Conservatives call for licensing for cyclists as bikes-versus-cars rhetoric ramps up (again)
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]
12 thoughts on “Conservatives call for licensing for cyclists as bikes-versus-cars rhetoric ramps up (again)”
Licensing might be going too far, but accountability needs to come from somewhere. If cyclists want rights and privileges, there needs to be some mechanism holding them accountable to the rules.
What that process or solution is I wouldn’t know, but getting off with only a $400 fine for almost ending someone’s life is insane.
If the same incident happened with a car, not only would there be jail-time, but i’d bet that the driver wouldn’t be allowed to have the right to drive again. Seems like there needs to be some balance here.
So if they are licensed, they can behave like the drivers in this city? What’s the point? Licenses have done very little for cars that continue to kill cyclists. If you give cyclists a proper infrastructure, maybe then will you find them not in front of your huge car on a road that you think belongs to you.
I think it high time that cyclists be made to suffer the same consequences as a driver if they hit a pedestrian or car. In Vancouver as I know it you are not allowed to cycle on the sidewalk at any time of day or night and safety equipment like helmets and signal lights are mandatory or you get a ticket. It is as it should be in this case as well, granted yes there are the points of cars vs. bikes and I think this will solve the balance of equality amongst drivers and cyclists thinking they own the road as both parties are equally guilty of the same wrongdoings in respect to pedestrians even when it comes to streetcars and buses when they know they have to stop. The only time a cyclist should be on the sidewalk is 12 years old or younger and that is it. As a pedestrian and former cyclist and victim of bad car drivers it should be that we have more rights than either of these parties as they don’t recognise or care in this city that we are there. Mind the fact some of us as well do stupid things like jaywalk but you get your own consequence when when you do that or cross when you shouldn’t. In conclusion we all have to get along pedestrian, the disabled, Car and bike as well as cyclists it is a step in the right direction to enforce this despite the cost.
“I think it high time that cyclists be made to suffer the same consequences as a driver if they hit a pedestrian or car.”
And what about pedestrians who don’t look both ways, step out into oncoming traffic without looking and cause a cyclist or car to react in a way that puts them in danger? … and we could go on…
The PARTY A or PARTY B MUST SUFFER AS MUCH AS PARTY C dialogue is reactionary and not constructive. It’s an unfortunate situation what happened in this circumstance, but to treat this as an epidemic is not realistic. There are current rules and regulations that must be enforced *equally* across the board. Until this happens, punishing one group over another is only going to create a false sense of safety.
Is this the same city council that’s thinking of getting out of licencing pets because it’s too onerous and inefficient?
So much for the conservative philosophy of freedom and individual liberties. Leave it to a conservative to preach the aforementioned but do everything in their power to control others.
“Toronto police Const. Hugh Smith said the cyclist is facing the same charge a driver would face in this situation”
As a general principle of law, bicyclists are treated the same as motor vehicle (with some exceptions). See the charges above. Also, there is no reason why that cyclist could not be sued for the injuries (financial and otherwise) that the victim will suffer.
What is this all about? It’s about a culture war. Car people (often suburban-based) vs. bike people (often city-based). Each sides’ priorities, experiences and values tend to be different. And, either side can surely pick out examples of the horrible, irresponsible and “unbelievable” actions of drivers and cyclists.
The reality is that Toronto as a city must do more to accomodate the divergent needs of cyclists and cars. Cyclist do not want to be share a narrow lane with cars, and vice versa.
Waste all the time you want on one-sided rhetoric and one-off anecdotes – but that’s all it is, a waste of time.
What we need are balanced and practical solutions that will allow cars and cyclists to get out of eachother lanes.
Conservatives preach no government interference, and small govt.
Seems about right. Hypocrisy at its finest as usual.
Debating these issues can get frustrating when people detach their opinions from the facts. Fact: cars hit pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers all the time, causing serious injuries, and nobody does jail time. A few years ago, two young men drove up Mount Pleasant at 140 km/h, killed a taxi driver, got convicted of dangerous driving causing death, and still did no jail time. Drivers who inflict serious injuries rarely make the news, let alone get jail time.
