Bicycle enforcement can be overzealous or lax, though it is rarely just normal. Often, as is the case in Santa Barbara, increased enforcement is often in response to an increase in collisions .
The problem is that the enforcement tends to focus on cyclists rather than motorists, even if it’s the motorists that are causing the crashes. This feeds into the motorist attitude that it’s unsafe for bikes to be on the road, rather than the cars making it unsafe for bikes.
As suggested, enforcement can be excessive and arbitrary, and in some cases entirely wrong. But all is not hopeless. As one cyclist found out when he got a $200 dollar ticket dismissed.
Turns out he was charged with something that isn’t against the law. I’ve seen this happen even here in San Francisco. A motorcycle cop pulled a bike over for riding in the middle of a lane. This was on Market St. near a bus island where you have to take the full lane or cars will try to muscle by where there is no room.
Fortunately another motorcycle cop stopped and explained the issue to the first cop.
On the flipside it can often be difficult to get police to enforce bike-favorable laws, like in New York where people are parking in bike lanes. No tickets, no towing, no response from the police.
On the flipside of the flipside here in SF we have a problem with cyclists not knowing that some vehicles are allowed to block the bike lane. Taxis with handicapped passengers, city vehicles on active duty, etc.. If a lane is going to be blocked for a longer time the city will often have an officer there directing cars and bikes forsafety.
Finally, also in San Francisco, we have a wonderful example of “that which is necessary is legal.” At a very dangerous approach to an intersection where most cars turn right cyclists were illegally passing cars on the left, because that was by far the safest thing to do.
Rather than assign a cop to sit there and ticket everyone, the city added a green bike lane and made the maneuver legal. Now it’s much safer for both the cyclist and the cars. Way to go guys.