The Chainlink

'Biking while black': Chicago minority areas see the most bike tickets

Okay as the article points out there are lots of potential explanations for this but not a single North side area listed in the top ticked areas?

As Chicago police ramp up their ticketing of bicyclists, more than twice as many citations are being written in African-American communities than in white or Latino areas, a Tribune review of police statistics has found.

The top 10 community areas for bike tickets from 2008 to Sept. 22, 2016, include seven that are majority African-American and three that are majority Latino. From the areas with the most tickets written to the least, they are Austin, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, South Lawndale, Chicago Lawn, West Englewood, Roseland, West Garfield Park, New City and South Chicago.

Not a single majority-white area ranked in the top 10, despite biking's popularity in white areas such as West Town and Lincoln Park."

Read full article at the Tribune site...

Views: 3121

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Mike, your exact quote: "Stopping someone riding on the sidewalk or wrong way down a one way IS the exact definition of probable cause."

That is probable cause to initiate a stop for that infraction, or using a broader and slightly weird term for it, stop for that crime. I never said if someone is riding on a sidewalk they are automatically drug dealers or moving product. Like I said, to take a stop from one riding on the sidewalk to patting down requires separate and distinctly different reasons by law.

Probable cause needed to initiate a non-consensual contact by police is the officer needs to have knowledge based on factual evidence that one committed a crime, is committing a crime, or is about to commit a crime.

You're misusing the term probable cause,it doesn't equate to "violating a City ordinance," if that was the case thousands of Chicago drivers would be getting frisked every day for rolling through stop signs, and it wouldn't be just happening in a few neighborhoods.

Probable cause isn't a concept, it's a defined legal principle. Writing someone a ticket for a misdemeanor is appropriate for minor traffic violations - frisks and arrests are most certainly not.

Here's a few more nuanced takes on it from the legal community:

You're missing my point entirely. PC is used to create a non-consensual stop where someone is being detained. At the conclusion of the event the person can be cited, arrested, or given a verbal warning. Drinking in public, or urinating in public, just like riding a bicycle on the sidewalk can lead to you getting arrested OR getting a citation.

You're arguing what is appropriate in a given situation. Being cited for a municipal violation or minor traffic offense is what usually happens. I agree that is a good course of action, but there was PC for the stop. And you are saying that PC for a stop doesn't equate to a search, and you're right, never argued it wasn't. Unless that person is being arrested for whatever the PC on the stop was for, or there is reasonable articulable suspicion the person is armed, officers legally can't just search. Now if they decide to arrest someone for riding on the sidewalk then that allows for a custodial search of the person and their belongings, which means whatever contraband they find was legally obtained.

Now if you want to argue quality PC, that's a different thing entirely and dependent upon each situation. But the stop and the frisk are 2 entirely different things requiring entirely different legal concepts to execute. I think you are reading into my post deeper than required. I deal with this stuff everyday and try to stay as up to date on law changes as possible.
Your point seems to be one of abstraction and is completely divorced from the reality of this situation. For a guy who claims to follow the law and deal with this every day, you might want to actually read the links posted. There is no working definition of probable cause that allows profiling people because they are black, which is the only possible way to explain the arrest and ticket discrepancies here.

If you would like to explain what you are talking about in actual legalese, by all means please do so. My father has practiced criminal law for over 40 years, I am no stranger to legal nuance.

Why don't the two of you get a room?

I think the two of you have actually touched  on the crux of the issue. When there is a minor violation of the law there is cause for a custodial stop. This has gone  on for ages with broken tailpipes or broken turn signals or as mentioned in this thread, urinating in public, disorderly conduct (which by it's name is quite subjective) and yes...riding on the sidewalk. These violations indeed give the gendarmes cause to make a custodial stop. 

The real question is how the authorities exercise this and how they make choices to stop people.  The Tribune, as noted by John Greenfield, has seen the inequity in how the police enforce the ordinance about riding on the sidewalk to call for increased stops in areas on the north side. The Tribune, as John noted, completely misses the point.

The discussion here has been  more about reducing the amount of such stops on the south side. The way the police have been enforcing the law is disproportionate.  More black people get stopped than white people. (Math people feel free to correct me in the way I have interpreted the data)  This mirrors the problems we as a society have had in other areas.  Black drivers get stopped for so-called minor traffic violations at greater rates than white drivers. None of these drivers, and none of the bikers has a legitimate argument against their individual stop where they have indeed violated an ordinance. However, there is a big problem with the numbers of such stops seeming to pick on  the black community.  

