When cyclists get hurt, drivers demand we get licensed

Evidently, you need to be careful riding in Simi Valley these days.

Regular reader Todd M. forwarded me a link to this article in the Ventura County Star, about a woman who was hit by a minivan while riding on Los Angeles Ave in Simi Valley on Tuesday evening. According to a brief follow-up, 21-year old Michelle Bagsby was hospitalized in critical condition.

Looking for more information about the collision, I also stumbled across the story of a driver who lost control while texting on Wood Ranch Parkway, jumped the curb, veered across the roadway, rolled once after crossing the median and slid to a stop on the opposite side curb — narrowly missing a father and son who were riding their bikes on the sidewalk. The father suffered a minor leg injury from the debris, but thankfully, both escaped more serious injury.

Yet, as usually happens, instead of focusing on the tragic injuries suffered by a young woman or the barely averted tragedy caused by a texting driver just days earlier, the comments  illustrated just how little compassion some people have for their fellow human beings.

Cities need to ban bikes on streets. Bike riders are pansies and most of them ride like they’re drunk. They should learn traffic laws and stop riding on the wrong side and swerving in and out of traffic.

This, even though the story clearly indicated that the driver and cyclist were travelling in the same direction — and there was nothing in the article to indicate that Bagsby did anything wrong.

Or was a pansy, for that matter.

And it only took the second comment before someone raised the usual arguments about licensing riders and requiring insurance to ride on the road.

My wife was hit by a bicycle rider which caused over $2500.00 in damage to her car. Since Bicycle riders under the law have the same rights as car drivers on the road and we (the tax payers) are paying millions of dollars to install bicycle lanes and other amenities for bicycle riders I think it would be a great idea if bicycle riders were required to have a bicycle riders license and of course insurance to be riding on the roads.

Never mind that most cyclists already have exactly the same drivers licenses many — though unfortunately, not all — drivers have. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the LACBC showed that over 99% of the coalition’s members are licensed drivers. And the same auto insurance coverage cyclists carry for their cars covers them on their bikes, as well.

We’ll also ignore the fact that the writer was more concerned about the damage to his wife’s car than any injuries that might have been suffered by the cyclist — as well as anything his wife might have done that may have contributed to the collision in some way.

Or maybe she was just another innocent victim of those darn kamikaze cyclists, hell bent on death and destruction.

Not to mention the fact that bike riders pay taxes, too. And licensed or not, a far greater percentage of cyclists’ taxes pay for the asphalt drivers seem to take as their God-give right than the relative pennies drivers pay for biking infrastructure.

Then again, there’s no point in letting truth get in the way of a little irrational hatred.

Meanwhile, another reader, Brent B., wrote to ask if any jurisdiction has ever required licenses for cyclists. (He also has an interesting idea for separated bike lanes, which I hope to share with you soon.)

While many cities and/or states require licenses for bikes, I’m not aware of any that test and license the rider. And the limited amount of research I’ve been able to do on the subject hasn’t turned up anything.

But nothing I’ve seen comes close to matching the extreme proposal from a Toronto writer, which calls for biannual testing and a $200 fee.

That’s $200 just to ride a bike on the gold-plated streets of Toronto, even though bikes cause minimal impact — and biking facilities cost just a minute fraction of what it costs to build and maintain the infrastructure to keep cars moving.

And Ontario drivers only have to renew their licenses every five years, with no additional test required until the age of 80.

Evidently, Toronto cyclists must cause a lot more harm and kill a lot more people than their fellow road users in the multi-ton four-wheeled vehicles. Or maybe they just have a lot lower standards at the newspapers up there.

Which is kind of a scary thought in itself.

Fortunately, these sort of draconian, counter-productive proposals have yet to gain traction among the more rational segments of our society.

But take it as fair warning.

One of these days, your right to ride may not come without a fight.


Lots of bike-related activities over the next few weeks, so check back Friday night for more details. But in the meantime, make your plans for Sunday’s Brentwood Grand Prix; races start at 7 am, with categories for all ages and skill levels from kids and masters to Cat 1 racers.

And Friday is your last day to RSVP for the next Metro Bike Roundtable on Wednesday, August 11th.


