I am no longer a criminal. I had intentionally not registered my bicycles in Santa Monica, in objection to the way the program was implemented, and it's flawed ordinance language. At the end of the item discussion, Councilman Kevin McKeown passed a motion with the support of his colleagues to discontinue the bicycle registration ordinance in Santa Monica. The motion also indicated that the database should be kept, and that people could still register under a voluntary basis without fees or fines, while staff explores other options and systems in addressing bicycle theft and recovery.
Given how long it has been since the problems of Santa Monica's implementation of bicycle registration were brought to staff attention, I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly it was finally undone this evening. With unanimous sentiment among the council, following comments by several members of the public, myself included alongside Michael Cahn, Richard McKinnon and Michael Brodski the ordinance is over. I was also glad to see Police Chief Jackman very much on board with looking at different options and programs. He emphasized that what was important to the police for recovery was getting people to write down their serial numbers more than anything else, and that any program which facilitates recording that data is beneficial.
To date the number of bikes registered is a tiny fraction of the bikes owned in the city. Hundreds of bikes have been registered in the past year from stepped up outreach for the program, but it was only a few years ago that only 7 bikes were being registered a year. McKeown, who has always had his bike registered in Santa Monica, noted he may have accounted for 14% of that past figure by himself.
Jackman also noted that in the past 2 years there has been a substantial spike of 65% in bicycle theft. A statistic highlighting of course the growing problem of bicycle theft, but also the growing popularity of bicycles. Bike theft wouldn't be growing so fast if there weren't more bikes to steal and more demand to buy them. However we really have to reign this problem in if we want bicycling to be viable. I'm sure among those victims to bike theft are some people who may take that as a cue to give it up rather than replace the bike if their stolen one is not recovered.
It was acknowledged by members of the council, city attorney Marsha Moutrie, and chief Jackman, the need for collaboration between advocates and the cycling community, police and other city departments, in pursuit of solutions for the bike theft issue.
Santa Monica now joins other communities that have gone though this discussion and determined the best course of action is to to scratch outdated local licensing programs, and figure out new paths forward with a clean slate. I'm glad the city council has come to this conclusion, and relieved that the flawed ordinance is finally done with. Now we can move forward with a broader discussion of how deal with bicycle theft.