Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

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Chen
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Chen » Fri Oct 02, 2009 5:56 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Registration and licensing themselves would not reduce traffic law violations or safety concerns. Registration is a revenue stream, used to help pay for the bureaucracy and enforcement. On-going licensing would have no significant effect either besides that very basic initial education (just think about how easy it is to pass a driving test). Paying to renew my license every 5 years does not make me a better driver.


I'm not so sure about this. I see people jay-walking all the time here in Montreal. Yet the number of jay-walkers gets significantly reduced if there happens to be a cop car at the light or cops on the corner. Doing something illegal where there's little chance of being caught for it tends to occur more frequently than if there's a higher chance of being caught. This is why I suspect some sort of registration would reduce the amount of traffic violations since there would be a larger chance of getting caught and punished for it. I agree that on-going licensing probably wouldn't do much, its just the initial fact of being able to identify the bikers that are riding like mad men through the downtown core that would probably reduce the number of them.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Azrael » Fri Oct 02, 2009 7:03 pm UTC

Do you realize that you just cited an example of enforcement working, and then used it to support registration? Those pedestrians aren't registered, but they behave better when there is an enforcing officer there.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Carnildo » Sat Oct 03, 2009 2:34 am UTC

Azrael wrote:
Carnildo wrote:Pedestrians are unpredictable, but are slow enough that drivers can usually react to them in time.

... which is why people don't get hit by cars? 12% of automotive fatalities involve pedestrians.

Did you somehow miss the whole point of that sentence? I'm not comparing pedestrian-car fatalities with car-car fatalities, I'm comparing pedestrian-car interactions resulting in death with pedestrian-car interactions that do not result in death -- and nobody tracks the latter number. Based on my personal observations during my commute, there are probably between 10,000 and 1,000,000 cases where a pedestrian does something requiring a car to react for every death, so my use of the word "usually" seems justified.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Freakish » Sat Oct 03, 2009 3:19 am UTC

You should need a licence to bike in the same lanes as vehicles. Why should we just assume that bike riders know all of the rules of the road.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby the_stabbage » Sat Oct 03, 2009 5:18 pm UTC

It's apparently way more dangerous to bike on the sidewalk for a cyclist - you could hit pedestrians walking their dogs, listening to ipods, with small children, or other hindrances that would prevent them from getting out of your way. Not to mention that sidewalks have poor upkeep - more cracks, uneven surfaces, broken glass, rocks, etc. that might throw you off your bike than the road.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby folkhero » Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:44 pm UTC

It's been said before, but we really don't want the government disincentivizing behaviors that are overall positive to society. I would think that this would be obvious to everyone
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Enuja » Sat Oct 03, 2009 8:00 pm UTC

Registration and licensing can't make people behave. Only enforcement will make people behave. Registration or licensing creates a new thing to enforce, which can either improve or hinder the enforcement of the traffic rules. In the case of bicycles, I strongly suspect that registration or licensing would hinder enforcement of traffic rules. For example, it doesn't make sense to require a bicycle learning permit for children, but what is the thresh hold at which registration should be required? People suggest "driving on arterials" but what that would do would be to put non-registered cyclists on sidewalks, which is more dangerous. It's obviously dangerous to pedestrians, and it's actually dangerous to bicycles as they get hit by cars coming out of driveways, expecting fast things to be in the road and slow things on the sidewalk. I also think that licensing would require police to spend time and energy ticketing un-registered well-behaved bicyclists, when what they really need to do is ticket badly behaved bicyclists.

Cyclists often ignore rules, aren't considered important enough for cops in cars to go after, and can very easily "get away" from cops on foot. Registration wouldn't change this at all: only enforcement decisions by the traffic cops would change this. To me, the only possible positive effect of registration or licensing would be to increase enforcement of traffic rules, but it seems much more sensible to simply give money and directions to the police to specifically increase bicycle traffic rule enforcement.

Licensing and registration are important for driving, because cars are big, dangerous machines. We don't want kids practicing driving on residential streets without first learning about how to drive cars by book learning and practicing in empty parking lots. We do want kids practicing bicycling on residential streets. The amount of information you actually need to know about road rules is quite small, and the multiple choice questions on driver's license exams are really quite easy to pass with less than an hour of looking over sample tests. Requiring licensing for bicyclists couldn't require more than this, and it wouldn't increase the amount of knowledge of road rules by bicyclists. The problem is not knowledge but that people don't follow the rules they know.

I believe that other posters have covered the insurance issue quite well, so I won't address it without further questions.

Those you in favor of bicycle licensing, registration or insurance: where do you disagree with me? How do you think that any of these things would improve public safety more than simply enforcing existing road rules?

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Carnildo » Sat Oct 03, 2009 11:17 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:For example, it doesn't make sense to require a bicycle learning permit for children, but what is the thresh hold at which registration should be required? People suggest "driving on arterials" but what that would do would be to put non-registered cyclists on sidewalks, which is more dangerous.

