Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says she thinks Evanston should require license plates for bicycles.

Speaking as aldermen were debating a hike in the fine for riding bikes on some business district sidewalks Monday night, Holmes said that when a cyclist “rides in front of my car at a stop light, I ought to be able to write down that number and call the police.”

Presumably, to make that possible, the city would have to replace the small registration stickers it now uses for its effectively voluntary bike licensing program that attach to the bike’s frame with something much larger — like an automobile license plate — so drivers could clearly see an alleged violator’s license number.

Although aldermen voted to increase the bikes-on-sidewalks fine from $15 to $25, they took no action on Holmes’ idea and Holmes didn’t move to have it referred to staff for research or to a council committee for further discussion.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, an avid cyclist, said after the meeting that he’s certain bike riders in town would be outraged by the idea and that he would oppose such a plan.

In addition to the bike fine increase, aldermen also voted to raise the penalty for motorists who use their cell phones while driving from $50 to $75, to match the penalty provision of a similar state law.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Bicycles are not Cars
    Maybe instead of finding ways to force people on bicycles to behave like they’re in 2 ton motorized vehicles, the city should look into making legal and infrastructure changes to accommodate the way bicycles actually work.

    Stopping at every stop sign negates cycling as a means of transportation, full stop. Lights are sufferable, but cyclists have the legal right to queue at the front of the light to ensure that drivers see them and don’t hit them when making left/right turns. And ticketing cyclists who run red lights isn’t the answer. The city should design several cycle-friendly routes that go to and from where people actually want to go, that have few-to-no lights and require yielding at stop signs instead of a full stop.

    Those intent on catching cycling scofflaws should remember that cyclists – people on bikes – aren’t deadly. If any is going to die when a cyclist runs a light… it’s the person on the bike.

    Those who believe that cyclists don’t pay to use the roads, and should, here’s one of many, many, many peer reviewed articles detailing how we already *do* pay for the roads:

    Let’s find a way to make Evanston bicycle friendly by actually making Evanston bicycle friendly, not by pretending that bicycles are cars and should be treated as such.

    1. “Stopping at every stop sign

      "Stopping at every stop sign negates cycling as a means of transportation, full stop."

      Nonsense.  Cycling is my primary means of transportation in Evanston, and I stop.  With stops, I go about 2/3 the speed of a car on average, for a much lower price.  I am about twice the speed of walking or transit. Stopping even increases the exercise benefits of cycling.

      That said, the bike license plate idea is silly, especially at a local level.

      1. Full Stops
        There is a difference between yielding, slowing and observing right of way, and coming to a full stop.

        I yield. I pace cars. I observe right of way. At intersections where I need to stop, I stop. But I do not put my foot down at every single stop sign. I refuse. It would double my commute time, if not more, because drivers stop and wait and THEN wave the cyclist through, making my time at every intersection far longer than it needs to be.

        And if there is no car in sight, and no pedestrians, why stop? Slow down, look both ways, look again, and then pedal through safely.

        1. I’m special too

          Gee, ain't you special.  I yield, I pace, I observe right of way, and now I guess I'll just stop only where I need to stop,or maybe not at all if I feel so justified.  Like you said, why stop if I feel I don't need to?

          Everybody, just drive through red lights because why should anybodys commute time take a minute or two longer.  Why should anybody have to sit at an intersection far longer than they need to?  Just "refuse" to follow the law because we should all feel as special, as entitiled, as above it all, as this poster.

          I've changed my mind, I now believe the license for bikes is reasonable

    2. Give credit

      Wether you agree or disagree with  Alderperson Holmes you have to give her Credit for  bringing to light something that the City has needed to address for quite sometime. If you are going to create a a law to fine bikers for riding on sidewalks you have a way to identify them.  Bikers like drivers need to follow the rules of the road, like it or not.

      1. Perfectly stated. But why

        Perfectly stated. But why didn't the rest of the City Council support or even acknowledge Alderman Holmes' suggestion? Bicyclists should be licensed in my opinion. They are responsible for abiding by the Rules of the Road, and the best way to make that happen is to require education and examination and licensing. Just because an avid bicyclist is opposed to it, doesn't make it wrong.