L.A.’s Mayor demonstrates that hosting a summit is as easy as falling off a bike, as he invites every cyclist who doesn’t have to work on Monday mornings to a Bike Summit on the 16th. The question is, will he make a brief appearance and leave, or will he actually stick around and listen to us? Some think he’s already failed; personally, I hope he’s planning on more than just another PR event or he’s going to have a room full of very angry riders.


Save this one for future reference — LADOT Bike Blog offers Part 1 of a comprehensive look at where it is and isn’t legal to ride on the sidewalk in the L.A. area, with more to come; on the other hand, it’s usually not a good idea.


Good sponsors Moving Beyond Cars to celebrate L.A.’s alternative transportation on August 18th. Malibu adds another traffic cop, but evidently doesn’t target cyclists. Riding in Riverside correctly reminds us that bikes may be cool, but they’re just part of a balanced transportation system. According to a CHP Spokesman, when car-bike collisions occur, the fault usually lies with the cyclist; yeah, no hint of bias there.

Las Vegas cyclists hold a memorial for the cyclist killed by a suspected drunk driver Tuesday morning. Sampling a bespoke three-piece suit for spokes men, and accessories for their female compatriots. A Spokane area driver intentionally hits a cyclist who insulted his girlfriend. Lance Armstrong helps unveil Colorado’s Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race. Meanwhile, doping accusations hit Levi Leipheimer, and things are not looking good for Lance as other riders appear to support Landis’ charges; thanks to George Wolfburg for the heads-up. The New York Times checks in on Colorado’s conspiratorial candidate for the loony bin governor; a Colorado pedestrian asks if cyclists can just obey the rules. First the iPod, iPhone and iPad, now is Apple preparing to introduce the iBike? The dangers of pedaling under the influence. A letter to the driver who tried to kill a Pittsburgh cyclist. A cyclist takes bike-hating drivers to task and calls for a truce; it’s a long read, but worth it — or you can settle for the two paragraph excerpt. The Senate Banking Committee votes to support livable communities, apparently on party lines as usual.

The British Olympian who was critically injured near Winslow AZ is making a remarkable recovery. A British cyclist is struck and killed while competing in a time trial. A soldier survives the Taliban, only to lose his life trying to avoid a pothole. Even when Brits get off their bikes, the police want a word with them. Where are the helmets for London’s new rental bikes; then again, some wonder why does it matter? Speaking of her fellow riders, a cyclists says teach those idiots to obey the rules and stop at red lights. After spending six weeks in a coma following a collision with a bus, a 54-year old man sets off on a 1,000 mile ride. A teenager recklessly rides into a pedestrian after assaulting two other boys — while out on bail. The Department of DIY moves north, as unauthorized sharrows appear in Victoria, Canada, while a cyclist in nearby Vancouver says Critical Mass brats deserve to be spanked.

Finally, a Chicago rider takes the lane, only to be informed that he’s not a car, much to his surprise.


  1. Brent says:

    Incidentally, I’ve since heard anecdotally that communist Poland required bicycle “driver’s licenses” of children. I cannot confirm it from an independent source. My Romanian friends, who grew up under Ceausescu, remember nothing of the kind. I also plan to ask the same question of another friend who was raised in East Germany. I’ll be seeing her this fall in Copenhagen.

  2. Chewie says:

    The main purpose for insurance is to protect you against your liability for causing harm to people and property with your vehicle. Since bicycles are much less capable of causing that harm than cars, it makes sense that bicycles aren’t required to carry insurance.

    I do see value in training cyclists. I think it makes the most sense for this training to happen in elementary school. Kids should be learning the rules of the road at an early age whether they ride bikes or not. It remains to be seen whether schools will have the funds to do so given that their incentive is to focus exclusively on math and literacy to comply with NCLB.

    When people say cyclists should be licensed, why not say “okay, so you support funding bicycle education in K-12 schools right?”

  3. In the book Bicycling and the Law it is pointed out that under existing judicial precedent and interpretation, bicycle riding is a protected right under the constitutional right to travel. Occasionally efforts are made to ban bike riding, or require a license to ride, but in the end they have always been shot down as unconstitutional. Which is not to say we should ignore such efforts, because legal interpretations can chance, but it is unlikely for such an effort to make it past high courts.