Would it? I expect it would move non-registered cyclists to the side streets instead. For example, a driver could go from the Shadle library to Northtown Mall on Wellesley (two lanes each direction with a center two-way left turn lane), while non-registered cyclists could ride one block over on Wabash (a residential street that doesn't even have a line down the center).

The amount of information you actually need to know about road rules is quite small, and the multiple choice questions on driver's license exams are really quite easy to pass with less than an hour of looking over sample tests. Requiring licensing for bicyclists couldn't require more than this, and it wouldn't increase the amount of knowledge of road rules by bicyclists. The problem is not knowledge but that people don't follow the rules they know.

The problem is not that they don't follow the rules they know, it's that they don't realize the rules apply to them. In my mind, the point of licensing bicyclists is psychological: the point of a knowlege test is not so much to see if you know the rules, but to reinforce that yes, the rules do apply to bicyclists as well.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Amnesiasoft » Sat Oct 03, 2009 11:39 pm UTC

Carnildo wrote:In my mind, the point of licensing bicyclists is psychological: the point of a knowlege test is not so much to see if you know the rules, but to reinforce that yes, the rules do apply to bicyclists as well.

Okay, so enforce these rules. Then they'll realize they apply to them. That doesn't require any sort of licensing or testing.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Bright Shadows » Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:39 pm UTC

I'm going to guess there is an unnoticed benefit which would probably take place were there a licensing process for cyclists akin to the one for car driving. Fewer teenage car crashes. The licensing test, were it done right, would require understanding the rules of the road. Slightly altered or not, younger applicants would learn about them, and learn respect for cars early.

Also, the fee would only need to cover the cost of the test. An hour's work, plus whatever profit the government / company might have wanted, so maybe 30 dollars. Renewal every 5 years at a reduced cost. Say, 20 dollars.

Seems like a workable idea to me.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Enuja » Sun Oct 04, 2009 11:21 pm UTC

Bright Shadows, would a three year old need to take the test before getting on her first tricycle? A six year old on her first bicycle? I'm guessing not. If you don't require people to be licensed as they are learning to bicycle, how is licensing going to help reduce crashes with people learning to bicycle? In other words, how would licensing be "done right"? None of the suggestions I've heard so far seem at all workable or useful.

Carnildo, I don't know where you live, but where I live now all of the streets are busy (I have no idea where kids learn to bicycle), with the "side streets" being narrow one way roads with cars parked on either side and constant 4-way stops that bicyclists breeze right through. When I have lived in suburban places, the "side streets" are circular meanderings that are great for a bike ride just for fun but useless for getting anywhere. In other words, I think that there are very few places with actually useful get-from-one-place-to-another side-street-only routes that you'd want bicyclists who specifically didn't need to know the rules of the road on. In other words, I think that all bicyclists, of all ages, should know the rules of the road or be supervised by parents who know and are enforcing the rules of the road. I don't think that registration would do anything to make this more likely.

You can reinforce that rules apply to bicyclists by giving 10 year olds tickets for disobeying traffic rules much more easily than you can reinforce rules by requiring 10 year old to be licensed.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby arran4 » Mon Oct 05, 2009 1:36 am UTC

<Little tired. />

I think the licensing is done entirely so drivers can identify individuals, and provide some monetary incentive against cycling. While being able to identify individuals is a nice idea, I think it's less geared to actually having accidents, but towards annoyed car drivers. How I imagine this will go down, as it's easy for a car driver (to break the law while doing it too, just like the cyclist) to pull out a mobile phone, and (anonymously) report the cyclist, while hovering behind the cyclist.... I can only image that the type of driver to do this will over take the cyclist in a dangerous manner, while possibly offending the cyclist. It also opens up the avenue for a driver to just randomly report a cyclist they see on an off day.

Down here in Melbourne, Australia. There was a huge 'A current affair' outcry as last year a cyclist killed a pedestrian at a crossing, which has only hardened the publics opinion against cyclists. (Previously, due to the increase in petrol prices it was actually improving, I guess as more people could sympathize.) As a result, a bunch of laws were passed that forces a cyclist to stop an assist anyone they might have hurt, regardless of who was responsible in the situation. (Such as if a car hits a cyclist, the cyclist is legally obligated to offer the driver assistance.)

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby TheSkyMovesSideways » Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:33 am UTC

Hmmm, how did I miss this thread? Be warned, epic post ahead.

Rinsaikeru wrote:Bikes cut off pedestrians and cars all the time. They run red lights, they never signal turns. They ride without helmets etc etc etc.

If a bike hits a child or elderly person I can tell you they won't just be suprised.

Of course cars also are negligent of cyclists--but I wouldn't say cyclists are innocent of any and all wrongdoing on the road.

I'm pretty sure I've seen you identify as a feminist here before, so I expect that you're familiar with the concept of privilege.

