Urban Velo

Seattle Debates Bicycle License

This article comes on the heels of a proposed $240 million bicycle infrastructure plan, courtesy of www.seattlepi.com. A recent letter to the editor suggests that “Bicyclists, too, should pitch in for the costs of their trails and lanes.”

Many bicycle advocates disagree, “We want as many drivers as possible to give up driving their cars,” said Gordon Black, director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. “Required registration would create a ‘potential barrier’ to cycling,” he said. “We want to make the access to bicycling as easy as possible.”

License opponents point out that many roads are built using property tax money, which cyclists already contribute to. It is also argued that bicycle licensing does not contribute significantly. A sampling of bicycle license fees from around the country:

  • MADISON, WI – $10 (renewal every four years)
  • DAVIS, CA – $8 (renewal every three years)
  • SALT LAKE CITY, UT – $2
  • MILWAUKEE, WI – Free (one-time registration)

Read the entire article…

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15 Comments

  1. Tom MillarJanuary 4, 2008 at 10:43 am

    There are very few roads in Salt Lake City (even downtown) that are suitable for enjoyable riding, and if the trend continues, this tax will go to anything but bicycling, its proponents, and accessibility. I’m curious to see (if this passes) if any headway will be made on behalf of we cyclists. I doubt it.

  2. icon o'classtJanuary 4, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Of course, I’m completely against this monetary barrier, and I sure as hell wouldn’t comply if it happened here (DC area).

    But if it’s inevitable (and there’s no reason why it should be), it shouldn’t happen until cyclists are given the proper respect under the laws. Why would cyclists agree to pay for roads on which they are so often marginalized by cager and constable alike?

  3. sumadisJanuary 4, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I might be down for paying on a license if it meant the law would protect cyclists as it is supposed to – motorists who kill or maim cyclists were actually prosecuted, cyclists under threat or attack were listened to instead of arrested, etc. In short, if they want us to pay, then they must treat us as full citizens in use of the road, unlike the countless tragic, angering stories from ’07 of cyclist deaths, injuries and arrests as result of motor-vehicle interactions in which the motorists get away clean. Respect cycling as a legitimate form of transit before you hand us a bill for risking our lives while reducing congestion, cutting down carbon emissions and being fit, healthy people.

  4. Monsignor BlairJanuary 4, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Perhaps we should require a license for walking. Of course, I probably just gave “them” another idea.

  5. MikaelJanuary 9, 2008 at 3:33 am

    Silly idea. When more people get onto bikes in any city there will be massive amounts of money to be saved on road maintenence. Fewer cars, less wear and tear.

    Those savings are far more considerable than any licencing fee.

    Once in a while bike licences are proposed in Copenhagen. Unfortunately nobody has any idea of how to licence 500,000 daily cyclists.

  6. *January 30, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    The Madison system was only set up to create a job for a friend of a city counsel member or something wack like that. It is a joke, no one registers, and i have never heard of anyone getting in trouble for not registering. the biggest argument i have heard for the system is in case a bicycle is stolen. however, the police don’t cross reference, and the recovered bicycles sit at the police station while owners go w/out their bikes. great system! glad to pay $10 for that. or not!

  7. RayJuly 29, 2008 at 1:52 am

    I find it comical that this is even an issue. Of all of the great cycling metropolisis in the world, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Portland, OR (runner-up to Davis, CA in bike friendliness) how many place registration/liecence fees on cyclists? None of them, because cycling is not an economic burden on a city like automobiles. Minimal space is needed ofr storage/parking. A vast majority of riders do their business locally, improving/sustaining the local businessman, not just because it is convienient, but because its quicker, easier & feeds the community that they care for.

    As others have already noted, the cost benefits that a state gets from having happier & healthier citizens, with less sick days, causing less pot-holes & taking-up less space.

    If Seattle or the state at large is in need of an increased tax base the legislature should re-inact the the PROGRESSIVE tax on car registration it had when I first moved here in 1999, before Mr. Iman.

