Bronzeville Community Leader Has a Run-in With Zero-Tolerance Bike Enforcement
3:46 PM CDT on August 31, 2018
The first weekend in August was one of the most violent in recent memory in Chicago, with 71 people shot and 12 killed. As such, Bernard Loyd, head of the Bronzeville-based community development firm Urban Juncture, argues, the police officer who ticketed him for biking on an empty sidewalk near his office that Sunday should have had better things to do with her time.
Chicago Tribune investigations have found massive discrepancies in the number of tickets written for minor bike infractions like sidewalk riding in some communities of color versus majority-white neighborhoods. For example, 397 bike citations were issued last year in North Lawndale last year versus only five in Lincoln Park. The CPD has acknowledged that this is largely due to officers using “broken windows”-style bike enforcement as a pretext to conduct searches for illegal guns and drugs and outstanding warrants in high-crime areas.
According to data I obtained from the Chicago Police Department via a Freedom of Information Act Request, Urban Juncture’s police beat, #224, saw 19 bike tickets issued in 2016 and 18 written in 2017 – almost four times as many of all of Lincoln Park that year. As of April 2018, no tickets had been issued in the beat.
The Urban Juncture headquarters, which includes the food business incubator Bronzeville Cookin’, is located at 300 East 51st, just west of the local Green Line Station. Just east of the tracks in an otherwise-vacant lot, the firm operates the Bronzeville Bike Box pop-up bike repair shop, and the Boxville Marketplace Sunday outdoor market – both enterprises are run out of recycled shipping containers.
Last year Black bike advocate Waymond Smith told me that in summer 2016 he saw police ticket two African-American men in their mid-50s who had ridden their department-store mountain bikes for a block on the sidewalk by the Bike Box. Loyd says another Black cyclist named Patrick McCoy, who’s in his seventies, recently told him he was ticketed two miles northeast at 43rd and Lake Park as he biked on the sidewalk to the door of his building.
Loyd, who’s 56 and Black, says he was ticketed for sidewalk riding at nearly the same spot as the men Smith witnessed. On the morning of Sunday, August 5, he rode his Schwinn Le Tour road bike to the market to help set up, and he noticed a female African-American police officer sitting alone in her squad car by the market from 9 a.m. onwards. Loyd says he believes the officers saw him hanging out at the market.
At about 11 a.m., Loyd says, he needed to stop by his office, about 150 feet west of the market on the same side of the street. “There were cars in the street, so I just rode on the sidewalk.” He was wearing shorts and a Boxville t-shirt.
At that point, the officer switched on her blue flashers, and a male African-American sergeant soon arrived as backup with his vehicle lights activated. Loyd later posted photos and video of the officers and their cars, as well as his ticket, on a Google Drive page called “Biking While Black @ Boxville.”
The first officer got out of her car and notified Loyd that she was ticketing him because biking on the sidewalk is illegal in Chicago for people 12 and older. Unlike two young, Black men who were recently stopped for sidewalk riding near Chicago and State on the Near North Side, which resulted in arrests for possession of stolen Divvies, Loyd wasn’t handcuffed or searched.
Loyd says he didn’t raise his voice, but he told the officer he felt that the stop represented a waste of police resources. He says she didn’t respond.
The fine for sidewalk riding is $50-200. “If I just pay it, it will be $50,” Loyd says. But I’m going to take a bit of a risk and challenge it.”
While Loyd says he doesn’t think the officer who ticketed him viewed him as a suspicious character (he believes the sergeant knew who he was), he says it’s possible the female officer was bored and simply saw the sidewalk riding as an opportunity to do some enforcement.
Loyd says later that day he noticed two young women riding bikes on the sidewalk to the market, but they weren’t ticketed. He’s not sure of the race of the first woman, since he only saw her from behind, but the second woman, whom he saw from the front, appeared to be Asian-American. “That woman rode on the sidewalk pretty much to where the officer was parked, the officer turned her head and saw this person, and then the young woman got off her bike and went to Boxville.”
Not long afterwards, during a discussion with local alderman Pat Dowell about another topic, Loyd brought up the ticket. “She was unhappy about it and asked if I got the officer’s badge number,” he says. “She seemed interested in following up on it.”
Dowell told me today that she never got the officer’s identifying information from Loyd, so she hasn’t contacted the local police commander. “I’m more than willing to follow up about it, but I don’t know how to do that without the info.” She added that she hasn’t heard any other complaints about bike ticketing in her district.
Police News Affairs confirmed that Dowell never contacted the CPD about Loyd’s ticket. Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment on the officer’s decision to ticket Loyd, but noted that, should Loyd contest the citation, an administrative law judge will review the facts of the case.
“The irony here is that beat cops rarely get out of their cars to engage with the community, but she got out to check the make of my bike and write a ticket,” Loyd says. “She was just sitting here for about two hours before that and never got out of her car to visit the market.”
Update 9/3/18: Loyd forwarded an email he sent to Alderman Dowell the day this post came out, including the first police officer's badge number and district (Second Police District.) He told me that our interview had reminded him to send Dowell this info.
Loyd's email to the alderman included the following statements:
I believe the stop, calling of backup, and issuance of the ticket were completely inappropriate. It was the safest way for me to travel the 150 or so feet from Boxville to the bike rack at 51st & Prairie as there was significant traffic on the street and zero traffic on the sidewalk.
I plan to challenge the ticket in administrative court. This was a very poor use of city resources and contributes to the mistrust between community members and the police force.
Streetsblog Chicago will resume publication on Tuesday, September 4. Have a great Labor Day.
In addition to editing Streetsblog Chicago, John writes about transportation and other topics for additional local publications. A Chicagoan since 1989, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, bike, bus, and 'L' train.
More from Streetsblog Chicago
What should we do about Wells Street?
Streetsblog readers offer ideas for building protected bike lanes on Wells Street on the Near North Side, especially in delivery truck-clogged Old Town
Phase 1 of Forest Park Branch Rehab will be mostly complete on 10/8. CTAction sees some issues with the plan.
The transit advocacy group has questions about post-project train frequency, ADA access during a coming weekend shutdown, and missing Train Tracker coverage.