Biking without a license in Alhambra can be costly

Adam Bray-Ali with the tandem bike he rides to school with his son1Adam Bray-Ali with the tandem bike he rides to school with his son

Ride a bike in Alhambra?  Better make sure your license is in place. Riding on the sidewalks? Be careful! Recently on the city website, the police notified the public that they plan to aggressively ticket anyone operating a bicycle on sidewalks with a promised fine of $45-$350! 

While Alhambra boasts some wonderful streets for cycling, and residents are working on bringing more awareness to choices other than cars through the newly formed Alhambra Beyond Cars team, there is a glaring problem with cycling legally in the city. 

Tucked into our city codes are several rules that make it hard for cyclists to transit the city and remain on the right side of the law. Specifically, the city requires that ALL bicycles have a license. Copied from the City Municipal Code: “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or use a bicycle upon any street in the city without first obtaining from the city a license therefor.” 

Title X (out of XXIV) of the city municipal code specifically deals with bicycles and lays out the costs, penalties and rules for riding a bicycle in the city. Non-residents of Alhambra are required to have a license from a reciprocating city, but with the recent demise of bicycle licensing in Los Angeles this presents a challenge to many of the people riding in and through Alhambra on a daily basis.  Luckily the maximum penalty per the code is $5.

The good news is the process to obtain a license isn’t hard; a quick trip to the city hall with $1.00 in hand gets you a license. You’ll need to fill out Form #193 (revised April 1983) that has information about the owner, serial number, make, model, color and style of bicycle.  Notes about frame size, wheel size and your mailing address round out the application which also boasts the cool 4-part, carbon copy paper from yesteryear.  Once the fee is paid, you will be presented with a California State license that can be affixed to the bicycle frame.  I placed mine on the down tube of the bicycle and took several photos of the bicycle, license, and serial numbers and made a folder to keep them handy. 

Adam Bray-Ali is a resident of Alhambra and co-owner of Flying Pigeon Los Angeles bicycle shop in Cypress Park. 

City Municipal Code: http://www.amlegal.com/alhambra_ca/

City of Los Angeles rules: http://www.bicyclela.org/Law.htm
 

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Local bicycle licensing is reasonable to reduce the city's storage burden on recovered bicycles. If the police department can locate the bicycle's owner, the bicycle will not have to go to storage. I have seen the hundreds of bicycles in storage at the sheriff's station in Lakewood. So Alhambra's $1 license fee is quite reasonable.

The West San Gabriel Valley Bicycle Coalition, a regional partner of the LA County Bicycle Coalition will be making a presentation to the City of Alhambra Transportation Commission on biking accessibility issues in the city. The recently formed WSGVBC was founded to advocate for the interests of all cyclist - recreational and commuters in Alhambra and surrounding communities. If you feel laws such as these are unfair (as well as possibly illegal) and you are a resident or just rides through the city and SGV, we encourage you come to the Transportation meeting on July 13, 2011. Meeting begins at 7 pm at Alhambra City Hall. We like to see a packed house! :)

The WSGVBC is on Facebook @ BikeSGV. For those who Tweet: http://twitter.com/#!/wsgvbc

Lately I had been wondering about the license question.
Because of gas prices and lack of work I had been thinking of dusting off my bike in storage. But since I'm actually afraid of drivers it is probably not going to happen. As a kid i ventured out a little 30 year ago but now there is a lot more traffic and drivers aren't paying attention.

Despite reading Adam's article and the various comments several times it is still unclear to me what the purpose of a bicycle "license" is? It's fairly obvious that formally registering information about an owner and the bicycle(s) he/she owns could well be helpful in identifying stolen bicycles, but a municipal code requiring such registration strikes me as wrongheaded; that Alhambra's code is written in such a way that it could affect even non-residents who happen to ride in or through the city is absurd in the extreme.

The question city administrators need to address is whether or not the existing code requiring the registration of bicycles contributes to the promotion of responsible and safe biking in Alhambra. If not, on what grounds do they justify it and the expense of operating let alone enforcing it?

Putting aside the important distinction between "no resident" and "no person" explained above by Dan Gutierrez, the existence of a state law permiting cities or counties to license bicycles simply provides a legal basis for enacting such a provision in their codes. For Alhambrans to question the need for such a (poorly written) provision in their city code strikes me at least as very reasonable, if not imperative. That said, it's not lost on me that it may just be less hassle to pay a buck to be in compliance. I would argue, however, that such apathy makes you at best a reluctant enabler of autocrats and maybe even a victim of your own learned helplessness.

It would be nice if concerned individuals were to make the effort to attend the meeting mentioned by Michael Lawrence for the purpose of telling the Transportation Commission how it can best serve the interest of Alhambra's bicyclists and the community at large.

