One Man’s Push to Require Bike Licenses in Oregon

Strange news out of Oregon: Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland is reporting on one local businessman’s effort to require additional licensing for cyclists — something that could have a real dampening effect on “America’s Bike Capital.”

Maus recently spoke with the lead proponent of the licensing requirement:

Will a bike license referendum make it onto the ballot in Oregon? Photo: Bike Portland

Buoyed by support from across the state, Portlander Bob Huckaby is going full-steam ahead on a statewide ballot measure that would require all bicycles to have license plates and would mandate a bicycle law test for all adults who don’t already have a driver’s license.

We first reported on Huckaby last month, when he shared concerns over the City’s decision to partially close N. Wheeler Avenue at Broadway. Huckaby owns First Inc., a business just a few blocks away from the intersection. “Instead of making people obey the laws,” Huckaby shared with me on August 19th, “they’re penalizing everyone else, and that’s not right.” A few days after the closure, Huckaby told a local TV news station that he planned to take the bicycle license requirement to voters via a ballot measure.

So far, Huckaby remains 100% dedicated to this effort. He’s building a coalition of support from around the state and he has hired a lawyer who is currently writing up the ballot language. While precise details are still being worked out, Huckaby says the measure (or measures, he might end up splitting them into two) would seek to create a new “bicycle endorsement” education program for people who have not taken the Oregon driver’s test. It would also mandate more police enforcement of traffic laws. To pay for the new bicycle-specific testing and the enforcement, Huckaby’s measure would require a fee for the endorsement test and would require registration via a license plate on all bicycles in Oregon.

Bike licenses are expensive for government agencies to administer, discourage cycling, and open the door to increased police harassment of cyclists. They could also make biking more dangerous by reducing cyclists’ numbers on the road, and eroding the “safety in numbers” effect. The trend in cities like Cleveland and San Diego has been to remove licensing requirements, which make little sense if one’s goals include good transportation policy, safer streets, or government efficiency.

Elsewhere on the Network today: PubliCola remarks on a push in Seattle to outlaw small-lot development in some single-family neighborhoods. Portland Transport spends some time thinking about how bicycle advocates can ensure the benefits of cycling are enjoyed by everyone. And Bike Lane Living wonders whether London’s plans for an elevated bike highway are too good to be true.