nola.com - One-third of New Orleans cyclists are black, but they face the most bike charges in…
The conditions for biking are improving in and around New Orleans, but we risk sustaining some of our worst inequities if we don’t do more to make sure black neighborhoods and families can safely participate in the joy of biking around their city. Along with data that shows crashes are concentrated in low-income and communities of color, the reality reflected in these statistics is unacceptable and must be fixed if we’re going to be a better New Orleans moving forward.
- Dan Favre, Executive Director
One-third of New Orleans cyclists are black, but they face the most bike charges in traffic court
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
When Kevin Louis was ticketed for various infractions while biking to a corner store to pick up a pack of cigarettes earlier this year, he got angry, especially after realizing the ticket was going to cost him nearly $1,000 in fines.
But he was also angry because, he thought, this wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been a black man.
It’s impossible to confirm that in Louis’ exact circumstances — he told me, after all, he was doing all of the things he got ticketed for by police — but court records show his hunch wasn’t misled.
Those $157 fines for not having your bike registered should soon be a thing of the past.
Black people comprise about two-thirds of those who faced charges for bike infractions in Traffic Court between 2016 and July 2018. While that lines up with the demographics of New Orleans’ population, it represents an oversized share of who actually rides bikes here. In a 2015 Regional Planning Commission report, just about one-third of city cyclists were identified as black.
The discrepancy is one other cities have noticed, as well. Eight of 10 ticketed cyclists in Tampa Bay, Fla., are black, according to a 2015 Tampa Bay Times report. In Chicago, where black people comprise about a third of the city’s population, majority black neighborhoods were hit with more than half of all bike tickets, according to the Chicago Tribune earlier this year. That report came after, a year earlier, the same reporter showed seven of the top 10 areas for bike tickets were in black neighborhoods. Similar reports have come out of Minneapolis and New York City.
As a Bike Easy analysis shows, biking around New Orleans is already dangerous: black cyclists comprise 46.9 percent of bike fatalities and 47.6 percent of injuries.
At least some things could be changing, albeit slightly. One of the fines Louis faces — the requirement for bike registration — might soon come off the city’s books as preparations are made for the coming herd of electric scooters. He was one of just 33 people who ended up with that charge. Twenty of them were black.
Any discrepancy in the data about which cyclists get ticketed in New Orleans is not surprising to Kevin Louis. “I already knew that,” he said Monday (Sept. 10). He thanked me for putting numbers to his impression of things, but it was a pyrrhic victory, at best. “At least I can say it with confidence,” he said.
How this was reported: NOPD data on citations for cyclists and their demographics was not available. Instead, we used charges as reported by New Orleans Municipal and Traffic Court that included the keywords bike and bicycle. Those that were applied to automotive drivers were removed from the count. One outlier — charges for a bike helmet law, which doesn’t exactly apply to adults — amounted to nearly 800 charges. Local lawyer Charles Thomas, who chairs Bike Easy’s Policy and Design Committee, noted this was likely due to original charges being pleaded down from other bike infractions. Notably, the data changed little when this outlier was removed. With it, black riders account for 64 percent of 1,016 charges and white riders, 30 percent. Without it, black people represent 63 percent of 252 total charges and white people, 32 percent.