Time to stop spinning wheels on punishment for rogue cyclists

"We do know that we do have an issue — whether it's people walking into intersections while they're on the phone, people on bikes running red lights and stop signs, or cars running lights — it's definitely a problem," city Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (and big-time bicyclist supporter) said the other day on the radio program.

Yet here's the thing: Car drivers pay. Little bike people don't. And it's about time the bicyclists dig into the pockets of their skinny jeans and provide revenue like everybody else.

Chicago residents pay about $85 for a city vehicle sticker, more for a large car. The state license plate fee for cars is about $99. What do bicyclists pay? Nada. Tipota. Zilch. Nothing.

City traffic tickets cost car drivers $25 to $200 for each violation, while lawbreaking bicyclists generally pedal past the law scot-free. And now the city is taking out lanes of traffic to accommodate bike riders.


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With all the uncollected fees, and all the unissued traffic tickets, the city is losing out on millions of dollars that should be flayed from the hides of those two-wheeled lawbreakers.

Attorney James M. Freeman, a good and careful bicyclist who represents riders struck by autos, says it's time bicyclists obey traffic laws.

"Let's have evenhanded enforcement," he said. "Bicyclists don't get pulled over for blowing red lights. I'm not saying let's lower the hammer on bicyclists, but let's hand out some tickets once in a while."

Not once in a while, Mr. Freeman. How about every single day and night, thousands and thousands of tickets, and state license and city sticker fees, too.

Increased enforcement is "good for everybody," Freeman said. "It's better for pedestrians. More than anything, it's irritating for motorists to see citizens violating the law. When I see it, it irritates me."

It irritates drivers who pay, compelled to watch free-riding bicyclists get political favors from City Hall, even as they disobey traffic laws.

But there is a way to soothe the irritation.

Bicyclists and drivers should be treated equally under the law. And that means the little bike people should pay up, like everybody else.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

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