A “Modest” Proposal: $150 Bicycle License Fee? That’s What Up In Northridge Tonight

I received the following email this morning from BAC Vice Chair Glenn Bailey, and think it’s important enough that I’m reposting it in it’s entirety.

In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote his essay: A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public.

Tonight in Los Angeles 282 years later, the Northridge West Neighborhood Council is considering a “modest” proposal of its own:

13v. Motion: NWNC Requests LA City to Encourage Bicycle Violator Citations and Reinstitute Bicycle Licensing (Bicycle license fees must be at least $150 per year to reflect their shared responsibility for the cost of maintaining the roads and their safe use).

$150 cost per bicycle to maintain roads?  Really?  How many potholes have bicycles created?  None.

Although they are confusing licensing (a person) with registration (a vehicle/bicycle), this is clearly an anti-bicycle proposal.  In fact, many motor vehicles on the road today are not charged fees this high!

Help defeat this outrageous proposal by attending and speaking up at tonight’s meeting:

Northridge West Neighborhood Council
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Beckford Elementary School

19130 Tulsa Street, Northridge, CA 91326

This item is 13v; the full agenda may be viewed at:  http://www.northridgewest.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/NWNC-April-2011-Agenda.pdf

If you are unable to attend tonight’s meeting, please consider sending an email IN YOUR OWN WORDS to the NWNC board expressing how you feel about this “modest” proposal:  board@northridgewest.org

Thank you for your support of bicycling….and bicyclists…..in Los Angeles.

Glenn Bailey, Vice-Chair
Bicycle Advisory Committee
City of Los Angeles

Of course, this proposal is outrageous, and clearly not intended to regulate cycling, but to force the overwhelming majority of riders off the road.

At $150 dollars, it’s significantly more than I pay to license may car — which actually does cause damage to the road, as well as contributing to traffic congestion and air pollution. And, unlike my bike, poses significant risk to other people if I operate it carelessly.

A careless driver is a danger to everyone around him, while even the most reckless cyclist is primarily a danger to him or her self.

As for that well worn out and blatantly false claim that cyclists don’t pay our share of the road, the fact is that it’s drivers who don’t pay their full share for the roads they use. And all taxpayers — you, me and everyone you see on the road today, in or out of cars — make up the difference.

How about a counter motion requesting a$150 rebate for everyone who agrees to ride a bike instead of contributing to L.A.’s massive gridlock?

Because we’re not the ones slowing down traffic, clogging the streets and damaging the roads. Take every bike in Los Angeles off the roads, and traffic wouldn’t improve at all. But remove just a fraction of the motor vehicles, and traffic improves instantly, as anyone who has ever driven on even a modestly observed legal or religious holiday has already seen.

I won’t be at that meeting tonight.

But I won’t leave the house today until I’ve emailed the Northridge West Neighborhood Council to express my disgust and anger at this outrageously punitive motion.

And I hope you will join me in flooding their inbox with emails demanding fair treatment for cyclists, and recognition that it’s driver, not bike riders, that cause the problems.


  1. Indeed! What nonsense!

    My article on the Gas tax Fallacy in New Colonist contains links to stats on the underpayment by car drivers for their use of the roads; i suggest you take a look at it and pass it on:

    The Gas Tax Fallacy: Who Pays, Who Plays

  2. Digital Dame says:

    Oh. My. GAWD. I hope Richard, who commented on your blog some time back about the costs of riding a bike vs. a car (at which time I believe I said I was in love with him, you may recall?) will send that in to them. I can’t remember which post it was, but his rebuttal to the idea was brilliant.

    • You have a good memory. I calculated again based on Wengler’s $150 proposal. It works out to between $50 million and $80 million per year per vehicle depending on if you calculate based on road damage or the objective public safety costs of driving vs bicycling, if Wengler is *really* interested in fairness.

      I think Ron Wengler is really a sleeper commie conspiracist who realizes the implications of his $150 fee and wants to convert Los Angeles County into a worker’s bicycling paradise. *Nobody* will drive with his $50M/year car registration fees!

  3. Matthew says:

    For those who may attend the meeting, the simplest thing to do is to point out that this proposed ordinance violates state law – specifically section 39001(a) of the California Vehicle Code. “The department shall charge and collect a fee, not to exceed the cost of procuring and distributing the license indicia and registration form, for each bicycle license indicia and registration form issued. All fees collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the Motor Vehicle Account in the State Transportation Fund. Those fees are hereby continuously appropriated from the account for use by the department to defray costs to procure and distribute the bicycle license indicia and registration forms.”

