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Jail or up to a $1000 Fine for Not Having a Bicycle License in Santa Monica

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Photo by GarySe7en via Flickr


Photo by GarySe7en via Flickr
Under current written law, Santa Monica police are able to throw any cyclists, whether a city resident or not, into jail for not having a bicycle license. Fines can range up to $1,000. The 1995-created law directly contradicts a 1996-written California Vehicle Code section, which states the law shall apply to residents of a city issuing bicycle licenses.

The city of Los Angeles does not issue bicycle licenses because state law allows individual cities to choose whether or not to have such an ordinance on the books. It was struck down earlier this year by the L.A. City Council.

However, a representative at the Santa Monica's License Division said Los Angeles residents can send the city $3 and an application to receive a license because they "issue them as a courtesy." Police are currently enforcing the law, she said.

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"This is a violation of human rights - an insult to dignity," said Alex Thompson, a bicycle blogger on the Westside, noting that police blotter reports indicate the law has been applied to homeless more often than not. "The bike licensing provision in state law was intended [to] facilitate recovering stolen bikes, and instead Santa Monica is using it to hassle homeless people, and a few years ago, Critical Mass."

Santa Monica based bicycle blogger Gary Kavanagh broke the story yesterday evening. "What is also odd here, is that while punishment is clearly spelled out and quite severe for not having a bicycle license sticker, not having a license plate on a car is treated as a parking ticket if you are away from the vehicle, and a fix it ticket if you are present," he wrote.

Calls to the Carol Swindell, the city's Director of the Finance Department, which issues bicycle licenses, were not immediately returned. [Update: A representative from Swindell's office later returned our phone call. Details can be read here]

Previously on LAist
- SaMo Police Spent $3K on Critical Mass Operations