Opinion

L.A.'s cyclists should need a special 'info' license in order to ride

An info license for cyclists would be all about information, and making sure it got shared

In June 2009, just as L.A.’s bicycling resurgence was beginning, the city of Los Angeles repealed its law requiring cyclists get licenses.

Bad move.

Before you go hollering bloody murder about "big gubmint" (and me), read on.

With the throngs of two-wheeled commuters, green believers and just-for-fun bicyclists in the streets, with new bike lanes already here and maybe new bike laws coming, the city needs a way to educate these riders.

An "info license" could be the way to do it.

It wouldn’t be a permit to ride a bike. It wouldn't require a test, and it wouldn't help police track your bike if it got stolen. (The previous license law was repealed in part because bicyclists complained that police hassled them if they didn’t have a license but didn’t lift a finger when a bike was stolen. And sometimes, says la.streetsblog.org, LAPD divisions didn’t even have enough license forms on hand when people showed up to buy them.)

An info license would be all about information, and making sure it got shared. Right now bicyclists have to go looking for information, on places like the city website; the information can't come looking for them. (There’s a bike law and safety quiz on the city site; can you pass it?)

But getting an info license — for a $2 or $3 or $5 fee — would push into a cyclist's hands, via paper or smartphone, the rules of the road.  An info-license program wouldn’t let police stop bicyclists just to check whether they have the license. And if a cyclist were stopped for some other infraction, he or she could just buy a license on the spot and get the bike-rules info in exchange.

This booklet and app would contain city-specific bike rules and safety regulations. When laws change, as California’s did with the three-feet-margin rule for drivers sharing a road with bicyclists, cyclists could dowload the latest version.

Did you know, for example, that it’s legal to ride safely on L.A. city sidewalks, but not on L.A. county sidewalks in unincorporated areas? And bike rules may change from municipality to municipality. Long Beach is bike-friendly, but you can't bicycle on sidewalks in the business districts.

And did you know that in California it’s illegal to bicycle against traffic? Last month, a woman was just killed bicycling the wrong way on a one-way Venice street.

In keeping with Mayor Eric Garcetti's business partnership thinking, bicycle manufacturers should be clamoring to underwrite the cost of the booklet and app and get their brands out to LA's burgeoning bike market.

Two wheels good — could be better! Cyclists out on the streets should be in the know, and if you have an idea for getting this information out, this is the place to share it. Just like the road.

Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes

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