Fresh from Police Board budget discussions, Councillor Nunziata has wasted no time in raising the issue of licensing bicycles. According to the Sun, our councillor thinks licensing will help reduce ‘the number of fatalities we have on the streets’ (currently averaging around 2 annually).
This old chestnut has been raised in the past and is guaranteed to stir up a hornet’s nest of discussion, pitting car owners against cyclists. There’s a great punitive aspect to the idea, no doubt hatched when following a cyclist on a street which no longer has a bike lane. Trial balloons are a great distraction from real issues such as factory closures and police budgets, so why not? It’s difficult to count the number of lives saved by cyclists’ improved health but that’s why some intelligent debate is needed.
Let’s look at another licensing debacle: domestic pets. Torontonians are required to license their cats and dogs, but most owners don’t bother. The money brought in from licensing just about pays for the bureaucracy needed to administer the program. Fees are $60 and $25 for dogs and $50 and $15 for cats (intact, neutered). Rob Ford even suggested doing away with licensing because of this lack of revenue. One wonders what the licensing fee would have to be to make bicycle licenses break even. The set-up costs for this program will be considerable, not to mention the army of bureaucrats needed. How many casual cyclists will cough up $25+ annually for the privilege? What about families and their children’s bikes? Will we turn more citizens into scofflaws? Will people become even more sedentary? You can bet that the last people to licence their bikes will be the ones who ride on the sidewalk and sail through stop signs.
It’s bad enough that bike lanes are being removed by the Ford administration. It is supremely ironic that the so called ‘home of the bicycle’ has a councillor who would like to put another nail in the coffin of cycling in Toronto.