Consider this; you, as (I presume) a non-cyclist, have the privilege of not having to put up with, on a daily basis, a significant chance of you being severly injured or killed through the negligence of motorists, or even murdered (deliberately hit, driven off the road, etc) by motorists.

For you, and the others arguing similar positions in this thread, such as kovan, Carnildo, and DSenette; the frequency with which cyclists are killed or injured by motorists where the motorist is at fault is astronomically higher than the frequency with which people are injured in traffic accidents where a cyclist is at fault. Damage to property where the cyclist is at fault is similarly a trivial occurrence. Given this, it should be pretty clear that if any group is posing a problem that needs to be remedied, it is motorists. I'd hope, given that information, your position is not still "blame the cyclists".

Rinsaikeru wrote:really I see lots of negligent and dangerous bike riding in Toronto.

Yeah, cyclists are the problem with Toronto's roads. :roll:

http://blog.taragana.com/n/top-canadian-politician-kills-cyclist-in-road-rage-156977/

kovan wrote:Could most cyclists afford to fix a door on a new car should they run into one through their own negligence?

Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

If a cyclist has a collision with a car door, I would hope that the driver of the car would be charged with negligent driving and made to pay for any damages to the bike and cyclists, or in the worst case, the driver be charged with culpable driving (called vehicular homicide in the US, I think). If you hit a cyclist with your car door, that's your fault.

Of course, if you're talking about a cyclist riding into the side of a parked car, when the hell is that ever likely to happen?

DSenette wrote:if they're riding on the sidewalk

Illegal where I'm from (unless you're 12 years old or younger, and I would hope other countries have similar laws. And that pretty much makes all your other points about cyclists hitting pedestrian irrelevant, because pedestrians shouldn't be on the roads unless they're legally crossing somewhere where lights or give-way/yield signs indicate right-of-way.

Izawwlgood wrote:Beyond providing insurance for injuries to the biker, which is likely covered by personal insurance anyhow, I feel safe in assuming that the damage bikers can cause to their environment (pedestrians, cars, etc) is astronomically less then damage bikers receive from their environment. Beyond providing a mutual program to ensure biker rights, which again, is something that is either provided in personal insurance anyway, or by the city/not at all by the city, I can't imagine this being very useful.

Couldn't agree more. This describes the situation perfectly.

DSenette wrote:
If a Bike hits your car door, again, your car insurance pays for it. If a bike hits a person, that person's insurance pays for it.
right...which makes the person who got hit have higher insurance premiums....

DSenette wrote:it's not about a premium going up...it's about a premium going up because of something some other idiot did...

See my previous point about this being the fault of the car driver, not the cyclist.

Carnildo wrote:My goal is to ensure that bicyclists are aware that there are traffic laws that apply to them (such as "if the light is red, stop" or "don't drive on the left-hand side of the road" or "if you're turning, signal").

I don't believe you. I think it's far more likely that you just don't like cyclists on "your" roads and see licensing as a way of hurting cyclists.

Ixtellor wrote:The point of automotive insurance is to protect other people. You can ruin innocent peoples lives with your car.
I don't think the same holds true for a bicycle. How often is someone killed or crippled because an irresponsible bicyclist ran into them?

Exactly. In Australia, I think we have around 1500 road deaths per year. There was one incident last year where a negligent cyclist killed someone. I'm not aware of any other incidents prior to that. Doesn't seem like bikes are really the lethal weapons that cyclist-licensing proponents would have you believe. Cars, on the other hand...

What is the perceived problem that bicycle licensing seeks to remedy, is it real or imaginary, and where is the evidence of it?

Freakish wrote:You should need a licence to bike in the same lanes as vehicles. Why should we just assume that bike riders know all of the rules of the road.

Because there's no evidence that cyclists pose any significant danger, to themselves or to others, that needs to be remedied?

Carnildo wrote:Would it? I expect it would move non-registered cyclists to the side streets instead. For example, a driver could go from the Shadle library to Northtown Mall on Wellesley (two lanes each direction with a center two-way left turn lane), while non-registered cyclists could ride one block over on Wabash (a residential street that doesn't even have a line down the center).

Ridiculously specific, irrelevant example is ridiculous, specific, and irrelevant.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Chen » Mon Oct 05, 2009 12:56 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Do you realize that you just cited an example of enforcement working, and then used it to support registration? Those pedestrians aren't registered, but they behave better when there is an enforcing officer there.


I think we were already in agreement that enforcement was definitely a way of getting things done. The point was more in terms of identification. I people were able to be linked to the vehicle that just knocked you over, or scratched your car or whatever, they'd probably be less indifferent (as they currently are) about doing it.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Diadem » Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:59 pm UTC

Doesn't everybody already have a personal liability insurance? Damage you do to someone else while on a bike should simply falls under this. No extra insurance needed. Just like damage you do to someone while walking falls under this.

