of some kind. I still maintain that such a deferral would betray a heritage of freedom eight centuries long, and stand as a sad testimony to the baneful effects the need to regulate the car has had on our lives and our laws.

As for whether the city actually has the jurisdiction to override the licensing provisions of the Highway Traffic Act; I would argue they don't. I suggest that would make a much better practical court argument than the argument about mobility rights. I believe, however, that if we resist a licensing proposal, we should do so on principle, and for me, the principle goes back to our basic rights.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

Hi all,

Riding a bike on a road or street is not a purely recreational activity. When you ride in traffic, you're not playing a game, and you're not exempt or special. There are rules and responsibilities that must be followed, first and foremost for the cyclists' own safety, and then for the safety and well being of other road users. Other recreational-transportational modes require licenses - motorcycling, snowmobiling, ATVing, power boating, sailing, flying, etc., and this is because society has realised that these modes are serious forms of transport, and not just recreational pastimes. This distinction has to be clarified once and for all. Bikes are not toys.

Bicycles and cyclists can and do cause collisions, damage, injury, and deaths. Most notably their own. For me, it really says something about the self-awareness that many cyclists have, or, rather, lack. The apathy, disdain, and wilful disregard that we carry for ourselves as road users and vehicle operators permeates throughout out society, and of course very few people on the fringe want to support us, because we generally don't care to support ourselves, or take our mode of transport seriously. And I say that on behalf of the kids, moms, dads, grandparents, acquainances, colleagues, and coworkers I know who have absolutely no concept of the difference between transportation and recreation, or who the Toronto Cyclists Union is, who Toronto Off Road Bicycling Association is, TCAC, CBN, BIXI, etc.

Licensing is about education. What I mean by "proof of competency" is a tangible record that a licensee has learned the skill and knowledge required to be theoretically equal to other road users.
It is grossly unfair that people with less skill, ability, education are openly allowed, infact encouraged, to join other people with more skill, ability, and education to mix it up in traffic. Most people using roads are not looking for a fun, recreational experience; they are aiming to get someplace, as fast and directly as they can. They have taken the time to learn to drive, purchased a motor vehicle license, as well as insurance, safety accessories, and even their own vehicle, and have joined traffic with an understanding that respect and awareness for other road users is key. Ok, these latter points are waning these days...! but my point is, Cyclists should adopt this mindset to at least approach becoming equal with other road users. And then we'll be in a position to lobby for special treatment and infrastructure.

This thread is not ludicrist, because it obviously strikes differing notes and chords in the community. I don't attack anyone personally, and appreciate the opinions of others. However, If we can't learn to sing the same song in harmony, we are not going to be able to successfully communicate our needs, and cyclists will continue to exist in the infantile state of relegation and lower status we currently find ourselves. Cycling must decide for itself what it will be in 5-10-15-20 years, and what the next generations will have available to them. What we choose today will impact our city, and streets, for generations to come, more than one mayor, councillor, or City staffer ever could. Collectively, we hold the future.

Brian

  1. are you saying we should licence those under 18 (say, 5 and 6 - year olds)?
  2. motorists are licenced and it sure does NOT guarantee they have any clue how to drive!
  3. money from licencing is a tax for the government. what SERVICES will be provided (and the answer is: NONE). we pay enough taxes, i refuse to pay any more. one reason i bike is to avoid paying Gasoline taxes and TTC taxes (fares).

Brian,

The solution to your dilemma is both Enforcement and Education, not Licenses.

Assuming that everyone had to have a license to bike in Ontario, there would still need to be enforcement, correct? Take the guy who ran a red light this morning on my ride to work as an example; he likely did so with the knowledge that he was breaking the law. So, license or not, nothing happens to correct his behaviour without enforcement. And even if the police did stop him, they already have the means to lay a charge, one way or another.

Education is important, but how much? I have learned plenty about cycling in my many years of riding. Comparing my skills and awareness to someone who just wrote a ‘bike exam’ or passed a ‘road test’ still leaves a gross disparity between the two. We learn by riding with an awareness basic skills and cycling laws. Cycling is not a difficult or relatively unsafe thing to do – that’s why children ride bikes instead of flying planes.

What you are suggesting represents a huge threat to cycling, and the remedies to your concerns already exist by working with the system we have.

Manditory licensing would be the most damaging piece of legislation in the history of cycling, and to be very honest it would be crazy to take things that far.

I say no sale.