    It’s also extremely frustrating to me how much drivers think they know the economics of how roads are paid for, but they really don’t. If drivers really want to think like they “own” the road, they better be prepared for some back pay on decades of inflation that weren’t adjusted for in our current gas taxes, and thus came out of general fund spending. Driving, especially where toll roads do not exist, is almost as socialized as public schools.

    Also funny how they whine about some bike projects that cost a few million dollars when according to Donald Shoup we spend annually more money subsidizing car parking in the US than the military budgets of China and the United Kingdom (the biggest militarys apart from our own) combined, into the hundreds of billions.

  4. Okay, so, I’m just figuring this out and it’s totally pissing me off.

    In California, more than 50% of the costs to maintain and build new local roads comes from the general fund, which means MY tax dollars. Automobiles are the ones tearing up the road, yet I still have to pay to maintain it, even though I’m not tearing it up. So I’m subsidizing automobile use of roads, while they are yelling at me to get off the road because I don’t pay gas taxes or registration fees.

    While that REALLY ticks me off, what ticks me off even more is that (forgive the caps) I’M OVERPAYING MY SHARE OF ROAD MAINTENANCE TO SUBSIDIZE THESE SELFISH, SELF-ABSORBED JERKS (you know who I mean) AND LADOT CAN’T EVEN LAY DOWN BIKE LANES WHEN THEY REPAVE? That’s what really ticks me off. The public greatly subsidizes driving and yet we can’t fix sidewalks or strip some freaking bike lanes or sharrows or even some freaking signs that say Bikes Have Full Lane Use.

    I got into an argument with my stepmother, who lives in Florida, who was upset because on a four lane road (which is not a highway), she was behind a cyclist in the right hand lane and couldn’t get around him (which makes me think there was too much traffic for her to pass anyways and should just get over it). She thought he was being impolite for not pulling over and stopping and letting all the cars behind him go by. I could not make her understand how “polite” has nothing to do with driving or how ridiculous her request was. I told her she should support putting a bike lane in so that wouldn’t happen again, and of course, she complained that this would take a lane away from cars…I could not make her understand, and I realized, it’s because drivers don’t want to understand. They don’t care about the positives, there is no tolerance, they see their way of life threatened and will resist with every argument they can, no matter how ridiculous. Just like that Colorado-UN stupidness story.

    • Brent says:

      Can you point me to a source on the fifty percent figure? I’ve had a hard time finding good numbers.

      • I’m actually looking for it myself. Ted has linked to the Victoria report (but it’s Canadian) in this blog post, but I want to look at a comparison of US states/cities.

      • Brent says:

        This article from Streetsblog says federal highways are paid about fifty percent by drivers:


        The web used to have a Texan study showing close to the fifty percent number, but it’s gone.

        This highway in Oregon may never pay for itself:


        I have a hard time finding stats for California, and L.A. in particular.

        • Richard Masoner says:

          I broke down the transportation spending revenue sources in detail for Santa Cruz County some time ago, but now I can’t even find it on my own website. I’ll try to get back to you all on this.

          It’s a real pain in the neck to figure this out because the various revenue sources come via various streams and authorizations, and come back out through a ton of other programs (local subvention, STIP, ITIP, RTIP, TIF, SHOPP, STA, Prop 1B, etc). And ARRA and things like emergency declarations really makes things interesting when it comes to figuring what we spend on roads and their revenue sources.

          But local governments in California spend roughly $5 billion per year on transportation. This is maintenance, capital projects, ROW acquisition, administrative expenses, wages and paper clips. About $1.75 billion of that is paid for with the various transportation / fuel taxes at the Federal and State level. The remaining $3.2B of that is paid for out of the general revenue. That means local sales and property taxes.

          So for local roads, 64% of the cost is born out by local taxpayers, whether you drive or not.

  5. Also keep in mind in addition to general funds, there are special tax funds, like the Measure R sales tax and others before it, that are dedicated, or supposed to be dedicated to transportation spending.

    If you go a step further and look at private subsides, consider the massive parking lots at most grocery stores. Those cost money to acquire the land, build and regularly maintain, quite a lot of money, but they don’t charge for it. Nothing is free, that money is coming out of your pocket in higher prices for food and goods. Subterranean parking garages like the Santa Monica Whole Foods, can cost up to 50-$80,000 per car space just in initial construction cost, and there is constant maintenance work and other costs associated with parking garages . People who ride a bike, walk or take the bus to the grocery store are paying higher costs on food so that people who drive can have a “free” place to store their automobile. Let that sink in.