    3. Bicycles

      BIcycles should be required to obey the same traffic laws as cars, not because a bicycle is as dangerous as an automobile, but because if some on a bicycle gets hit by an automobile the results can be just as tragic. Does someone have to get killed before something is done to make cycling safer for everyone? People on bicycles act as if they own the road, they have no courtesy whatsoever. They will ride in front of a moving car in a heartbeat. I was run over by a bicycle a couple of weeks ago, I was on the sidewalk, the bicycle came up behind me slammed into me and kept going. People on bicycles ride on the wrong side of the road, and a lot of them have child carts behind their bicycles. If something isn't done, someone is going to get killed and doesn't have to happen if our elected officials would get some gonads and do their jobs.

    4. The recent change of the

      The recent change of the vehicle code to allow gutter passing is a mistake. Gutter passing to the front of a queue is an obnoxious behavior. I wait in the queue and the only problems I ever had were motorists who got angry because they couldn't suggle up to the bumper of the car in front of me. They were under the impression that gutter passing is mandatory.

      Passing a stopped queue does nothing for rider unless he runs the red and its annoying for drivers to execute multiple passes of the same bicyclist. Furthermore gutter passing is a good way to get hit by a right turning motor vehicle.

      As to stop signs, the problem is that the stop sign is probably the most mis-used traffic control device in the nation. They are used for speed control and where yield signs should be.

  2. Bike Licenses

    When I was a young boy growing up in Evanston, we were required to register bikes with the police department. We were told that it made it easier for the police to identify stolen bikes. Care to guess why we no longer do this?

    a) Too expensive

    b) Unenforceable

    c) Impractical

    d) All of the above

    By the way, every bike I ever owned as a child was stolen… none were ever recovered.

  3. Stop the madness

    C'mon. Bike Plates? No. Stop. I agree with the other comment that we have to figure out how to coexist, rather than another layer of legislation and restriction. Bikes are not deadly, at worst they are a nuisance and at best they are an environmentally-friendly means of personal transportation.

    I am not a biker but understand its appeal. What if a pedestrian was slow to clear the intersection? Should we license people also so an angry motorist could take down the pedestrian plate number for a complaint?

    I say get rid of the silly bike lanes and widen our sidewalks and add an outer bike lane. Folks could walk close to the stores while cyclists could blow by them without interfering with walkers and without being in a dangerous roadway with frustrated motorists.

    Yes, this would involve some road construction but it seems to work well in other towns why not here? We spend money on far less inetresting and useful things (museums that go away, bars, theaters that never get built, etc.). I'd rather invest in some decent infrastructure.

  4. Kids to get licenses, too?

    Let me guess that she wants the kids to get licenses, too. She clearly has personal issues.

  5. We get what we vote for

    Bike licenses in Evanston. Now there's another novel idea in the People's Republic of Evanston.

    This is the mindset of our aldermen. Regulate, tax, spend and regulate again.

    We deserve these aldermen because we keep voting them in office.

  6. More important priorities

    Children are being shot and killed in Evanston, and Alderman Holmes is worried about a bicyclist riding in front of her? Let's focus on reducing crime in the city and let people ride their bikes. (Except on downtown sidewalks.)

    1. Yes, if it happened to her!

      Well maybe if she was affected by the gun violence personally like she was by the bike, she would move to do something about THAT!

  7. An April Fools joke?

    If this were April 1, I would think it was an April Fools joke!  As an avid cyclist, I obey the rules of the road.  As an avid cyclist, my riding is done only on the street, never on a side walk.  The bigger problem is the large amount of people who ride on the side walks with no regard for pedestrians.  There is no question that something needs to be done as this has been a long standing issue in Evanston, especially in the down town.

