Why Bicycle Licensing is a Bad Idea

The city of Vancouver British Columbia recently rejected a motion to require licensing for cyclists.  In a breath of common sense, the city chose instead to focus on education and enforcement of existing laws to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.  Wow.  Cool.  Way to go, Vancouver.


I’m hearing these calls to license cyclists more and more.  Most of the people who scream the loudest seem to be motorists who hate us anyway.  They feel we’re getting something for nothing while blocking their ability to drive really fast and recklessly and, their logic goes, if they have to license their cars why shouldn’t we have to license our bicycles?

Here’s why we shouldn’t…

It’s Costly

Not just for cyclists, but also for taxpayers.  It would require another layer of government bureaucracy…more people…more buildings…more copy machines, more two hour lunches, more trips to Dubai or Singapore to see how they do it there…more wasted time.  Licensing would lead to insurance industry lobbying efforts to institute compulsory insurance laws which would ultimately raise the price of THEIR insurance as well as ours.  Behind the lofty rhetoric about safety and fairness, I suspect this is the real reason behind bicycle licensing.  Note to insurance execs:  Bicycles don’t damage property.  Liability is limited and virtually non-existent for the vast majority of cyclists who ride responsibly.  There is nothing worth insuring here.

It Serves No Public Purpose

The idea behind licensing is to protect the public from the negative effects of certain activities.  It makes sense to license motorists or airline pilots since the act of moving a large machine can cause great harm to others.  A bicycle?  Not so much.  Children who can barely walk can manage to ride bicycles without harming others.  The liklihood of a bicyclist causing significant damage to property or people is so remote as to be an outlier.  When we plow through your shrubs and into your house, you’re not even going to notice.  Licensing cyclists will not change the behavior of those who ride recklessly any more than licensing motorists has eliminated drunk driving.

It Will Discourage Cycling

Ultimately, licensing will discourage people from cycling.  That means more cars, more crumbling streets, more emissions, more crashes, more reckless driving and more of a lot of other unfavorable outcomes.  Government and corporate officials should be encouraging cycling by making it easier to choose your bike over your car, not discouraging it by making it more difficult.

As more people park their cars and saddle up and ride, look for these efforts to intensify.  We cyclists must remain vigilant and let our public officials know that we will fight any efforts to require mandatory licensing and compulsory insurance.  It won’t make us safer.  It won’t help our communities.  It’s nothing more than a money grab and it needs to be stopped in its tracks.


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