I’m running out the door and don’t have a lot of time to spend on this one at the moment, luckily two other local bloggers have the full scoop on this inside and out. Basically the jist is this: California Vehicle Code does not require bicycle licenses but allows individual cities to require them on their own (you may recall a recent skuffle with the LAPD suspending it’s own bike license law due to misuse and poor enforcement.) But this isn’t a wide open do whatever you want policy, CA CVC specifically states that if a city does require bike licenses, the fine for not having one can not exceed $10 (ten dollars) and will not include any jail time. Well, apparently Santa Monica doesn’t give a shit what the state law says and they have a law on the books stating that anyone caught without a bike license riding a bike in Santa Monica can be fined for up to $1000 (one thousand dollars) and be sent to jail for up to 6 months, it also allows the crime to be bumped up to a misdemeanor and put on your record. Nice work Santa Monica, way to continue making life hell for people who ride bikes.
If you want more info on this, the two posts you should read immediately are “Illegal To Ride, Santa Monica Outlaws Riding Unlicensed Bicycles” and “6 months in jail and $1000 fine for riding without a bike license in Santa Monica”. The latter of the two has SM Gov contacts that you can call or email immediately and demand that this law be removed from the books.
What a mess.