Comment 34054

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:41:44

I really don't believe that licensing is counter-productive, all things considered. Even with relatively high administration costs, this isn't about about setting up a regulation regime, its really about creating broad legitimacy for cycling among a car-dependent and sometimes suspcicious public. Let's face it, the vast majority of road users are drivers, and if public reaction in Toronto is any indication, there is significant animosity towards cyclists (whipped up by the media or not).

A recent poll commissioned by Share the Road Cycling Coalition found that more than half of Ontarians (60%) would ride a bike more often if not for safety concerns. The survey results can be seen on the Share the Road website (sharetheroad.ca), and the organization's founder also stated that "We now know that Ontarians in the 34-49 age range are the most likely to have a bike, but also are most likely to say they rarely or never ride it. Given that many of these Ontarians have families, the likelihood that their children do not ride regularly nor are they encouraged to ride (given the fear factor) is very high."

Ryan, while I generally agree with your "if you build it, they will come" orientation towards cycling in Hamilton, there is still a significant perception problem with cycling that needs to be overcome, and it may be compounded by being transmitted to a younger generation who may have less experience or enthusiasm for cycling.

What needs to be addressed specifically is how people perceive the risks associated with biking (especially in mixed traffic). Since Hamilton (and Ontario in general) does not have a well-developed cycling culture (unlike the cities that you most frequently cite as models of progressive urban cycling planning), I think that licensing can play a public awareness role and I seriously doubt it would act as an impediment to use in our specific context--the biggest issue would be dealing with griping from established cyclists who now have to abide by the regime.

I see your point about reinforcing positive behavioural norms by simply haivng more cyclists around, but this is also a recipe for reinforcing bad habits which (true or not) many people believe are widespread. (Urban) Cycling as an activity in general needs to be further legitimized not just for cyclists, but among drivers with whom they will share the roads, and no better way to do that and establish mutual trust and respect than by casually regulating it and signalling to people that governments take cycling seriously.

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