A License To Walk

Look at that poor woman walking!Some people inside and outside the bicycling community believe that we should require cyclists to get licenses and/or register their bikes with the state. License and registration fees would help pay for bicycle infrastructure and ensure that all cyclists are adequately trained in correct riding techniques. Motorists like this idea because they think cyclists don’t pay for bike infrastructure and don’t obey traffic laws. Some cyclists like this idea because they think it will get them more respect from drivers and state institutions.

This idea has some merit but I’d like to take it one step further. I propose that all pedestrians should have to get walking licenses and register their shoes with the state DMV.

Lets face it, like bicyclists, pedestrians don’t get much respect from motorists and highway departments. The way motorists see it, pedestrians don’t pay for sidewalks and there are vast numbers of sidewalks in most American cities and towns. In motorists’ eyes, pedestrians also do dangerous things like jay walk or try to cross four-lane boulevards at intersections with no crosswalks or traffic lights.

Walking licenses and shoe registration fees could change all this. They would help pay for sidewalks and the license/registration process would ensure pedestrians get adequate training in correct and safe walking techniques from licensed professionals. At the age of one, infants would get “Conditional Learners Permits” that would allow them to walk if accompanied by a licensed adult. If a person is caught repeatedly jay walking, crossing against a red light or outside a designated crosswalk, their walking license could be suspended or revoked. If police discover that someone’s shoes are unregistered, they could be taken away and the person could be thrown in jail. All this would greatly reduce pedestrian crashes. It could also help revive the American economy because, once people lost their walking licenses, they’d be forced to buy cars and drive everywhere. Plus there’d be increased spending on new shoes and criminal defense attorneys.

I know, some of you are saying, “But Andy, most pedestrians are hit by cars because the cars don’t see them, often at night!” I’ve already thought of that. As part of the licensing and shoe registration procedure, I’d require that pedestrians have to wear bright, reflective clothing at all times and have shoes with lights in them, like little kids sometimes wear. I’d also require education programs that train pedestrians to be alert for cars at all moments in all situations, even inside offices, restaurants and homes.

Sure, motorists would still hit a few pedestrians, but they’d do it with more respect. Highway departments might even respect pedestrians enough to keep track of when, where and how they get hit by cars! Yes, we could ban right-turns-on-red, require more signage, pavement markings, signals and better lighting and traffic calming measures …but that would just slow down drivers, and we can’t slow down drivers, even for a minute, or our entire national economy will collapse.

Walking licenses and shoe registration would be good for pedestrians, good for drivers and good for the economy. Think about it!

Andy Singer

About Andy Singer

Andy Singer is doing his second tour as volunteer co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. He works as a professional cartoonist and illustrator and has authored of four books including his latest, "Why We Drive," which examines environmental, land use and political issues in transportation. You can see more of his cartoons at AndySinger.com.

15 thoughts on “A License To Walk

  1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    There could be a boom in pedestrian helmets and walking clothes with safety fabrics. Whole new local businesses will be born and there will be an economic boom. Think of all the jobs!

    1. Monte Castleman

      Don’t be too sure it won’t happen, growing up in the 1980s I would have laughed at the thought that an ordinary bicycle rider would need to have special clothes and a helmet . Walking helmets have come up several times as apparently a joke or satire, but there’s people taking these joke proposals seriously.

      Denmark (I can’t tell if this is a joke for publicity or an actual proposal)

      US Radio host gets majority of students to sign petition for walking helmets

      And there was a law in Japan requiring elementary school children to wear walking helmets, with no impact on safety..

      Car seatbelts are one thing, but if we’re getting towards requiring all sorts of safety gear for things that are only slightly dangerous, why not just wrap ourselves in bubblewrap like that car commercial from a few years back.

  2. Sue JOnes

    …. I wouldn’t share this too widely. Finding ways to fine and ticket people seems to be all the rage these days.

  3. UrbanDoofus

    I remember when I was hit by a car while crossing in a cross walk 4 years ago. I should have been watching out.

    What do you think my fine should have been for ruining the paint job on the trucker and breaking the mirror off?

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      All pedestrians would be forced to carry walking insurance. That would pay for a new paint job and mirror repair or any other damage caused by your body hitting a car. This is another example of how my proposal would boost the economy.

