John Greenfield | Chicago Reader

John Greenfield writes the transportation column for the Reader and edits the transportation news website Streetsblog Chicago.



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Re: “Cops slammed for ticketing black cyclists: ‘It’s about the police harassing people’

jaguar717: "What the productive portion of society does to help the destructive portion." Your racism aside, there aren't 80 times as many police officers in North Lawndale as Lincoln Park.

But let's assume there are five times as many officers in North Lawndale than Lincoln Park (although there probably aren't.) Even if that was the case, it would mean that officers in North Lawndale are 16 times more likely to write tickets for the same bike violation. Why? According to the CPD it's because officers are enforcing bike laws much more aggressively in North Lawndale than Lincoln Park as a strategy to conduct searches for contraband.

One can debate whether that's an ethical strategy, or an effective tactic for longterm violence reduction. But for the most part the absurdly lopsided bike ticketing numbers are due to the CPD's stated practice of enforcing the same laws differently in Black communities and white neighborhoods, not due to the number of officers in these areas.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by John Greenfield on 07/18/2018 at 2:31 PM

Re: “Cops slammed for ticketing black cyclists: ‘It’s about the police harassing people’

jaguar717: "Why should... skin color make you exempt [from bike law enforcement]?" That would be a great question to ask in Lincoln Park, where ticketing numbers suggest that the (mostly white) cyclists who break rules have about 1/80 of the chance of being ticketed as their (mostly Black) counterparts in North Lawndale.

0 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by John Greenfield on 07/18/2018 at 2:00 PM

Re: “Cops slammed for ticketing black cyclists: ‘It’s about the police harassing people’

Skeptic: Correct, wrong-way bicycling is illegal and dangerous, and people who ride this way are putting themselves at risk of a ticket. (As an aside, there also seems to be a widespread misconception that this is the safest way to ride, which is Heard's perspective, so more bike education and outreach would help address the issue.)

But wrong-way riding is also fairly common in majority-white neighborhoods. The CPD acknowledged that the main reason for exponentially higher ticketing rates in some Black neighborhoods is more aggressive enforcement, not a higher incidence of lawbreaking.

One could make the case that the CPD should level the playing field by also taking a low-tolerance approach to bike enforcement in majority-white areas as well. (On the other hand, spending even more police time on ticketing for unlawful biking, which almost never results in serious injuries, let alone deaths, of other road users, would arguably be a waste of resources in a city where reckless driving injures thousands and kills scores of people each year, and enforcement of driving laws is spotty at best.)

However, the crux of this issue is this: As it stands, due to CPD enforcement strategies, a person who breaks a bike law in a Black neighborhood is up to 80 times as likely to be ticketed than a person in a majority-white area doing the exact same thing -- is that fair?

6 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by John Greenfield on 07/17/2018 at 12:54 PM

Re: “Cops slammed for ticketing black cyclists: ‘It’s about the police harassing people’

Francesco: The question isn't whether biking on the sidewalk is illegal for people 12 or older in Chicago (although, FYI, there are some exceptions, such as for riding to and from a Divvy station:…)

The question isn't even whether the exponentially higher number of tickets issued for sidewalk riding in majority-Black neighborhoods such as North Lawndale compared to majority-white ones like Lakeview is due to more sidewalk riding by (mostly Black) cyclists in North Lawndale than by (mostly white) cyclists in Lincoln Park. As explained in the article, the CPD has studied ticketing patterns and concluded that the higher number of tickets in these Black communities is due to officers enforcing the sidewalk riding law much more aggressively in high-crime areas as a strategy to conduct searches for contraband.

The question is, is this enforcement practice legal (it appears to be so), ethical, and good public policy?

7 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by John Greenfield on 07/17/2018 at 11:07 AM

Re: “Father Pfleger, top cop Johnson, and a tinge of hope for the city’s future

In case you didn't see what Truth Speaker did there:…

Posted by John Greenfield on 07/16/2018 at 10:18 AM

Re: “So long Ofo: Bike-share company is leaving Chicago because of lock requirements

Buster: Actually we broke the news of Divvy's response to the recent thefts on Streetsblog earlier this afternoon -- the CWB Chicago piece is a follow-up to our article:…

Sorry I didn't immediately answer your previous questions -- been busy. The city of Chicago purchased the Divvy hardware using a combination of federal grants and local money. Most of Divvy's revenue comes from the Blue Cross Blue Shield sponsorship and station ad revenue. The Tribune reported in December that the city lost money on Divvy operations in its first three years, turned a small profit in 2015, and then split a $1.7M loss with Motivate, the concessionaire, in 2016:… The loss was largely blamed on the expansion of the system further into the South and West Sides, where most stations are seeing relatively little use.

That's partly due to the fact that the stations are spaced about a half mile from each other in these areas, compared to a quarter mile in many denser, more affluent, majority-white parts of town. Lower station density makes the system much less convenient to use because you've got a longer walk between stations and destinations.

Yes, Chicagoans making $35,310 or less a year can sign up for $5 one-time Divvy for Everyone (D4E) annual memberships. This week the city lowered the cost of subsequent years of D4E membership and relaxed the eligibility requirements:…

But it's still not particularly convenient to enroll: You have to show up in person at one of five centers, none of them north of Armitage, and you can only do it Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between noon and 5 p.m. -- not easy for 9-to-5-ers.

As I wrote this afternoon, Divvy could deter theft by better publicizing the D4E program and making it possible to enroll on the phone and online, or at least expanding the number of sign-up locations and enrollment hours. After all, why risk arrest by stealing a bike to ride (and it doesn't seem like anyone is re-selling stolen Divvys) when you can rent one almost for free?

Posted by John Greenfield on 07/12/2018 at 6:38 PM

Re: “So long Ofo: Bike-share company is leaving Chicago because of lock requirements

Fay Bromberg: Some Reader discussion of bike helmets, including why having more people cycling via bike-share may lead to a net improvement in safety, whether or not they're wearing helmets:……

Still, it's totally reasonable that some people insist on wearing helmets every time they ride a bike, including when they use bike-share. For them, folding helmets that can easily be tucked in a bag are an option:…

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by John Greenfield on 07/10/2018 at 9:26 AM

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