Conservatives call for licensing for cyclists as bikes-versus-cars rhetoric ramps up (again)

Conservatives call for licensing for cyclists as bikes-versus-cars rhetoric ramps up (again)

Image: Salim Virji 

In the wake of a near-fatal bike-on-pedestrian crash off Dundas Street earlier this week, a number of noted Toronto right-wingers are taking the idea of a comprehensive system for licensing and regulating cyclists for another spin around the block. The fact that the cyclist—who was clearly at fault—will walk away charged with only a minor offence that carries a relatively minimal charge is what has city councillor committee member David Shiner, NewsTalk 1010 radio host John Tory and Toronto Sun columnist Michele Mandel in a huff. But here’s the rub: city hall has studied the issue numerous times in the last 25 years, and every time the conclusion is the same: too expensive, too difficult to enforce.

680news has more on the incident in question:

Toronto police Const. Hugh Smith said the cyclist is facing the same charge a driver would face in this situation.

But, for cyclists, it only means a fine, in this case, $400 — and this has some calling for them to be licensed like drivers and more accountability for those who break the rules.

Toronto police said they will pay more attention to dangerous cyclists but city councillor David Shiner said he wants regulations to go further and wants city council to push the province to put cyclists in line with drivers.

We’re not in the habit of excusing those who break the rules of the road, no matter what kind of vehicle they’re operating. The $400 fine sounds low to us, considering the woman who was hit ended up in hospital with a fractured skull. But using this incident as a springboard to call for a licensing program seems like an overreaction, especially when you look at the financial ramifications for a city that, we’re continually told, is really short on funds and needs to downsize its government programs.

In 2006, a staff report concluded that, due to the significant costs of overseeing the infrastructure, a self-funding bicycle licensing system would require an annual cost to riders that “may be considered exorbitant.” Even the City of Toronto’s website notes that there are three major reasons bicycle licensing has been rejected in the past: administrative difficulties; the licensing children issue; and that—without suitable enforcement—licensing won’t magically change the behaviour of cyclists on the road.

That last point is the big one. Before noted conservatives start bizarrely taking us down a path toward further government bureaucracy and regulation, why not step up the enforcement of current traffic rules that already apply to cyclists?

Cycling in Toronto – Bicycle Licensing [City of Toronto]
City councillor wants licenses for cyclists and plates for bikes [680 News]
Cyclists should need a licence to ride [Toronto Sun]
Bike fees: Misinformed, misguided and a step backwards for Toronto [Spacing Toronto]