Why have many areas abolished bicycle approval?

Why are license plates for bicycles no longer used?

Bicycle license plates were widespread in many countries before, during and, depending on the region, also after the Second World War. In Poland, for example, this was mandatory until the late 1960s. I noticed that license plates (Velovignette) were still in use in Switzerland until 2011.

I am curious why countries have overridden such regulations and what the advantages and disadvantages of this situation are. I would also like to ask whether there are still some countries where cyclists are required to register their bicycles with an authority and / or take out insurance, etc.

Example license plate below:


At least in the Netherlands:

The license plates for bicycles were linked to the taxation of bicycles. They had to get a new plate every year. Taxation lasted until World War II. The Germans gave up the tax.

After the war, the tax was no longer introduced, so the plates were no longer needed.

It has been speculated that taxation on cars after the war more than made up for non-taxation on bicycles.

Costs versus benefits.

As you have pointed out, there were perceived benefits in some societies and at certain times. These ranged from a smooth one every road user is treated equally to we control every aspect of our citizens' lives , and we create jobs for everyone , as we those who make the slightest transgression will be punished .

As you may know, there are parts of society somewhere in the world who are calling for bicycles to be regulated. Cyclists are often viewed as anarchic by conservative people. If you conservative read to those on the one hand, those in power or are older , and not right, received A more balanced view. And if you can anarchic as young reads, that makes more sense: Many older people forget how the youth are too of their Time has behaved.

Such regulations are imposed from time to time. So far they have always been there (and I assume that they will no longer be used in the future) the costs outweigh the benefits .

The city of Toronto required bicycles to be approved from 1935 to 1957. According to a Toronto city website on bicycle licensing, part of the reason given at the time for repealing the ordinance was "because it often leads to unconsciousness violating the law at a very tender age, they also emphasize the resulting poor public relations between Police officers and children. "

In the past few years, the idea of ​​a new bicycle license was examined three times (1984, 1992 and 1996) in Toronto and rejected each time. According to the city, the main reasons for this are:

  • The difficulty of keeping a database complete and up to date
  • The difficulty in licensing children as they also ride bicycles
  • Licensing in and of itself does not change the behavior of cyclists who violate traffic rules

These and other topics are covered in more detail on the website:


The cost of obtaining a driver's license for a motor vehicle is considerable. Much of this cost covers the administrative costs of maintaining a correct database and processing licenses. The cost of developing a system for cyclists would be similar. The Ministry of Transport has rejected such a move in the past when asked to do so. If cyclists were asked to bear the license costs, the license would in many cases be more expensive than the bike itself.


Many children ride bicycles, in fact most of the cyclists are young people. It would be difficult to create a standardized test that could be used by both adults and children aged five and over. It must be argued that licensing would provide an opportunity for education, but again, the bureaucracy of such a compulsory system was seen as too cumbersome to develop.



The discussions about cyclists and the law have raised questions about how our police force should spend their time and limited resources. Do we want them to review and enforce licenses, or do we want them to enforce traffic laws? Most people would argue that traffic law enforcement is more rewarding. The police who were involved in the licensing studies have determined that the HTA is already providing them with the tools they need, such as Section 218, to do the enforcement work.


In each of the above cases, there are great problems and difficulties in setting up a licensing system. The studies asked what goal the licensing of cyclists should pursue. If the goal is to improve cyclist compliance with traffic laws and reduce the number of conflicts with pedestrians and other road users, then licensing as an approach needs to be compared with other possible initiatives. Is it worth creating the bureaucracy required for licensing? The studies have shown that licensing is not worthwhile. Other solutions: lightning-fast enforcement of regulations for driving on sidewalks, awareness campaigns, qualification training with CAN-BIKE and the provision of bike-friendly facilities such as bike lanes, although these are not perfect.

Public policy considerations

Concerns about cyclist compliance with traffic laws are real and require constant attention. However, if large investments are to be made by governments or by cyclists themselves, the general policy objectives behind those investments need to be addressed. For example, there is a strong public argument in favor of licensing motorists. Every year hundreds of people die in motor vehicle accidents and collisions, and many thousands more are injured. Cyclists are involved in fewer incidents that need to be addressed. However, given the health, environmental and population benefits of cycling, ongoing efforts to improve bicycle compliance must be part of an overall strategy to promote safe cycling.

At least in Toronto, license plates are no longer used because they basically cost too much to be of too little use. In fact, it would likely be harmful overall as it could drastically reduce the number of cyclists.

His most likely election loser comes at election time: Politicians are unwilling to take in cyclists for little benefit. Additionally, it has the potential to take on a life of its own and blow them up. If you were a politician (who are the lawmakers in most jurisdictions) would you risk it?

See this heading: Bicycle Laws: NSW becomes "the mockery of the world" because cyclists have to carry ID with them. And that means that cyclists only have to have ID with them and do not have to register their bikes.

Since you asked about Switzerland (where I still remember holding on Velovignette on my bike a few years ago), here is how it worked there, based on the German language Wikipedia entry:

The Velovignette was not a registration of the bike as such, like a car license plate. Instead, you were required by law to take out liability insurance for any damage you might cause while cycling, such as: B. when you scratch the paintwork of a car. Your insurance company would issue a small sticker that you would put on your bike to show that the bike was actually insured. Riding a bicycle without such a sticker was punished with a fine of 40 CHF. The sticker had a unique number so you could link it to the insured person and you had to get a new sticker every year (i.e. pay the modest insurance premium).

Why this was discontinued at the end of 2011: Nowadays there is usually general liability insurance that also covers damage that occurs while cycling. Some insurers directly issued a series of stickers to people who ran their policy, regardless of whether the household had a bike or not. At some point, the Swiss legislature argued that the administration of the details of the Vignette system no longer worthwhile and the vignette was abandoned.

The introduction and abolition of bicycle licensing laws should also be seen in the context of a broader attitude towards the role of the authorities in the extent to which the state should regulate people's lives. This has changed over the years.

There is a general tendency towards deregulation, to the elimination of regulations that have no clear benefit to society, which makes the state leaner.

A similar example is dog licenses and taxes, which have likely been abolished in many countries for similar reasons - lots of expensive red tape, very little utility, poor compliance, and very difficult to enforce. Collisions with the guilty cyclist kill roughly the same number of people as dogs (one or two people a year in the UK) so irresponsible dog owners like irresponsible cyclists in general are more of a nuisance than a real danger to society and the authorities these days no need for strict regulations.

I think you will also find a lot of regulations in completely different areas (like maintaining your front yard, for example) that were once strict but have been relaxed.

It seems to me that in earlier decades people generally thought that the state should regulate individual behavior much more and that attitudes have become more relaxed since the 1970s and 1980s.

Because a state with a social system actually "earns" money with every kilometer driven (and loses with every kilometer driven by a car driver), mainly because cycling keeps people fit and causes less pollution than driving a car, which keeps health costs down.

The article mentions that politicians are trying to encourage cycling by investing in cycling infrastructure.

Now we can assume that license plates could add bureaucracy and costs to cycling and put people off it. Hence, license plates are likely to be a net loss to society.

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