Sure, but that doesn't mean that they know even elementary things about riding a bike safely. Starting with things like "On the road, a bike is a vehicle and hence should follow all of the rules that pertain to vehicles" such as riding on the right hand side of the road (with traffic, not facing traffic), using signals for turns (and knowing what the signals for turns are!), slow traffic keeping right, being VERY cautious passing any vehicle on the right as a) they don't expect you to be passing them; b) you are probably driving up through their blind spot; c) they can easily e.g. cut you off unexpectedly with an unsignalled right turn or by pulling over towards the curb or shoulder. And so on. Bikes follow the rules of vehicles, but not exactly the rules of vehicles, because common sense has to play a role too and bikes cannot go fast enough to keep up with cars, can be difficult to see or keep track of when one is driving a car or truck, can easily be cut off or forced into a parked vehicle or pothole or road hazard and are particularly vulnerable if hit. Even things like wearing a bike helmet or using some sort of rear view mirror need to be taught because some people think commuting on a bike down a busy street as a brittle-boned adult with your head six or seven feet above the ground is the same as riding it as a bendy-boned kid in a quiet neighborhood cul-de-sac with their head four feet above the ground (and the kid should be wearing a helmet TOO because closed head injuries can ruin your whole day -- for the rest of all of your brain-dead days.
And don't even get me started about riding at night. The closest I've ever come to killing somebody -- lifetime -- was driving my car across Duke's Campus Drive (a road that connects East and West Campus). I was crossing it on a dirt road, and at that time there was a stop sign but no nearby street lights so it was completely dark except for my headlights, which were very slightly angled up as the cross-road was on a gentle slope relative to Campus Drive. I stop. Look left -- nothing but black. Look right -- stygian dark. Glance right again, left again, and start to accelerate. JUST as I start to punch it forward, looking straight ahead, a bike flashes directly in front of my vehicle. No lights. Driver wearing dark clothes and no helmet, face turned towards me, terrified eyes wide open as he realizes that I'm moving straight at him. My foot moving faster than thought to mash the brakes so I missed him by a whole foot. And he vanishes into the night.
And the worst part of it is -- I'm sure that he thinks he was in the right, had the right of way, bikes can do anything they want, the laws of the road or mere laws of common sense don't apply to bike riders. If I'd hit him and by any miracle NOT killed him (he was booking, the collision would have thrown him ten or twenty feet in the air with no helmet) I'm sure he would have sued me and of course who knows what would have happened to me in the hands of the law regardless of the letter. At the very least I would have had to live with killing/maiming some other human, my fault or not.
I'd say that you can't fix stupid, but stupid wasn't the problem if the kid was a Duke student (as was very likely). Ignorant, yes, stupid, probably not. One hopes that the numb-nut learned from the experience and invested in a BIKE LIGHT, as even riding between campuses on a road that IS the moral equivalent of a neighborhood cul-de-sac down an unlit stretch shared with cars and then running RIGHT IN FRONT OF a car that is stopped at a stop sign and about to go when they cannot possibly see you can kill you just as dead as an ISIS IED.
Other advantages of a license -- right now in NC, if one reads through chapter 20 (the vehicular laws of the state) one discovers that bicycles are considered to be vehicles and subject to all of the laws of the state except where they cannot be applicable. However, this just makes the laws themselves inconsistent, as small children can ride bicycles on city streets where they cannot operate motor vehicles. It also creates a serious problem with how precisely to treat alcohol and bikes. Is a bicycle rider guilty of DUI if they ride a bike with blood alcohol over 0.08? If they are stopped and convicted, do they lose their license for a year, four years, forever? Oh, wait, they don't HAVE or NEED a license to ride a bike! Indeed, people who have lost their license because of DUI often ride bikes to get places because it is the only legal means of transportation! (One of my sons is riding out his first-offense year and while he can drive to or from work in the town of his residence during the day, he cannot drive at night, but he can certainly bike anywhere, anytime).
Then we could talk about insurance. Bicyclists are perhaps the most vulnerable people on the road, or at least are in a close race with motorcyclists for the honor. NC state law does require helmets for bike riders under 16, but AFAICT does not require it for adults, and what motorcyclists risk in speed, bikers can easily make up in legal risk by not wearing a helmet or by driving on heavily travelled, dangerous roads without bike lanes during dusk or dawn rush hours, where even a light is difficult to see and everybody on the road is tired and cranky. ANY accident on a bike is likely to result in substantial injury to the biker, no matter who is at fault, and may well result in substantial damage to the vehicle(s) involved in the accident even if nobody is hurt. Bikes nowadays can easily cost $1000 (or even more) -- my commuter bike cost around $800 before I tricked it out and added safety or convenience gear. Bikes are a common target for thieves. Yet there is a big legal hole in insurance requirements for bike riders. If a bike runs into the side of my STATIONARY car and dents in side panels, throws the rider through a window or onto the roof, leaves them injured and my car with $2000 or more in damage, anything can happen with legal liability and who pays for what. The biker is de facto an uninsured driver until proven otherwise, and if they are indigent or simply very poor, I can be left holding the entire bag, quite possibly including their medical expenses or even long term compensation if there is even a HINT that I was stopped "improperly". Note that it is by no means clear that, definition of a bike as a "vehicle" notwithstanding, a bike rider will be held to the same standards for "fault" and responsibility for braking that a car driver would be, especially with only one set of insurance-backed deep pockets to be pilfered for the substantial expenses incurred. If it gets in front of a jury, anything can happen.
So it is not at all surprising that deaths and damages in bike accidents are on the rise. More people are biking, which is good and healthy, but they are doing so in ignorance of both law (I had to spend 45 minutes reading the actual statutes to learn as much as I indicated above, and I'm semi-responsible and have READ through at least common RULES for the road for bikes even though they are not uniformly implemented as LAW, state by state) and subject to laws that in most cases are simply ancient, dating back to a time when people accepted a lot more personal risk, on roads that are terribly designed in terms of bicycle safety. Most of our streets were laid out with widths and curbs and gutters and parking rules and lanes that simply ignored their POSSIBLE use by a mix of bikes and cars, assumed that bike usage would be limited to a handful of kids or hobbyist riders at rates of a bike or so a week, not at rates relevant to commuter biking where bikes pass at the rate of a bike every few minutes. The risks and consequences are enormously amplified by the multiple opportunities for disaster on roadways that simply aren't designed for bikes at all or are retrofitted with a "bike lane" as an inconsistent afterthought, and where drivers of ANY kind of a vehicle receive basically zero education about how to safely operate a bicycle on a public roadway, what the laws are that apply to a bike, and the need to insure bike riding the same as one insures any other substantial risk to life, health or property that takes place on a shared commons.