No, it isn’t because there are more black people riding bikes. According to the Chicago Tribune’s research black people are being stopped twice as often as white people when riding a bike. Only last year 321 bike tickets were issued in low-income community of Austin, but only 5 tickets were issued in the Lincoln Park.
“I don’t know what possible rational explanation there could be for the police to write more bike infraction tickets in neighborhoods that have less — less money, less businesses, less bicycle infrastructure than in other communities,” - Brendan Kevenides, an attorney who specializes in bike cases, says.
African-American cyclist Patric McCoy, 70, said he's experienced the heightened enforcement firsthand. He had just left his Kenwood condo on a frigid January evening to go to dinner when he was stopped by two Chicago police officers in an unmarked car. The white officers told McCoy repeatedly that he could be ticketed for riding on the sidewalk and even arrested, and McCoy said he waited in the cold while they ran his driver's license to check for warrants. Eventually, they let him go without a ticket.
McCoy, who said he was only on the sidewalk in front of his own building and a neighboring building and already off the bike when he was stopped, supports enforcing the rules but said it cannot be "arbitrary and capricious."
Police claims it’s all because they actually care about public safety. “Where bicyclist and vehicular safety has been an issue of concern, officers have been working with the community to enforce applicable traffic and safety laws,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi stated.
Though, African-American bike advocates point out that infrastructure in poor black areas doesn’t fit the needs of bike riders. Absence of protected bike lines makes cyclists to take to the sidewalk to avoid traffic on busy streets.
The most common cyclist citation citywide was riding on the sidewalk, which is not permitted for riders 12 and older.
"There is definitely a perception in these neighborhoods that there are better things for the police to be doing," said Chris Willard, owner of Small Shop Cycles & Service in the South Side's Bronzeville neighborhood in the Douglas community area.
A bike ticket is an administrative, not a criminal, violation and carries a fine that generally ranges from $50 to $200. But it also can offer a reason for a stop, which could allow police to check warrants and possibly lead to an arrest.