Vancouver council cool to licensing bikes

But city will examine 'best practices' for educating cyclists on rules of the road

Vancouver will likely not be getting a bike licensing system.

Instead, council unanimously agreed Wednesday with a motion put forward by Vision Coun. Heather Deal to have city staff examine “best practices” for educating cyclists about the rules of the road and types of enforcement measures that best work to keep bikers and pedestrians safe.

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Council debate on licensing was triggered by NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova’s request that city staff examine the feasibility of requiring cyclists to have licences on bicycles. She drafted the motion after a 35-year-old pregnant woman posted on Facebook that she was struck by a cyclist who ignored a stop sign and left the scene of the collision.

“Luckily, she just walked away from it with a few bruises,” said De Genova, whose request for a staff report was supported by NPA Coun. George Affleck and cyclist Thomas Hooley, who reminded council the public is able to call police on a drunk driver and report that driver’s licence plate number.

Before making its decision, council also heard from Erin O’Melinn, the executive director of HUB cycling coalition, who pointed out Vancouver discontinued a licensing system years ago because it was bureaucratic and difficult to enforce.

“The issue has already been researched and tested in our municipality and many others, so let’s not waste time and money studying something proven to be costly, ineffective and a potential deterrent to cycling,” said O’Melinn, noting city staff examined the idea again during the planning of the city’s 2040 Transportation Plan but concluded it would be ineffective.

In her research, O’Melinn learned that Toronto and Ottawa – where city officials discovered the cost to set up a bike licensing system would cost taxpayers more than double the revenue it would take in – rejected bike licensing systems. Washington State, Los Angeles, Detroit and Minneapolis did the same.

Deal reminded council the city has a "challenging goal" to have zero pedestrian fatalities by 2040. She said her motion will provide an update on what measures have been implemented to reduce the death toll. Vancouver reported its ninth pedestrian fatality this year Wednesday night.

“We all have the same goals,” she said of reducing the number of fatalities to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. “But I’m not going to be prescriptive on how to get there, especially when the prescription [of a bike licensing system] seems to have been disproven time and time again.”

Deal’s motion also requests staff provide more detail on how the city will work with the Vancouver Police Department to support its new partnership with a Portland company that launched a bike registry in an effort to reduce bike theft and return stolen bikes to their owners.

Mayor Gregor Robertson reminded councillors at a May council meeting that council dedicated $500,000 in the 2015 budget to the VPD to target dangerous drivers and cyclists who put pedestrians at risk in school zones, on sidewalks and near community centres, parks and libraries.

Though disappointed her request wasn’t approved by council, De Genova said Deal’s motion “meets me somewhere in the middle.” Affleck accused Vision councillors of “dancing around the issue” of bike licensing but supported Deal’s motion.

“I will look forward to what we get back [from staff],” he said. “Certainly, if it indicates that there is a challenge in our city that licensing might be a solution, or there might be other solutions that might require us to develop policy to impact change, then I think we should move forward with that.”

The VPD declined to state its position on licences for bikes, referring calls to the city.

"We continue to encourage everyone to register their bikes through one of the 10,000 free [bike registry] applications, or record their serial numbers to provide police if their bike is ever stolen," said Const. Brian Montague, a VPD media liaison officer, in an email to the Courier.

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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