In The Netherlands, we have a lot of bikes. We're known for them :) We reduce accidents with bikes mainly by having bicycle lanes everywhere. That helps a lot. But there are still plenty of places where bikes are between the normal traffic. But bikes really do not do a lot of damage compared to vehicles. Serious accidents with bikes always involve motorized vehicles, often trucks. It's cars that 'cause dangerous situations on the road, simply by virtue of going fast and being heavy.

Dutch law is that in any accident between a bike and a car (or truck) the car driver is always liable. That is not the same as being at fault. That depends on who caused the accident, who had right of way, etc. Who's fault it is, is relevant for possible legal ramifications (traffic fines, suspensions of driver's licenses, etc). Also if the accident is not the car driver's fault, his damage is covered by his insurance. If the accident is his fault, it is only covered if he has all-risk insurance, just like in any accident. But the damage to the bicyclist is always covered by the car driver's insurance, no matter who caused the accident, because he's always liable.

That may sound unfair, at first glance. But it's actually a very good system. Cars are inherently dangerous, after all, so it's not strange to make them liable for accidents. And since all car driverse are insured, it's a very efficient system. Plus it makes car drivers really pay attention to bicylists.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Azrael » Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:19 am UTC

Diadem wrote:Doesn't everybody already have a personal liability insurance?
Renter and homeowner insurance typical carry personal liability riders, as do some auto policies (although I a bit vague on those). However, renter insurance is not required and I'd bet there a correlation between urban settings, more bike riding in traffic, and less means to pay for non-required insurance.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Carnildo » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:53 am UTC

TheSkyMovesSideways wrote:Consider this; you, as (I presume) a non-cyclist, have the privilege of not having to put up with, on a daily basis, a significant chance of you being severly injured or killed through the negligence of motorists, or even murdered (deliberately hit, driven off the road, etc) by motorists.

For you, and the others arguing similar positions in this thread, such as kovan, Carnildo, and DSenette; the frequency with which cyclists are killed or injured by motorists where the motorist is at fault is astronomically higher than the frequency with which people are injured in traffic accidents where a cyclist is at fault. Damage to property where the cyclist is at fault is similarly a trivial occurrence. Given this, it should be pretty clear that if any group is posing a problem that needs to be remedied, it is motorists. I'd hope, given that information, your position is not still "blame the cyclists".


Expanding on the incident I referred to in an earlier post:

I was driving northbound after dark on a major street, approaching an intersection with a traffic light where I'd turn right. The light was green for me and was about two-thirds of the way through the phase. I signalled a right turn, checked to the right for pedestrians in the crosswalk, checked to the left for people running the red light, and saw a bicyclist run through the red light and swerve into the crosswalk. I stopped -- if I hadn't, he would have struck the driver's-side rear door of my car.

By my count, the bicyclist broke at least three traffic laws here: running a red light, failure to stay in lane, and driving after dark without lights. By my count, I may have broken one (obstructing traffic, by stopping for a green light). What part of this is my fault? What problem am I, as a motorist, posing that needs to be remedied?

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby TheSkyMovesSideways » Tue Oct 06, 2009 3:13 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:By my count, the bicyclist broke at least three traffic laws here: running a red light, failure to stay in lane, and driving after dark without lights.

In that case, he's absolutely at fault. (Or would have been had a collision occurred.) But your singlenear-incident with a rouge cyclist is no indication that licensing, compulsory insurance, etc for cyclists is needed.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Zamfir » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:22 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:Expanding on the incident I referred to in an earlier post:

I was driving northbound after dark on a major street, approaching an intersection with a traffic light where I'd turn right. The light was green for me and was about two-thirds of the way through the phase. I signalled a right turn, checked to the right for pedestrians in the crosswalk, checked to the left for people running the red light, and saw a bicyclist run through the red light and swerve into the crosswalk. I stopped -- if I hadn't, he would have struck the driver's-side rear door of my car.

By my count, the bicyclist broke at least three traffic laws here: running a red light, failure to stay in lane, and driving after dark without lights. By my count, I may have broken one (obstructing traffic, by stopping for a green light). What part of this is my fault? What problem am I, as a motorist, posing that needs to be remedied?

But the point is that he would have been hurt, not you. The default situation would be that people do not carry a license plate, unless there is a special reason for it. In the case of cars, that reason is that a car breaking the rules can easily cause large damage and even death. So it is important that cars can be identified in such a situation, and those situations are very common.

That cyclists break rules isn't enough reason to start a (costly) licensing program. If a cyclist breaking the rules leads often to large threats to others, then licensing would make sense.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Rinsaikeru » Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:21 pm UTC

Consider this; you, as (I presume) a non-cyclist, have the privilege of not having to put up with, on a daily basis, a significant chance of you being severly injured or killed through the negligence of motorists, or even murdered (deliberately hit, driven off the road, etc) by motorists.


