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Chicago alderwoman eyes proposed $25 bicycle fee

CHICAGO – A Chicago alderwoman wants to charge a $25 licensing fee for bicycle owners and require them to take an hour-long safety class.

Pat Dowell's proposal could generate up to $10 million a year if 400,000 cyclists buy the license, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Dowell said she thinks the city should consider implementing the proposal instead of increasing tax on cable television, which is being backed by the mayor.

"I ride a bike, and I wouldn't have a problem registering it," she said. "It's important. For me, it is both safety and also a revenue-generator."

The South Side alderwoman said she thinks the fee is only fair and could help offset the cost of the increasing number of protected bike lanes on city streets.

Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said he's not aware of any other U.S. city that requires similar licenses.

"A bike license fee, we believe, would discourage cycling and would really cost more money than it would raise," he said, adding that enforcement and cumbersome set-up costs outweigh the potential financial benefit.

But so far, the idea isn't being warmly received by cyclists.

"That seems a bit ridiculous," bike rider Tom Nagy told WLS-TV. "I mean it's a bicycle. It's something we've all been doing since we were five years old."

Dowell says she'd also like to require cyclists to take a class on road safety.

"Some people just get on a bike," she said. "They don't really realize what the rules of the road are or what the signal is for a left-hand turn, a right-hand turn. There's some usefulness in having them take a short course."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who wants to boost the city's entertainment tax on cable TV by 50 percent, has pledged to make Chicago one of the nation's most bike-friendly cities.

He told the Sun-Times that the new bike lanes are being funded by advertising revenue from the city's Divvy bike program, a bike-sharing service that's putting up to 4,000 utility bikes at hundreds of rental stations across the city. Divvy will be one of the largest bike-sharing systems in the country.

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