Ding ding ding

Nakari from Rich City Rides posted this story of a black cyclist in Seaside Heights, NJ, getting handcuffed and arrested for obstruction of justice. The video doesn’t show the beginning of the interaction, but the claim it makes (which I see no reason to dispute) is that he was stopped for not having a bell on his bike. No other explanation for the arrest is offered.

WATCH: Man Arrested Because Riding a Bike Without a Bell On It Is Illegal in a Police State

I grew up going to Seaside Heights. It’s a beach town, with a big boardwalk and amusement park, and the housing is mostly vacation rentals. It’s where “Jersey Shore” is set. It’s also not far from Island Beach State Park, where Chris Christie took his family vacation last year.

In my town we called it “Sleazide”, probably because of white suburban ideas about order and cleanliness. The permanent residents used to be predominantly white and working-class (89% White in 2000), mostly working in the service industries, while the vacationers are predominantly white and affluent. It’s changed some since then; after the town was devastated by Sandy in 2007, the tourist trade took a big hit, and the place became less White (now just 60%), and much poorer (26% poverty rate).

There are basically two kinds of crime in Seaside Heights; property crimes and bar fights. There were zero rapes or murders last year, but incidents of violent crime, burglary and theft are triple the New Jersey average on a per capita basis. The per-capita numbers are a little misleading because the town is twice as large in the summer; when the tourists and their money show up, so do the pickpockets. But it’s not a hotbed of crime.

I don’t know if the man in this video was wanted for other crimes. I do know that I never had a bell on my bike growing up, and I never would have been stopped on trumped-up charges by the cops in Seaside Heights.

I am again compelled to revisit Adonia Lugo’s “Unsolicited Advice for Vision Zero,” which every bike advocate needs to read and comprehend. From that article’s section on “Racial profiling as a street safety afterthought”:

A remarkable amount of mainstream media and policymaking attention has gone to the issue of police violence against criminalized black and brown bodies. Here in LA, Sahra Sulaiman at Streetsblog has covered a number of recent instances of violence. People of color bike groups have organized memorial rides and other direct actions to recognize the effects on communities. And yet one of the pillars of Vision Zero is increasing opportunities for police to apply their biases to street users, aka increased enforcement of traffic laws. White people may look to police as allies in making streets safer; people of color may not.

Lugo has a book coming out in October: “Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance“. She is an insightful and powerful writer. I’m looking forward to reading it, and I encourage my fellow socially concerned cyclists to do the same.

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