I'm not a cyclist or a driver--I'm a pedestrian. My chances of being severely injured by a motorist are about as high as a cyclists I imagine. I'm not much fond of motorists either if it comes to that, but at least they have to have a basic understanding of the rules of the road and they're enforced better. I'm not in any way against cyclists--Toronto is a hard city to bike in, there are rarely bike lanes, cars are notorious for being dangerous for cyclists, but that doesn't make cyclists innocent of any and all wrongdoing.

The oft repeated (in this thread) "but the cyclist gets hurt not the motorist" when the cyclist does something wrong--seems to be missing the point. Getting hit by a bike might damage your car, injure a pedestrian etc--just because cars are bigger doesn't mean that cyclists should have zero responsibility for their cycling.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby TheSkyMovesSideways » Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:15 pm UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:I'm not a cyclist or a driver--I'm a pedestrian. My chances of being severely injured by a motorist are about as high as a cyclists I imagine.

I disagree. Australia's pedestrian death rates are about 7-8 times higher than cyclists', and there are a lot more than 7-8 times the number of pedestrians than there are cyclists. This is disproportionate.

I'd also expect that the pedestrian deaths are mostly, or at least far more often, the pedestrian's fault, due to them wandering across roads illegally, whereas cyclist deaths are generally the driver's fault. (Pedestrians can also expect to be quite safe during the day, their deaths happen mainly in the evenings, whereas cyclists are killed at all times of the day.)

Also, pedestrians don't have the same problem of frequently being targets of road rage that cyclists do, simply for using the roads they are entitled to use.

Ref:
http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/ ... sr_04.aspx

The oft repeated (in this thread) "but the cyclist gets hurt not the motorist" when the cyclist does something wrong--seems to be missing the point. Getting hit by a bike might damage your car, injure a pedestrian etc--just because cars are bigger doesn't mean that cyclists should have zero responsibility for their cycling.

No, but it does mean that bicycle registration is unnecessary. A cyclist who has cause damage or injury is generally not capable of fleeing the scene, because their bike will almost always be damaged and unusable, and they'll probably be injured themselves. So the argument that bicycles should have registration so that they can be held responsible for damage they cause doesn't really hold up.

We're discussing whether cyclists should have mandatory registration, not whether they're incapable of wrongdoing.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby stinch » Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:47 pm UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:I'm not much fond of motorists either if it comes to that, but at least they have to have a basic understanding of the rules of the road and they're enforced better.


How many cyclists don't have a basic understanding of the rules of the road? Or to put it another way, how many cyclists are not also motorists or at least hold driving licenses?

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Rinsaikeru » Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:52 pm UTC

I'm not sure which side of the issue I'm on in that case--while I'm not positive that licensing or registration would be beneficial--training about road rules and enforcement of failure to comply is something I'd support.

Pedestrians are about as likely to be injured or killed as a result of collision with a car though, whoever is at fault.

How many cyclists don't have a basic understanding of the rules of the road? Or to put it another way, how many cyclists are not also motorists or at least hold driving licenses?


I know several cyclists who don't have a driver's license, but perhaps my sample is skewed. It's not that I suspect cyclists don't KNOW the rules, it's that they seem to act as though they don't apply to cyclists.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby arran4 » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:05 am UTC

Quick question, is there anywhere where they actually have compulsory licensing for cyclists? I feel we need to draw on an example. I am skeptical that license and registration will do anything but provide an identity. Maybe if it were implemented drivers would stop referring bad cyclists as cyclists rather than an individual, although if that weren't the case I would want the registration system to be removed.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby phillipsjk » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:32 am UTC

I see about 3 main arguments for licensing cyclist in this thread (ignoring the cyclist-hating drivers theory):
  • It's not fair that car drivers have to pay for insurance while cyclists don't.
  • Many cyclist don't appear to know the rules of the road. (Or maybe they do, but feel free to ignore them.)
  • Licences can be used to identify offenders.

The first point has been addressed. Cyclists simply have to work a lot harder than motorists to cause property damage or injury/death. It has not been thoroughly established in this thread, but cyclists belong on the road, not the side-walk. A cyclist riding on the sidewalk has to (if riding safely) stop at every intersection. On arterial road-ways, the road is often "protected" by stop and yield signs. Pedestrians are another reason for cyclists to avoid the sidewalk. Cyclists: you know how the cars on the road are scary? That is how pedestrians feel about you on the sidewalk.

The second point is I think, the meat of the matter. The question then becomes: will licenced cyclists do a better job of obeying the rules of the road? How should cyclists train for their licence? In my jurisdiction, you are allowed to ride a moped with just a learner's license that requires only a multiple choice test and registration fee to obtain. For learning to ride a motorcycle, the learner must be followed by a fully-licensed driver.

