Traffic safety will get a push with new specialty plates

Traffic safety will get a push with new specialty plates

Come January, Oregon bicyclists will have something in common with firefighters, Elks Club members and square dancers — their own specialty license plate.

Vehicle plates bearing an image of a cyclist and "Share the Road" text will be available from the Department of Motor Vehicles on Jan. 2. The plates are intended to raise awareness of cyclists and pedestrians and increase traffic safety, said Karl Rohde, government affairs coordinator for the Portland-based Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Rohde said bicycle safety is the top concern for cyclists, according to several polls. He said the plates will also reinforce the point that people who ride bikes also drive cars and pay their share for road maintenance.

"I'm looking forward to getting mine," he said Thursday in a telephone interview.

The plates will cost an additional $10 over the ordinary two-year license fee ($54 for most cars). The extra money will be distributed to BTA and Cycle Oregon, the nonprofit organization that stages an annual weeklong scenic Oregon cycle tour that attracts hundreds of riders from across the United States.

Rohde said BTA will use its share of the proceeds to continue its safety and education programs, including a series of safety and education workshops tentatively scheduled for June 2008.

Plans call for a workshop in Southern Oregon, either in Ashland or Medford, Rohde said.

Speciality license plates have become increasingly popular fundraising tools for nonprofit organizations and even universities. Plates bearing images of Crater Lake raise money for Oregon's only national park, and plates imprinted with a brightly colored salmon bring in money for improving fish habitat.

There are plates for nonprofit groups such as the Elks, Masons, square dancers and firefighters, as well as nine different specialty plates for military veterans and seven for Oregon universities (but not Southern Oregon University). The military plates recognize Purple Heart recipients, members of the First Marine Division, disabled veterans and former prisoners of war, to name a few.

Extra fees range from $10 for two years for the new bike plates to $32 for the "higher-ed" plates and $35 for the salmon plates. Some of the specialty plates, such as those issued to former POWs, have no extra fees, but applicants must be able to prove their eligibility.

Oregon will be the 12th state to offer a bicycle plate. Legislation to authorize the plates was sponsored by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, who lost a friend in a cycling accident. BTA lobbied the Legislature in support of the measure, along with Cycle Oregon.

The plates will not be available at local DMV offices. Motorists will have to request them when their plates expire, or order them as replacement plates and pay an additional $15 plate replacement fee.

At least 500 plates will have to be sold every year for them to remain available. Jerry Norquist of Cycle Oregon said he hopes 3,000 to 4,000 cyclists will purchase a plate.

"It starts to get the message out," Norquist said.

"I'll buy one," said Carole Berg of Medford, who helped organize the city's pedestrian and bicycle advisory committee. "I think cyclists will buy them because motorists need to be aware they need to share the road. Anything that helps make people aware they need to share the road will help."

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail

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