Pilots need licenses because we need a lot of specialized knowledge and skill to take a plane up safely and land it. It has nothing to do with taking ourselves "seriously" or a sense of "fairness"; to fly a plane you have to understand altimeter readings, cloud clearances, runway numbers, standard altitudes, radio operation and more: things most people don't learn at school and can't learn from everyday observation. And if an untrained person gets behind the stick, they can cause a lot of havoc. Therefore, if you want to fly a real live aircraft, you need a license.

Bicycles, on the other hand, use far less energy and have far less potential energy and less potential for harm. An average cyclist puts out 200 watts; even a small training aircraft has a sustained power output of over 90 thousand watts, or over 450 times the average cyclist. Most children can learn the necessary motor skills from their parents, and nearly everyone learns the rules of the road from everyday observation.

Human activities generally fall into three categories: trivial and meaningless activities that pretty much anyone can perform, activities that only a few people can accomplish, and activities that nearly everyone can do at some level, but which take a lifetime to truly master. You seem to assume that if we do not restrict permission to cycle, then cycling will fall into the first category: trivial activities, void of any hope of excellence. But in fact, riding a bicycle on the public road falls into the third category: activities that everyone can perform at some level, but which most of us will spend a lifetime to truly master.

In that effort, the government endorsement implied by a license has no real significance. A driver's license and a pilot's license both come from the government; I treasure my pilot's license, because it marks me as a member of a community fiercely dedicated to excellence, and I tolerate my driver's license because it prevents me from having to ride with drunks (the reason I got the license in the first place). The value of an activity does not lie in the government stamp on the piece of paper (if any) that permits you to do it; it lies in the commitment to excellence you bring to it.

Government licensing will do nothing for cyclists. It will do less than nothing for the people whose health would improve if they would just get on a bicycle, and who now remain addicted to the sedentary lifestyle that has, as its symbol and enabler, the private car or light truck. What kind of a society would we have today if we required a license to quit smoking?

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

All this worry and angst over Brian's comments. He is just being tongue and cheek. He was right?

We've never heard of the bait and switch, Brian? Why should a cyclist try to legitimize themselves by submitting to a licensing program when they're already legit. I really see no gains for an average cyclist to participate in fact i see it as another impediment for an average person(who probably already owns a car license) to take up cycling one day. If you want to think of yourself as some type of rule obeying snob, look at my laminated license, you can't tell me to get on the sidewalk dork who needs a hallway pass to get from point a to point b - count me out!!

BTW, CCA can sell you a license if you're feeling illegitimate. Canbike can help you actually learn, but this isn't exactly rocket-science (as much as they feel it is).

Baltimore passed a Cyclists' Bill of Rights, a positive sign of cyclists being taken seriously (feels a lot better than being taken seriously by being banned from the road):

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights passed the Baltimore City Council at last night’s meeting, giving cyclists some hope that riding conditions are improving. This resolution states:

  1. Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.
  2. Cyclists have the right to equal access to our public streets and to sufficient and significant road space.
  3. Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement.
  4. Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure, or kill cyclists will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.
  5. Cyclists have the right to routine accommodations in all roadway projects and improvements.
  6. Cyclists have the right to urban and roadway planning, development, and design that enable and support safe cycling.
  7. Cyclists have the right to traffic signals, signage and maintenance standards that enable and support safe cycling.
  8. Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as a constituent group in the planning and implementation of roadway and transit projects.
  9. Cyclists have the right to full access for themselves and their bicycles on all mass transit.
  10. Cyclists have the right to end-of-trip amenities that include safe and secure opportunities to park their bicycles.
  11. Cyclists have the right to be secure in their persons and property and be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
  12. Cyclists have the right to peaceably assemble in the public space, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

I'm all for it because if it is as successful as the law they passed to curb drivers who text while driving then we have nothing to fear. If there's one thing City Hall is good at, it's passing new bylaws with absolutely no follow through. And yes, I know that the cellphone law is provincial but judging by the number of drivers I see with BBs and phones in their hands and laps when I pass them on my bike or sit next to them while at a light, it's not being enforced in the least.

Not to mention that even if you do have a license and you do something to get it suspended, that you'll have to stop driving. According to reports (here and here): 3/4 of all Ontario suspended drivers keep driving. Somewhere around 200,000 to 270,000 Ontario drivers yearly have their licenses suspended.

Makes me feel warm and safe inside.

The province has introduced and passed tougher law around impounding vehicles - dubbed Greg's Law after the husband of Eleanor McMahon (founder of Share the Road) was killed while cycling - so we'll see how that changes.

