For consecutive years, data shows that the Chicago Police Department concentrates its bike enforcement codes in Black neighborhoods. It’s no surprise that criticism in 2017 fell on deaf ears because using the pretext of a minor offense is an easy way to stop and search people.
CPD issued about 56 percent of all bike tickets in African-American neighborhoods, according to the Chicago Tribune. In contrast, Latino communities received 24 percent of tickets, and White neighborhoods accounted for 18 percent of the citations.
The police claim that traffic safety is the reason behind the disproportionate law enforcement activity. Six out of the seven bike fatalities in 2017 happened on the South and West sides. But activists have said they believe there’s another reason behind the higher ticketing rate in Black communities where most citations stem from biking on sidewalks.
“I guess technically they’re breaking the law, but it seems like there’s more to it than that — it seems like they’re being harassed,” said Leroy Ricks, who owns a bike shop in the Black community. Ricks added that customers told him that cops stop them frequently for riding on the sidewalks in an apparent attempt to move people off street corners.
In a city that’s plagued by violence, fighting crime is essential. But the lack of sufficient biking infrastructure, such as the bike lanes that exists in White neighborhoods, forces bikers in Black communities to ride on sidewalks for their safety.
Harassing random Black people in the hope of finding crooks is not an effective way to police Black communities, where there’s already a lack of trust in police officers. But it’s a widespread law enforcement tactic. The Tampa, Florida police also use the same safety excuse to stop Black bike riders.