Ticket to Ride

פורסם: 15 באוג׳ 2014, 12:37 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 15 באוג׳ 2014, 12:37 ]
August 13, 2014

Four smart reasons cyclists are free to pedal without a license

by bob mionske

Road Rights(Illustration by Colin McSherry)

Whenever accidents involving bikes make the news, someone inevitably suggests that cyclists should be licensed—even when a law-abiding rider is seriously injured by a careless or reckless driver. The argument creeps onto opinion pages and shows up in online comments, creating a groundswell of frustration directed at those of us on two wheels.

This is nonsense. Research shows that negligent drivers cause nearly all collisions between bikes and motor vehicles. In these cases, licenses didn't prevent the guilty party from breaking the law or from doing something irresponsible. How would enforcing licenses for cyclists—the victims in most of these accidents—help prevent incidents? It wouldn't.

But the mindset persists and at some point you may encounter someone who will point a finger at your chest and demand that you get a license. Thank them for their concern, then school them on the issue. Here are airtight rebuttals for the four most common arguments raised by motorists.

Someone Says
You don't have a right to the road without a license.

You Say
Roads are for everyone. Motorists love to argue that their licenses and vehicle registrations grant them the right to drive on our roads. That's simply not the case. We all have a right to the road, but because motor vehicles have historically been the most dangerous mode of transportation, their use has been restricted by states mandating that drivers be licensed and their vehicles registered. Because cyclists have never been considered dangerous by states, we've never been required to get a license.

Someone Says
License fees pay for road construction.

You Say
But they cover only a fraction of the expense. Some drivers erroneously believe that their licensing fees and fuel taxes pay for all road construction and maintenance. Those amounts cover only about half of the costs; the rest come from income, property, sales, and other taxes that we pay into the general funds of federal, state, and local governments. That means every taxpayer contributes to road building and upkeep, whether they drive, ride a bike, or walk.

Someone Says
Cyclists need to pay their fair share.

You Say
We already do. Road infrastructure is heavily biased toward automobile use (consider how few bike lanes exist compared with total miles of roads). And motor vehicles cause nearly all of the wear and tear on our roads. The result: Cyclists pay proportionately more into the system than they get back, while drivers pay a comparatively small amount based on everything they receive. And that's before you factor in the inconvenient truth that most cyclists also drive, which means we pay plenty of gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, too.

Someone Says
Licenses make roads safer.

You Say
Look at the facts. In 2010, motor vehicle crashes in the United States claimed 32,885 lives (including pedestrians) and left another 2.24 million injured. By contrast, cyclists are responsible for a meager six pedestrian fatalities each year, on average. There is no comparison between the risk that cyclists pose to public safety and the risk posed by drivers. This is why the states have never required cyclists to be licensed or insured. So the next time someone suggests that cyclists need licenses, use it as an opportunity to set the record straight.

I had to pull over on the bike path to answer nature's call. Was that legal?
A number of laws prohibit this. In addition to public urination, you could be charged with littering, lewdness, or indecent exposure. But as long as you avoid flashing any potential bystanders, you should be able to avoid legal problems.