  6. LA Native says:

    While the idea of a bicycle “driver’s licenses” and insurance is preposterous, I do believe more needs to be done for safety training and education of bicyclists, starting at an early age. In my neighborhood, without fail, there are cyclists that don’t realize the road rules, including things like stop signs, apply to them.

    Considering the tone of this article, I believe you need to revisit the statement you made. “…there’s no point in letting truth get in the way of a little irrational hatred.”

    The fact remains cars and cyclists must share the road. Not all places, especially in this time of economic downturn, have the resources to create dedicated bike lanes and trails. In my city, even with the bike lanes and trails created, cyclists still ride down the road, and ignore the rules of the road. Its not ALWAYS the motorists fault, despite the tone of this article. Personal responsibility is a two way street.

    Instead of lambasting motorists it would be more beneficial to see the WHOLE picture. But judging from @danceralamode’s comment, who believes being “polite” has nothing to do with driving, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to believe that is probably how they live their life, on the bicycle and off. By the way, if a cyclist is impeding the flow of traffic or creating a hazard, they are in violation of the law, just as with any motorist, or pedestrian for that matter, that is creating a hazard on the road.

    • bikinginla says:

      Sorry, LA. But when the response to the critical injury of a young woman by a driver is to blame all cyclists and call for licensing — without any knowledge of the facts in the case — I’d call that irrational hatred.

      I do agree that bike safety training is vital, and that it should be conducted in the schools on a regular basis; in fact, I’ve long been a supporter of doing just that.

      You’re right, it’s not always the driver’s fault; I’ve witnessed — and written about — some horrible violations by cyclists, and will continue to do so.

      As for my tone, I stand by it. If you have read this blog before, you’ll know that I’m not anti-driver, as I am one myself. I believe all road users have an obligation to travel safely and obey the laws, whether they are in motor vehicles or riding bikes.

      On the other hand, regardless of who is at fault, it’s cars and drivers that kill 40,000 +/- Americans every year, not people on bikes.

    • Brent says:

      I think most cyclists know the rules of the road, and that they believe stop signs apply to them. I know I do. Of course, that knowledge doesn’t always prevent me from running them. In the long tradition of the “California stop,” I run signs regularly whether I’m driving or cycling. In fact, I’d have to say I break traffic laws nearly every time I use the road, and by whatever conveyance — walking, cycling, or driving. Am I unusual? Judging by the walking, cycling, and driving I see, I’d have to say not at all.

      I don’t see the issue as safety training or unusual law breaking. I see it as simpler than that. As long as cars and bicycles travel at different speeds on the same roads, motorists will resent cyclists. They’ll sometimes couch their resentment in safety language, but that’s a diversion. The real issue is who gets to travel at what speed. Whether a tractor, a horse, a cyclist, or grandpa’s Model T, slower traffic is the aggravation, and perhaps patience the only solution.

      Once in awhile I check out this live, streaming webcam of a fairly large intersection in Amsterdam:


      Pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, trams, scooters, and motorcyclists all share the road in seeming harmony. The big difference? They all travel about the same speed.

    • Politeness has nothing to do with driving. There should be no emotion with driving; we should ALL be obeying the rules of the road. But most drivers that I have encountered don’t even actually know the CVC, they only know the few rules stated in the DMV manual. You seem to think that by me saying that driving and politeness have nothing to do with one another that I’m saying that we should all be assholes to one another, and that’s not what I’m saying.

      Consider this, there have been many instances, and Ted has reported them on this blog, in which a motorist believed they were being polite and stopped on a highway or busy road to allow a cyclist or pedestrian to cross the intersection. The driver will wave to the cyclist or pedestrian to cross. The cyclist or ped starts to cross, only for other motorists to fly by in the next lane and hit and KILL the cyclist/pedestrian.

      Now, whenever a motorist tries to do this to me, I shake my head “no”, and motion for them to keep going. They get pissed at me because I’m not accepting their “politeness”. But the fact of the matter is that only I can be responsible for my safety and I will cross the street when I believe it safe, not because you are trying to be polite.

