Riding While Black or Just Riding?

jones.jpgFrom Robert Jones’s blog This Is the Diaspora comes a disturbing tale (well worth reading in full) of how a beautiful bike ride on a sparkling fall day turned into a humiliating encounter with the police — all because Jones detoured onto the sidewalk of Malcolm X Boulevard in Brooklyn for a few seconds to avoid traffic:

My head started to pound. I was terrified. Were they going to arrest us for riding our bikes on the sidewalk for less than ten seconds? I’m not a Christian but my Jesus! Was I dressed "inappropriately?" Did I look like a thug? Did we look like criminals? Did we resemble some other black people they were looking for? Maybe we should’ve worn bike gear: helmets; knee pads; elbow pads; tight, non-threatening biker pants. Were we smiling? Maybe we should’ve smiled? Or maybe not.

Jones and his partner have court dates at the end of January. We’ll follow up then.

Photo: Robert Jones, Jr.’s Blogger profile

  • Eric

    Stay off the sidewalks at all costs! I think there is some directive behind this. It seems like they are really looking to catch anybody in the act of riding on the sidewalk. You can go the wrong way down a one way street and run lots of red lights, just don’t even think of riding the sidewalk.

  • Brandon

    Yeah, what’s the deal. I have a fine and summons for hoping on the sidewalk for less than a block in South Williamsburg. Now I have to miss work and go to court. Why mess with the bikes!?!? We’re solving our traffic congestion problems!

  • fred

    > Maybe we should’ve worn bike gear:
    > helmets; knee pads; elbow pads; tight,
    > non-threatening biker pants.

    …helmet w/ a large PBA sticker…

  • Eric

    It’s because there have been a lot of purse snatchings in Brooklyn perpetrated by people riding bikes on sidewalks. The only solution they can come up with is to stop everybody they see riding bikes on the sidewalk.

  • Kim

    Sorry, but where riding on the sidewalks is illegal, don’t do it. If you want to be respected by traffic, act as traffic. If you want to be respected as a law-abiding citizen by the cops, abide by the law. If you have to go up onto the sidewalk to avoid being killed, go up and dismount, then walk to where you can return to traffic.

    Unless there are other, non-black riders doing the same thing and seen by the same cops but getting different treatment, who knows if it’s racism or merely enforcement? That information is missing and without it there is no good way to get a fuller perspective of the situation.

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