Alderman proposes $25 annual bike fee, safety course - FOX 35 News Orlando

Alderman defends proposal for $25 annual bike fee, safety course

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A Chicago alderman says no more free rides for bicyclists.

3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell proposed a $25 dollar annual registration fee for bikes at Wednesday's City Council meeting. Bikers would also be required to take a one hour safety course.

Dowell said the city could use the money for the deficit. She also believes bicyclists should pay for the increasing number of protected bicycle lanes taking over the streets that have eliminated lanes previously existing for cars.

The proposal is not a popular one with bikers.

John Greenfield commutes to work on his bike every day. He's the editor for Streetsblog Chicago, a transportation news website. He says the bike tax will only discourage a positive trend.

"It's definitely not a good idea," Greenfield said. "I mean, lets raise taxes on things we want to discourage--and not biking what we want to encourage."

On Thursday afternoon, Dowell released more information about her plan to help decrease the city's $338 million deficit that would replace an increase in cable TV taxes; although she did admit she has yet to work through all the details.

"With about 200,000 bikes in Chicago--and I believe that's a low estimate--the city could raise $5 million," Dowell said.

Dowell, a bicyclist herself, says children and seniors would be exempted from the bike tax but said she hasn't figured out what the penalties would be if bicyclists failed to register and install a license plate.

"I think the fact that city has invested heavily in bike lanes, lights and signage and we're seeing more bike riding...we need to account for bikes on street," she explained.

"There's really no practical way to do this," Greenfield countered. "Police officers in Chicago better things to do than see if licensed or not."

One thing Greenfield does support is mandatory bike safety courses that would accompany the tax.

Alderman Dowell also argues there is a precedent for such a bike tax. Although not common, she mentioned Honolulu as one of the cities that has a bike tax. But Greenfield says in Ottawa, where there is a bike tax, law enforcement has had problems enforcing the law and it's proven to be costly.

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