I don't think third point is very important. People are creatures of habit. In many cases, if you watch, you will see the same cyclist doing about the same thing every day (unless they are doing a "one-off" trip). Unlike with the truck I bumped in a weave zone at 40km/h (in a car), if you go back at about the same time in a week or two, you can actually talk to them (I only got a blurry picture of what may be the same truck). I don't know if I am just weird, but I can be identified by my bike. Bikes are easier to modify than cars, and if you ride at night (in North-America) the bike needs to be modified anyway.

The benefits of unlicensed Cyclists

What would you rather have? A motorist who lost their licence driving their car without a licence or a bicycle? My point is that bicycles are a relatively safe vehicle for learning the rules of the road. I actually took the Canbike 2 test before deciding to get my full (automotive) licence. Because cyclists are required to follow the rules of the road, many of the skills I learned over 15 years directly apply. Some problem areas I had:
  • Stopping on ice (cars are heavy)
  • Moving faster than 30km/h (proper scanning of the road ahead; no time to look around)
  • Rolling through stop signs (you are supposed to come to a complete stop)
  • Learning where the edges of the vehicle are (I have limited depth perception as well)

My point is that many people get their first exposure to the "rules of the road" by riding their bike. If the average cyclist does not know the rules of the road, more education, not licencing is needed.

Then, there is the issue of cyclists ignoring the rules of the road. I admit even I do that sometimes, but sometimes the suggestions from irate drivers ignore the rules of the road. For example, one day I was in the second lane from the right on an overpass. As it was a major road, and I was initially going uphill, many motorist felt the need to pass me. When I caught up to the motorist who yelled at me at the next stop-light, he suggested I should have been in the right lane: a turn lane.

Then there are the stop-lights that only change if a vehicle is detected by an induction loop. They don't pick up my bike reliably (I think a very sudden stop on the sensor helps). An in-operative signal is to be treated as a 4-way stop. A casual observer may assume I am just running the red light. Technically, I have to wait about 2 minutes to make sure the signal is really inoperative. Sometimes getting off my bike and dragging it across the sensor helps. Any motorist stopping behind me has no idea what the problem is. To make matters worse, they often stop far enough back that they don't trip the sensor either.
Last edited by phillipsjk on Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:19 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby ianf » Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:34 pm UTC

phillipsjk wrote:I see about 3 main arguments for licensing cyclist in this thread (ignoring the cyclist-hating drivers theory):
  • It's not fair that car drivers have to pay for insurance while motorists don't.
  • Many cyclist don't appear to know the rules of the road. (Or maybe they do, but feel free to ignore them.)
  • Licences can be used to identify offenders.


I think you've actually split this down into three separate issues, quite nicely. The first is insurance, the second is a "cycling licence" and the third is "registration plates" for cycles. These could all be treated independently.

From a UK perspective, the insurance is already partly covered. Some home insurance policies will cover damage from cycles. It happened to a friend of mine, he was cycling, didn't stop in time and ran into the back of the car in front. The damage he caused to the car was paid for from his home insurance policy.

Training is another issue - perhaps that could be addressed on a mandatory basis, but it would be difficult to police. At the moment, even with a car, if you were unlicenced you would only get found out if you were involved in an accident or were stopped by the police for driving suspiciously or something. I would imagine that if you were an experienced car driver who lost their licence, then your chances of being detected whilst driving without a licence would be small.

Registration plates on bikes is the third issue (again, separate from the others) and would allow bikes to be caught in speed traps, jumping red lights, etc. Again, I am not sure that the practical situation would change. It comes back to the old problem of proving who was driving. This can be difficult with cars (oh, it was my friend visiting from France), so I'm not sure that it will be any different with bikes.

phillipsjk wrote:What would you rather have? A motorist who lost their licence driving their car without a licence or a bicycle?


Well, how about I'd rather he wasn't breaking the law at all. That's not really a good argument. Why don't we let people walk around carrying revolvers, after all what would you rather have people walking around with revolvers or people walking around with machine guns?

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby masakatsu » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:08 pm UTC

My opinion is that registration of bikes or licensing is a bad thing, well it was until another jerk almost hit me this morning when I walked around the block for my morning constitutional. We have a huge issue with bikers riding on the sidewalk, ignoring traffic lights, and other issues. They should be subject to the same traffic rules as motorists and stay off the damd sidewalk

However, I think if we are creating bike lanes and such public services for bikers, we need to have some way of mitigating the cost. A bike tax of some sort might be good solution in this economy.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:01 pm UTC

The ideal solution of course is to create more damn cycle paths. It reduces the chance of a bike colliding with anything, making it safer for all concerned, it stops bikes from clogging up the main part of the road and infuriating drivers, win win. Most of the cycle paths I've seen in cities are pathetic. They go for about a hundred yards before running out, so the cyclist is right back to clogging up the road. Either that, or they've just been painted on to the pre-existing tarmac, so that the car lane is now too narrow to fit a car on so they have to drive with two wheels in the cycle lane anyway. What's the point?
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby masakatsu » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:16 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:The ideal solution of course is to create more damn cycle paths. It reduces the chance of a bike colliding with anything, making it safer for all concerned, it stops bikes from clogging up the main part of the road and infuriating drivers, win win. Most of the cycle paths I've seen in cities are pathetic. They go for about a hundred yards before running out, so the cyclist is right back to clogging up the road. Either that, or they've just been painted on to the pre-existing tarmac, so that the car lane is now too narrow to fit a car on so they have to drive with two wheels in the cycle lane anyway. What's the point?



