Washington State Abuses Motorcyclists with Endorsement Fees

My affection for motorcycles began at an early age, and I realized an early dream when I purchased my first motorcycle, a bright orange Kawasaki 175cc dirt bike, in 1975. Since then I’ve ridden motorcycles, primarily Harley-Davidsons, off and on through 1997, and since then continually when I began my daily two-wheeled commute, I’ve been to Sturgis a time or two, and have ridden from LA to Phoenix among other treks.

 

Now that I’ve established my motorcycle bona fides allow me to address a question that’s stuck in my craw for years: Why are Washington motorcyclists charged double for their driver’s licenses compared with other motorists. That’s right, I recently renewed my license and while most drivers pay $25, I pay $50!

 

I actually did ask someone at the DOL about this several years ago and I was given some song and dance about motorcycling being considered a sport and the fees going to motorcycle education and so on, but I remain skeptical. I don’t have the option to get a license to exclusively operate a motorcycle, I must first obtain a general driver’s license and then become qualified to operate a motorcycle, for which I obtain an endorsement.

 

So, why do I pay an amount for this endorsement equal to the fee for the license to which it is attached? I could perhaps understand if there were an endorsement fee of 25% of the primary license fee, maybe even 50%, but 100%? In my home we have a car and we have a motorcycle; I choose to commute by motorcycle, my wife commutes by car. If infrequent snow or ice restricts my riding, I take the car. But what if I were single, and I had no car, and chose to commute exclusively by motorcycle (which, by the way, I understand reduces my carbon footprint significantly), I’d be paying double what any other driver pays for their license, regardless of my doing my part to reduce traffic congestion, pollution, not to mention parking congestion.

 

This fee seems to me patently unfair, but once again, it’s seen by most, who don’t ride motorcycles, as a non-issue; motorcyclists are a tiny fraction of the motoring public and have little political clout. In a day and age when folks from all ends of the spectrum are searching for ways to relieve traffic and parking congestion, not to mention pollution, you’d think the state would do everything it could to encourage commuters to choose motorcycles and scooters instead of setting up barriers.   

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  1. Kat says:

    Motorcycles tend to consume less fuel than cars, but (due to lacking the space for sophisticated emissions control systems) don’t actually tend to pollute less.

    If you want to argue that motorcycles save the state money, I’d stick with the congestion argument. Traffic and parking are big issues today.

    Or point to road damage, which is typically proportional to the square (or cube? … it’s been a while since I’ve been an engineer) of the vehicle’s weight. Even a small car weighs 7 times what my motorcycle does, so it does 50 times more damage to our roads. Government bean-counters ought to love us!

    Of course, the real question is not why it’s so expensive for riders, but why it’s so ridiculously cheap for drivers. A plain ID card costs $20 to renew. (I don’t think anyone would claim that being registered with the state government is a sport.) Essentially, on top of the base price, the driver’s license is a $5 endorsement, while the motorcycle endorsement is a $30 endorsement.

  2. Profile photo of admin
    admin says:

    Kat,

    Thanks for the great post! I’ve heard the argument before from a state official. There are just so many fewer motorcycles compared with cars, and the engines are a lot smaller.

    I will concede that the argument is better made focusing on congestion, parking, and road damage.

    Thanks for adding to the discussion.

    Steve

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