Well Tampa, my adopted home town, must have the worst bicycle riders in all of Florida.
“They don’t use lights at night. Don’t ride close enough to the curb. Can’t manage to keep their hands on the handlebars.
In the past three years, Tampa police have written 2,504 bike tickets — more than Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando combined.
Police say they are gung ho about bike safety and focused on stopping a plague of bike thefts.
But here’s something they don’t mention about the people they ticket:
Eight out of 10 are black.”
So says today’s Tampa Bay Times.
“A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that Tampa police are targeting poor, black neighborhoods with obscure subsections of a Florida statute that outlaws things most people have tried on a bike, like riding with no light or carrying a friend on the handlebars.
Officers use these minor violations as an excuse to stop, question and search almost anyone on wheels. The department doesn’t just condone these stops, it encourages them, pushing officers who patrol high-crime neighborhoods to do as many as possible.
There was the 56-year-old man who rode his bike through a stop sign while pulling a lawnmower. Police handcuffed him while verifying he had, indeed, borrowed the mower from a friend.
There was the 54-year-old man whose bike was confiscated because he couldn’t produce a receipt to prove it was his.
One woman was walking her bike home after cooking for an elderly neighbor. She said she was balancing a plate of fish and grits in one hand when an officer flagged her down and issued her a $51 ticket for not having a light. With late fees, it has since ballooned to $90. She doesn’t have the money to pay.
The Times analyzed more than 10,000 bicycle tickets Tampa police issued in the past dozen years. The newspaper found that even though blacks make up about a quarter of the city’s population, they received 79 percent of the bike tickets.
Some riders have been stopped more than a dozen times through the years, and issued as many as 17 tickets. Some have been ticketed three times in one day.”
“You almost roll your eyes when you read the reports,” said Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan. “Oh no, another bike stop, another kid riding on the handlebars, here we go. And certainly, we have laws and we should all follow the law, but it occurred to me the stops were all occurring in certain neighborhoods and with certain children, and not in my neighborhood, and not with the white kids.”
Joyce Hamilton Henry, Director of Advocacy for ACLU of Florida, wants to know: “If it’s not racial profiling, what is it?”
You can read the rest of the article here:
“Driving while black” was bad enough. Now you can’t ride a bike in Tampa without bullshit harassment.