After watching a cyclist ride on the sidewalk right next to a bike path, I just assume that they were being a jerk. There is no incentive for a government to build longer bike paths if the cyclists just ignore the rules anyway. I ride a bike, but I realize that doing to pedestrians what I complain that car drivers do to me is just being a jerk.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby TheSkyMovesSideways » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:50 pm UTC

masakatsu wrote:We have a huge issue with bikers riding on the sidewalk, ignoring traffic lights, and other issues. They should be subject to the same traffic rules as motorists and stay off the damd sidewalk

Are those things not illegal in your country? They are in mine. (Well, in most cases. You're allowed to ride on the footpath if you're under the age of 12 or accompanying someone under the age of 12.)

However, I think if we are creating bike lanes and such public services for bikers, we need to have some way of mitigating the cost. A bike tax of some sort might be good solution in this economy.

An increased motor vehicle tax might be even better. :twisted:

masakatsu wrote:There is no incentive for a government to build longer bike paths if the cyclists just ignore the rules anyway.

I don't know where to start that statement is so ridiculous. You saw one cyclist riding on the footpath and assume from that that no cyclists ever uses bike paths? And then to say that there's no incentive for governemnts to build bike paths if some cyclists break laws? What is this, I don't even...
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Azrael » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:56 pm UTC

Similarly, there's no need to build or repair roads because those users simply violate their regulating laws as well.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby phillipsjk » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:42 am UTC

Where I live, your bike is allowed on most sidewalks if the wheels are under 50cm (20"). So I have a "sidewalk legal" bike for when the roads are impassible (due to snow).

The stance taken for the Canbike courses is that bicycles are vehicles. As such, they should act like vehicles as much as possible. Bike lanes throw a monkey-wrench into that philosophy: If bicycles are vehicles, "bike lanes" are just another special lane like a "car-pool" or taxi lane. That implies the lane has to be wide enough for cars to use it when they want to make a right turn. It also implies that cyclists have to venture into the "real" lanes for making left turns. Unfortunately, that does not always happen and collisions result.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby masakatsu » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:19 pm UTC

TheSkyMovesSideways wrote:I don't know where to start that statement is so ridiculous. You saw one cyclist riding on the footpath and assume from that that no cyclists ever uses bike paths? And then to say that there's no incentive for governemnts to build bike paths if some cyclists break laws? What is this, I don't even...


Why did you assume I only saw one? It is an epidemic locally. Walking on the sidewalk can be taking your life in your hands.

Technically it is illegal for you to ride on the sidewalk, but it isn't strongly enforces. The only way someone gets a ticket is if they hit a pedestrian.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:16 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Similarly, there's no need to build or repair roads because those users simply violate their regulating laws as well.

Bristol City Council seem to have taken this approach to dealing with the pot-holes created over winter. That is, by not dealing with them.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Enuja » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:42 pm UTC

I was kinda hoping that this thread necromancy that appears to simply be repeating everything posted in Sept. & Oct. would quickly die and slide off of the top of my egosearch, but it looks like that's not going to happen. Since this new conversation is going to be in my egosearch, I guess I might as well participate.

So I'm going to address one of my pet peeves with many complaints about bikes.

masakatsu wrote:Why did you assume I only saw one? It is an epidemic locally. Walking on the sidewalk can be taking your life in your hands.

Technically it is illegal for you to ride on the sidewalk, but it isn't strongly enforces. The only way someone gets a ticket is if they hit a pedestrian.


For four years, my super-short commute into work involved walking on a bike path. Because of a very poorly planned sidewalk/bike path situation, unless I wanted to cross a car-road twice, or go up and down about 75 steps, my best path was to be in the bike lane at the end of a hill. I never felt that my life was in any danger at all. Sure, I had people zip by within 2 feet of me at 25 mph, but I never was, or feared that I was, in danger. If they'd have hit me, they'd have been in much more danger than I. I did bike the route sometimes, and it was radically more dangerous and nerve-wracking than walking. Pedestrians kept doing unexpected things and blocking the bike route, even in the section that had separate and adjacent bike and pedestrian paths.

Bikes on sidewalks are dangerous to themselves, can be startling and annoying to pedestrians, but are not actually a life-risk to pedestrians.

I know of one instance where someone biked way too fast way too close to someone who was standing and talking, the talking person stepped back, fell, hit his head, and was very seriously injured. But the same could have happened if this person were startled by a child playing or someone running or anything else. People fall and die all of the time. Being alive is dangerous. Bicycles do not make life for pedestrians measurably more dangerous.