The police cannot stop everybody but when they pick and chose who they stop it is appearing, as the Tribune reported, to be inequitable and  unfair. That is the problem. When black drivers or riders feel more at risk they may change their behavior and are being stifled.  A white driver or rider can say to him or herself, "what the @#$*, I don't care" and  continue to  ride on the sidewalk, have a broken tail light, pee in the alley or act like a jerk.  People are not being treated the same and there is a privilege on Milwaukee Ave. that does not seem to exist on Garfield Blvd. 

To me the appropriate questions are "why is this so?" and "what can be done?"

Well Curtis, you're on a thread that spiraled off on page 6 of a 9 page thread, so this pretty much is a room.

If the legal nuances are not of interest, you can of course always scroll on by, or just reply to the starting post and start a new thread altogether. I actually appreciate learning more about this stuff, and while I don't agree with Mike's take, he knows how to have a conversation.

Guys, maybe taking a breather for a while wouldn't be a bad thing.

I think my thinking is too concrete. You break the law or ordinance and are stopped, there isn't much else to say except it will come to down to the individual officer. It appears yours is more abstract, taking race into account and making it a factor in an officer's performance of duties.

I agree there is a factual disproportionate ratio of stops in Chicago, but perhaps there is a factual reason for it? Our South and West sides have a disproportionate amount of police in then compared to "safer" areas. Those "safer" areas are commonly middle class or above whites, versus areas of brown or black individuals where, statistically, there has been higher rates of violent crimes. Which the increase in police mean an increase in a chance for a encounter with police means an increase in persons of color being ticketed.

I guess my point is if there is PC for a stop, in the case here riding on the sidewalk, and the officer only works that area and knows the nuances of area (whether a safer area or not) he chances of a "good" arrest being slimmer in a "safe" area than the South or West side. Of course the conversation doesn't stop there, it should go to why is there high rates of violence crime and that turns into less opportunities for work, education, positive community involvement with police, food and the list goes on.

The busier districts attract a certain sort of police officer, usually young in age and career, one that isn't burnt out, and wants to produce numbers and get good arrests to move to specialized units and so on. The chances of a white male on Milwaukee, Damen, and North illegally carrying a weapon or narcotics riding on the sidewalk I would vernture to say is significantly lower than a black male on Madison and Pulaski. I say both stops are legal AND if properly furthered to a frisk also legal, but if we were to equal the amount of police presence in each area, why would the black male face a higher chance of being frisked (let's say legally here) and arrested than the white male? I don't have answer for that, and I don't think the CPD is training racism into its officers, I feel like society would accept that outcome more so than the white guy getting arrested.

And if anything Carter your perspective is refreshing. I left Facebook months ago because I wasn't able to have a civil conversation with a stranger and it not spiral into name calling or other useless banter. I have taken a few things from your responses as perspective I wasn't aware of.

"Chance for a encounter" is an insufficient explanation.  Bike tickets (and even auto tickets) are the result of conscious choices made by officers, both to write the ticket and even to take a ticket book out with them in the first place.


In Chicago, officers do not have ticket quotas.  An unusually large volume of tickets in a particular area is the direct result of a concerted effort to write a lot of tickets.


There is a large volume of police in downtown Chicago, which obviously is not a super-majority black neighborhood.  Officers there see these sorts of violations by both drivers and cyclists every hour of every day and decide not to ticket them.


Chance of finding contraband also does not explain the discrepancy, since white people stopped by police statistically are far more likely to be found in possession of contraband.

I'm glad the conversation is continuing, this is really not a topic which should pop up due to a Tribune article and then just fade away.

I completely agree with Maurice about the discrepancy specific to downtown - tons of infractions across the board on the street, lots of cops, and the cops clearly are directed in some fashion to treat Loop workers/ tourists with kid gloves.

Thanks David for introducing the term custodial stop, that's not one I was familiar with. A quick search found this:

A quick skim suggests this may not really be an appropriate technique in this situation though. To Mike's point, yes, there may be more crime in these neighborhoods & thus more police on the street, but if you use minor infractions of the law as a pretext for singling people out, that to me sounds like textbook profiling.

There's a twofold need here, which is to enforce traffic laws and expand bike infrastructure to ensure people feel safe biking on the street in all City neighborhoods, and then some kind of legal action to get CPD to understand that while they may have a tough job, profiling people based on their color and mode of transportation isn't acceptable.

btw- I know that quotas are not supposed to exist, but I still remember hearing a cop tell my drivers ed class that for all practical purposes quotas do exist, in the sense that cops are pressured to show they've been busy working. His point was that you should be extra careful in the last few days of the month, as that's when the slackers often write the bulk of their tickets (this was in 1987 mind you, so this info is sorely dated and may not reflect current procedures).


© 2008-2016   The Chainlink Community, L.L.C.   Powered by

Disclaimer  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service