Time to put fees on the cycle track?

Additional funds could be used to improve cycling in the city

Balzac Billy didn’t see his shadow and so we’re apparently getting an early spring. Environment Canada disagrees. Groundhog: 0. Environment Canada: 1.

When winter does finally end we’ll see the beginnings of Calgary’s cycle track network according to city administration. The separated bike lanes make cycling through the busy streets of downtown safer by physically separating cyclists from automobiles. What they gain in safety they lose in frustration to many motorists.

The debate on cycling in Calgary is not a new one and it’s not unique to Calgary itself. Some see it as a “left” vs. “right” issue which it’s not but who can resist such an enduring cliché? Conservatives ride bikes too after all.

Calgary’s cycling strategy has done many things to make cycling easier and safer. It’s also had the side effect of highlighting the interaction and conflict between motorists pedestrians and cyclists. Anyone who has lightly scratched the surface of the topic will have no problem identifying anger between cyclists pedestrians and motorists. One side talks about misbehaved cyclists while the other talks about aggressive drivers. One side talks about the need to improve cycling infrastructure and the other talks about the cost.

Oh… cost.

In my mind it’s pretty clear that compared to a vehicle commuter cycling is pretty cheap personally and for government. Some days I’d reckon it’s faster too.

So is it time that cyclists paid a fee to register their vehicles? I’d say so.

Now before you go putting a stick in my wheel read me out.

I get that it’s been asserted time and time again that the expense of operating a cycling registry outweighs the revenue generated by it. I do think there are ways to operate such a registry leveraging technology that would make it work in a very cost-effective way for example by piggy-backing off of existing licensing services and moving registration to online systems reducing the need for front-line staff.

I also get that the revenue generated would not pay for the infrastructure of the cycling itself. I imagine it could be used to support community groups in delivering educational programming more regularly on bike safety or other value-added things.

A bike registration fee could add value to the cycling community by enabling better programming or cost-effective services. We have about 15000 kilometres of roads in Calgary and getting a cycle track on each one isn’t going to be paid for by a registration fee. Education programming and bike schools for the kids are a great option to add value with these funds.

Some will say a registration fee will be a barrier. Dog owners pay $36 a year to license their pets and an afternoon at Edworthy Park shows that dog ownership is alive and well despite the fee. So I doubt that a small fee will be a significant barrier.

That said we would need to consider options in order to accommodate low-income individuals. It’s likely these options could be incorporated into existing low-income programming through the city so that these individuals are not adversely affected.

I think a registration fee for bicycles would be a good thing especially if it goes towards supporting the objectives of the Calgary Cycling Strategy and making cycling in Calgary a more sustainable service to fund.