Update: I added a few quotes from Ward three Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.
In their study session Tuesday night, the Tucson City Council voted to investigate requiring Tucson cyclists to register their bikes and pay a $10 per-bicycle licensing fee.
The fee is one of hundreds of proposals included in the city manager’s budget balancing document which you can download here. The bicycle registration proposal starts on page 91.
The proposal states,
“Bicycles are popular in Tucson. Street sweeping and roadway striping enhance bicycling. Such programs are experiencing budget shortfalls. Identifying the owners of stolen bicycles is often difficult as there is no registration program in place. Establish a licensing program and fee similar to one once managed by Tucson Fire. Set fee at $10 per bicycle.”
Ward three Councilwoman Karin Uhlich’s aide, Tamara Prime, said the proposal was one that the city manger’s office suggested should not be pursued, but the the council decided to investigate it.
“They don’t have enough details, but they wanted to look at it further,” Prime said. “They don’t want to take it off the table right now.”
Uhlich said the council wanted to keep the fee as an option in case the budget was balanced using other methods.
“If we haven’t achieved a balanced budget, it would be an idea that would sort of be held in reserve as a possibility for balancing the budget,” Uhlich said.
Ward Two Councilman Rodney Glassman said he was the only councilperson to oppose investigating the registration and licensing fee because he didn’t want to make it harder to ride a bicycle in Tucson.
According to the proposal document, the licensing program would actually cost the city money.
“Bicycle licensing programs have been considered by Tucson Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Tucson Department of Transportation. The cost of such programs have been found to exceed potential revenues for the price that the market would bear for the license.”
Matt Zoll, the Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and long time member of the Tucson Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee, said in the last 20 years the TPCBAC had done some research on bike registrations.
He said most places discontinued their registration programs because they couldn’t pay for themselves.
Eric Post, a TPCBAC member and lawyer who represents cyclists, said he would have to investigate the law further, but thought there was a provision in the state statue to allow for cities to license bikes.
“I have to double check the language on that to see exactly what it said,” Post said.
Zoll said it is common to hear calls for requiring cyclists to pay a licensing fee.
“This is a criticism we hear from drivers and some politicians, saying that bicyclists don’t pay their way,” Zoll said. “Of course we have ways to prove that is not right. In more ways than one bicyclists do pay their way and then some.”
Uhlich said she would like to learn more about what other cities are doing, but didn’t want to make it harder for cyclists.
“Obviously we are a city that is very proud of having achieved the status of a bike friendly community, Uhlich said. “We take that into account as well. We don’t want to work against that reputation or discourage in any way the use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation.”