A couple of months ago I was walking along the beach at the base of the pier and was almost run over by a couple on a bicycle. I think they were tourists, and I know they didn’t mean to do it; they were just not paying attention in a congested area.

Over the years I’ve been warned by Santa Monica Police Department officers that I cannot ride my bike along that particular stretch of the walkway, and there are posted signs stating that it is illegal to ride essentially from the Pier to the Bay Street circle. But it happens all the time. It’s annoying to me because that’s where I walk my dog, meet my friends and generally enjoy the area. However, it happens.

But it really stuck with me, this illegal activity that is not consistently enforced. I’ve asked the police officers on the Pier if they issue citations when people are riding on the boardwalk, and they generally give a non-responsive answer along the lines of, “you’re not supposed to be riding there.” Yes, thank you, I know that, hence the question, which is never satisfactorily answered.

Until last month.

Last month as I was coming down from the Loews hotel with the dog in tow, I just happened upon two Santa Monica Police officers on bikes (yes the irony was not lost on me!) and asked if they issued citations to the civilian population who were riding their bicycles on the boardwalk. They said it was unenforceable and they rarely write people up.

I find that infuriating. Not knowing what is really the law is unconscionable. Part of the nightmare that people experience with family law is that it’s so fluid and open to an individual judge’s interpretation. It drives my divorce and child custody clients crazy, and this is why: you don’t know what you are supposed to do.

It’s like my brother always points out when he’s driving on Interstate 5 from Walnut Creek to Los Angeles: there’s no way of knowing what the law is because the Highway Patrol doesn’t enforce the actual speed limit, they just decide when they want to enforce the law at will. Sometimes it’s 80, or 87, could be 83, maybe 90 or 95.

Now I understand that we want to give police officers a level of discretion, we’ve all been the beneficiaries of an officer’s letting us off with a warning, some of us multiple times (wink)! However when we have a law that is called ‘unenforceable’ by the people who are supposed to enforce it, we have a problem.

As one friend of mine so often says, “why have the rules if we’re not going to use them?” He’s got a point.

Do I want a strict enforcement of all the laws, all the time? Of course not, I’m a lawyer after all, but I do want to know in general that the laws are enforced. I do want to know whether or not I can ride my bike by the Hot Dog Stick place or not. I do want to know what the real speed limit is on I-5 and I do want to know that the police are going to enforce with a fairly consistent logic the laws that our legislators have chosen to enact.

Additionally, I’d like to see our legislators remove those laws that are either outdated, unenforceable or just plain silly. I know their job is to write new laws, and that is what serves their owners, I mean contributors, but they can also write laws to undo the stupidity of their predecessors. After all we don’t live by the traffic laws that were in force when the horse and buggy was around now do we? No, times change and the law is supposed to keep up with and reflect the society it serves.

It seems to me that we could do with a few less laws, and a bit more common sense in today’s world and I think a great place to start would be with a cleaning house of the stale, unenforceable, outdated laws that no longer serve our bit of paradise by the bay, like ending this unenforceable law against riding on the boardwalk.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra


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