Despite criticism by the community and cycling advocates that enforcement is uneven across the city, the vast majority of Chicago bike tickets continue to go to those in black neighborhoods.
According to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago police statistics, in 2017 – about 56 percent of all bike tickets were issued in the majority black neighborhoods compared with 24 percent in Latino neighborhoods and 18 percent in white neighborhoods.
According to the U.S. Census, Blacks, Latinos as well as whites individually make up about a third of the city’s residents. A Tribune story last year provided similar results between 2008 and 2016. Nine out of ten tickets are for biking on the sidewalk.
Obtained through a public records request, the new numbers also show that while the enforcement pattern has not changed – overall tickets are down by 14 percent. Last June, the city said that police effort under its new “Vision Zero” traffic safety plan, which includes cycling, will focus on education in high crash areas and not use increased tickets to measure success. The city has been promoting cycling in recent years, especially in black and Latino neighborhoods by adding more bike lanes and a major expansion in Divvy ride share stations.
“It is disappointing,” said Ald. Christopher Taliaferro, 29th, in regards to the high number of tickets in black areas. A former police sergeant, Taliaferro’s ward includes part of Austin, a majority-black neighborhood that saw the city’s second highest number of bike tickets. “I look at it as a very minor offense, and I would really like to see our efforts going toward reducing violent offenses in our ward.”
According to the city’s transportation department, some communities such as Austin and North Lawndale saw a high number of bike tickets, also disproportionately affected by severe traffic crashes. Of the seven 2017 bike fatalities, six occurred on the South and West sides. Anthony Guglielmi, Chicago police department spokesman, said police are trying to reduce serious or fatal traffic injuries.
“Chicago police officers work with residents to identify areas where bicyclist and vehicular safety is an issue of community concern, and then enforce traffic and safety laws,” said Guglielmi in an emailed statement to the Tribune. “That stems from our commitment to safeguard all Chicagoans, and create the safest environment possible for pedestrian, vehicular and bicycle traffic.”
The neighborhood differences are drastic, the majority black and low -income community of North Lawndale had the most bike tickets at 397, while just five tickets were issued in majority-white and affluent Lincoln Park, where cycling is very popular. Police gave out 3,577 bike citations overall last year which is a 14 percent drop from 4,158 in 2016.
The top 10 neighborhoods for bike citations include four majority-black, four Latino and two white neighborhoods, according to the Tribune. After North Lawndale comes Austin with 264, South Chicago with 241, Humboldt Park with 232, South Shore with 190, South Lawndale with 139, Uptown with 138, Chicago Lawn with 133, New City with 128 and West Town with 127.