The bill that introduced the tighter penalties on suspended and drunk dirvers was dubbed Greg's Law in honour of Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Greg Stobbart.

Stobbart died in June 2006 after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle off-duty in Milton, Ont. The driver of the car had five convictions for driving with a suspended licence.

Under the amended Highway Traffic Act, repeat offenders could face fines of up to $50,000. Once enacted, the new regulations will give police the ability to impound a vehicle for seven days if they find that the person behind the wheel has a suspended licence.

The government was lax about this for many years, and only cracked down when the pressure became strong enough to recognize this as a major danger to society.

Hi all,

I'm not trying to sell to cyclists. This needs to be sold to the Ministry of Transportation. There's obviously enough resistance from posters on this forum, and I have spoken with a few cyclists on the streets in these last few days, and they too reject the notion of being certified and vehicle inspected - "what do I have to prove? I can ride a bike." The cycling community is too keen to scream like babies over any attempt to legitimize or validate themselves in a formal manner. I learned the same thing with the Off Road community. Toronto is very happy to continue "hating the Man" and blaming others instead of taking responsibliity and working together for positive change.

I must point out again that I am a CAN-BIKE instructor, and CAN-BIKE doles out scorecards and certificates to riders who take the course. But who here is clamoring to take a bike lesson? No one. Who here would voluntarily take a test just to see where they're at in terms of the plethora of specialized skills and abilities that are needed to operate a bicycle in traffic, as part of the road user hierarchy? Few, if any. Most of us, experienced cyclists included, still operate under the archaic notion that cycling is easy, and that most everyone can do it. If you've ever taught someone else how to ride, you'll know this is not the case. And yes I know better, because I've taken 160 hours of courses, got 93% on my instructor's exam, and have taught hundreds of cyclists how to ride safely in traffic. And I'm still learning - I tried an Ebike last summer, and rode a Quadricycle on Toronto Island for the first time.

And to the poster who suggested I apply for a UCI racing license to feel a little more validated - CAN-BIKE instructors have to purchase an OCA/CCA membership every year in order to be qualified to teach CAN-BIKE under the sport governing authority's bylaws. How many CAN-BIKE courses do you think OCA/CCA has offered in Ontario during the years that I've been a member? None. Because they are a sport governing authority, they do not see cycling as a form of transportation on our roads; they see it as you see it, a recreational activity. Changing that perception is what I'm railing at. The Ministry of Transportation at the Provincial level needs to hear our concerns and take cycling more seriously.

Cycling does require as much specialized skill and knowledge as flying a plane, John. I've been contemplating getting my private pilot's license for some years now - I love flying. In my view, many of the skills and abilities that you list are very similar to cycling. And they are not taugh in schools either!! Cyclists should know specialized communcation (hand signals), how to read weather conditions (dressing to ride), mechanical knowledge of their vehicle (ABC Quick check), regulations and responsibilities (HTA), wayfinding and navigation (bike routes are mapped and numbered), and payload handling (don't hang shopping bags off your handlebars!). However, the assumption our society continues to operate under is that cycling is easy, and riding in traffic also easy. It's not. Which is why so many cyclists are injured and killed regularly, yet these collisions and falls are not so nearly as spectacular as a plane crash. And they inflict much more subtle problems in our society - dead and injured cyclists are quickly forgotten if not ignored if not made pariahs or martyrs.

The change our city needs has to come from within - from the general public and the very same populace who elected our current Mayor and councillors by popular vote. These "people have spoken" and most of them are aggravated when driving, and don't take cycling seriously as a form of transport. The Cycling Lobby now needs to work with these people, get a positive and understandable message out to Toronto, and convince voters and Councillors of our views, concerns, and needs. The cycling community has to ramp down the rhetoric and complaining, and ramp up the goodwill, ambassadorship, and cooperation. I, for one, am going to be attending City Hall regularly, representing and communicating in a positive, collaborative, educational manner to effect positive change. Please join me, and bring your best. There's my pitch. Take it or leave it, and thanks for reading. Enjoy the ride.

Brian

a) The photo belongs to someone named Tino (I don't know this person) but there's no indication the words do.

b) Moreover, someone can believe that both "salmoning" and riding abreast are legally "errant" without believing that they should be illegal.

Pardon me for beginning to think that your basic reasoning skills are pretty weak.

