Bicycle Licensing History

On May 20, 1935 the City of Toronto passed a bylaw to license residents owning and using bicycles on the highways of the City.

The licensing process was quite complicated. Cyclists had to apply for a license through City Hall. Then the cyclist was required to go to a police station and have a police officer inspect the bicycle and fill out paperwork. That paper work was returned to City Hall and a license was granted. The cyclists then had to return a duplicate license to the same Police Inspector where the bicycle was examined. Then a metal plate was issued for the year and affixed to the mudguard of the bike.

Any time the cyclist moved or transferred or exchanged his bike, the new information had to be filed. The cost of the yearly license was 50 cents and the fine for not having a license on your bicycle was $5.00.

On February 4, 1957, City Council repealed the bicycle licensing by-law in the City. At that time, there was a communication from the Canada Cycle and Motor Company Limited suggesting the City use the services of the Bicycle Guild Incorporated to administer bicycle licensing.

At that time, the City opted out of bicycle licensing, stating amongst other issues that "licensing of bicycles be discontinued because it often results in an unconscious contravention of the law at a very tender age; they also emphasize the resulting poor public relations between police officers and children". Nathan Phillips was the Mayor at the time and it is his signature on the by-law amendment.

The City of Toronto has investigated licensing cyclists on at least three occasions in the recent past:

  • 1984: focus on bike theft
  • 1992: focus on riding on sidewalks, traffic law compliance and couriers
  • 1996: focus on riding on sidewalks, traffic law compliance and couriers

Licensing in the nineties has been most often discussed in response to concerns for pedestrian safety on sidewalks, where incidents of collisions, near misses, and a lack of courtesy have made many pedestrians, including seniors feel insecure.

Each time the City has rejected licensing as a solution to the problem under discussion.

The major reasons why licensing has been rejected are:

  • The difficulty in keeping a database complete and current
  • The difficulty in licensing children, given that they ride bikes too
  • Licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws.

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