Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tonight, City Council To Look At Amending Sidewalk Riding Ordinance To Become Infraction Rather Than Misdemeanor At Officer Discretion

Santa Monica Critical Mass December As I have discussed before, it is absurd that some local cycling violations, such as sidewalk riding. are classified misdemeanors, requiring a court appearance, and making them far more serious than typical traffic violations, usually given as infractions. I don't think the courts are too keen on Santa Monica's handing out a bunch of dumb misdemeanors either. The cyclist, Dan Beam, that I have been communicating with recently, who was cited for both sidewalk cycling and failure to show a bicycle license, both laws he was unaware existed, and was given a misdemeanor for both, finally went to court. He explained the situation and the judge promptly tossed out both charges. Just a big waste of time for all parties involved and a waste of tax dollars.

So we may finally see this absurdity become a little more reasonable soon. A first reading of an ordinance change is on the City Council agenda tonight, and will allow officers discretion in giving out an infraction or a misdemeanor for several local ordinances, including the sidewalk riding ordinance, and a few which are not related to cycling. I could foresee very few instances where sidewalk riding should ever be given as a misdemeanor, so imagine it would after this change always be given as an infraction unless a cyclist was being an especially serious hazard to pedestrians or caused harm to someone else.

However I do not see anything in the item report about Santa Monica's bike license requirement, currently also a misdemeanor. This also needs to change, to at least be in compliance with state law. However I think it should be canned all together or made entirely opt-in rather than a requirement. Giving out misdemeanors for not having a sticker most people have never heard of, or if they have heard of it, likely do not know is mandatory, is ridiculous and appears to violate the California Vehicle Code.

I'm going to go to the meeting tonight and use my 2 minutes to insist that the bike license program be canned or at least be changed to reduce the penalties in addition to the other changes proposed on the agenda. I'd also like to pitch again an idea I've been talking a lot about lately, which is to create a program for cyclists cited for moving violations to take a certified bike education class, which would do so much more to benefit public safety than going to court or just paying off a ticket. Austin and Portland are cities that are already doing this.

The meeting tonight starts at 5:30 pm, but the ordinance changes in question are deep into the agenda, item 7-B, immediately following further discussion on taxicab changes in the city, which has been a contentious topic. So if your interested in speaking up on this topic, don't come right away or you'll be there a while. I'll be posting twitter updates, and will try to give a heads up when it becomes clearer what time it may come on.

1 comment:

SoapBoxLA said...

Give 'em two minutes of sanity, call on them to mend their wicked ways! Thanks for fighting the good fight!