What if all cyclists in Montreal were forced to have a registered bike licence? Would the roads be safer for cyclists if they had to get a license like their automotive counterparts? CJAD proposed and discussed the idea last Friday, May 30th, and it got us thinking about whether Montreal would benefit from bike licenses.

Before anyone gets ranting about how awful an idea this would be, consider these boons to bike licenses:

  • A license (or registration fee) would cover cost of roads + maintenance, which Montreal could use...
  • If a license is registered to a specific bike, bike theft would be made more difficult.
  • More law-abiding cyclists would be the result if they could be ticketed, with demerit points attached to a license.
  • With a licensing screening system and test, better educated cyclists would be on the road.

Fair points all around, and in that basic breakdown, bike licenses seem like a good idea. Even just the creation of a bike registery, rather than the issuing of licenses, seemingly has all the same benefits, with a not-so-negative connotation as a license. So either bike licenses or registration would be good for Montreal, right?

Comparing  other major Canadian cities' experiences with bike licenses, the initiative begins to look like more trouble than it's worth.  Toronto, Ottawa, Regina, and Calgary all considered bike registration or licensing, or had an existing form, but all dropped the project because of monetary and logistical difficulties.

Here are some major, and hard to debunk, counter-arguments to bike licenses:

  • Not all road-work is covered only by car license fees, as most of the money comes from the city's general funds and property taxes, which cyclists already pay.
  • Registration for bikes may reduce theft, but full-blown licenses would add nothing to the thievery-equation. Still, the creation of a bike registery would cost more money than revenue, as was the case when Ottawa tried out the same idea. Plus, it would be a major hassle to keep an up to date registery.
  • Mandatory licenses for bikes would cause strange gray areas in terms of application. Would kids be prohibited from riding and playing on bikes until they're old enough?

Enforced bike licensees also beg the question: if cyclists need to have a license, why not pedestrians? There are just as many specific areas for pedestrian-use, and distinct road regulations as well. It just seems strange, because why would anyone have a license for using their own two legs to travel, which is an argument easily applied to cycling.

So while, in theory, bike licenses seem like a good idea for Montreal, the truth is in fact the opposite. Besides, if the city proposed such an idea, I'm pretty sure there would be a cyclists protest (and riot?) the same day of the announcement.

Do you think bike licenses would work in Montreal?

For more on all things Montreal, follow Michael on Twitter @MDAlimonte

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