    With regard to alderman Holmes comment of wanting to get the license plate number, not sure what she is talking about?  A cyclist on the road has the same rights as a motor vehicle.  If a cyclist is at a stop light or sign, waiting for the light to change and is in front of a car,they are adhering to protocol.  Alderman Holmes sounds like she is just being inconvenienced because a bike is in front of her.  I would think that she has much bigger issues to tackle in her ward and the city, than trying to get a few more bucks from the residents.  What's next?  Having to get a license for my wife's shopping cart?  I think alderman Holmes is out of touch with the bigger issues in our city!

  8. Ideas like this—

    It is easy to propose ideas that make the Aldermen 'feel good' but do they ever think about implementing or enforcement ?  No.  Tickets would have a multiplier effect—they tell their friends and fellow students the poliice will stop and ticket.

    The police could already catch bikers riding on sidewalks by posting an unmarked car on Clark or Orrington.  The one time they did so that I saw on north of BurgerKing, they must have stopped five bikers in 1/2 hour.  Never saw the police doing so since !  Any Saturday or Sunday they could ticket multiple bikers racing down Sherman [and I'm sure other streets] full speed, never stopping at signs or even looking and scaring other bikers and pedestrians trying to LEGALLY cross streets or get in their cars.

    EVEN if they stop them, do they ticket or just 'warn'  them [even record their name ?].  Several years ago I asked an Evanston policeman why motorcycles can make so much noise [normal and because they want to be load].  He said they have the same noise/muffler restrictions as cars but the police don't bother since they judges always dimiss the ticket and the police thus waste time evengoing to the court. I suspect this part of why the bike laws are not enforced—-and the bikers know it and so keep doing what they want.  As NYC found enforcement of even 'small' laws reduce crime, ignoring it only makes resident bolder to dis-obey other laws.


  9. Wrong direction on bikes, Evanston

    First I read that Evanston is considering banning bicycles from certain commercial streets and now we are considering a mandatory licensing program so an alderman can call the police when cyclists line up in front of her at a light? Our city should follow the lead of Portland, Minneapolis, Assen, Copenhagen and, yes, Chicago in encouraging and facilitating bicycle use as an alternative to car use. This a progressive, urban college town, not Piedmont, Alabama! I've been largely disconnected from cycling advocacy in Evanston but I do need to get involved and start being vocal about protecting our rights from the likes of Holmes. Where should I start? Active Trans? Anyone have suggestions? Ben

  10. Bike rules

    I agree with Adam's link on the Idaho stop. Bikes are not cars. Stop signs should be treated as yield signs for bikes, and lights as stops. 

    I wonder if Ms Holmes has ever ridden a bike?

  11. Just to be perfectly clear

    Just to be perfectly clear – bIcycles are already required to obey the same traffic laws as cars. They are classed as vehicles under Illinois law.

    As an automobile driver I'm getting really tired of having to worry that some idiot is going to do something stupid and wind up under my wheels.  There is a very good reason for bikers to obey the laws – it is that drivers have no way to predict where a bike will be at a given time unless they follow established procedures.  That's how deadly accidents are avoided.

    1. Just to be perfectly clear,

      Just to be perfectly clear, bicycles are NOT required to follow the same traffic laws as cars, just like semi trucks and motorcycles have differences in their rights and responsibilities on the road. They are not classed as "vehicles" — there is not even such a broad classification in the statutes. As a bike rider I'm really getting tired of having to worry that some idiot is going to do something stupid and end up with me under their wheels. There is a very good reason for drivers to obey the laws – it is that cyclists have no way to predict what some moron behind the wheel is going to do because they are too busy fiddling with the radio and chatting with their passenger and speeding through intersections because they are in a hurry. Deadly accidents are avoided by making the people in the vehicle that is most dangerous to others be the party who is responsible for the safe operation of their vehicle. 75% of all bike/car accidents in Chicago are doorings, which are 100% the car occupants fault (by law). Most of the rest are drivers "not seeing" a bike and hitting the cyclist from behind, often while drunk. If you want to hurtle around in a 2 tons piece of metal with the radio blaring, that's fine, but when you start telling other people they need to be safe because you killing them might be an inconvenience to you, you're just being dumb.