      Driving has nothing to do with politeness. Should you drive safely with responsibility for your safety and that of your fellow road users? Yes, absolutely. But, believe it or not, it can be very dangerous for a cyclist to stop and pull over and sit on the side of a road to let traffic pass. How are they supposed to re-enter traffic afterwards? The CVC clearly states that unless it’s a two-lane road (which means one lane in each direction) and there are more than 5 cars waiting to pass, that I don’t have to stop. I think, frankly, that it’s rude and entitled for you to think that I have to do more than the CVC requires me to. That’s like saying that I don’t have to give you the right-of-way when we both pull up to a four-way stop.

      Do you understand that when you start saying politeness should dictate how your ride or drive that you are inherently dismissing the LAWS and rules of the road as defined by California Vehicular Code?

      Furthermore, to say that my comment about saying politeness has nothing to do with driving inherently means that I live my life being impolite is ridiculous and insulting. You’ve taken the comment completely out of context and stretched it to insinuate that I mean we should all be assholes on the road or that it’s every man for themselves on the road. You don’t know me nor do you know many of the cyclists you see in the streets. I obey the law of the road and this state and country to the best of my ability. I try to be a compassionate and conscientious person.

      Additionally, I am quite aware, as you seem not to be based on your comment that we act impolite in the rest of our lives because I believe that driving should be an emotionally neutral activity, that it is quite possible for a driver or a cyclist to act like a maniacal psycho behind the wheel or handlebars, but be a good human being otherwise. In fact, that probably describes at least 50% of the road users out there.

      One more thing, you say “if a cyclist is impeding the flow of traffic or creating a hazard, they are in violation of the law.” Do you know what the law defines as “impeding” traffic? If there is another lane that motorists can use to go around the cyclist, then the cyclist is not impeding traffic merely by going slower. Just because you have to slow down does not mean traffic is being impeded, which is usually what drivers say when they think traffic is being impeded. Anything so you don’t have to use the brake. Again, this appears to be a case of someone who knows the drivers manual but not the actual law. Look up V C Section 21656.

  7. It was only a matter of time before an ill informed commenter came on with the same tired logic of every other motorist with blinders on.

    First of all LA Native, what trails and bike lanes are you referring to? Many bike lanes are crap by design, by placing cyclists directly adjacent parked cars with insufficient width to avoid drivers who constantly swing open their doors and pull out into oncoming bike traffic without warning. If you’re referring to dedicated bike trails like the LA River, that doesn’t go anywhere useful, I mean I love to ride it for fun, but unless my job and errands all relate to looking at the back of warehouses and polluted water, then it’s not especially useful is it.

    “…in this time of economic downturn, have the resources to create dedicated bike lanes and trails.” That’s why we spend billions of dollars on highway projects right, because we are so poor, we cannot afford bike facilities that are a fraction of the cost of car facilities. Portland is doing vastly more for bike infrastructure, and as a result has about 8-15% of it’s populace making trips by bike, and yet is only spending less than 2% of it’s transportation dollars on bikes. Seems like a good deal on the investment.

    What danceralamode was referring to is double standard of treatment to cyclists. Cyclists have all the rights and responsibility of drivers, but some drivers expect cyclists to pull aside and give a curtsy to every “superior” motorist who might come by. If traffic is so congested that passing is difficult, than a driver will have to wait for a car just ahead or the next light anyways, exercise some patience and pass when safe to do so, your time is not more valuable than someone elses safety. If most traffic is flowing faster than a cyclist, than obviously there is enough room on the road to go around. It’s not hard, turn the wheel a little to the left, than a little to the right. Most drivers understand this concept quite well, but there is always an entitled minority that will just sit there and honk, waiting for their curtsy.

    Most cyclists still drive regularly as well, or have in the past. They know quite well what it is like on both sides of the wind shield. Yet exclusively motorist commentators are the ones who say cyclists aren’t seeing the whole picture. Why don’t you ride a bike in Los Angeles for a week and come back and tell us about the “WHOLE” picture as you say.

    When I look out at the road what I see impeding the flow of traffic is too many cars. If creating a hazard is how you define violating the law, than by that logic I suppose doing away with cars all together is the only way to restore order by your, since it’s all the hunking pieces of metal flying around at high speed that is creating the hazards on the road.

