Should cyclists be forced to pay an annual registration fee?

New York cyclists commute into Manhattan (Reuters file photo)An interesting debate about licensing and taxing cyclists is going on south of the border.

The lively discourse was recently sparked after a Chicago council woman proposed an annual $25 fee for that city's bike riders.

"My rationale is that we have an increase in bike ridership in the city, have provided bike lanes for bike riders and they utilize the road, just like the people who drive cars and trucks," Pat Dowell said in October according to DNAinfo Chicago.

"If we have to register our cars, bikes ought to be registered as well."

An Associated Press article, published last week, notes that other jurisdictions in the U.S. have also considered such a levy as a means to recoup road construction and maintenance costs.

Two or three states consider legislation each year for some type of cycling registration and tax — complete with decals or mini-license plates, National Conference of State Legislatures policy specialist Douglas Shinkle said. This year, it was Georgia, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The Oregon legislation, which failed, would even have applied to children.

It's also a debate that continues to take place in this country.

During the 2010 municipal election campaign in Toronto, councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said that if he was elected as mayor, he would introduce a $20 to $30 registration fee for bikes in Canada's largest city.

"The suburbs don't want to continue to subsidize these pet projects," he said with regard to building new bike lanes, according to the Toronto Star.

"If those that want to ride bikes want to continue to change infrastructure and cost the taxpayer $4 million a year, then they should pay for it."

Nationally, there are over 200,000 adult cyclists who commute to work every day.

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As you might expect, biking advocates in both countries are against such a fee.

"We've seen this idea come up a lot. It continues to come up in places all around North America. And almost all of the time it's either repealed or it isn't approved by decision makers...[because] it's very costly to put something like this in place," Erin O'Melinn, executive director of HUB — a Vancouver-based cycling advocacy group — told CKNW News on Friday.

"If you're using it as revenue generator it's not going to work very well. The amount of people power  you're going to hire to do the registration and do the enforcement, it's a lot of full time jobs [that will need to be paid].

"In terms of the other reasons it's not a good idea: cycling brings so many other benefits to us whether it's health, environmental [and] local economic development. It's much less costly to build for bicycle infrastructure than it is for car and truck infrastructure. So, if we're talking about saving money, it's better for us to focus on ways to get more people cycling."

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Public opinion on the issue seems to be mixed — at least in Toronto.

According to a 2012 Forum Research survey — published in the Toronto Star — 52 per cent of those asked agreed that "licensing bicyclists would be a fair trade-off for investing in a comprehensive European-style bicycle infrastructure."

What do you think? Should cyclists have to bare some of the burden for road and infrastructure costs with a registration tax or levy?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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