      1. Please continue, Governor

        I love a good rant. I really do. Unfortunately, though, Secretary of State Jesse White completely disagrees with you.

        Bicycle Rules of The Road, available via the Secretary of State's office, quite clearly states, time and again, that bicycles ARE REQUIRED to follow the same traffic laws as any other vehicle on the road. Quite specifically, "When riding your bicycle on Illinois roadways, you must obey the same traffic laws,signs and signals that apply to motorists."

        It can't be stated any clearer than that. 

      2. Not dumb, confused

        I'm a little confused by your post.  This publication, produced by the Illinois Secretary of State, seems pretty clear, all bike riders must obey all traffic laws, same as any motor vehicle, all the time, no exceptions.        

        That includes, riders must always yield to pedestrians, stop for school buses, always use hand signals, have a light at night, etc etc.           

        I follow the law and have no problem with bikes when they follow the law and do what is expected of them.  Ironically enough, as a car driver, I'm really getting tired of having to worry that some idiot bike rider is going to do something stupid and end up under my wheels. 

  12. What’s with the biker attitude?

    I want to love you bikers, I really do.  Many of my friends are bikers and I get the appeal.  However I cannot ignore the consistent negative interactions with bikers.  My son has been hit by one.  I was nearly hit once and then yelled at.  One shouted at me after it flew through a red light and nearly got hit by me (yes, I looked but assumed a red light at a busy intersection actually meant something).  What's with the biker attitude?

    1. Attitude?!

      I understand your frustration based on your experiences.

      But, the actions of a few do not mean all bikers are bad.

      And attitude?  Well, I cannot speak for all cyclists, but I have some attitude because…

      1) Our city surveying public reaction to closing MORE streets to bikes, one being Chicago Ave., major thoroughfare.  Why?

      2) An Alderman considering penalizing bikers with compliance to purchase a liscense.  The reason because she did not like a biker (law abiding) riding in front of her?  Again why?

      3) My neighbor having her leg broken from a biker who hit her while riding ON THE SIDEWALK, not on the street.  Sidewalk riders is an issue, not those that ride on the streets.  Re focus on this infraction.

      4) Snotty comments on this forum by folks who label us as spandex showoffs.  Well, what can you do.

      5)  Getting yelled at by a guy in a pick up truck – 1 FOOT AWAY from me at speed – almost causing me to wreck.  They are out there, bikers are not just the issue.

      6) Getting honked at, at a minimum of 3 times every ride when obeying the law on the road.  Bikers do not just have an attitude.

      So I understand your issues.  But also understand our issues.  Yea, I guess I have an attitude.

      Evanston has always been such a bike friendly community.  What community boasts a bike club, one of the largest century rides, two bike shops and dozens of neighborhood rides weekly and on weekends?

  13. More important issues that should concern the 5th Ward Alderman

    Mrs. Holmes,

    Don't you think that there are more issues in YOUR ward that require YOUR attention, than fines for bike riders?


    1. Alderman has a right to be concerned

      Do you actually think that the alderman should just focus on her ward alone?

      Three of Evanston's busiest streets run through her ward.: Church Street, Emerson Street, and Dodge Avenue.

      There is a lot of bike traffic that affects the residents in her ward, so she has all the rights in the world to be concerned. 

  14. Discouraging bicycling.

    I follow the letter of the vehicle code when bicycling. This I have found angers more drivers than any other riding style. Furthermore, police officers do not know the vehicle code very well when it comes to bicycling. Instead their ideas about lane position and more are no better than that of the average motorist. Because of this I've been pulled over a few times. Lack of plates never got in their way. They back down when they realize I know the vehicle code better than they do, but I still got pulled over.

    But let's get to the heart of the matter, requiring registration of bicycles is simply a punitive measure designed to discourage bicycling. Any reasonable fee would be too small to be worth collecting, that is it wouldn't cover collection costs. So it would have to be increased dramatically just to break even after costs. Anything that could bring in revenue would be even more punitive. 

    If the idea is drivers calling in bicyclists' plate numbers, this seems to be a way of encouraging more harassment of bicyclists.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *