Here is a copy of my published letter to the editor in today's Toronto Star:
Proposals, such as Councillor Michael Walker's, that cyclists be licensed and wear helmets, are both short-sighted and misguided. They have been the standard response to this issue by car-centric legislators who wish to discourage human-powered transportation.
Helmets do not prevent collisions. Education does. Walker would be wiser to propose that every motorist be issued a pamphlet upon renewing their license and be required to pass a short test on the Highway Traffic Act as it regards other legal users of the road, pedestrians and cyclists alike.
Countless studies have proven that helmets only help protect cyclists when they fall. Most cyclists, however, rarely fall and most do not strike their head on the ground. Licensing serves no purpose whatsoever except to appease motorists who perceive an inequality as they must pay for licensing and other fees that cyclists are exempt from.
Motorists are licensed because they operate heavy, powerful motor vehicles that have the potential to cause considerable damage and injury as well as death on roads.
Licensing of cyclists would prove to be a pointless and impossible exercise that would cost the city millions in administration, fail to effectively address the current challenges and discourage those who wish to be environmentally and socially responsible, never mind considerate of their personal health.
And to expand somewhat briefly upon my comments: while Annie makes some good points in regard to data being collected on cyclists, I just can't see 3 year-olds needing a license to ride their tricycles and I certainly can't see Toronto cyclists obtaining a license, affixing it to their bikes only to have them stolen when the bike is snatched by some crack-head with bolt-cutters. We'd all be lining up 2 or 3 times a year for replacements. What a collosal waste of resources and time.
Let's also remember that the mahority of adult cyclists are already licensed drivers.
Licensing does not mean better trained or more law-abiding cyclists. Just look at motorists. 685,000 (approx) POA's were issued by Toronto Police Services last year for traffic violations committed by motorists. 2,750 (approx) were issued to cyclists.
If motorists want cyclists to be equal, return equal space and priveleges to cyclists. Right now, all the infrastructure and accomodations are severely in favour of motorists. I'll agree to licensing only when there are bike lanes on EVERY street and cyclists are routinely respected by other legal users of the road...including errant cyclists.