Although Chicago has experienced a steep decline in the number of tickets issued to bicyclists, riders in low-income and predominantly African American neighborhoods still receive more citations than anywhere else in the city.
The Chicago Tribune obtained figures from the police last month under the Freedom of Information Act showing that bike citations dropped from more than 4,000 in 2016 to 2,196 last year. Fewer than 600 tickets were issued through late June.
But more than half of the citations were issued in majority African American neighborhoods on the South and West sides in 2018 and 2019, mirroring the numbers in preceding years, the newspaper reported Monday.
Kyle Whitehead, a spokesman for the Active Transportation Alliance, said the practice of ticketing bikers in impoverished areas is "racist and discriminatory."
Earlier this year, Chicago officials and the Illinois attorney general approved a police consent decree , which intensified scrutiny on misdemeanor arrests and the way the police department issues administrative violation notices. It mandates that police must assess by April 2020 how frequently officers arrest or ticket people in "specific demographic categories," including race.
Glen Brooks, the Chicago Police director of community policy, said the decree has had no influence on the city's bike citation figures, since the department is still in the "very preliminary design phases" of the assessment.
Karen Sheley, director of the Police Practices project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said police stopping residents for trivial infractions such as riding on the sidewalk — the most common reason for a bike citation — "just heightens community resentment."
"I'm glad to hear the numbers have gone down," she said.
The decline in ticket numbers comes as Chicago prepares to expand its Divvy bike-share program to all parts of the city by 2021. This fall, Divvy will add 30 new stations in seven neighborhoods on the far South Side, and later plans to extend its program further into western and northwestern parts of the city.