In Which I Risking Losing All Of What Little Credibility I Have Within The Bike Advocacy Community

Last week the news that appropriately outraged the bike-i-verse was the law on Santa Monica’s books discovered by cyclist extraordinario Gary Kavanaugh in which the penalty for riding an unlicensed bicycle in that seaside city is a fine of up to $1,000 fine and potentially 6 months in jail.

Harsh, much? Yep, considering the state law on the matter says no fine shall exceed $10. Santa Monica’s tacked on an additional $990 and made it a misdemeanor-level crime punishable as much as half a year in jail. This from a merry metropolis that’s been awarded by the League of American Biyclists for supposedly being bike friendly.

But while front line cycling advocates like my friend Dr. Alex Thompson were stepping up and calling bullshit, what was I doing? Oh my goodness: I was getting a license for my currently unlicensed 8-Ball. From Santa Monica. Like a little bitch.

For want of a less-reprehensible analogy, I feel something akin to a death camp inductee sneaking off to the side and asking for a serial number tattoo. Or a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge who takes to wearing their trademark red and white scarves.

I went online to the appropriate page of City of Santa Monica website, typed up the information requested, made a check out for $3, put it in an envelope and mailed it off. The appropriate documentation and stickers came yesterday, and the tags are on my bike this morning.


Call it Licensing With The Enemy. If it’s any consolation, with the exception of the occasional comment referencing of  “Satan Monica,” at least I wasn’t all blusterously fronting about how much they suck while scurrying around to their backroom to register my bike.

And why? First off, not because of the ridiculous Santa Monica law. Rarely do I ride there and I suspect rarer still are the times that SMPD officers cite cyclists to the full extent their employer so inappropriately allows.

I simply — and some might add irrationally (or worse) — like having it on record that the bike is mine and I’m the bike’s. No matter how worthlessly removable the actual license is, no matter how ridiculously long the odds are that the bike if stolen would be recovered or that the license would aid in its return to me, it is satisfying to me to have done so.

So why not go through LAPD? I’d done that with my previous ride Le Noir (which 8-Ball replaced) and my trusty back-up road bike Old Yeller. But what with the City Council ultimately ordering the law stricken to stop the LAPD’s suddenly aggressive over-enforcement of Los Angeles’ bike license law, I’m not so sure state licenses are even being offered anymore by that department — and certainly not with the first-class-mail ease that Santa Monica provides them.

So that’s why. Call it silly, a waste, out of step or in denial. Accuse me of suffering some cycling variation of Stockholm Syndrome: I enlisted the licensing help of the city that gives so many of my far more worthy bike advocates license to hate.