Colored cyclists in Chicago are receiving disproportionate numbers of tickets from the police, according to the Chicago Tribune. But a new study finds that it’s not just about riding with Black or Latino, it’s also where those cyclists are. Bike proponents hope a new city initiative can help solve the problem, but say it’s not just about infrastructure.
Announced by the Chicago Department of Transportation in late September, this initiative is the largest Chicago bike path expansion ever. The two-year, 100-mile installation and modernization effort will particularly focus on the West and South Side neighborhoods, which do not have the kind of cycling infrastructure that other parts of the city enjoy.
“I’m excited about the expansion, but it needs to be done very carefully,” said Kate Lowe, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Policy at UIC.
Lowe says some residents associate bike lanes with gentrification and displacement, so community engagement is key – and they want planners to think beyond just painted paths.
“One thing that many bicycle advocates want more of is protected cycle lanes, and that is also relevant for this interface between police and bicycle infrastructure,” said Lowe.
This intersection was the focus of a new study authored by Jesus Barajas of UC Davis. The same was found as in previous examinations. “More tickets in black and brown areas. In predominantly black neighborhoods there were six tickets per 1,000 and in predominantly white neighborhoods 0.7 per 1,000, ”said Barajas.
However, the study went a step further and examined the infrastructure in the areas where tickets were issued. It turned out that there was a disproportionate lack of bicycle lanes in the predominantly black and Latin American neighborhoods.
“When people drive on busy streets, they may not feel safe from the traffic there, so go to the sidewalk and you can get a ticket there,” Barajas said. “When there was any kind of cycling infrastructure on these roads, the ticketing rate dropped – in some cases by as much as 75%.”
The study also found no association between the number of tickets issued and the number of bicycle accidents, particularly serious accidents.
“What we suspect – and I imagine any lawyer or person of color in the city of Chicago would corroborate this with their own experience – (was) that this was really a pretext for other types of police activity. It wasn’t related to security, but to other reasons, ”said Barajas.
The study was part of the Mobility Justice project run by the nonprofit Equiticity in Chicago. Lowe, who is on the Equiticity research team, says the results suggest excessive surveillance in color communities.
“There will be discriminatory policing that needs to change, even on bike lanes, but bike lanes can mitigate some of the effects,” Lowe said.
And as bike lanes expand, Equiticity is calling on Chicago to stop relying heavily on the police as part of its “Vision Zero” strategy to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries. Barajas says this is a nationwide conversation: “How we can still get to this place without traffic fatalities without automatically relying on the police.”
The Chicago Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Note: this story will be updated with video.