  4. Keith Morris

    Out in the burbs after riding my bike I was walking it from an intersection to a nearby bus stop just past a gas station. As I was walking on the sidewalk across the gas station parking lot I noticed a motorist looking at his phone and approaching as I neared his path and just assumed he wasn’t going to stop and sure enough he didn’t and passed in front of me. When I passed by I heard that guy frantically saying to me that, “I didn;t see you, I didn’t see you!” and I had ignored him til I heard the car door shut and he came around, so I figured oh, well, if he wants to go out of his way to apologize, I won’t stop him.

    He then bombarded me with questions like, “Why aren’t you wearing reflective clothing?” as both my front and read lights were left on flashing and ,”Why are riding in the snow?” when I was walking my bike to avoid riding on snowy stretches. I simply replied that if he’;s going to drive a killing machine he should get off his phone and look where he’s going. His reply before walking off and getting back in his car? “Well, fuck you then!” Then I yelled back something about being a stupid suburban philistine, I think something about Fox news or republican thrown in too. Shouldn’t have engaged in that, because I found that I had missed the bus.

    And on top of that I’m sure we’ve read the sad, but predictable news of a pedestrian recently struck and killed on White Bear Ave in St Paul. http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_27395201/st-paul-woman-66-struck-crosswalk-dies

    1. Andy SingerAndy Singer

      Yeah, another life destroyed on a 4-lane death road (as Bill LIndeke calls them). It’s frustrating how our car-oriented street designs push the city’s and agency costs off onto private citizens, often those who can least afford them. For example, city engineers will say to us, “Putting in a traffic light, HAWK signal, crossing aid or better lighting would cost us too much money.” But what is the cost to her family of this woman’s hospitalization and death? Or what is the cost to the parents of the Macalester student who will go through life with permanent brain damage? They are left to fight for crumbs with the motorist’s insurance company, while police and Public Works engineers label it “an accident” and go on as if nothing happened. Public Works has done anything to improve the pedestrian crossing at Hoyt and Rice after 11 year old Bikram Phuyel had his life altered forever. What’ll that cost his family? Arrrg. It defies satire.

    2. Rosa

      God the comments on that article. The problem is that people MISUNDERSTAND and expect cars to just stop because there’s a person in the way! And then they die! Because drivers never do and the law just makes people think they will!

      1. Wayne

        if the law actually punished drivers for not stopping and killing someone, they might actually think twice about it. but the way things are now you basically get a free pass on murder if you use a car.

  5. Sam

    There are some intersections downtown that can be impossible to cross during rush hour unless you’re aggressive. When you have the don’t walk signal, cross traffic is passing at 100mph so you can’t cross. Then when you get the walk symbol you can’t go because traffic is aggressively making turns. Even in the few dead seconds where both directions have reds, it’s still impossible to get in the cross walk due to people aggressively making right turns on red. Seriously these drivers should’t be allowed out of the suburbs. In the rest of Minneapolis drivers go out of their way to stop for you.

    1. Cedar

      I suspect I’m the only person on here who supports skyways, but that’s part of the reason I love them; I hate to wait at traffic lights or wait for cars, and in the skyway I don’t have to deal with any of that. I recall reading a commentary a few years ago comparing the skyway system to Venice, and I think it remains a good one (minus all the issues of public vs private ownership, of course, and ignoring the fact that the Crystal Court, for all its attractions, is no Piazza San Marco). Up in the skyway level, everyone is a pedestrian.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        You’re not the only one.

        It’s funny, we spend all this time talking about making streets walkable and welcoming to pedestrians, but mostly disdain the best available walking environment we have.

    2. Wayne

      We should build a wall around downtown and funnel all the cars into parking garages, then make the streets all pedestrian only zones. I know it’s a magical utopia unicorn idea but it made me smile for half a second before reality caught up.

      Wait, isn’t that essentially a lot of European cities that I just described? Crap.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        No, not really, but at least London has congestion pricing.

        But being designed pre-car has a nice car-suppressing quality. Also helps to have transit that’s as or more convenient.

        The only European places I’ve been that are “leave your car on the outskirts” are small, medieval towns.

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