    When will the local government look to our southern neighbor, Oregon, for trasportation guidance?

  8. Bike licenses? It wouldn’t work as well - Barry's Blog : Gazette.comAugust 15, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    [...] Seattle there has been a debate over bicycle licensing, http://urbanvelo.org/seattle-debates-bicycle-license/a plan to pay for a $240 million in bikeway infrastructure. It’s fair to say Seattle has a [...]

  9. waqas hussainApril 14, 2009 at 1:53 am

    i wanna make a bicycle licence

  10. RoryApril 30, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    What I’d like to know, and what no one seems to have mentioned about this is, if Seattle did make it mandatory for bikes to be licensed, what about non-resident visitors???

    I now live in eastern Washington, after moving here from the Seattle area. I don’t own a car; I use a bike for transportation. I went back to Seattle with a friend who let me bring my bike on her car a couple years ago. Now I may be doing it again, just to visit.

    I know it’s not the law there yet, but suppose it were. My town, where I live, doesn’t require bike licenses. But Seattle does. So if I brought my bike from home to Seattle, what then? Would I (or any other out-of-town visitor) get in trouble? How would this issue be resolved?

  11. mattJune 22, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    1. “Bikes don’t cause congestion” – Myth, bikes cause a lot of congestion here in Minneapolis. On a two lane road with a bike path right next to it we have bikers who insist that the roads belong to them, insist on being treated like a car, but do not consider stopping at a stop sign.

    2. Yes, you should have to pay the registration fee if you are just visiting. You know what, it would be their law and you, as a law abiding citizen, should pay. If you don’t want to pay it, then don’t go to seattle, you have that choice. There are several fees, taxes that if I could choose to pay or not then I would do that too.

    3. Stop complaining. I enjoy biking and love that we have bike paths here in minnesota, but I also like taking the roads and sidewalks to get places faster. But it just pisses me off when bicylcists complain about cars getting their way on the roads. “you are not paying for the roads”, cars are. Gas tax and registration fees pay for them.

  12. bradJune 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    We’ve actually addressed the old “gas taxes pay for the roads” argument before. That is only applicable if you confine your argument to the interstate highway system. Local city roads are paid for by property taxes, which home owner or renter, driver or not, we are all paying.

  13. PaulOctober 6, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I like all the posts so far but I think the issue of licensing a bicycle is not so much about generating tax revenue because, as many of you have mentioned, that is already covered with our property taxes. The issue, as I see it, is the ease of selling and buying stolen bicycles. If we are truly going to license a bike then why don’t we get a title to the bike and as a result if I want to sell the bike I have to provide a title. I just inherited a car that was valued at half the price of my bike and I had to sign 4 documents in front of a notary and get them filed with the state. Ont the other had if someone stole my bike and sold it for whatever dishonest reason it is about as tough as steeling apples from my neighbors tree and selling them at the local farmers market. We need to license our bikes to get a title to make it difficult to sell our bikes that can now cost upwards of $15,000.

  14. CaseyDecember 29, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Licensing would be great. I would have more tolerance for the idiots that ride in the street in the absence of a bike lane if I could see a license plate and report them. The licensing wouldn’t generate much revenue, but the funding from writing tickets to law-breakers would. I can’t even keep count of how many bicyclists I’ve seen run red lights, pass on the right, and show blatant disregard for the rules of the road, all while bitching and moaning that they should be treated just like any other car. You want equality? Be ready for it. Don’t want danger? Stay on the sidewalk. Yeah, the law NOW says to ride in the street, but at least one comment on here said that if licensing became law, that person would disregard it. And almost all cyclists disregard the laws of the road. So disregard the important one: GET OFF THE STREET! Face it; riding a bike isn’t practical for everyone. The problem isn’t that we need less cars, we just need a place for CARS and a completely separate place for BIKES.

  15. Seattle Debates bicycle license / registration | Bicycle Accident Attorney NetworkFebruary 9, 2013 at 12:28 am

    [...] Seattle Washington< Urban Velo Seattle Debates Bicycle License [...]

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