City hall committee to talk about licensing bikes ... again

A controversial motion that could lead to a licensing system for bicycles goes before the the city's public works and infrastructure committee next week.

Councillor says money raised could be used to fund new bike lanes, enhance safety awareness

Bikes - not cyclists - could be licensed in future if a motion sponsored by Ward 3 Coun. Stephen Holyday passes at next week's meeting of the public works and infrastructure committee. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A controversial motion that could lead to a licensing system for bicycles goes before the city's public works and infrastructure committee next week.

The motion, by Coun. Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre), asks that council direct staff to look into the pros and cons of licensing bicycles, rather than individual riders. It also suggests that only adults be subject to any new rules.

Some of the money generated from licensing fees could be used to offset the cost of new bike lanes, Holyday said Tuesday, and information gathered from cyclists in a licensing application could help inform councillors when they're developing cycling policy.

"One of the things I've struggled with is the lack of information we have to base our decisions on," Holyday said. A licensing application "could provide information on who cycles and where."

At least two councillors say no

But with a week to go before the public works meeting, the motion could already be in trouble. Two of the six councillors on the committee — Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32 Beaches-East York) and Anthony Peruzza (Ward 8 York West) — told CBC News Tuesday they'll be voting against the idea.

"It's been proven over and over again. It won't work," said McMahon.

Both Holyday and Coun. Ron Moeser are expected to vote in favour of the motion. Committee Chair Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West) wasn't commenting Tuesday, and the sixth member of the committee, Chin Lee (Ward 41 Scarborough-Rouge River), hadn't responded to a request for comment by Tuesday evening.

Cycle Toronto executive director Jared Kolb said his group would make a presentation at city hall during next Tuesday's meeting, showing that the costs of licensing outweigh the benefits.

"The City of Toronto has looked at this idea three times since the 1990s and has come back recommending against it," said Kolb. As for helping authorities crack down on cyclists who break the law, "the police already have full powers of enforcement," he said.

But Holyday denied a thorough study of his idea has been done. "I'm not sure why people are afraid of reports," he said. "Whenever I raise the idea of licensing I seem to have this backlash. That's frustrating."

Coun. Stephen Holyday will present a motion that could lead to bike licensing at the Sept. 27 meeting of the public works committee. (CBC)

He said licenses could be applied for online and take the form of a plate or a decal. They could also be sold at bike retailers.

Licensing bikes could also give the city an opportunity to enhance cyclists' awareness of safety measures and bike standards, he said.

This is not the first time this issue has been raised at council this year. In June, Holyday tried to have council consider a similar licensing motion during a debate on expanding the city's cycling infrastructure, but it was ruled out of order.

In July, his motion went before council but was referred to public works and infrastructure.