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In a recent news article The Courier covered the remarks by a Cedar Falls council member that golfers should pay more for their recreation.

As a golfer myself I always have felt an obligation to pay my fair share for the excellent facilities provided. It is no different than people paying for use of the Recreation Center, the Community Center or the Aquatic Center. Even dogs pay to poop in Paw Park. But that brings up the subject of a large segment of our population that pays nothing for its recreation. They roam free based on the contributions of the rest of us taxpayers who pay motor vehicle license fees, gas tax, property tax and income tax.

It is way past time for Cedar Falls to license bicycles.

There are no state statutes against licensing bicycles and several cities have passed ordinances to do so. Davenport passed such an ordinance in 1942.

I still remember my bike license number -- 2056. There are manufacturers who make small license plates that can be attached to a bicycle in a tamper-proof manner. The cost of establishing such plates can be absorbed by the fee-payers. I have a copy of Davenport's ordinance. It includes not only a license plate, but requirements for a headlight and taillight or reflector.

I don't know how many times motorists have had the hell scared out of us by a nighttime cyclist suddenly appearing out of the dark, but it happens often enough to do something about it. I would think a cyclist would want to feel safer knowing he/she could be seen.

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I suggest a plate cost somewhere between $10 and $20 to cover two years. There are about 13,000 households in Cedar Falls. If half have bikes, that's 6,500 times, say $10, bringing $65,000 for two years or $32,500 annually. That could help defray the cost of the silly lines we are putting on our streets at a current cost of about $20,000 annually.

Since our friendly Legislature and governor have decimated our tax base with rollbacks and have saddled us with other cities' arrears on pension payments, I would think council members would take advantage of every incoming penny to balance the budget.

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Bicyclists need not regard this as punitive. In fact, licensing can work in their favor. Consider one of our Spandex-clad fellow citizens merrily breezing through a traffic control device and getting clobbered by a motor vehicle. Every police officer who has served any length of time has come to dread finding an unconscious bicyclist with no identification on them. The bike license can be traced on the squad car's computer, next of kin can be notified and last rites can be expedited if the cyclist was of that religious persuasion.

Almost every year the city holds an auction of stolen or lost bicycles. If a license tag is attached, the conveyance can be returned to its rightful owner. License plates also can be utilized to settle disputes over rightful ownership. When I was delivering Saturday Evening Posts all over Davenport, I was stopped at least three times by police officers. I assume they wanted to know why a child was out at night, but they also ascertained that I wasn't a bicycle thief because I knew my license number and this information checked out downtown. I didn't mind their snoopiness because I knew they were looking out for my best good.

Abandoned bikes can be traced back to the individual who trashed it onto someone else's property. All kinds of good things can arise from the simple act of licensing bicycles.

So, my advice to the City Council member who wants to raise the golf fees is -- go ahead. We always have believed in paying our fair share. How about you? If you continue your cycling recreation on city streets and trails without paying for the privilege, you are naught but an owl that hoots at others whilst disgorging feathers.

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Stan Smith is a former Cedar Falls City Council member and occasional guest columnist.

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