Bikelash in the SFV: Neighborhood Council Considers Asking for Bike Licensing
Even in the wake of another tremendously successful CicLAvia, there are still signs of a Bikelash growing in some quarters against progressive transportation design that attempts to make streets safer and efficient for all road users, not just automobiles.
Tonight, the Northridge West Neighborhood Council will vote on what Los Angeles Bike Advisory Committee member Glenn Bailey is facetiously calling a “modest proposal” to, as it says in the agenda description, “Encourage Bicycle Violator Citations and Reinstitute Bicycle Licensing (Bicycle license fees must be at least $150 per year to reflect their shared responsibility for the cost of maintaining the roads and their safe use).” The proposal is item 13v on the Neighborhood Council agenda.
Northridge West just happens to be the Neighborhood Council that has the portion of Wilbur Avenue that has undergone a road diet in the summer of 2010. You may note that the diet has been a controversial topic at the local level and has caused no amount of headaches for City Councilman Greig Smith and the LADOT.
Apparently, at least one local stakeholder wants to double-down on that headache. Unfortunately, the proposal is so wacky and out of step it says more about any Neighborhood Council that would pass it than it does about cyclists. Some things the Neighborhood Council should know before it votes:
The first of these issues is that the state vehicle registration fee has nothing to do with the upkeep of local roads. Since the author is apparently trying to equate the state vehicle license fee which goes to air pollution mitigation and highway upkeep caused by heavy vehicles traveling billions of miles across the state every year with local road maintenance paid by sales and property tax, it’s important to note that there has yet to be a case where a pothole has been caused by too many bicycles running over it.The writer apparently has no idea what state and local fees pay for what parts or road maintenance.
Next, it is actually illegal to charge more than $3 for a bike license under state law. If the author of this motion wants to really charge cyclists $150 per bike, the first law that needs to be changed is a state law.
The Neighborhood Council should also consider the history of bike licensing in Los Angeles. You can get a good recent history with Streetsblog’s coverage of the end of the city’s bike licensing program. In short, licensing the millions of bicycles in the city is a nigh impossible task if you follow the state’s guidelines for licensing and the LAPD has no stomach or resources to waste on such a program again.
Last is the public relations effect of passing this legislation. The conduct and testimony of road diet opponents at last month’s Joint Neighborhood Council meeting didn’t just disgust me, but also one of the most prominent opponents of the road diet, Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks.
But last month, at a community meeting on the issue, I felt my perspective shift. City officials admitted that the change had been hastily made, without enough public input. They came to offer a compromise. The residents booed, yelled insults and shouted them down.
I couldn’t help thinking as I surveyed the crowd that most of the complainers looked like they could use some time on a bike. I felt a bit embarrassed to be on their side.
If you would like to urge the Neighborhood Council to reject this proposal, you can attend their meeting tonight (the meeting location is on the agenda), or just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Before you write an email, please remember that the Neighborhood Council Members are volunteers and that this proposal was put forward by a stakeholder of the Council not a Board Member.