Beverly Hills Bicycle Licensing
Santa Monica’s repeal of its bicycle licensing ordinance last night prompted me to look at the rules for Beverly Hills, where I live. As it turns out — and much to my surprise — we still have a licensing provision on the books from 1962, under Title 5, Chapter 5: BICYCLES:
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or use a bicycle, as defined in section 39000 of the Vehicle Code of the state, upon any street, public path or way, or other public property in the city unless such bicycle is licensed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. (1962 Code § 3-1.01 et seq.)
I called City Hall in hopes of finding out how I would go about getting a license. The City Clerk’s office forwarded me to the Police Department’s Watch Commander … who forwarded me to the Traffic department … who put me on hold to call the Finance department … who told Traffic to tell me that Beverly Hills no longer issues bicycle licenses. Whew.
Then I called the (only?) local bike shop, Beverly Hills Bike Shop, to see whether they knew anything about the ordinance. They should know about it, because it also requires them to “file a report with the director of finance administration of all new or used bicycles purchased or sold with the identification of the purchaser or seller within ten (10) days of such transaction.” The guy who answered the phone said the licensing law wasn’t enforced, although it used to be.
The ordinance also has a rather substantial rewording of the California Motor Vehicle Code Section 21202(a). The Beverly Hills Municipal Code states:
The operator of a bicycle shall operate such bicycle as near the curb as possible on any public street or highway.
By contrast, California code states:
Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway …
The difference between “as close as practicable” and “as near as possible” has spawned much discussion on the interwebs. The State statute is usually taken to mean that riders can “take the lane” and ride well out into the street, when circumstances dictate. The other formulation doesn’t have the same flexibility at all. I would argue, however, that the State statute overrides Beverly Hills’ ordinance, and renders the city ordinance a rather useless bit of law.
Of course, the city ought to remove these laws from its books, as they provide too much opportunity for a “rogue” officer to enforce them selectively. Contact the city council!