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License Plates for Bicyclists? U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley won't rule it out; says to start with "pedicabs"

License plates for bicyclists?

It’s an idea U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of a congressional transportation subcommittee, said Thursday he would not rule out.

And, Quigley said, any bicycle license plate program should start with “pedicabs,” the three-wheeled, foot-powered cabs popular with visitors and some locals. Some are driven by “morons” who can make streets “very scary,” he said.

As the city moves toward fulfilling Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of 100 miles of protected bike lanes, Quigley was asked Thursday about issuing license plates to bicyclists as a way of raising revenue for special bicycle passage ways.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Quigley said during a roundtable discussion about transportation issues hosted by the 5th District Democratic congressman and University of Illinois President Robert A. Easter. The briefing outlined important transportation issues for the region as Quigley begins his eighth month on the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

“I would start with the folks who ride those large … pedicabs. Because some of these folks are wildly irresponsible and are putting people at risk. Those should have licenses and license plates on them so people can identify the morons who put people’s lives at risk,” Quigley said.

Many pedicabs populate Wrigley Field or the United Center after concerts or Blackhawk games and “they are all over the road and they are very scary at times. I don’t mind that they exist but in terms of licenses and license plates, I’d start with them. I wouldn’t rule out the other part.”

Ald. Tom Tunney, whose 44th Ward includes Wrigley Field, was so concerned about pedicabs that he proposed a crackdown earlier this year calling to cap them at 200, to require them to post fares and to potentially ban them from congested areas.

Concerning bicyclists in general, Quigley said bicycle license plates could trigger “unintended consequences” by discouraging environmentally-friendly biking as an alternative mode of transportation.

“I think most people’s reaction would be, `It’s another tax. It’s just another bureaucratic burden,’ ” Quigley said. “I think there would be a tremendous amount of public pushback on that.”

Lee Crandall of the Active Transportation Alliance said some, if not many, bicyclists also own cars so “they have already paid to support the streets they are using.”

Noted Crandall: “We’re not talking about putting plates on pedestrians.”

AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Mosher said license plates would help identify “problematic bikers and pedicabs.” However, she said, AAA does not believe that bike plates or bike registration would recoup the funds needed for protected bike lanes, which AAA does support.

“We don’t think that requiring such plates – even if every bicyclist were to register – would begin to put a dent in the funding required for bike lanes,” Mosher siad.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales described the cost of protected bike lanes as “relatively low” and as something that can be reduced further by folding lane installation into street resurfacing projects.

The city’s first protected bike lane — on Kinzie from Milwaukee to Wells — offered bicyclists marked lanes while buffering them from drivers with flexible marker posts. Back in 2011, the half-mile of protected lanes cost roughly $140,000 to install, according to a CDOT news release.

CDOT wants to “encourage biking in Chicago, rather than discourage it through overregulation or fees,” Scales said.