So please, please, everyone stop saying ridiculous exaggerations such as it's "taking your life in your hands" to walk on a sidewalk with bicycles.

On topic: if the problem is a lack of enforcement of existing laws, then advocate for enforcement, not for registration. Police do give out jaywalking tickets: you don't need a registration system for enforcement.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Chen » Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:30 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:So please, please, everyone stop saying ridiculous exaggerations such as it's "taking your life in your hands" to walk on a sidewalk with bicycles.


How about taking your safety and health into your hands then? I've seen people (both the biker and pedestrian) be serious injured in a collision. In the summer couriers are especially reckless on their bikes around here.

On topic: if the problem is a lack of enforcement of existing laws, then advocate for enforcement, not for registration. Police do give out jaywalking tickets: you don't need a registration system for enforcement.


Better enforcement would be good, but probably as logistically difficult as registration. You clearly won't have enough cops to make sure they can enforce all areas. Just like with jaywalking, if there's no cop around people do it with impunity because its quite difficult for them to get punished for it unless they are caught in the act. The same as true with bikers. This is certainly a benefit of registration in that it allows bikers to be identified and thus they can less easily just bike away from any potential illegal act. The red tape involved with registration would probably make it not worth the benefit unfortunately.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Enuja » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:02 pm UTC

"Seriously injured" as in "had a bruise for a month" or "seriously injured" as in couldn't walk away from the scene/had to go to the hospital/urgent care center? Sure, in pedestrian/bicycle collisions, sometimes the bike is going to need to be fixed before being ridden again. But the pedestrian being "seriously injured"? I strongly suspect that a pedestrian having to go to the hospital from twisting an ankle on a curb or uneven sidewalk is hundreds or thousands of times more common.

Do you really see couriers on sidewalks? It's a lot faster and easier to simply wind through the street traffic. In my experience (in Florida, California, and Chicago) the bicyclists on the sidewalks are people going slow and being casual about it. The commuters and couriers use the roads, because the roads are smoother, less obstructed, and road traffic is much more predictable than sidewalk traffic. I find that pedestrian-like bicyclists use sidewalks and car-like bicyclists use the road.

This is why I brought up my bike-lane-travel experience. Even in a much more dangerous than sidewalk situation, I was never in any danger. All of the people I saw with commuting injuries had fallen off of their bikes: no pedestrians had been hit by a bicyclist.

Registration is useless without enforcement. Enforcement works with or without registration (and is likely to be much more effective to increase safety and predictability of bicyclists if traffic laws instead of registration are being enforced).

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby masakatsu » Wed Feb 10, 2010 7:03 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:I So please, please, everyone stop saying ridiculous exaggerations such as it's "taking your life in your hands" to walk on a sidewalk with bicycles.


Being hit by a fastball (6 newtons) is less damage then being hit by a 120 lbs cyclist at 25 miles an hour (640 newtons). An average male would be 823 newtons. That is some decent damage.
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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Azrael » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:00 pm UTC

masakatsu wrote:
Enuja wrote:I So please, please, everyone stop saying ridiculous exaggerations such as it's "taking your life in your hands" to walk on a sidewalk with bicycles.

Being hit by a fastball (6 newtons) is less damage then being hit by a 120 lbs cyclist at 25 miles an hour (640 newtons). An average male would be 823 newtons. That is some decent damage.

That's a terrible comparison. Pressure and elasticity of the collision are the critical factors, not net force.

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Re: Should cyclists be licensed/insured?

Postby Chen » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:14 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:"Seriously injured" as in "had a bruise for a month" or "seriously injured" as in couldn't walk away from the scene/had to go to the hospital/urgent care center? Sure, in pedestrian/bicycle collisions, sometimes the bike is going to need to be fixed before being ridden again. But the pedestrian being "seriously injured"? I strongly suspect that a pedestrian having to go to the hospital from twisting an ankle on a curb or uneven sidewalk is hundreds or thousands of times more common.


Anecdotally, I've seen a woman get hit by a bike and who appeared to have had her ankle/leg broken (the ambulance did come for her). It is possible it was only sprained or the person was overreacting, I did not get the details of the event, it was just something I saw. My friend ended up hitting someone on his bike and he broke his wrist and broke the other guys' collarbone which I still consider "seriously injured" (the bike was pretty damn wrecked too, though not terribly relevant).

Do you really see couriers on sidewalks?


Its mainly when they're getting to the entrances of some of the buildings downtown. They definitely go right through crowds on the sidewalks getting to the entrances. I mean Montreal has a LOT of pedestrian traffic in the downtown core so its possible it occurs more here than other places, but it definitely happens. For most of the distance couriers go you are right they do tend to weave in and out of traffic, which is generally less dangerous to people besides themselves.


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