Ride a Bike, Go to Jail

The word is, Santa Monica, CA has a law on the books that makes unlicensed cycling punishable by up to a $1000 fine and/or six months in jail. From the Santa Monica Municipal Code:

(a) Any person desiring to operate or use a bicycle upon any of the streets of the City shall apply therefor to the City Clerk or bicycle retailer (authorized agent) who shall record the name and address of the owner thereof and a description of said bicycle. The City Clerk or authorized agent shall issue the license requested upon payment by the applicant of the fee herein required. Said license when issued shall entitle the licensee to operate said bicycle for which said license has been issued upon all the streets, exclusive of the sidewalks thereof or elsewhere prohibited in the City.

(b) Any person violating this Section shall be guilty of an infraction, which shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars, or a misdemeanor, which shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars per violation, or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment. (Prior code § 3401; amended by Ord. No. 1026CCS, adopted 2/24/76; Ord. No. 1813CCS § 1, adopted 9/12/95)

That seems excessive for a city where drug dealing and pan-handling have been legalized (I kid, I kid). So much for the inroads achieved by Pacific Blue.

I wonder if anyone has actually received the full brunt of this law. More coverage at Westside BikeSIDE and Gary Rides Bikes.


The most ridiculous part of that law is that it’s not just locals who are subject to it. You could ride through the town from somewhere to somewhere, and be subject to that fine. All you have to do is be on Santa Monica property.

Zoinks, I thought this was a joke, but its true. 

They even bother to sell licenses at a cost of $3 (http://www01.smgov.net/finance/licenses/bikelic.htm) which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.  Surely it costs way more to administer than the revenue, and there’s no qualification requirement, so its just a tax.

But, its not just SM, its a california law: http://www.sacbike.org/sacbiking/CVCLaws.htm

Some sense prevails: http://la.metblogs.com/2009/01/09/lapd-chief-recommends-discontinuing-bike-license-program/

But seriously, is this common in the US?

Peter from Sydney.

Well, SM just lost my tourist dollar

Well, SM just lost my tourist dollar.  The problem is that this law could easily be applied arbitrarily… and what about the children?

The law treats bicycles as vehicles and bike safety advocates tell cyclists to act like a vehicle.  Bike with the flow of traffic, signal turns, don’t ride on the sidewalk, etc. etc.  Seems fair that if we’re going to be treated like a vehicle, act like a vehicle and share space on the road with vehicles that we should have to get licensed to be on that road the same as any car, truck, bus or motorcycle.  At least this way the next time some idiot shouts at me to “get off his road” I can shout back that “I paid to be here, just like you”.

The fine amount is an illegal law and won’t stand up in court. Municipal regulations cannot countermand State law - which says that the fine shall not exceed ten dollars.

I cannot imagine how this would be enforced if you’re not a resident as David mentions. CA residents don’t need to have their cars registered in Nevada when they drive to Las Vegas. It won’t stick.

@mckeowbc - I don’t mind if bicyclists are required to get licenses, but I want it to be for a reason. I want the Police to treat my stolen bicycle as though it were a stolen car. I want a national database with my serial numbers and license info kept in it, and I want to be able to go to a location like the DMV to get it licensed and not have to swing by the Fire/Police Dept on Saturday between 9am-Noon only.
I want repeat offending cyclists to have their licenses revoked, and not able to get another bicycle licensed for 6 months-1 year.

And as far as paying your way… if you rent or own property, you are contributing. 92% of funds for local roads comes from property tax, but your bicycle only causes .02% of the wear and tear on roads as cars do.  http://www.stlbikefed.org/Advocacy/Cyclistspaytaxestoo/tabid/150/Default.aspx

You are OVER-PAYING your way.

Hope there’s a local activist that fights it or a mass ride in.

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