'Biking While Black?' You're More Likely to Get a Ticket in Chicago

Majority-white neighborhoods like West Town and Lincoln Park are among the most popular for biking in Chicago, but they’re not in the top ten neighborhoods for bike tickets.

2 minute read

March 21, 2017, 2:00 PM PDT

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark


Elena Rostunova / Shutterstock

Chicago's far West Side neighborhood isn't known for biking, but this majority African-American neighborhood is #1 for bike tickets. According to reporting from Mary Wisniewski in the Chicago Tribune, "[t]he 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." These citations, which are intended to serve public safety, have provoked a response from some in the city. "Bike advocates and an elected official expressed concern that police may be unfairly targeting cyclists in black communities while going easier on law-breaking cyclists in white areas," Wisniewski reports.

Some see the citation as a result of infrastructure rather than discrimination. "African-American bike advocates say the higher number of tickets in some South and West side areas could be caused in part by the lack of bike infrastructure like protected bike lanes, leading cyclists to take to the sidewalk to avoid traffic on busy streets," adds Wisniewski. Whatever the cause, the discrepancy is striking. As a bike commuter who has ridden through Austin many times, I can confirm that the streets aren't packed with cyclists.

The news joins a series revelations about the racial disparities of transportation modes. In February, Joe Cortright discussed data that show Black Americans are more likely to get pulled over for routine traffic infractions. They are also less likely to get picked up by a ride-hailing company. Finally, NPR also covered the racial disparity in pedestrian fatalities among Black Americans compared to the rest of the population. 

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