Council Takes Aim at LA’s Bike Licensing Program

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(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a five part series examining the five bike-related items on this Friday’s City Council Transportation Committee Agenda.  The first piece looked at the city’s bike sharing program while the second discussed the Bike Rider’s Bill of Rights
If you want to join a group of cyclists traveling to the meeting, meet
at the Red Line Stop at Santa Monica and Vermont Boulevards at noon this Friday.)

Late last summer, the LAPD began sporadically enforcing a city requirement that all bicycles be licensed.  There was an outcry from some sectors of the bike community as most people weren’t aware they needed to have a bike licensed and many others found police stations unable to provide those licenses.

On Friday, as part of their Bike Themed-Council Meeting, the city council will start getting some answers that cyclists have been looking for.   A resolution, sponsored by Council Members Ed Reyes and Dan Ruiz, notes that the LAPD had declared bike licensing defunct in March of 2007 and demands to know why the LAPD has decided to enforce the program while only giving out licenses at two police stations.

According the a March 29, 2007 report from the Department of
Transportation, the City’s bicycle license program is nearly defunct
due to scarce resources. Bicycle licenses are sold intermittently by
some local police stations and a few bicycle dealers who purchase them
from the Office of Finance. Unfortunately, many LAPD divisions are
unable to sell licenses at the station counters due to the high volume
of other critical police duties.

While waiting for the City Council, some riders have taken matters into their own hands, organizing large group rides to the Downtown District headquarters to get licenses en masse.  While the district was able to sell as many licenses as were needed that evening, they weren’t happy to have their front desk area over run with people seeking to protect themselves from harrassment should they be caught without a certain sticker on their bike.  Shortly thereafter, the District ran out of licenses for nearly two weeks.

As before, any comments left below will be worked into testimony I will deliver at the hearing.

Photo: KIDD 240/Flickr via marino at Midnight Ridazz

  • It should be readily apparent that this is just a case of selective enforcement by a few precincts, giving them another enforcement tool to use against groups like the Ridazz. However, selective enforcement is a clear violation of the equal protection clause; any law enforced against one group in one part of town must be enforced equally against everyone, in every precinct. And any law which is virtually impossible to comply with, even by the most well intentioned cyclists, would seem to be a clear violation as well.

    And thanks for this series — the information you’ve presented so far has been very helpful!

  • So, it’s the Office of Finance I have to contact!

    Brilliant! I have sold a bunch of bikes since opening a bike shop, and I would really like to include the $3 license fee in the cost of every bike.

    Auto dealers get a lot of love from cities because of the massive amounts of sales tax they generate. Perhaps bike shops can get some respect by contributing a small chunk of money through these fees?

    Now, if only banks would set up bike financing programs …

  • Your series this week has been wonderful and it’s so exciting to see cycling in LA given so much attention.

    I missed the initial ride organized by Ubrayj02 because I hadn’t checked Midnight Ridazz in a while, so my cycling roomie and I decided to take our own trip to the Parker Center downtown to get licenses a few days after Jay’s ride.

    We got there and were informed they’d just ran out of licenses. I told the officer at the desk that this wasn’t acceptable, especially since I didn’t want to get a ticket for not having a license. I told him I needed something to demonstrate that I attempted to get a license but couldn’t.

    He was nice enough to write info on the back of a business card, stating that we’d attempted to get licenses. I just kept this in my wallet.

    I called back the next week. No licenses.

    Two days after that. No licenses. The guy in charge hadn’t walked over to city hall to purchase them yet. (??!?!?!?!?)

    Two weeks later, I called and asked if they’d restocked licenses. The officer at the front desk was incredibly annoyed and rude. He just said, “You need to speak with Officer Dobine,” and then hung up.

    So I called back and asked if he could possibly provide me with the officer’s number. He then told me it without pausing in between numbers. I wish I was exaggerating, but he literally spit out the 7 digits so fast that I couldn’t even remember the first one.

    He hung up before I could say anything.

    I called back AGAIN and said I didn’t appreciate his attitude while I am trying to follow the law. I asked him to slowly give me the number. This is what he did (phone number isn’t real).

    Officer: Fine. [Long sigh.] It’s three-one-zero…..did you get that or was that too fast?

    Me: That’s fine.

    Officer: Five-five-five……is that too fast too?

    Me: Go ahead.

    Officer: [Long breath] THREEFOURSOMETHINGSOMETHING [*Click*]

    Oh boy. I ended up dialing the number three times before figuring out the last two digits and got ahold of Dobine. There were licenses!

    Getting the licenses was ok and somewhat timely. The only thing that sucked was that they had no change, so I had to wander all around the Toy District after 7pm and find change for a $20. Not fun.

    Yeah. But I haven’t been harassed about a license since then! Go figure.

  • KateNonymous

    I live in L.A., but I bought my bike in Culver City. How does the law apply to that? There’s certainly no reason for a bike shop in a different municipality to sell L.A. licenses.

  • As a voluntary program for bike recovery (which is what the state intended) this is a fine idea. As a requirement, it’s silly, and should be eliminated.

    You can get a bike license by mail from the city of Santa Monica. They will be happy to take your $3 and send you a license.

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