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Alderman Floats Plan To Charge $25 Bike Registration Fee

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 24, 2013 1:50PM

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), shown in 2012 at the groundbreaking ceremony for The Plant's sustainable biogas system, admits she "(hasn't) really thought it through completely" regarding her annual bike registration fee proposal. (Chicagoist/Chuck Sudo)

Chicago bicyclists woke up with some sour milk in their cereal this morning after a South Side alderman proposed an annual $25 bike registration fee for cyclists who ride in the city.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) floated the idea as a new revenue stream for city coffers and as an alternative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s planned hike of the city amusement tax for cable television bills. Dowell’s rationale, as reported by DNAInfo Chicago, is simple.

”(W)e have an increase in bike ridership in the city, have provided bike lanes for bike riders, and they utilize the road, just like the people who drive cars and trucks.

"If we have to register our cars, bikes ought to be registered as well," Dowell said.


"Let's say 200,000 bikes are in the city — and I don't know how many bikes are in the city — that's $5 million," Dowell said.

Dowell said Emanuel’s amusement tax hike would unfairly impact “people who depend on cable TV as their form of entertainment” who can’t afford to attend concerts, plays and movies and intends to introduce the proposal into the budget process. Without Emanuel’s backing, however, it doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of passage. Emanuel said of Dowell’s proposal, It's her idea. But I would argue I don't think that's the right way to go.” Even Dowell admitted she hasn’t “really thought it through completely.”

Had Dowell done so she would have discovered similar plans have been raised in other cities and all of them have been rejected as too complicated and wouldn’t generate the revenue to cover the costs of implementation and enforcement. Dowell also proposed a one-hour bicycle safety class as part of the registration process, which Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke said would make her plan even more expensive.

Dowell also would have remembered bicyclists can register their bicycle’s serial number with the Chicago Police Department. Emanuel spokesman Tom Alexander told DNAInfo Chicago it’s technically required. Emanuel and Alexander also said they would rather not expend police resources to ensuring bicyclists have registered their bikes under Dowell's plan.

"As bike use continues to grow rapidly in Chicago, the administration has been looking at various ways to ensure bicyclists are held accountable, just as drivers are.”

One person who was ecstatic about Dowell’s proposal was Tribune curmudgeon John Kass, who stepped away from his latest beer can chicken session to pen another bullshit bicycling column.

Under Mayor Rahmfather's plan, car drivers will be squeezed for about $120 million in traffic tickets from his infamous speed and red light cameras.

Those cameras are fronted as being all about safety. But who are you kidding, Rahmfather? They were always about the revenue.

And bicyclists — especially the aggressive kind with their spandex shorts, cleats and wild yellow shirts, zipping through red lights — they don't pay a dime.

Why should a driver pay and not a bike rider?

Many bicyclists respect the rules of the road. They're also often in danger from thoughtless car drivers. And no, I didn't write that last line as some verbal prophylactic against the irrational hatred often directed at me by the militant two-wheelers. It's true. There are good little bike people.

But the bad ones should pay.

It's only fair. A $25 registration fee is a pittance. That's why it should be increased to a C-note.

Mayor Rahmfather should also mandate that every bike commuter have a city sticker. And a license plate, so that when they run the red lights, the city's Rahm-cams can take their photos and make them pay through the nose just like the rest of us.

Discussion over Dowell’s proposal at local bike advocacy website The Chainlink ranged from over-the-top histrionics to measured replies about how licensing bicycles gets cyclists “(a)n unequivocal seat at the policy table.” (Never mind bicyclists already have a seat there thanks to the advocacy efforts of Active Transportation Alliance.)