Riding While Black


“Being stopped and harassed is one of the top concerns of Black and brown cyclists.” —Charles Brown, Rutgers University

A just-published article in Bicycling Magazine discusses one of the racial issues in cycling (See the original article here). Author Dan Roe looked at data from three major cities and found that, for black people on bikes are more likely to have problematic interactions with law enforcement.

Charles Brown, a senior transportation researcher at Voorhees Transportation Center (Rutgers University), reported on the results of a 2017 survey showing that 15 percent of Black and Latinx riders said they had been unfairly stopped by law enforcement.

Bicycling found only 3 out of 100 major cities that classify stops by race/ethnicity. Oakland, CA, New Orleans, LA, and Washington, D.C. had such data. The short version of the article: black riders are stopped at a high rate, disproportionately to the population. Black riders are also more likely to get tickets, white riders are more often let off with a warning.

One important finding: stops were made more often in neighborhoods that were historically or are currently home to black residents. Why? Is it because of the people who live there? Or is it because these areas (at least in New Orleans) have typically been underserved, and safe infrastructure has not been a priority?

Questions, not answers. Have we come a long way? Yes. We still have a long way to go, though. “Riding while black” can’t be an excuse to treat people wrongly.

For more on bicycling and equity, see these posts: “Welcome, Ladies,” “Is This About Bicycling?,” “Riding and Not Seeing.”

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