Thursday, February 14, 2013

Clovis repeals bike licensing, registration requirement

Last May, Clovis launched a new voluntary bicycle registration system with the police department. That system allows residents the chance to register their serial number with the department to try and make theft recovery easier, should it happen. As I mentioned in that article, the new program conflicted with an existing law.

That law, in place since 1975, stated that in Clovis, one is required to register their bike, receive a license.....and display a license plate. The law also included rules on transfer of ownership, and fines. Such a ridiculous law has not been enforced in years, if ever. However, now the council finally took up the motion to repeal that entire section of the code as to not conflict with the new voluntary system.

This is a good thing. Even if the laws were never enforced, having bogus laws on the books can lead to police abuse. Imagine if you're riding a bike, but breaking no law. If unenforced laws that no one knows about are still valid, an officer could stop you and cite you just because he doesn't like your face.

The details of the old law are pretty amusing, in how absurd it is. Frankly, it seems like they took the automobile section of the law, and simply pasted in the word bicycle. Fortunately, the fees and such were "reasonable".

Here are some extracts of the section which has been repealed, and some simple reasons why they made no sense.
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or use a bicycle propelled wholly or in part by muscular power upon any of the streets, alleys, or public highways of the City without first obtaining from the Police Department a license therefor.
Naturally this section doesn't work out so well because Clovis is not an island. Once cannot simply ban all bicycle traffic from Fresno, for example. 
......Such licenses, when issued, shall entitle the licensee to operate such bicycle for which such license has been issued upon all the streets, alleys, and public highways, exclusive of sidewalks, of the City.
The City shall provide license plates and seals, together with registration cards, as designated and furnished by the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles of the State. The registration cards shall be numbered in chronological order as issued, with the registration number of the license plates shown thereon. It shall be the duty of the Police Department to attach such license plate to the frame of the bicycle to, which issued. Such license plate shall remain attached during the existence of such license. The Police Department shall also keep a record of the date of issuance of each license, to whom the license was issued, and the number thereof.  

Clearly the people who wrote the law (and voted to implement it!) had never actually seen a bicycle. Would the license plate have been 2 or so inches wide? Placing such an object on a bike, which wasn't designed to hold one is not just a hassle, it's useless. Occasionally someone who isn't thinking will ask why bikes aren't required to have license plates, as they could help in identifying lawbreakers. They don't stop to think that car plates are hard enough to read, a 2 inch one would be impossible.

That doesn't even get into the massive bureaucracy of such a program, if it were actually enforced.

This next part is also ridiculous

All persons engaged in the business of selling new or secondhand bicycles are hereby required, within ten (10) days after each sale, to report such sale to the Police Department. Such reports shall set forth a list of all sales made by such dealers, which list shall include the name and address of each person to whom sold, the kind of bicycle sold, a description and the frame number thereof, and the number of the license plate attached thereto, if any.

It shall be the duty of every person who sells or transfers ownership of any bicycle to report such sale or transfer by returning to the Police Department the registration card.......

So essentially, selling a bike had more registration requirements than selling a gun!

As I mentioned previously, the fees weren't exactly a burden...

The license fee to be paid for each bicycle shall be One and no/100ths ($1.00)    Dollar for each year, or portion thereof, from the date of issuance to the expiration date of the license and shall be paid in advance. Pursuant to the provisions of Section 4.1.06 of this chapter, such license may be transferred, and a fee in the amount of twenty-five (25) cents shall be paid for the registration of such transfer
But really, march on down to the police office to hand over 25 cents and fill out a form explaining the transfer of bike ownership?

Somehow, the people writing the law thought that not only would these fees cover the cost of the bureaucracy....but enough would be left over to build new bike trails!
Revenues from license fees collected pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall be used to pay expenses incurred in support of the provisions of this chapter, to reimburse retailers for services rendered, to improve bicycle safety programs, and to establish bicycle facilities, including bicycle paths and lanes, within the City.
The fine for not following the law was to be an onerous $5, which could pretty much be applicable to 95% of households in Clovis. Even if you don't ride a bike, almost everyone has one (or five) in their garage.

However, this part here does go back to where I talk about how having something like this in the books could lead to abuse
In addition to the penalties provided by Title 1 of this Code for violations of the provisions of this Code, the Police Department, or any of the members thereof, may impound and retain possession of any bicycle operated in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter and may retain possession of such bicycle until the license provided for by this chapter is obtained by the owner of such bicycle.
That is, if they didn't like your face, the cops could say "no license plate, no bike" and leave you stranded. Did it ever happen? Probably not. But why leave it to chance?

Fortunately, no objection was raised by the city council last week, and the section of the code has been removed.