  4. You can email the Northridge West neigborhood council at info@northridgewest.org, or call them at 818-886-3534 or find their individual email addresses at http://www.northridgewest.org/about/board-members-and-officers/.

    I’m sending an email. This is ridiculous.

  5. patrick says:

    Basically they are suggesting that licence fees should equal 50% of the cost of the average new bicycle. I would be all for this if they also required auto licence fees at the same ratio–say $8,000 or $9,000 per year. It would be a pleasure to bicycle on roads properly maintained with all that money and with so much less auto traffic.

    • GreenFish says:

      Wouldn’t that be nice! I have a car, but have significantly reduced the amount I drive it by biking and using public transportation when I can. I know I’m not paying my fair share of road costs for my car, and would be thrilled if cars had to pay their fair share.

    • Wengler’s state purpose is for cyclists to pay our fair share of road maintenance and public safety costs. The proposed CHP traffic management budget for 2011-12 is $1.7 billion. They respond to about 1,000 bicycle calls annually statewide. The CHP responds to 1,000 car/truck calls *every single day* in *LA County alone.* If $150 is our fair share, that works out to something like $60 million annual registration fee for each automobile, and that’s only for the public safety costs.

      For road maintenance costs, $150 per bike equates to about $80 million per year for an SUV, using civil engineer standard 4th power rule for vehicle road damage.

    • Anon says:

      Patrick, who is this “they” you are referring to?

      If by “they” you are referring to Ron Wengler, then go ahead. Otherwise get your facts straight.

  6. John Stesney says:

    In my note, I made a point of calling them “tax and spend Liberals.” New taxes, which this fee is, are unpopular, so I say “hit ’em where it hurts.”

    • Anon says:

      You made a point of calling the volunteers on the Northridge West NC “tax and spend liberals”???

      I hope you realize NOW that the NC members didn’t write the agenda item.

      • bikinginla says:

        No personal attacks, thank you. My blog, my rules.

        • Anon says:

          Feel free to ask your readers to follow the same advice when flooding the council’s inbox.

          • bikinginla says:

            You seem to have insider knowledge of the NWNC, since you referred to the contents of one of the emails that was sent to the committee, which you would have no way of knowing about otherwise.

            If you want to step forward publicly, you are more than welcome to write a guest post for this blog explaining the situation, and the NC’s position and/or actions on the proposal.

            However, as a member of a public, quasi-governmental body, you should be open to criticism when something this outrageous appears on the agenda. The people who wrote in were perfectly entitled to express their opinion; if they or I misunderstood how this proposal got on the agenda, it does not negate the need for the public to respond strongly to ensure that it is defeated. Perhaps it should be up to the Neighborhood Council to ensure that items that are not being seriously considered by the council do not appear on the agenda.

            That said, I would hope that everyone who writes any government official or body would do so courteously and respectfully — even though human nature tells me that’s not likely to happen in every case. I would encourage everyone who reads this blog to make your case strongly, but without personal attacks or threats; those won’t work anyway and will only serve to weaken your case.

            • Anon says:

              FYI, I was at the meeting last night.

              I know several Northridge West NC board members personally. They certainly don’t deserve the threats they have been receiving.

              Regardless of your thoughts of me, of the agenda item, or of the NC itself, no one deserves to be treated the way some of your readers have treated the volunteers on the council.

              If the readers are attempting to “win over” the council, a few bad apples can ruin it for everyone.

    • bikinginla says:

      Anon, as much as I appreciate the compliment, there are people in the local biking community who don’t read my blog. Some actually manage to find out about such things through other sources. So please don’t blame my readers unless someone indicated they responded because they saw it here; even then, I have no control over what anyone else says.

      If the NC members have actually received threats, they should report it to the police immediately. It is against the law to threaten anyone, by email or any other means.

      As I said, personal attacks and threats are always out of line. However, criticism of any elected official or body is appropriate and to be expected in a democracy; that’s how our system works. If you’re going to be in politics, you have to have a tough skin, because people will inevitably disagree with you or your actions.

  7. Mark Loftus says:

    I sent an email already to the same effect, but Matthew has it correct when he quotes CA motor vehicle code. But they also provide more specifics in section 39004:


    39004. Each licensing agency, by ordinance or resolution, may adopt rules and regulations for the collection of license fees. Revenues from license fees shall be retained by the licensing city or county and shall be used for the support of such bicycle ordinance or resolution, and may be used to reimburse retailers for services rendered. In addition, fees collected shall be used to improve bicycle safety programs and establish bicycle facilities, including bicycle paths and lanes, within the limits of the jurisdiction.

