Portland business owner wants bike riders to have licenses

Portland business owner wants bike riders to have licenses

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Portland man who said he is frustrated after seeing too many crashes involving bicycles and drivers near his business is vowing to make cyclists more accountable by requiring licensing for their bikes.

Bob Huckaby runs a furniture shipping business in North Portland near where the city just prevented vehicles from turning onto N Wheeler Avenue from Broadway. The move was an effort to cut down on crashes between bikes and cars at the dangerous intersection.

Huckaby said he will mount a campaign in 2013 to have a public vote on requiring riders to have licenses.

He said restricting turns is a sign that the city is bending over backwards to accommodate bicyclists and requiring licenses would make sure riders understand the rules of the road.

Huckaby believes bike riders should be required to carry an Oregon driver's license to prove they've passed a test on how to follow road signs. In Oregon, bicyclists on the road generally are required to follow the same laws at motorists.

Huckaby said he sees many bicyclists running stop signs in the area around Wheeler Avenue.

City officials said they made the changes on North Wheeler to cut down on “right hook” incidents involving car and truck drivers that cannot see cyclists. Huckaby said he often sees cyclists running the stop sign on a nearby corner.

“We counted 54 vehicles - bicycles - at North Flint,” Huckaby said. “Thirty-seven stopped, 14 rolled through it.  And that kind of gives you an idea. The city doesn't want to hear that because for some reason, we're a bike-friendly city and we just keep getting friendlier and friendlier. They need to obey our laws.”

In an email, Huckaby says he'll start the bicycle licensing campaign  next year and push for a ballot measure.

Reached by email, Portland cycling advocate and BikePortland blog author Jonathan Maus took issue with Huckaby's plan.

"A very, very, very small percentage of people who bike do not have driver's licenses already," he said.

"The devil is in the details," Maus added. "At what age must someone become licensed to bike? Would we allow kids to ride around the neighborhood without a license?  If people already have driver's license, would they have to also have a biking license? And vice versa?"

Maus also questioned how the city might pay for the additional licensing costs and enforcement in times of a tight budget. Still, he said he is not against educating people about road rules.

"I am not against thinking up ways to make more people aware of bicycling laws; I just don't think a mandatory "bike license" is the answer," he said.

According to Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, city-based bicycle licensing efforts haven't worked out in Oregon in the past. The Southern Oregon city of Medford dropped their program in 2010.

The city's police chief said there were too many non-city residents commuting by bicycle to make the licensing program work.

The BTA also sent a Tweet to KATU saying "the BTA supports positive, proactive education for all users of the road. Licenses not the solution."

Several bicyclists we spoke with on the street said they are all for more education, but that licensing is overkill.

"I think we have some other problems with our society that are more important," said cyclist Kaytie Satein.

"I think that's great if you can get people to do that, but that's not going to happen," said cyclist Ed Abramson.

KATU reporters Bob Heye and Shellie Bailey-Shah contributed to this report