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Op-Ed Mon Nov 04 2013
I am not a bicyclist.
I'm one of those people who always thinks, "Maybe I should trek out to Working Bikes and buy a bike because I'd love to commute along Lake Michigan," but never actually goes and buys a bike. It's partially due to the worry of someone stealing my bicycle even if I used four different u-locks, as well as deciding to buy more books with the money I could use to buy a bike.
I love bicyclists in Chicago.
These are people who have found another way to commute, one that is possibly better than how we often think of commuting in Chicago. The CTA--which I will say more about later--is not always the most reliable to commute and no one wants to be stuck in a car in traffic. Bicyclists are the people who can easily speed past the throngs of people crushed together on the bus, who never have to hear an announcement regarding a delay for the CTA.
So why should they have to pay a ludicrous bike registration fee?
You could look at it as a dog license, but for bicycles. The problem with this is that City Clerk Susana Mendoza admitted recently the push for dog licenses has not been very successful. To initially register a dog in Chicago it is $5, or $2.50 for dog owners over 65 years old. For a dog that has not been spayed or neutered, it is $50, $5 for dog owners over 65.
If a very inexpensive dog registration fee fails to be very successful in Chicago, what makes Ald. Pat Dowell think the bicycle registration fee is going to work?
For a moment, let's look at this from her perspective. Ald. Dowell is possibly thinking this would be a great way to try to reduce the City's gaping budget gap. This way, it requires bicyclists to pay up for their right to bike around the city and while they're paying to ride a bike, they can take a safety and rules of the road course.
You could also see the bike registration fee as being analogous to the car registration fee. People who own cars in Chicago use them to get to and from work as well as run errands for work. There are quite a few people in Chicago whose jobs involve making deliveries on bike and require a bike for their job.
But bicycles do not cause congestion. Bicycles do not cause pollution. Why would we want to discourage bicyclists in Chicago?
If Chicago would want to make commuting better and become a greener city that's more livable, then encouraging bicyclists is something in the city council's best interest. Owning a bicycle is less expensive than owning a car, and with the massive mess known as Ventra occurring at the CTA, you can't blame someone for leaping for a bicycle instead of a Ventra card.
The biggest problem with instituting the registration fee would be actually enforcing people having a license of some sort. This would require police manpower and it would be a waste of the Chicago Police Department's time to try to monitor which bicycles have a license. People are shot and murdered regularly in Chicago and the police need to be spending their time putting a stop to murders in Chicago, not seeing if bicyclists have registered their bicycles.
As for a "rules of the road" class, there are some bicyclists who are reckless. They are the outliers of the bicyclists in Chicago. If a bicyclist is recklessly riding down the street or they're biking on the sidewalk, a ticket is reasonable and maybe a "rules of the road" class is a good idea after a certain number of tickets. But requiring all bicyclists in Chicago to take such a class is preposterous.
Mayor Emanuel's idea to increase the tax applied to cable TV seems more reasonable. Cable TV is a luxury while a bicycle is a necessity for some people. The people who really feel the desire to continue having cable TV will keep it. Those who find the tax hike to be too much can get rid of it. Besides, Chicago is such a great city it's a shame to spend all night in watching TV.
As for the bicyclists, long may they thrive.