Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) confronted Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein during a budget hearing Wednesday about his frustrations with unsafe cycling and suggested a mandatory licensing program as an option to quell rule-breaking.
Klein is spearheading Mayor Rahm Emanuel's call for the installation of 100 miles of protected bike lanes, and the implementation of "a new transit system" that will rent out 3,000 bikes next summer, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Emanuel's plan is to make Chicago the "best big city for bicycling in the United States" and the bike-sharing program could be the nation's largest once it's in full swing.
Concerned motorists and pedestrians say this expansion should be accompanied with heightened law enforcement. Earlier this month, Chicago City Council banned cell phone use while biking.
"I wonder if it's possible," Mell said, according to the Sun-Times. "I guess you can't do it. But, have 'em licensed. Have a bike license. Put a little tag on it. Pay a couple bucks. But if not that, at least say, 'Here's what we're doing for you. How 'bout doing something for us? How 'bout adhering to the traffic signs?'"
Mell suggested a $2 fee for cyclists to register, Fox Chicago reports. When Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said enforcement of the licensing system would be too complicated, Mell said he'd settle for public service announcements encouraging cyclists to reflect traffic laws.
Burke said there are already sufficient protections on the law books to keep cyclists in line, according to the Sun-Times.
"What is a deterrent to reckless cycling is enforcing the laws that already exist. Cycling the wrong way on a street or on a sidewalk unless you're under 12 [outside the Central Business District] is illegal. There are plenty of laws on the books already. They need to be enforced. That and better education of cyclists are the two best strategies."
Chicago police officers conducted a law enforcement and education operation in June, enforcing rules that apply to cyclists at a downtown intersection for a day, according to the Chicago Tribune. By the end, 240 warnings and one ticket were issued to cyclists biking through red lights or taking over pedestrian crosswalks.
Burke said licensing bikes is not a viable solution, according to the Sun-Times.
"It's been extremely complicated to implement, and it's not a deterrent to reckless cycling," he said.