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Alderman Proposes Tax, Safety Course For Bicyclists

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — A South Side Chicago alderman is proposing a $25 annual licensing fee on bicycles, coupled with a safety course.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) is upfront that she is proposing it as a “significant” revenue generator. She said she would like it to substitute for the increase in cable television taxes proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as part of his proposed 2014 budget.

The Emanuel and Daley administrations have both tried to make Chicago more “bike friendly.” And the Active Transportation Alliance wasted no time saying any such tax would discourage bicycle riding.

“We’re not aware of any city in the United States that currently enacts a licensing fee for bicycles, and that’s because it is so costly and complicated to implement,” he said.

Burke predicts that if the tax is implemented, it will be a break-even effort at best, and says costs could exceed what’s taken in.

Dowell herself said she has no idea how much it will raise. An aide said she has not yet decided whether she would impose it per rider, per bicycle, or per household, or whether she would exempt elderly and low-income Chicagoans — the ones whom she says would suffer the most from an increase in cable television taxes.

Chicago currently has a bicycle licensing ordinance, but it is free to bicycle owners and it is not enforced.

The Emanuel administration has greatly expanded the number of bicycle lanes, given Chicago its first protected bicycle lanes, and launched the Divvy bike-rental program, but critics say it has emboldened some cyclists who ignore stop lights and stop signs, and block traffic.

Burke said he likes the education aspect of Dowell’s proposal. He said he would include safety and “rules of the road” training in elementary school physical education classes, in high school driver’s education classes, and for those cyclists who are ticketed.

Dowell is not the first Chicago alderman to propose the licensing of bicycles. Former Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) proposed it in 2011, but the proposal died in committee.