City of San Diego to Remove Bicycle Licensing Requirement

In January this year I began receiving a series of emails describing various cyclists being harassed by all manner of legal authorities (CHP, SDSU cops, SDPD) for not having their bicycles registered. To read various online grumblings, this has been an ongoing problem for several years. And no one appeared to be willing to do anything about this. The biggest issue was that some of the more scrupulously law abiding riders had trouble registering their bicycles in the City of San Diego.

In the City of San Diego, Bicycle Licensing or Bicycle Registration is covered by Chapter 3, Article 4 of the San Diego Municiple Code [pdf]. The original code appears to have been written in the 1950s and barely updated since. Most experts agreed that bicycle licensing requirements are both archaic and unnecessary despite the initial good intentions behind creating such licensing requirements.

Other cities in California have repealed their bicycle licensing requirements a long while ago in an effort to demonstrate their bicycle friendliness. These cities included: Huntington (March 2003), Los Angeles (June 2009), San Jose (November 2010), Long Beach (February 2011), Santa Monica (January 2011).

The San Diego code on bicycle licensing is both useless and unnecessarily burdensome for both the Police Departments or the Fire Department who have enough problems to contend with on their ever shrinking budget instead of chasing after a tiny percentage of the population to check whether the riders have the appropriate paperwork based on their bicycle. It is a code that also creates unnecessary trouble for the large homeless population we have in San Diego that do travel on our city streets by bicycle. The licensing requirement was archaic because it failed to acknowledge the existence of recumbent bicycles or folding bicycles (§34.01), wasn’t cost effective to enforce (§34.03), and generally had no public agency with either the man power or the resources to enforce any of the subsections (§34.05 – §34.15).

In a meeting that I initiated in March this year, I sat down with Dion Akers (from Councilmember Todd Gloria’s office), Drew Ector (from Councilmember Marti Emerald’s office), LT Geoff Stiltz, a naval officer who regularly commuted to work by bicycle and was familiar with the bicycle registration requirements that was removed in other cities, and Andy Hanshaw from the local bike coalition to discuss the issue of bicycle licensing in San Diego.

Earlier this afternoon, I had a productive discussion with Drew Ector who stated that as a result of his conversations with the Police and Fire Department, he will be sending a recommendation to remove all but §34.04 from Article 4 to the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee which Councilmember Marti Emerald chairs. This Committee oversees transportation issues and thus will vote  on striking most of Article 4 from the Municipal Code. The only section that will remain is §34.04 which currently states,

Secondhand Bicycle Business — Reports Required
All persons engaged in the business of buying second–hand bicycles are hereby required to make a daily report to the Chief of Police, giving the name and address of the person from whom each bicycle is purchased, the description of each bicycle purchased, the frame number thereof, and the number of the metallic license plate found thereon, if any. All persons engaged in the business of selling new or secondhand bicycles are hereby required to make a daily report to the Chief of Police, giving a list of all sales made by such dealers, which list shall include the name and address of each person to whom sold, the kind of bicycle sold, together with a description and frame number thereof, and the number of the metallic license plate attached thereto, if any.
(Incorp. 1–22–1952 by O–5046 N.S., contained in O–4396 N.S., adopted 5–9–1950.)

The next Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting will be held on September 12, 2012. Once the majority of the committee agrees to the changes, it will go to City Council for a vote. When City Council votes to remove all but §34.04, we can all rest happy in the knowledge that our city is slowly, but surely, working on becoming more bike friendly.

I will post another update when your support for this Municipal Code update will be needed. I look forward to receiving your support.