Salt Lake City plans to end its bike registration fee — but you’re still supposed to get a license

Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo Salt Lake City requires residents to pay $2 and register their bikes, but Mayor Jackie Biskupski wants to stop charging people.

Salt Lake City is poised to end a fee on a required license that you might never have known you needed — the one for your bicycle.

A proposed change would end the requirement that retailers selling bikes fill out licensing forms in triplicate and return them to the Police Department. Instead, retailers and residents would be able license bicycles online, free of charge.

Eliminating the $2 registration fee “encourages more people to license their bicycles and makes it much more likely their bikes can be returned if they are ever stolen,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a news release about the proposed change.

State law requires all counties and cities to have bicycle licensing procedures. A related change the city has proposed would remove a requirement that bicycles be inspected, although another existing law would still let a police officer stop a rider for an inspection if the officer thinks the bike is unsafe or “poorly equipped.”

Licensing helps police identify stolen and lost bicycles so they can reunite them with their owners. The current paperwork-heavy process is “cumbersome and antiquated” and “discourages licensing and registration by both bicycle dealers and bicycle owners,” Police Chief Mike Brown wrote in a memo to the City Council.

Under the new procedure, “You can do it at a bike stop. You can do it on your smartphone,” Brown told the City Council in a briefing Tuesday. “You can even snap a picture of your bike.” The online form, when created, would be available on the Police Department’s website.

“I think this would be a huge step forward in technology,” Brown added. “Salt Lake City wants to be a bike-friendly city. This would really help.”

Revenue from bike licensing fees is small, about $2,600 annually from registering about 1,300 bikes. In 2017, city police reported 1,194 bike thefts and 212 abandoned bikes.

Of the more than 1,400 stolen or abandoned bikes, 83 were returned to their owners. The department donates 300 to 400 bicycles a year, largely because it can’t track down owners.

The evidence storage facility “looks like a bike warehouse,” Councilman Charlie Luke said. “There are so many bicycles down there that are unidentified.”

The proposal found unanimous favor with the council, which may vote on it formally in two weeks.

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