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Op-Ed Mon Nov 04 2013

Bicycle Registration Fee is Absurd, Illogical

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.

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Todd / November 5, 2013 9:44 AM

The registration i smore for the safety of the cyclist and the ultimate return of their stolen bike from pawnshops and garage sales- due to IT BEING REGISTERED.

Bike thefts will plummet.

Francis / November 5, 2013 9:55 AM

I'm a daily cyclist, and I think that bike registration would be a good idea if it made money for the city. Bicyclists do cause congestion, they require well-maintained roads, and they need plenty of other infrastructure. That price tag is going to increase the more cyclists are on the roads. There's no reason they (we) shouldn't be paying for it.

But it doesn't make money, and we don't have the resources to police registration. So I'm against registration as it's proposed, but the concept is totally sound. It's not illogical, and it's not absurd. It's just not workable in the current proposal.

PS Just because people don't comply with a law doesn't mean it's a bad law. Following this logic, there's no reason to have any law people break. This shouldn't be debate 101.

Dave / November 8, 2013 10:48 AM

Todd, the anti-theft argument is bogus because the Chicago Police Department already offers a bicycle registry program. If theft deterrence is the goal, it makes much more sense to promote the existing system than to create a new one.

Laurence / November 10, 2013 7:59 AM

Monica, let's remove your attempt at subliminal bias:

"Cable TV is a luxury" and "a bicycle is a necessity for some people"

Such a declaration! But not as subliminal as I'm certain that you thought it would be towards influencing people's opinions. Why do you not insert "some" while referring to cable TV as a luxury, as you did when referring to the main point of your argument... you know, just to keep things even? (Your use of "some" is such a cop-out disclaimer, that you couldn't bring yourself to use in the first statement.)

What you fail to grasp, or rather don't care to highlight, is that close-to-most of Ald. Pat Dowell's constituents are retirees whom are on a fixed income. For them, cable TV is their most important and only source of entertainment. And when I use the term "entertainment," I actually mean their source of connection to the world at their age. They can't simply "get rid of it," because they couldn't (and yes, it's sort of sad) find anything else to do with their time and fixed income. So, stop your self-righteousness about cable TV being nothing but a "luxury."

Ald. Pat Dowell is trying to find a solution which doesn't unfairly tax those who cannot afford an increase to their way of life (not way of transportation) in her ward. I as a cyclist, quite frankly, see nothing wrong with the proposed meager yearly tax because I've seen the improvements that have been made to our city streets for our cycling use. Chicago's "Green Lane Project" ( ) is certainly for the benefit of cyclists and not motorists, so why not use bicycle registration fees for even more of this project? I don't see why motorists should foot the bill for bicycle-specific street alterations, of which there are more of every day. (And that's a good thing!)

carey / November 10, 2013 12:36 PM

You can watch regular non cable tv, read a book, draw a picture, or listen to music to name a few. Don't tell us that cable TV is the only "connection to the world." Bullcrap.

Biking is walking on two wheels and the only congestion it causes is during critical mass. Any congestion your witnessing on the highways or streets is because of the automobile.

We wouldn't need "bicycle-specific street alterations" or even sidewalks for that matter if there were no cars/trucks in our public spaces. The automobile is inherently dangerous and because people are killed by them all the time, there's a need to build safer walking and biking infrastructure. Take away the car/trucks and you barely spend any money on roads. Problem solved.

P Buddery / December 3, 2014 12:34 AM

I own one car and four bicycles. I pay for roads with my car's registration fee and petrol tax. Why should I then have to go to additional fuss to register four bicycles? I can simply record the serial numbers in the event of theft.

If bikes have to be registered, a large and inevitably confused bureaucracy will be needed to implement this. This would seem to be a waste of effort and resources.

I do like the simplicity of just hopping on whichever bike and riding to work. Why should this end?

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