A push for bike licensing follows Wheeler closure

A push for bike licensing follows Wheeler closure

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-12

Bob Huckaby, owner of First Inc., wants
the state of Oregon to require
bicycle licenses.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Well it looks like First Inc. owner Bob Huckaby is a bit more frustrated with the City of Portland’s decision to close Wheeler Ave than I initially thought. KATU News is set to report this afternoon that Huckaby — the man featured in our story on Monday who aired concerns about people on bicycles not obeying the stop sign at N. Flint — plans to push for a bicycle license requirement via a statewide ballot measure.

According to KATU, Huckaby will pursue a campaign in 2013 to put bicycle license requirement up for a public vote with the aim of making people who ride bicycles more accountable and forcing them to become more knowledgeable of traffic laws. Here’s the video just posted on the KATU Facebook page (and watch how the pickup truck goes right around the new barrier and turns right on Wheeler at about the :36 second mark):

As I’ve reported, Huckaby sees the safety problems that existed at Wheeler (prior to its closure yesterday) as being the byproduct of illegal bicycle riding. “Instead of making people obey the laws, they’re penalizing everyone else,” is how Huckaby put it to me when we spoke on Monday.

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-2

One of Huckaby’s trucks exits Wheeler Ave.

It’s important to note that PBOT only partially closed Wheeler. It’s now prohibited for all vehicles (including bicycles) to make right turns from Broadway onto Wheeler; but people can still exit south from Wheeler onto Broaday. The detour around Wheeler is estimated to take about 30-45 seconds.

KATU is going to report that Huckaby will push for bicycle licensing via a statewide ballot measure that, if passed, would require people to display a license plate on their bicycles and require people on bikes to carry a driver’s license.

I’ll share more on this story as it develops and stay tuned to KATU-TV for their full storyHere’s the full story KATU just posted.


For what it’s worth, KATU asked me for my reaction to Huckaby’s decision: I pounded out the following thoughts in an email a few minutes ago and figured I’d share them here:

1) We currently have driver’s licenses for people who wish to drive… And how’s that working out? Has that made people obey the law? Nope. Ask Jefferson Smith or the thousands upon thousands of people who break traffic laws every minute of every day while driving throughout Oregon.

2) Only a very, very very small percentage of people who bike do not have driver’s licenses already.

3) I’m all for a new state-funding program and bureaucracy that will give people who only bike the same access to resources and education that people who drive are given. I would love a new Department of Vehicles (notice I left out “Motor”) that treated people who don’t own cars with the same respect as those who do. Obviously I think more education of bike laws is needed and I’d love to see it happen… But are the people who often call for this new state program/bureaucracy willing to put their own tax dollars up for it? Or, are they willing to have other programs cut so we can pay for it?

4) A key difference between driving and biking is that Portland and every other major city (and many rural ones), are actually working hard to promote biking. They want as many people to bike as possible because they know biking is key to their economic survival. Biking is cheap, it is attractive from a livability standpoint, it takes very little money to maintain from a Transportation Department point of view, it lowers health care costs, it reduces congestion, and so on and so forth. Driving on the other hand, is an activity that every regional leader would like to see less of. So, bicycle licensing would be yet another barrier for people to do something that the vast majority of decision-makers wants to make easier.

5) The devil is in the details. At what age must someone become licensed to bike? Would we allow kids to ride around the neighborhood without a license? If people already have driver’s license, would they have to also have a biking license? And vice-versa?

6) Clearly Mr. Huckaby’s efforts come from a feeling of anger, frustration, and wanting to “penalize” (to use his word) people who bike for their legal transgressions. (I also believe he is sincerely concerned about all the illegal behaviors he sees). I think the idea of mandating knowledge of bicycle laws through a new state program is an excellent one that we should begin to think about as bicycles make up a larger part of traffic. However, this discussion has no chance of being productive when it begins — and is led by — someone who approaches it from a punitive standpoint.

I am not against thinking up ways to make more people aware of bicycling laws; I just don’t think a mandatory “bike license” is the answer. The problems that lead to this issue are poorly designed roadways and a system of traffic laws designed around cars and trucks — not bicycles. We as a society cannot expect people who ride bicycles to understand and comply with laws that in many cases do not relate to the operation of their vehicle and that were designed specifically for a much different type of vehicle.

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