Can you imagine the state of Oregon requiring licenses for every 10 year old kid who rides a bike to school? Can you imagine our law enforcement officers pulling over people who traveled to Oregon to ride our scenic roads and visit our small towns, just because they didn’t have a special bike license?
Those are the kinds of choices that Oregon would be forced to make if a mandatory bike licensing initiative gets on the ballot and becomes law.
Bike licensing has consistently failed in other communities that have tried to implement it, where law enforcement and elected officials have described it as unnecessary, inefficient, and antiquated. Oregon’s legislative fiscal office has considered bike registration programs, which are similar to licensing, in 1999, 2003, 2009 and 2011, and determined that such a program would be difficult or impossible to administer and cause the state to lose money.
Instead of pouring resources into a new government program that would discourage people from riding bikes, Oregon should be educating all road users and promoting safe, healthy transportation options. If we really want to address safety on our roads, we believe we should focus on these priorities.
1. Make driver’s education mandatory in the state of Oregon.
2. Combine the Oregon driver’s and bicyclist’s education manuals into a single comprehensive road user education manual.
3. Require that every Oregon student receive mandatory bicycle and pedestrian safety education in elementary or middle school.
Let’s start with the fact that we require our drivers to pass a test, but we’re not teaching our drivers how to drive. A recent Metro study found that between 2007 and 2009, there were 151 fatal crashes on Portland-Metro roads and an additional 1,444 crashes that resulted in incapacitating injury. The same study found that speed is a contributing factor in 26% of serious crashes, while aggressive driving is a factor in 40% of serious crashes.
Driver’s education programs teach not only the laws, but the behaviors to become better drivers, make fewer mistakes, and respect other road users. They make drivers more aware of the riskiest behaviors, like speeding, aggression, and distracted driving. Our failure to teach respect for using the road is the real cause for concern.
We share frustrations with local business owner Bob Huckaby that the infrastructure has not caught up with the growth in cycling. But trying to address that problem with extra regulations for people who are biking and walking is the wrong answer. The long term benefits will be much greater if we focus on educating pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers on how to follow the rules of the road and interact safely with other road users and citizens.