Yes, You Need a License to Ride a Bike in Los Angeles

by Damien Newton
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Source : StreetsBlog

Bicycle License

Bicycle License

Recently, cyclists are finding themselves being ticketed for not having a license on their bicycle.  This has lead to outrage in the community from some, the bicycle licensing laws are meant to help recover stolen bikes not harass the people on them, and confusion from others.  It seems a lot of people don’t even know they need to have a license for their bike in California.

Here’s the facts.  The California Vehicle Code allows municipalities to take part in a bike licensing program by either creating a voluntary program for cyclists or requiring every bike to have a registration picture as seen above.  Locally, at least the City of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Long Beach all take place in the program by requiring bikes to be licensed.  If you’re not sure whether your municipality requires licenses, call the municipal building and ask.

The good news is that registering your bike is easy.  If you happen to live in Santa Monica, you can fill out this form, mail it in with a $3 check and they will mail you a license.  If you live in the City of Los Angeles, it’s a little trickier because you have to go to a station in person with valid ID and your bike to get a license.  The most popular place to get licensed is the central office at their Central District offices between 10:00 A.M. and 8 P.M. every Tuesday and Thursday.  The form is not available online for Los Angeles, but if you search long enough you can find a form for licensing a Bingo Hall.

In short, the law varies by municipality and even though the law states that you can’t be ticketed for not having a license if you’re not in your home town, many cops will ticket you anyway.  To avoid the fuss of getting a ticket overturned, I would recommend taking the time to get the license.

And who knows?  Maybe one day it will actually help get a stolen bike returned to you.

Photo: KIDD 240/Flickr via marino at Midnight Ridazz


This article points out two important things:

  • Bicycle licensing is great at helping people recover bicycles that are stolen.
  • Cyclists are almost as uninformed about the laws pertaining to their mode of transportation as are motorists.

There really needs to be a concerted effort to bring cyclists (albeit kicking and screaming if necessary) into the kind of compliance with traffic safety regulations as are motorcyclists, scooterists and motorists. There is no compelling reason not to have every go through some sort of training and testing that results in their being better prepared to follow the Rules of the Road.

The one thing I would prefer is that the license not only be a sticker affixed to the bike frame but also a plate easily read from 3 feet away. And while we are at it, let’s give pedestrians a break and have bicyclists required to give them 3 feet when passing (especially in the crosswalk). I see far too many bicyclists amber gambling and diving between pedestrians while the people on foot are still in the crosswalk.

If we are going to demand safe behavior from motorists, we certainly ought to be leading with way with our treatment of pedestrians.