Bike Licenses Won’t Fix Oregon’s Roads

Can you imagine the state of Oregon requiring licenses for every 10 year old kid who rides a bike to school? Can you imagine our law enforcement officers pulling over people who traveled to Oregon to ride our scenic roads and visit our small towns, just because they didn’t have a special bike license?

Those are the kinds of choices that Oregon would be forced to make if a mandatory bike licensing initiative gets on the ballot and becomes law.

Bike licensing has consistently failed in other communities that have tried to implement it, where law enforcement and elected officials have described it as unnecessary, inefficient, and antiquated. Oregon’s legislative fiscal office has considered bike registration programs, which are similar to licensing, in 1999, 2003, 2009 and 2011, and determined that such a program would be difficult or impossible to administer and cause the state to lose money.

Instead of pouring resources into a new government program that would discourage people from riding bikes, Oregon should be educating all road users and promoting safe, healthy transportation options. If we really want to address safety on our roads, we believe we should focus on these priorities.

1. Make driver’s education mandatory in the state of Oregon.
2. Combine the Oregon driver’s and bicyclist’s education manuals into a single comprehensive road user education manual.
3. Require that every Oregon student receive mandatory bicycle and pedestrian safety education in elementary or middle school.

Let’s start with the fact that we require our drivers to pass a test, but we’re not teaching our drivers how to drive. A recent Metro study found that between 2007 and 2009, there were 151 fatal crashes on Portland-Metro roads and an additional 1,444 crashes that resulted in incapacitating injury. The same study found that speed is a contributing factor in 26% of serious crashes, while aggressive driving is a factor in 40% of serious crashes.

Driver’s education programs teach not only the laws, but the behaviors to become better drivers, make fewer mistakes, and respect other road users. They make drivers more aware of the riskiest behaviors, like speeding, aggression, and distracted driving. Our failure to teach respect for using the road is the real cause for concern.

We share frustrations with local business owner Bob Huckaby that the infrastructure has not caught up with the growth in cycling. But trying to address that problem with extra regulations for people who are biking and walking is the wrong answer. The long term benefits will be much greater if we focus on educating pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers on how to follow the rules of the road and interact safely with other road users and citizens.

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Comments (4)

  1. Jeremy Permalink  | Sep 06, 2012 04:28pm

    I don’t live there, but I thought Portland closed Wheeler Ave. because of the danger to cyclists posed by right-turning motorists, not by cyclists failing to follow the law. If the latter is the case, and there is a sudden spike in cyclists disobeying traffic laws, then the city already has sufficient recourse: enforce the traffic laws; cyclists are already required to follow them.

    The cost of licensing is an unfair burden on cyclists. Most of us – unless we aren’t paying taxes at all – already pay more than our fair share for public roads through various taxes and bonds. On average in the U.S., around 40% of revenue for roads doesn’t come from so-called “user fees” like gas taxes and licenses, an inconvenient fact for anti-bicycle ideologues like Huckaby (see

    Education is a fine goal, but I suspect for Huckaby and his ilk, this isn’t really about safety. If safety is really his concern, he should advocate for people to ride bicycles and get more cars off the road. It’s a lot easier to walk away from a crash if a motor vehicle isn’t involved.

    Love and kisses from Seattle. Keep up the good fight.

    — Jeremy

  2. Save the Lemur Permalink  | Sep 11, 2012 09:56am

    There is a solution to this problem. It is called segregation. The model for this is called Europe. More segregated bike paths through urban areas get people to work faster and cheaper than fossil fuel burning options. Instead of creating legislation to regulate cyclist, we should be creating bicycle freeways.

    I ride through a gauntlet of unmarked intersection, busy streets, bike paths and transit centers to get to work. On my way I encounter buses, trucks, cars, bikes and pedestrians. I ride:
    6.5 miles averaging about 10 mph for a about a 40 minute ride.
    If we had a bike freeway:
    6.5 miles averaging about 15 mph for about a 26 minute ride.
    On some days I need to ride a Vespa to work and that takes about 35 minutes.
    In real bad weather I take the Max and that takes about 45 minutes.

    Clearly from a time, money and community point the bike freeway is the best solution.
    1. Building or expanding roads in a finite area is very expensive and with peak oil and a certain increase in gas prices we need to be looking to other options for the future
    2. Since its inception, the bicycle has been the most efficient means of transportation ever. For energy burned to distance covered nothing is as efficient as a bike.
    3. More people riding means less wear on the roads, thus saving us money. It also allows large trucks that deliver goods and food travel more efficiently on the road. The reason large trucks travel late at night is not primarily for time, but more for money. Fuel efficiency can be as much as 40% less in slower traffic.
    4. Road rage is a problem with the auto community. You never see road rage between cyclist. The biking community is generally pretty friendly. We can talk to each other and sort thing out with a simple dialogue, or a friendly bell, no HORN required.

  3. TechChef Permalink  | Oct 07, 2012 04:00pm

    This is well thought out and I agree with it. I also would add, a one time Registration $10.00 fee when someone buys a bike new or used from a retailer.This will help fund and maintain bike paths and signals. As a property owner who drives more then rides I find this very fair since My property taxes, and fees from my motor vehicle and gas taxes go to state wide bike facilities. Renters do not pay any prop taxes.Also this information could be submitted so that law enforcement could use the info to help find stolen bikes.

  4. Mel Permalink  | Aug 06, 2013 04:29pm

    Clearly I seem to be in the Anti-car area fro the comments I’ve been reading, but it think the push for licensing bikes is so that there is some accountability for the large numbers of bikers who disregard the rules of the road. Any one of us can sit on a corner and watch bikes, one after another run red lights or zoom up between vehicles instead of waiting their turn, or defiantly ride side by side each other in a 35 doing 20 and blocking traffic. A honked horn always gets a middle finger no matter what. That is a gaurantee. I’ve honked to bikers to let them know I was there so they won’t get their butts killed and I still get the middle finger.

    There a ton of crappy drivers out there, total a-holes, but at least they have license plates and can be identified. Without accountability the bad bikers give us all a bad name. (I bike too, I’m just more honest I guess.) I know I’m not the only one seeing them.

    Cars are bigger and much more dangerous, but a lot of riders take stupid risks and frankly don’t give a shit cause they don’t have to. In other cities there is more willingness to share the road.

    I honestly think that the attitudes of bikers in Portland are more anti car than the attitudes of car drivers are being anti-bike. It boils down to hate for the ‘Fossil Fuel Burners” and it’s manifestion with the middle finger and IQ of the riders in most cases. The problem in Portland is this passive aggressive tree-hugging anger of (SOME) not all bikers.

    It seems political in nature for bikers not to want to share the road and play nice with the big bad cars. I think that’s cowardly. They should be licensed and accountable.