This article is not about bicyclists vs. drivers. This is about growing up. This is about taking financial responsibility for ourselves. This is about treating you, the reader, with intellectual respect. This is about bike licenses and how they are a bad idea.

With so much information out there in the world it can be harrowing to determine which statements are based in rhetoric and which are based in fact. It is an indisputable fact that increasing transportation options, specifically increasing access to, and use of, walking and biking for transportation, leads to a windfall in financial efficiency, due to reduction in health care costs, environmental costs, and economic costs related to fuel consumption.

Getting more butts on bikes is an economic imperative.

The funding of bicycling-related infrastructure and safety conditions are NOT handouts to bicyclists, they are an urban strategy brought forth by a local government designed to make our transportation more efficient.  Conflating economic efficiency with government handouts is the worst kind of cynicism.

The Oregon Bike Licences Bill, Senate Bill 177, is sponsored by Senator Brian Boquist , a republican from District 12.  The bill makes licensing your bike mandatory with steep fines for violation.


  • $10.00 Registration Fee
  • Oregon Bike Licenses requirement
  • License Fee
  • $250.00 Maximum Fine for:
    • failure to register bicycle
    • failure to report change of ownership
    • failure to report change of address
  • Prohibits State Highway Fund
    • For Bike Lanes
    • For Bike Paths
    • For Bike Trails
  • Creates Bicycle Transportation Improvement Fund


Bike Licensing is fundamentally a flawed conceptBicyle resting against bench near Gresham, Oregon waterway

Bike licensing adds clerical and law enforcement costs on top of the natural consequence of having less butts on bikes. I contacted The Sprocket Podcast, a local podcast that covers everything biking:

“It would cost far more to implement enforcement & clerical work to enact such a policy than it would be worth, and there’s a danger that such laws would be used to persecute those with fewer resources for living, targeting people with low incomes or those living outdoors and needlessly making their lives more difficult.

The problems people who advocate for bicycle licensing hope to address would be far better served by public education campaigns and gentle reminders of how to operate legally by law officers (not citations).”- Brock from The Sprocket Podcast

Mr. Campbell goes to Salem for Bike Licenses

Senate Bill 177 was dreamt up by Mr. Ted Campbell.  Mr. Campbell’s only title is, “Tax Payer”, so we know he’s between the age of 18-65, makes between $10,000.00- $8 Billion, or he’s  self employed and made over $400.00. So that makes him an expert like it makes most all of us an expert.

His quote,

“They don’t even slow down for a red light, they just go like heck through it and if they get hit by a car, they’re going to blame the car,” he said. “Then somebody says, ‘Well, I pay a gas tax, too so I should have part of the road. Well, when they pay the gas tax, it’s for their car, not for their bicycle.” – Ted Campbell

This is the reasoning of how this bill came about, so I do believe it’s fair to break it down bit by bit.

The Hasty Generalization

“They don’t even slow down for a red light, they just go like heck through it and if they get hit by a car, they’re going to blame the car,” he said.

Let’s think about how absurd this statement is. First of all, I can prove this to be a gross generalization by simply taking my bike outside and waiting for a red light. Second, this idea posits that bikes running red lights is as normal as a rainy day in Portland, or a tourist looking for doughnuts.

If that were the case the bicycling accidents and deaths would be multiplying to pandemic proportions. Despite bicycling fatalities showing a 16% rise across the country, Portland has had zero bike fatalities in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013.

These benchmarks for Portland are a testament to the city’s investment but also drivers and bicyclists both being more aware of and courteous to each other.

The Straw Man

“Then somebody says, ‘Well, I pay a gas tax, too, so I should have part of the road. Well, when they pay the gas tax, it’s for their car, not for their bicycle.”

The roads are a public good. Everyone owns the right to use the road. You cannot legislate someone owning more right to the roads but you can legislate certain people less access to the roads due to their percentage of harm done.

The legislation hinges on the whether or not that certain activity and/or person does more damage to public property than others. Bicycle use has a negligible effect on damage done to roads which is primarily related to the weight of a vehicle and the number of vehicles driving on them every day.


Walking and biking lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions and while also reducing  fatalities to the tune of 500 per million inhabitants.   The public cost of cleaning up the environment, medical costs associated with automobile accidents, and the natural health benefits of increased exercise create a snowball of economic benefit. Your everyday bikers are literally saving you millions of dollars every year.

Bicyclists don’t want more of the road, in fact most cyclists in Portland are just happy to live in a city that looks out for their safety. Regardless of whether you pay the gas tax or not, anyone who simply exists has the rights to our roads and everyone has the right to expect the government to keep the roads safe.

Fewer Drivers +  More Bikers = Economic Synergy

Bike Licensing would decrease the numbers of butts on seats and therefore be economically and environmentally damaging. You may not know this but we live in a world where millions of dollars are made by making a website load tenths of a second faster than their competitors.  There is the  potential of multiple $250.00 fines for just owning a bicycle. Any barrier between butt and bike is going to lead to a decline in participation.

Both Drivers and Bicyclists need safety and regulation training but I think there is something important that should happen first, sensitivity training.  Drivers should know that cyclists are under the mindset of appear BIG, think small.

Cyclists need to know that drivers are on autopilot and your presence is unexpected. Autopilot is not a negative trait for drivers. Their focus is what makes them a good driver. Being completely hyper aware of everything around you is sometimes a good way to be unaware of what is in front of you, which is a driver’s main objective.

Having unpredictable elements in your routine means that you have to be ready and aware at any moment. Driving is difficult and dangerous. Bikes on the road increases the level of difficulty.  A premise that emboldens the conclusion that we need less individual drivers on the road as prima facie principle.

Sin Tax

Sin taxes are generally thought of in regards to gas, alcohol, and tobacco but the concept is applied more than you think. The Concept:  tax things that you want to limit, but recognize as necessary evils. You do it to discourage that action/idea.

An example; raise parking fees in a congested area so people have incentive to find alternative/cheaper transportation methods. This results in less congestion which in turn increases commerce, decreases medical costs related to collision injuries and ultimately greases the wheels of the social mechanism.

Congestion costs the city millions of dollars a year in revenue. In 2009, congestion wasted 4.8 million hours in travel delay and 3.9 billion gallons of fuel. That is a cost of 115 billion!

The city has taken the approach that the number of different options you have to get from one place to another is paramount. Portland was the first to explore user access car rentals that eventually gave us Car 2 Go, millions have been spent on bike friendly development, and will likely provide the garden for new options to grow.

These are all offensive strategies with a good bet to score against economic and environmental waste.


In the end we need more butts on bikes not because it’s better for bikers or pedestrians, because it’s better for bikers and drivers alike.  Imposing a bike tax will discourage bike use in Portland.

Want to save the world? Want to save America? Want to save the economy? Let’s support responsible ideas that will make us feel intelligent for once. Let’s break the cycle of cynicism that states progress must be restricted.  Let us teach the system to work for itself.

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