    The fees required to be paid pursuant to this division are as follows:

    (a) For each new bicycle license and registration certificate, the sum shall not exceed four dollars ($4) per year or any portion thereof.

    (b) For each transfer of registration certificate, the sum shall not exceed two dollars ($2).

    (c) For each replacement of a bicycle license or registration certificate, the sum shall not exceed two dollars ($2).

    (d) For each bicycle license renewal, the sum shall not exceed two dollars ($2) per year.

    Amended Sec. 4, Ch. 277, Stats. 1999. Effective January 1, 2000.

  8. […] In LA makes a counter proposal for Northridge: a $150 rebate for everyone who agrees to ride a bike instead of contributing to L.A.’s massive […]

  9. Last year my auto registration fee was $137. This for a monster car that swallows gasoline like a camel gulps water at an oasis.

    Somebody has his or her panties in a bunch about bicycles.

  10. You can email the entire board using the address: board@northridgewest.org

    The more voices they hear, the less likely they are to give credence to the guy who suggested it.

  11. Johnny says:

    Thanks Rachel for bringing this to our attention. I crafted a long response and sent it out to them. I’m hoping this will help.

  12. David says:

    We cyclists regularly engage in an activity that improves our mental, emotional, physical, social, and financial health. We don’t contribute to pollution or traffic congestion. Two wheels serve as a foundation for personal pride, happiness, community, and environmental stewardship. 

    My guess is Mr. Wengler does not own a bike. That makes me sad. He needs a bike so he can go for a ride and have some fun…with one or more mounted friends. 

    If you live in or near Northridge, would you consider loaning or buying Mr. Wengler a bike, and taking him out for a ride? Through a park, or a quiet neighborhood full of trees, and relatively free of cars would be best. He clearly needs it. I would do it, but I’m in the Bay Area. 

    Oh! And if anybody wants to start a fund to buy Mr. Wenger a bike, let me know. I’d gladly chip in. 

  13. Joe Anthony says:

    just sent an email. Thanks for the heads up!

  14. Joe says:

    Hang on a second.

    Some lone nutball throws up an obviously illegal, unworkable proposal at a *neighborhood council* meeting? I’m not going to get my panties in a bunch over this one, guys. This is going nowhere fast.

    • Anon says:

      Exactly! Mr Wenger isn’t a board member, he’s just stakeholder.


      Give some credit to the volunteers on the NC Board.

      One guy wrote in saying he will do “everything I can to clog the streets of LA with bicycles rendering the city UNUSABLE to cars”. Seriously. Grow up.

  15. […] A “Modest” Proposal: $150 Bicycle License Fee? That’s What Up In Northridge Tonight […]

  16. There’s an update from the CABO mailing list from somebody who attended the meeting:

    After about an hour it was time for the public speaking portion of the meeting. After the first bicyclist spoke against the proposal, the chairman apologized and stated that the motion was placed on the Agenda in error. The motion was apparently placed on the agenda by someone who is not a board member, and only a board member can make a motion. The chairman stated that the motion may be placed on the agenda of the next month’s meeting, and any one wishing to speak on the proposal should come to the next meeting if they wish to speak. Several of the bicyclists spoke anyway saying that they were at this meeting and should not have to come to another meeting to speak on the same proposal. The issues brought up were the same mentioned on the other postings. That $150 is far greater than $4 which is the maximum rate provided in the CVC. How LA abandoned the registration fee as the purpose was to provide a database to identify a child injured while riding a bike, or identify a stolen bike, and that database was not being maintained by LA — A collected registration form was placed in a box to be eventually entered into a computer, but it was never entered into the computer. Also stated was in the past it was necessary to go to one LAPD station near downtown during certain hours to buy a bicycle registration, and there was no other place in LA city to obtain a license. One person mentioned that $150 is more than the $132 he need to register his car. Several bicyclists stated they each owned 4 or 5 bikes, and paying $150/yr is unfair. Another person mentioned that the city streets are maintained by property and sales taxes, not gas taxes which fund state highways and freeways, on which bicycles are not allowed. Bicyclists and car drivers alike pay both property and sales taxes regardless of which they use.

  17. Anon says:

    Hey all, some of the comments have been ignorant at best. People saying they disagree with the NC’s approval of a license fee, for instance. No one approved anything.

    A stakeholder asked for the item on the agenda. This does not mean that it will be voted for. I’m sure the good and smart people on the Northridge West Neighborhood Council will be able to see through the disturbing agenda item and recognize a stinker.

    Everyone needs to relax.

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