Ask WAVE: Why don’t bicyclists have to be licensed to ride in traffic?

Bicycles roll the same streets as motorized vehicles. Pat asked WAVE why similar licensing is not required.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 12:23 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Riding a bike can be a great way to get around: less expensive than paying to gas up the car, good exercise, and better for the environment.

However, because bicyclists navigate the same streets that drivers do, Pat submitted the following to Ask WAVE:

“I wonder why bicyclists do not have to learn the safety rules and have a license to be in traffic.”

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet told WAVE that it’s mainly because bikes aren’t as heavy or as fast as motorized vehicles. Even e-bikes don’t count for licensing; per Kentucky law, their motors are too small to require a license. More information from KYTC on safe cycling can be found here.

The League of American Bicyclists, a non-governmental advocacy group, says there are many reasons licensing is bad for bikes. Firstly, it discourages cycling when most places want to encourage it. Secondly, licensing bikes has a history of being a pretext for discrimination. Thirdly, bicycles can’t cause as much damage as large-motor vehicles. Finally, licensing programs are expensive and aren’t shown to be very beneficial.

Remember, however, that just because you don’t need a license to pedal Kentucky streets doesn’t mean there aren’t rules of the roads. Essentially the same traffic laws that govern large motorized vehicles also govern bicyclists.

To submit your own question to Ask WAVE, email kathleen.ninke@wave3.com. All topics welcome.