"And yes I know better, because I've taken 160 hours of courses, got 93% on my instructor's exam, and have taught hundreds of cyclists how to ride safely in traffic. And I'm still learning - I tried an Ebike last summer, and rode a Quadricycle on Toronto Island for the first time."

Oooooooh! Nintey-three percent!!! Ebike! Quadricycle!!! Truly masterful mastery.

"Cycling does require as much specialized skill and knowledge as flying a plane, John. I've been contemplating getting my private pilot's license for some years now - I love flying."

Pass the munchies, that's so cosmic man!

I cant figure out if you're a wanker or a troll. I suppose there are some alternate possibilities but I can't think of them offhand. Well, thinking "I'll get rich as a CAN-BIKE instructor if only every cyclist had to take a few CAN-BIKE courses!" is also possible.

Would you want to fly in a plane with a pilot who only got 93% on an exam? Especially if it is their 94th flight?

Aside from me trying to be funny. Is there any proof that an exam can determine how safe a vehicle operator you are?

Brian, I have to disagree with you here. Almost anyone can cycle. Including many severely disabled people, children and the elderly.

All my children learned to cycle when they were four years old. There are very few activities that a four-year-old can do, but cycling is one of them.

I really don't care if a certain cyclist wants to be a pilot or pet puppy dogs... lets get to the point that licensing for cyclists is a tried and true failure not to mention total over-kill. Lets also keep in mind we're talking to somebody who actually spent 163 hours of instruction to ride a bicycle down the street safely and then claim authority to show you how. Not to get too personal, but some types of people can really get too anal. If this level of "training" is truly the requirement we're totally lost. Lastly i'm going to say a lot of can-bike is over-kill and comes across as basic snobbery particularly when used as some ultra-dorky street cred. One more point - we've seen these uber-cyclists they get hit just like anybody else, there is no magic, though some have really tall tales to tell about close calls and how great their magical powers of perception are. $100 for that lesson please. At some point, the small details don't add up to squat in the face of the current situation. I guess you gotta rationalize "micro-cycling" somehow. Riding a bike with some proficiency is not rocket science, but you can sure go down the rabbit hole... rider be warned.

In short, I would trust Brian as an advocate about as far as I could throw him - we seem to have little in common.

No licenses - i'll never buy one, that is old school VC thinking... ugly.

My training wheels came off before my 3rd birthday.

And I would argue that my opinions as a 2.5 year old are consistent with those I have today:
- I can ride my bike, but I can't fly a plane
- People of all ages should be allowed to ride their bikes freely
- Riding my bike is fun,
and
- "I don't like it when some man tells me I can't ride my bike, and I'm going to ride it anyway, and you can't stop me!"

I know that one of the things I enjoy most about riding a bike is the sense of freedom and convenience, and I am pretty sure that most people feel the same way.

Besides his appalling pretentiousness and narrow views, Brian's optimism around bike licensing is wild speculation that ignores the potential problems and noted failures of bike licensing, and bets it all on a weird reform to an out of control cycling community of "crying babies".

The one thing that will benefit cycling more than any other, is sustaining growth in ridership. Licensing cycling is not a validation, it is a conditional acceptance, a restriction to an activity that by its very nature is open to all.

skinny B, I admire your advocacy but strongly believe it is misguided, for two reasons:

1) Unintended consequences: you haven't addressed the issue that adding licensing requirements or heaping on more laws would make cycling MORE dangerous as it would reduce the number of cyclists.

2) The physics of cycling: fundamentally different from driving or flying. Forget about skill for a moment, John's most important point was the power output of a cyclist, which is low.

Addressing the first point, the single best way to reduce cycling collisions, injuries, and fatalities is to increase the modal share of cycling. The reasons for this are many, but the numbers from countries and cities around the world bear this out in spectacular fashion. Laws, regulations, and helmet promotion are less important than encouraging cycling and making it as accessible as possible. An unintended consequence of mandatory cycling licenses would be to make cycling more unsafe. The mandatory helmet law in the Australian state of Victoria (where Melbourne is) provides an excellent case study of unintended consequences.

The second issue is that a bicycle is light and does not have a high top speed. It is very hard to use a bicycle as a lethal weapon, even if that were the intent. Your point about skill is misleading: it implies a pressing need to license all unicyclists. But unicycles are even slower and lighter than bicycles. If something is big enough and fast enough to kill someone in an non-exceptional accidental collision, it ought to be regulated. If not, there's not much point.

pennyfarthing ok frye