Santa Ana’s Bike License Law Up for Debate

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Following news reports about a little-known bike licensing requirement in the city, Santa Ana council members plan to discuss their city’s bike licensing and ticketing policies on Tuesday.

Councilwoman Michele Martinez, who has been the chief advocate for bike-friendliness on the council, requested the discussion.

Santa Ana’s municipal code bans cycling on a bike that hasn’t been registered with the city, a requirement that is apparently little-known in the city of 330,000, many of whom are working-class Latinos who ride bikes.

A police officer recently told a judge that “probably a very low percentage” of bikes in the city are registered.

Proponents of license requirements have argued registration makes it easier to recover stolen bikes. Cycling advocates, meanwhile, say the laws are too often abused by police to cite cyclists who are unaware of the requirement.

The city of Long Beach, which many biking advocates consider a regional leader on bike-friendliness, eliminated its bike license requirement in 2011. Los Angeles ended its licensing mandate in 2009.

The issue received considerable attention last week when homeless advocate Igmar Rodas was successful in fighting a citation he received for riding his bicycle without a bike license.

A judge said his bike was apparently subjected to an unlawful search when Officer Salvador Lopez flipped it over to look for a license.

Rodas and fellow homeless advocate Larry Smith plan to ask for an end to the ban.

The issue has prompted commentary from local residents, including at least one Letter to the Editor submission to the Orange County Register.

“After reading about countless bicyclists being killed by automobiles, I stopped riding in the street and now ride exclusively on sidewalks instead,” wrote Irvine resident John Jaeger.

“I did a google search on bicyclists killed by automobiles and got around 100,000 hits. I don’t want to be the next dead bicyclist. Just yield way to pedestrians and carriages and there is never a problem. Go fifty feet in the grass. Stop if necessary.”

Council members have the authority to amend their city’s bike laws – or eliminate them entirely.

At least 20 bike license tickets have been issued in Santa Ana since last July, according to police department records provided through a Public Records Act request.

Of those, six were issued in the city’s Civic Center:

Before the council’s discussion of the issue Tuesday, they will take public comment on it.

The discussion is scheduled toward the end of Tuesday’s council meeting, which starts sometime after 5:45 p.m.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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