LONG BEACH - Bicycles won't have to be registered in Long Beach any longer after the City Council voted Tuesday to end the requirement.
The council voted unanimously to amend the law, which has been on the books since the 1970s. Instead, the city will implement an education campaign to direct bicyclists to the National Bike Registry, which allows people to register their bikes for free.
While police officials say they use bicycle registration to help identify stolen bikes and return them to their owners, Long Beach, which calls itself "the most bicycle-friendly city in America," has been criticized for the requirement. That criticism reached new levels after an Oct. 29 confrontation between bicyclists and police.
In that instance, dozens of riders were stopped and cited for traffic violations and for not having licenses. The riders were participating in a "Critical Mass" bike ride to raise awareness of bicycles' right to the road, but police said the group had run a stop sign.
"What we currently have, obviously, is an unfair and antiquated system that is just creating more problems than solutions, and so what this would basically do is create an accessible and voluntary registration program," said 1st District Councilman Robert Garcia, who had proposed the change in December.
A city report says that 2,600 new licenses were issued and 3,000 were renewed in the 2010 fiscal year. Police issued 1,035 citations last year for lack of bicycle registration, but in every case the citations weren't the only infraction, the report says.
By using bike registrations, police were able to return 220 bicycles to their owners out of 980 stolen bikes that were recovered last year, according to the report.
However, being able to actually register a bicycle is another issue. The most common place for bike registrations is at increasingly short-handed fire stations, and then only before noon on Saturdays and Sundays, although a few other options have been made available recently.
Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal noted that she has experienced this problem herself, when she has shown up at a fire station to register her bike, only to find that the firefighters were out on a call.
"An online registry can certainly meet the needs of our officers and riders and businesses, such as our bicycle shops," Lowenthal said.
"I think this will let me finally register my bike."