    Having said all this yes of course cyclists need more education on road riding, just like most drivers need more education on how to drive. Our society used to include as standard of school curriculum safe bike riding practice and road rules. America has been neglecting basic cycling education in favor of simplifying safety to put on a helmet, for so long, that we do have an apparent gap. As a consequence we also have a lot of drivers such as your self that are unfamiliar with cyclists rights to the road and the basic CA vehicle codes that pertain to bike riding.

    A lot of us spend time trying to educate and promote education of cycling, and we have to pull city official kicking and screaming to make anything happen. If you want more cyclists educated on safe road riding, than join cyclists in asking for programs to make such education widely available.

  8. Richard Masoner says:

    I’ll gladly fork over $200 every two years as long as auto owners pay their fare share.

    Since road damage is calculated on a per axle fourth power, a small 2,000 lb car weighs 10x as much as a 200# bike and its rider. 10^4 = 10,000. 10,000 x $200 = $2 million for the privilege of driving your car, if we went to keep thing fair.

    A 6,000 lb SUV would cost $162 million to license.

    Which sounds just dandy to me.

  9. Digital Dame says:

    Richard, I think I love you 😉

    I’d still like to know how a bicycle caused $2500 in damage to that car.

    • Sadly, dear, these long distance relationships never seem to work out for me.

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, with the cost of car repairs these days, it doesn’t take much to get up to $2500. A left cross where the rider hit the car’s fender at a decent speed could easily result in that much damage, if not more.

  10. Richard Blanton says:

    I have driven tractor trailer and other construction trucks for a living. The road taxes are higher on these vehicles because of the wear on the road. The penalties for making a mistake or causing an accident are higher as they should be. The potential for loss of life and property damage is considered in the laws that govern the use of our roads.
    We are dealing with a bunch of entitlement babies. They believe they have the right to move us off of there roads. The justice system panders to this problem by handing out get out of jail cards when they act out. They say they are afraid of hitting us. They do not want the responsibility of paying attention to what they are supposed to be doing on the road. It is called driving and the people who have better things to do than pay attention are scarred. Instead of ranting about the law breaking bicyclists. lets do something constructive. Lets have some respect for each other. The same people who run lights on bicycles are the same types who will do it in there motor vehicles.
    What is with this rant about this is happening because these other people who have nothing to do with the victim broke the law. Are these miscreants trying to rationalize murdering of the innocent because someone else may have broken the law. Every time I hear this it reminds me of something I once heard on a child’s TV show. You know (that’s what you are what am I).
    I like the sharrows in the street. I will never like painted lines a few feet away from the curb or next to parked cars. When possible protected bike lanes make more sense. I quit riding with large groups a few years back because of their lack of respect for the law. I may have some different opinions than a few of you but I will never condone striking someone with my bicycle or a motor vehicle.

    • danceralamode says:

      I think I can safely say, regardless of which side of the debate we’re on, that no one here condones purposely running over/down/off another person on the road, whether by car, bike, or otherwise.

  11. Mike Hunt says:

    Virtually all bicyclists in cities around me run multiple stop signs daily and virtually ignore all rules of the road (like speeding, weaving in traffic ..etc) until they have a conflict with a car. Then they wrap themselves in the flag and cry ‘foul’.
    I think motorists would care more about the ‘rights’ of bicyclists, if they saw bike riders obeying the same rules of the road just like they have to do.

    • bikinginla says:

      You mean like obeying the speed limit, signaling for turns and never, ever driving distracted by texting or using a hand-held cell phone?

      Sorry Mike, but that’s bull. Cyclists break traffic laws and so do drivers. Does that mean that cyclists shouldn’t care about the rights of drivers?

      And just how many cyclists do you know who can ride faster than the speed limit, anyway?

    • Digital Dame says:

      Oh my freaking gawd. If I had a nickel for every bonehead maneuver I see drivers pull (such as talking on a handheld cell — which is ILLEGAL here in OR, but even the police do it. And no, I didn’t mistake it for them talking on the police radio in their police cars, unless those things have to be held to the ear now — speeding, no signals, tailgating, reckless multiple lane changes in 1/4 mile…shall I go on?) I would be a RICH, RICH woman.