While I have no problem with stiffer penalties for cyclists and other road users who cause serious injuries, licensing cyclists would solve nothing and would take us a big step down the road to a “papers please” society. I personally prefer living under laws and a constitution where I have rights of freedom of movement guaranteed in Magna Carta and every rights document since, not a state in which my ability to move around freely comes at the pleasure of the government.
The debate here isn’t how licensing will cost more money, or who is at fault for what. Licensing ensures more accurate tracking of someone’s continuous violations. Just as any vehicle would be subject to ticketing, their driver’s license and plate would also be flagged for the offense. This way, the authorities can keep track on those who are consistently violating and take stronger actions to remove privileges. Those who are caught for speeding once, do not necessarily lose their license nor do their cars get impounded; however, those who have multiple offenses face serious fines and potential loss of licensing. Unfortunately, the movement in creating a bike lane on a road does not grant exceptions to the rules of the road. The licensing program will also ensure that cyclists “learn” the rules of the road and that it’s not okay to proceed the wrong way down a one-way street, day after day because no one is ticketing you. Seatbelts in cars, helmets on cyclists. I’m surprised at how many cyclists do not wear helmets and cycle so sloppy all over the road. The point here is your safety and the stance you hold against an automobile or a bus. Sharing the road can work, but stronger enforcement and more stringent cycling training programs are needed. Just because you learned to ride a bike, does not prove that you know the rules, regulations, and penalties of the road. This way, cyclists, the same as drivers, will be examined.
Right, because cyclists break the rules of the road and hit people just as much as cars… this is conservative bullshit at it’s finest.
No cyclist that abides by the rules should have to be lisensed.
Maybe if we return to the true reason for this debate we can strip away the inane bickering that prevents us from solving the pivotal 21st century urban problem – how to provide a safer and healthier, more efficient, more sustainable, urban mobility system for citizens and our goods.
Fully thirty years ago, the fact that we already had too many smog-creating, dangerously over-sized, over-powerful, toxically-fueled motor vehicles clogging city streets and roadways, demanded that we find alternative modes of transport, not to fully replace the use of the automobile, but to help mitigate the negatives associated with their overuse.
Given TORONTO’s storied more-than-century old cycling history, we didn’t have to look far to find a partial solution.
Active (walking, biking, etc.) transportation offered any number of benefits associated with reduced automobile usage, so this city like so many other world class population hubs, saw the number of bikes on the road increase dramatically. We officially encouraged healthy citizens to make such responsible mobility choices, and promised them safer, more forgiving infrastructure upon which to walk and/or ride.
This from-the-ground-up, short to mid-distance urban mobility strategy served the common good, save for one single yet powerful opponent – the automobile industry and its far reaching network of economic tendrils.
Here in Ontario, one has heard it estimated, that up to three quarters of our province’s economy was/is in some way dependent upon the auto manufacturing and petroleum industries. Remember too, that the life’s blood of the advertising industry, which in turn supports the national media, is selling new cars and trucks on a yearly cycle.
By the late 90’s we begin to see the vilification of cyclists in car ads. Industry advertising also starts selling the concept of “driving” as much as describing their new models. The bicycle rider is even portrayed as a threat to the Canadian motorist’s accustomed way of life.
A decade later, during the SUV onslaught, those rightly raising issue with the ever-increasing size and relative performance limitations of individual vehicle models were accused by the press as being engaged in a “War on the Car”.
All the while, our local transportation crisis continued to grow.
And today, TORONTO remains decades behind where we should be, in solving it.
And if one wants to attach a face to just why that is, one need look no further than second-generation, twenty-year veteran City Councillor David Shiner.
When you listen to him blame cyclists en masse, citing the scofflaw behaviour of a few, for the city’s transportation woes, remember just who we taxpayers have been paying to deal with such matters, all these wasted years.
Shiner demonstrates that after twenty years, not only has he not yet found the answer, he still doesn’t understand the question.
As for the specific licensing issue, as a lifelong non-driver who has walked and ridden this city’s streets for the past half-century, I would gladly pay whatever it costs for a license to ride my bicycle, if it meant we would finally recognize human-powered mobility as a viable and necessary form of urban transportation, and stop treating the highly-visible cycling minority as second-class citizens in our own hometown.
In the meantime, let’s all work together to make sure we each make it home in one piece tonight, eh? ( :-)
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