Inevitably in a discussion about cyclists obeying rules of the road, the issue of licensing and insurance comes up. One of Vancouver’s mayoral candidates is pushing this idea too. The reasoning goes: If only cyclists were required to be licensed, they would be educated on the rules of the road. And by requiring them to carry insurance, they could be held responsible for any damage they cause. I’ll write more about insurance in a later post.
Fundamentally, there are some problems with licensing anything in Vancouver. Did you know that if you have a dog that is more than 3 months old in Vancouver, you are supposed to get a dog license?
Estimates vary, but it seems between 20% and 30% of all dogs in Vancouver are licensed. It stands to reason that attempts to license cyclists will have similar problems. First people need to know about the bylaw. Then they have to decide to follow it. And then there has to be bylaw enforcement.
Putting the public disdain for city bylaws issue aside, one major reason cited for advocating licensing is education. It’s easy to live in Vancouver and not have a driver’s license. Is it reasonable to have people who may not know the rules of the road driving a bicycle on the road? Or, even if they have a driver’s license, are they aware of how those rules apply to bikes?
If the goal of licensing is education, it doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. To start, it seems to me that anyone who has a Class 5 driver’s license should know the rules of the road. Perhaps ICBC could put somewhat more emphasis on cycling, but a Class 5 license should cover cycling as well. That leaves two groups of people who do not have a driver’s license: adults and kids.
What if the City of Vancouver instituted a bicycle safety program through the school system? The VACC offers standalone courses, but consider courses more integrated into the schools. If the City of Vancouver provided funding, perhaps in conjunction with ICBC, CyclingBC, VACC, (an organization to run the programs) a course could be available to kids a few times throughout the year. After completing the program, kids would have a certificate (or license) showing they’ve taken the program. Victoria has a program like this, run by the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition: Bike Sense. If this were provided to kids at no cost, I’m certain it would prove popular. Licensing the under-16 crowd wouldn’t be mandatory.
That leaves unlicensed adults. There are currently programs in place (like the VACC StreetWise course) that serve these people. I suppose the city could enact a bylaw that requires unlicensed cyclists to have a bicycle safety certificate to ride on the roads, but I imagine participation rates and enforcement would be pretty dismal.
A Calgary Herald blog post discussed some other considerations for licensing cyclists. Licensing is both a revenue generator and a way to make cyclists accountable. These are interesting points, but utterly impractical.
What are your thoughts? License everyone, just better education, or is cycling something that should have no restrictions whatsoever?
Last modified: November 4, 2011