CITY HALL — Bicyclists who break Santa Monica law by riding on the sidewalk caught a break of their own last week, as the City Council agreed to reduce the penalty for that offense, and several others, from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

The change came in response to a complaint City Hall received from a cyclist who had been given a misdemeanor citation for sidewalk riding and felt the “inconvenience of going to court was disproportionate to the violation,” according to an official report.

The council last Tuesday concurred, and also agreed to lessen the punishment for loitering in parking structures, leaving property or items unattended for longer than 10 minutes on certain public properties and disturbing the peace in public parks.

Under the ordinance change, police officers would still have the option to write misdemeanor citations for the violations but would also be empowered to issue infraction tickets.

City Hall said the move will save money by reducing the amount of time spent prosecuting misdemeanor offenses and will increase the city’s income from fine collection, though no estimate of how much the city stands to gain was provided.

The change, which received preliminary approval last Tuesday and must again come before the council before it can take effect, is also aimed at making life easier for transgressors.

“Treating these violations as infractions will allow the person charged with the offense to resolve the matter in the same way as a traffic violation, by simply paying a fine,” a City Hall report stated.

While the change means more lenient penalties, it could also mean the likelihood of getting one has increased.

The ordinance change also expanded the list of city personnel who are authorized to issue citations to include employees of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, license inspectors and animal service officers.  

nickt@smdp.com