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Why Don't You Need a Bicycle License?

Short answer: Because it’s pointless and expensive. But that hasn’t stopped a few intrepid cities from trying.
A vintage 1973 Honolulu bicycle license plate.
A vintage 1973 Honolulu bicycle license plate.Jerry "Woody"/Flickr

Hamilton, Ontario, a steeltown of half a million on the shores of Lake Ontario*, has traditionally been known as the flinty industrial sibling to nearby Toronto. But signs of downtown revitalization are bringing the usual mixed bag of gentrification-related discontentsrising rents, fears of displacement, and an obligatory bicycle-v.-motorist squabble. The city is trying to build out its bike infrastructure to meet the obligations of an ambitious 20-year master plan adopted in 2009, including a $2.3 million cycle track on the Claremont Access, a heavily trafficked road where a local schoolteacher on a bike was killed by a motorist in 2015. To help pay for the lane, some lawmakers are proposing that the city establish a licensing fee for bicyclists. “They should have some skin in the game,” Hamilton councilor Terry Whitehead declared.

A perhaps predictable furor ensued, with the bicyclist advocacy group Cycle Hamilton voicing opposition to the licensing scheme. “I think the research has been pretty clear that it’s not worth it, that any revenue you might create is eaten up by the bureaucracy of it all," the group’s vice-chair, Johanna Bleecker, told the Hamilton Spectator.