Full disclosure -- I am not an Alhambra resident. As I do visit once in a while, I'm sure that a well-designed bicycle plan for Alhambra would only enhance my enjoyment of your fair city.

Posting possible illegal ordinances on the city website that threatens hefty fines certainly is not a sigh of a city government that is promoting a bike friendly city. Alhambra residents ride on the sidewalks because there are no bike lanes in the downtown area and they feel unsafe. Adopting a bike plan for the City of Alhambra would promote a safe environment, public awareness/education and encourage an alternative to cars. There will be a presentation to the Transportation Commission by various bike coalitions on July 13th, 7 p.m., at City Hall to encourage the city to adopt a bike plan. If you feel that the city could do more to encourage bike riding, please attend and voice your opinion.

The city has an illegal ordinance:
===================
§ 10.04.040 OPERATOR'S LICENSE REQUIRED.
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or use a bicycle upon any street in the city without first obtaining from the city a license therefor.
===================
.
The California Vechicle Code (CVC) is uniform through the state per CVC CVC 21:
=====================
CVC 21 Uniformity of Code
(a) Except as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of this code are applicable and uniform throughout the state and in all counties and municipalities therein, and a local authority shall not enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution on the matters covered by this code, including ordinances or resolutions that establish regulations or procedures for, or assess a fine, penalty, assessment, or fee for a violation of, matters covered by this code, unless expressly authorized by this code.
======================

, so no local city can enact an ordinance in conflict with nay provisions of the CVC. So what provision does 10.04.40 conflict? i'm so glad you asked:

===========================
CVC 39002 License Requirement
(a) A city or county, which adopts a bicycle licensing ordinance or resolution, may provide in the ordinance or resolution that no resident shall operate any bicycle, as specified in the ordinance, on any street, road, highway, or other public property within the jurisdiction of the city or county, as the case may be, unless the bicycle is licensed in accordance with this division.
===========================

The key phrase is "no resident", not "no person" which means that the city can only license Alhambra residents, so their ordinance is illegal because it requires all persons, not just city residents to have a license. Many cities do sloppy legislative work in constructing their ordinances, so Alhambra is no exception in this regard.

Notice also that the city already has ordiannces that limit the penalties for infractions of 10.04.40:

=======================
§ 10.04.100 PENALTY.
The violation of any of the provisions of this chapter [10.04.40] conjstitute an infraction and any fine imposed for the infraction shall not exceed $5.
=======================

So the maximum penalty the city can fine is only $5, per their own ordinance!

Similar for the other sidewalk restriction:

=======================
§ 10.06.010 USE OF ROLLER SKATES AND SKATE BOARDS RESTRICTED.
(A) It shall be unlawful for any person to roller skate upon any roadway or upon the sidewalk in any business district as such business district is defined in the California Vehicle Code.

(B) It shall be unlawful for any person to go upon any roadway or upon the sidewalk in any business district as such business district is defined in the California Vehicle Code riding in, on, upon or by means of any coaster, toy vehicle or similar device, or any mechanical device propelled by or upon roller skates, roller skate wheels, or skates to which are attached any board or wooden or metal box.

§ 10.06.020 PENALTY.
The violation of any of the provisions of this chapter shall constitute an infraction and any fine imposed for the infraction shall not exceed $5.
=======================

Here again the penalty for violations is NOT to exceed $5. So the city announcement prose (from the link provided in the article) is wrong: "Persons in violation of these Municipal Code sections can be issued a citation. Fines for violating AMC section 10.04.020 or 10.06.010 range from $45 to $350!", since the max fine is only $5 for each of the listed code infractions. I'm very sorry that your city does not know it's own laws or the state codes, and engages in such bicyclist hostile practices.

- Dan Gutierrez -
Long Beach, CA
(562) 244-4145 Cell
Dan.Gutierrez@Charter.Net

Organizational Affiliations
Local:
Long Beach Cyclists, Founder and Technical Advisor
Aerospace Cycling Club, Founder and Current President
SouthBay Westside Transportation Mgmt. Assoc., Board Member

State:
CA Assoc. of Bicycling Organizations (CABO), District 7 Director
CABO Education Committee Co-Chair http://www.cabobike.org/
Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee, Policy Chair

National:
League of American Bicyclists (LAB), Certified Instructor, LCI #962
http://www.bikeleague.org/
Dual Chase Productions LLC, Co-Creator http://www.dualchase.com/
Dual Chase video hosting at Cyclist View http://www.cyclistview.com/
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/CyclistLorax

I've lived here 54 years and have never heard of anyone registering their bike! They need to take that law off the books. I can't imagine a reason for it.

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