Below the jump, the full section of the municipal code, as it will probably disappear from the Internets soon.  You can find it yourself here, section 4.1




Chapter 4.1
BICYCLES*

Sections:
4.1.01    Definitions.
4.1.02    Licenses: Required.
4.1.03    Licenses: Issuance: Term.
4.1.04    License plates and seals: Registration cards.
4.1.05    Reports of bicycle dealers.
4.1.06    Transfer of ownership.
4.1.07    Changes of address.
4.1.08    Tampering with license plates, seals, registration cards, and numbers.
4.1.09    Fees.
4.1.10    Use of license fees.
4.1.11    Violations: Penalties.
4.1.12    Violations: Impounding bicycles.
*    Sections 4.1.01 through 4.1.08, codified from Ordinance No. 209, amended in their entirety by Section 1, Ordinance No. 75-6, effective March 20, 1975.

4.1.01 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, certain words and phrases used herein are defined as follows:
(a)    “Dealer” shall mean a person engaged in the business of buying or selling bicycles, new or used.
(b)    “Owner” shall mean a person in whose name a bicycle is registered or required to be registered.
(c)    “Year” shall mean the period from January 1 to December 31 in each calendar year. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.02 Licenses: Required.

It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or use a bicycle propelled wholly or in part by muscular power upon any of the streets, alleys, or public highways of the City without first obtaining from the Police Department a license therefor. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.03 Licenses: Issuance: Term.

The Police Department is hereby authorized and directed to issue, upon a written application, bicycle licenses which shall be effective from the date of issuance to the expiration date prescribed by the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles of the State. Such licenses, when issued, shall entitle the licensee to operate such bicycle for which such license has been issued upon all the streets, alleys, and public highways, exclusive of sidewalks, of the City. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.04 License plates and seals: Registration cards.

The City shall provide license plates and seals, together with registration cards, as designated and furnished by the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles of the State. The registration cards shall be numbered in chronological order as issued, with the registration number of the license plates shown thereon. It shall be the duty of the Police Department to attach such license plate to the frame of the bicycle to, which issued. Such license plate shall remain attached during the existence of such license. The Police Department shall also keep a record of the date of issuance of each license, to whom the license was issued, and the number thereof. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.05 Reports of bicycle dealers.

All persons engaged in the business of buying secondhand bicycles are hereby required, within ten (10) days after each purchase, to report such purchase to the Police Department. Such reports shall set forth the name and address of the person from whom each bicycle was purchased, the description of each bicycle purchased, the frame number thereof, and the number of the license plate found thereon.
All persons engaged in the business of selling new or secondhand bicycles are hereby required, within ten (10) days after each sale, to report such sale to the Police Department. Such reports shall set forth a list of all sales made by such dealers, which list shall include the name and address of each person to whom sold, the kind of bicycle sold, a description and the frame number thereof, and the number of the license plate attached thereto, if any. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.06 Transfer of ownership.

It shall be the duty of every person who sells or transfers ownership of any bicycle to report such sale or transfer by returning to the Police Department the registration card issued to such person as the licensee thereof, together with the name and address of the person to whom the bicycle was sold or transferred, and such report shall be made within ten (10) days after the date of such sale or transfer. It shall be the duty of the purchaser or transferee of such bicycle to apply for a transfer of registration therefor within ten (10) days after such sale or transfer. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.07 Changes of address.

Whenever an owner of a bicycle licensed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter or licensed pursuant to an ordinance or resolution of a County or other city changes his address, he shall, within ten (10) days, notify the Police Department of such change of address. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.08 Tampering with license plates, seals, registration cards, and numbers.

It shall be unlawful for any person to wilfully or maliciously remove, destroy, mutilate, or alter the number of any bicycle frame licensed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. It shall also be unlawful for any person to remove, destroy, mutilate, or alter any license plate, seal, or registration card during the time such license plate, seal, or registration card is operative.
The provisions of this section shall not prohibit the Police Department from stamping numbers on the frames of bicycles on which no serial number can be found or on which such number is illegible or insufficient for identification purposes. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.09 Fees.

The license fee to be paid for each bicycle shall be One and no/100ths ($1.00)    Dollar for each year, or portion thereof, from the date of issuance to the expiration date of the license and shall be paid in advance. Pursuant to the provisions of Section 4.1.06 of this chapter, such license may be transferred, and a fee in the amount of twenty-five (25) cents shall be paid for the registration of such transfer. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.10 Use of license fees.

Revenues from license fees collected pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall be used to pay expenses incurred in support of the provisions of this chapter, to reimburse retailers for services rendered, to improve bicycle safety programs, and to establish bicycle facilities, including bicycle paths and lanes, within the City. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.11 Violations: Penalties.

Any person violating any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; provided, however, the punishment of any owner for a violation of Sections 4.1.02, 4.1.06, or 4.1.07 of this chapter shall be a fine of not to exceed Five and no/100ths ($5.00) Dollars. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)

4.1.12 Violations: Impounding bicycles.

In addition to the penalties provided by Title 1 of this Code for violations of the provisions of this Code, the Police Department, or any of the members thereof, may impound and retain possession of any bicycle operated in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter and may retain possession of such bicycle until the license provided for by this chapter is obtained by the owner of such bicycle. (§ 1, Ord. 75-6, eff. March 20, 1975)


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