An open letter to the Santa Monica City Council on bike licensing

Santa Monica has made great strides recently in its effort to become one of Southern California’s leading bike-friendly cities. Something that has been recognized by a bronze level award from the League of American Bicyclists.

But for every step you take forward, your city seems to take an equal step back.

While the city experiments with sharrows, it continues to list Lincoln Blvd as a Class III bike route, enticing cyclists to ride a dangerous street far beyond the ability of most riders. And one that even most skilled riders usually prefer to avoid.

Santa Monica offers one of the nation’s most popular bike paths along the beach, yet fails to provide adequate signage or enforce restrictions on bike-only sections, rendering it virtually unridable much of the year.

You ban riding on sidewalks, going so far as to ticket school students who choose the sidewalk over cycling on busy streets they — and their parents — consider too dangerous to ride. Yet you fail to adequately inform cyclists of that ban in most parts of the city, turning much of Santa Monica into the cycling equivalent of a speed trap as less-informed cyclists and out-of-town visitors are subject to a law they don’t even know exists.

Yes, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But there also needs to be an adequate effort to inform the public so it’s possible to obey the law.

That also applies to bike licensing.

As you have recently become aware, Santa Monica has long violated state law by imposing a penalty for failure to license that goes far beyond the maximum $10 fine allowed by law.

While the expressed purpose of bike registration is to create a database to facilitate the identification and return of stolen bikes, it has more often been used as a bludgeon to penalize cyclists when police are unable to find other violations — just as it has been in Long Beach and Los Angeles, until L.A. wisely repealed its licensing requirement.

It is also ineffective, in part because the law is difficult to enforce and many, if not most, cyclists are unaware of its existence. In addition, an isolated, citywide registration is meaningless in today’s modern age, when thieves can sell bikes online or simply cross city limits to a different jurisdiction where the Santa Monica licensing law does not apply.

If the program is effective, the SMPD should be able to provide detailed statistics on the number of lost and stolen bikes recovered through the city’s registration database. If they can’t, it should be considered prima facie evidence of its ineffectiveness.

There are also better and more effective alternatives. Both Bike Revolution and the National Bike Registry offer cyclists the ability to register their bikes for free, while offering non-removable registration tags at an affordable price. They also offer the advantage of a database that goes far beyond city limits to identify a stolen bike anywhere it might be found or sold.

I’m sure either would be more than happy to work with your city to establish a more effective, voluntary registration program at little or no cost to the city — and could even bring money into the city coffers through the sale of registration stickers. Or better yet, you could work with the City and County of Los Angeles and other cities within the area to establish a regional program that would protect any bike stolen within the greater L.A. metro area.

Finally, the existing licensing requirement gives cyclists a reason to avoid your city, as many riders are familiar with anecdotal reports of cyclists simply passing through being ticketed for failure to license their bikes in Santa Monica, even though state law expressly prohibits ticketing cyclists from other jurisdictions. More than a few cyclists have been known to carry a copy of the state law with them when they ride through the city in case they get stopped by a police officer for whatever reason.

I therefore urge you to immediately repeal the unfair and ineffective bike licensing program, and demonstrate that you are serious about reaching the next level of bike-friendliness.

Or simply being deserving of the one you already have.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
BikingInLA.com

The licensing requirement is schedule to be discussed at today’s Santa Monica City Council meeting at Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main Street. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 pm, item 7B on the agenda. Learn more at Gary Rides Bikes, Bikeside LA, Santa Monica Spoke and the Scandal in Santa Monica Facebook page.

3 comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Post, Ted Rogers. Ted Rogers said: Open letter to Santa Monica urging repeal of the bike licensing requirement at tonight's City Council meeting: http://bit.ly/fYSgpB #bikeLA [...]

  2. [...] decided to approach this issue due to a timely posting by BikingInLA regarding Santa Monica’s own current bicycle registration requirements.  As with most bicycle registration programs that have been employed, the intent is usually to [...]

  3. [...] overall bike friendliness in Santa Monica. It’s a good well articulated read, you can find it here.   More informative posts on this issue can be found on GaryRidesBikes and [...]

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