Bike License change in Santa Monica
Invitation for Discussion

Below you will find the staff report that addresses the proposed change to the bicycle license ordinance in the City of Santa Monica.  Hotly contested in it’s current form the new proposal would eliminate  the current harsh penalties and selective enforcement issues, yet still utlizes a program that is non-sustainible and many view as useless.

It could be said that this program offered by the city is redundant with efficient privately run registration programs for theft recovery, and costs money that could be more effectively used in actually “preventing bike theft”.  Perhaps suggesting the city align themselves with a program such as BikeRegistry, (which is free) and utilizing funds in more efficient programs for bikes that help prevent theft, ie MORE APPROVED BIKE RACKS.

The list goes on…..

This item will be discussed in a special joint meeting of the City Council and the Redevelopment AgencyMonday, January 17th 2011, 5:30pm,
City Hall, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica, council chambers.

City Council Report

City Council Meeting: January 17, 2011 Agenda Item: 7-B

To:              Mayor and City Council

From:         Marsha Jones Moutrie, City Attorney

Subject:     Ordinance Amending Chapter 3.20 of the Santa Monica Municipal Code, Relating to the Licensing of Bicycles, Including Fees and Fines

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council introduce for first reading the attached proposed ordinance relating to bicycle licensing.

The California Vehicle Code regulates bicycle licensing and limits cities’ authority in that field. Among other things, State law sets maximum fees for bicycle licenses and maximum fines for operating a bicycle without a license. This ordinance would conform the Santa Monica Municipal Code provision on fines to the State maximum, raise the City’s current $1.00 per year licensing fee to the state maximum of $4.00 and also raise transfer, replacement and renewal fees, clarify and simplify code provisions relating to bicycle licensing, and conform code provisions to current practices.


California Vehicle Code Section 39002 authorizes cities to adopt bicycle licensing requirements and also establishes strict limits on local authorit

y. Pursuant to this authorization, Santa Monica has had bicycle licensing laws at least since the late 1970’s, including laws that establish fees for licensure and a fine for operating a bicycle without a license.

The City’s current fine for operating a bicycle without a license exceeds the limit set by State law. Staff has reviewed the matter and noted that Vehicle Code Section 39011 limits to $10.00 any municipal fine imposed for any violation of an ordinance or resolution adopted pursuant to State law. Staff also noted that bike licensing fees charged by the City are below the maximums set by Vehicle Code Section 39004: $4.00 for a new license and $2.00 for transferring, replacing or

Executive Summary

Bicycle Licensing – City of Santa Monica 1/15/11 3:05 PM

renewing a license. Finally, staff noted that several current code provisions are unnecessary because they duplicate State law and that certain disparities exist between code provisions, which were adopted decades ago, and current practices.


The attached proposed ordinance would conform the City’s fine for operating a bicycle without a license to the $10.00 limit established by State law. Additionally, because current fees for obtaining, renewing and transferring licenses do not come close to covering the cost of operating the licensing program, the ordinance would increase fees to the modest limits set by State law: $4.00 for a license and $2.00 for a transfer, replacement or renewal.

The ordinance would also clarify and simplify existing code provisions. For example, the ordinance would clarify the licensing requirement authorized by State law, which is that City residents (not visitors) must have a license in order to operate a bicycle on public property within the City. More

over, code provisions purporting to regulate the activities of bicycle dealers would be deleted as unenforceable. Provisions duplicative of State law would be deleted as unnecessary.

Finally, the ordinance would conform code provisions relating to bicycle licensing to existing practice. For example, references to the City Clerk administering the bicycle licensing program would be deleted because the licensing program is operated by the Finance Department.

Alternatives Because the City’s licensing authority is limited in that only residents may be required to obtain a license and because the proposed fees related to bicycle licensing are insufficient to cover the cost of administering the licensing program, Council may wish to consider eliminating the local licensing requirement. However, doing so could adversely impact the Police Department’s ability to address bicycle theft. Therefore, staff recommends retaining the licensing program.

Adoption of this ordinance would not have significant financial impacts upon the City. It would result in the City receiving slightly more revenue related to bicycle licensing. Last year, total revenue received from the $1.00 per year license fee was about $325.00. Licensing activity has increased this year as a result of Police Department outreach programs and revenue received year

Financial Impacts and Budget Actions

to date is about $640.00. If the ordinance were adopted and the volume of licenses issued stayed about the same as in a typical year, the City would likely receive about $850.00. This small amount does not come close to the cost of administering the program.

Prepared by: Marsha Jones Moutrie, City Attorney

ATTACHMENT A: Proposed Ordinance