The current round of discussions on Licensing Bicycle Couriers in Toronto came from the following comments by Toronto City Councillor Steve Ellis (Ward 9) on Monday February 24, 1997. Councillors were discussing the report on "Enhancing Bicycle Safety" which came about as a result of the four fatalities of cyclists hit by cars and trucks during the summer of 1996. (none of which were couriers, although the city did have its first ever (modern) on the job fatality of a bike courier in February 1996).

The discussion was supposed to find ways to improve safety for all cyclists on City streets.

These are his complete words, totally unedited:

"Looking at the budget, for instance to enhance bicycle safety, the ambassadors, the summer student program. Maybe we can get the squeegee kids, put them on bicycles with things to clean graffiti. We can send them around the city, and we'll kill three birds with one stone.

( in background unknown councillor "remember the Humane Society don't say kill birds")

We won't kill birds. What we can do is, we can have an amalgamated service and roving bike squads to clean graffiti and put the squeegees to good use. It might just work.

With respect to licensing all the bicyclists, I don't think that will work. I think we're gonna create mega-bureaucracy, mega-red tape, and green tape and at the end of the day it's gonna be a nightmare to administer.

However there is some merit to Councillor Korwin-Kuczynski's licensing theories and Councillor Hutcheons. I really believe that the affected industry that should be licensed with big licenses on their backs is the courier industry.

If you're walking around downtown and you see these kamikaze couriers all over the place, going on sidewalks, going up stairs, going the wrong way down one way streets. So these kamikaze couriers, there the ones that should have clear licenses on them with big numbers identification, so that when they whack a business person, or a lady on the sidewalk you can complain about them and have their license revoked or charged, because before I got to this place I use to walk around Bay and Richmond quite a lot and walk around the streets back and forth to court from here. I can't count the number of times that I was almost hit.

One time a fellow had the misfortune of hitting my briefcase. It was a big briefcase. I was going to court. It wasn't to pleasant for him. The near misses are incredible and people being hit. I recall seeing people hit by bicyclists and going down and it isn't Johnny and Janey coming down from the suburbs to go downtown to go to Yonge Street. It's the courier industry that are hitting people. So they are the people that I believe should be licensed.

So I would request that staff prepare a report with respect to the feasibility of licensing, of having the courier industry have licenses on the actual couriers or the bicycles that are clearly visible to the citizens and to report back and so I'll make that motion. And that I think, will alleviate a lot the problems that happen downtown and I guess across the city because bicycle couriers do go across the city.

I don't know maybe it's because there is so much smog downtown or exhaust but some of the behaviour of these bicyclists is somewhat erratic. There's a subculture of bicycle couriers that's a good subculture, that you clearly identify that a lot of these people believe they are above the law and maybe it's time to reign them a little bit.

But that's the only form of licensing I could see could ever work and be effective and be cost effective. It could be cost recovery. Because to do the mandate across the whole entire sector of everybody who jumps on a bike over 12 or 13 or 14 is ridiculous. I don't know whether we want to start getting kids when they get off of tricycles. Do we have a stage license all the way up? It just gets into a horrendous amount of costs. I can't support the widespread licensing but I would request that a report come back particularity on the bicycle courier industry, thank you."

Councillor Ellis' motion with respect to potential licensing of bicycle couriers passed by a vote of nine to eight.

Those in favour of potential licensing of couriers (DON'T VOTE FOR ANY OF THESE PEOPLE IN THE NOVEMBER MEGA-CITY ELECTION !):

Councillor Kay Gardiner

Councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski

Councillor Steve Ellis

Councillor Tom Jacobek

Councillor John Adams

Councillor Michael Walker

Councillor Howard Joy

Councillor David Hutcheon

Councillor Betty Disero

Those against (VOTE FOR THESE ONES)

Mayor Barbara Hall

Councillor Mario Silva

Councillor Kyle Rae

Councillor Peter Tabuns

Councillor Rob Maxwell

Councillor Martin Silva

Councillor Dan Leckie

Councillor Pam McConnel


Due to the Mega-City legislation passed in April at the provincial level, this council will no longer exist as of January 1 1998. It seems unlikely that there is enough time to study and license couriers by that date. However, it will come up again. It always does. And the new council will consist of more members from the suburbs, who will bring their pre-conceived notions about bike couriers with them.

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