09 March 2018

No Escape In The Windy City

One of the great things about cycling, at least for me, is that it offers a way of escaping, if only temporarily, the stresses of daily life and the ills that afflict this world.

Perhaps I can say such a thing because I am white.  Nothing, it seems, can free Blacks and Hispanics--especially those who are young and male--from the yoke of lasso of racism, especially its noose of racial profiling.

No, not even cycling can free young people of color from those things.  If anything, riding a bike  might make them targets for cops on the hunt for tickets to meet their quotas.

At least, that's how things seem to work in Chicago.  Recently, the Tribune reported that 56 percent of all 2017  bike citations were issued in Black-majority neighborhoods, 24 percent in Latino/a-majority communities and only 18 percent in areas populated mainly by Whites.  That, in a city where the proportion of non-Hispanic Black and White people is almost exactly the same, at just over 32 percent for each race.  Hispanics make up 28 percent of the Windy City's population, but they are more dispersed than Blacks throughout the city, so it's fair to say that those who live in Latino/a-majority neighborhoods are bearing disproportionately ticketed.

This caricature of Major Taylor appeared in the 26 April 1894 issue of Cycling Life.

North Lawndale, where 89 percent of the residents are Black and relatively few cycle, got more bike tickets than any other Chicago neighborhood.  Lincoln Park--a neighborhood that is either "bike friendly" or the home of "Trixies" and "Chads", depending on your persepctive--got only five.  Yes, you read that right:  5, as many fingers as you have on your hand!  Oh, and Lincoln Park is  81 percent white.


  1. The stats were surprising to me one one level: the neighbourhoods in Chicago that tend to register the most vocal complaints about "scofflaw" cyclists- red-light running, salmoning, pedestrian-terrorizing, etc,- tend to be predominantly "white" whilst other non-white majority areas seldom raise a blip as far as citizens' complaints go. i also think it's safe to say that a plurality of cyclists in the city are "white" and do most of their riding in "whiter" neighbourhoods.
    What doesn't surprise me is given that the CPD patrols more zealously in the majority non-white neighbourhoods, they would ticket more heavily. i wonder if the citations were issued to cover for stops for "cycling while black/latinx?"

  2. Mike--Those are very good points. What you describe parallels the situation here in NYC: the biggest complainers about "scofflaw" cyclists are in white middle-class and blue-collar areas, and the NYPD patrols more closely in nonwhite neighborhoods.