Thursday, January 04, 2007


Andre makes an important point in his comment on yesterday's post. Just because I've never seen police stop a black man on a bike, doesn't mean it isn't happening in Savannah every single day.

My commute is topographically flat, but it's a demographic roller coaster. On my way to work I pass mansions and tumble-down boarding houses. I ride through neighborhoods that are majority African American (like the city of Savannah as a whole) and neighborhoods that are nearly 100 percent white.

Still, I'm seeing only a narrow slice of Savannah, both geographically and chronologically. This morning I did not see cops hassling black cyclists in Chatham Crescent or Thomas Square, but doesn't mean it wasn't happening at that very same moment in Liberty City or Pine Gardens. I don't usually ride my bike late at night, so I may be unaware of a completely different police enforcement posture that's adopted while my bicycle is asleep in the shed. Also affecting my perception of the situation is my status as a beneficiary of white privilege.

It seems to me that enforcement of bicycle ordinances ought to be the responsibility of the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department's traffic division. After all, bikes are vehicles. If the vehicle is being used in an unsafe and illegal manner that endangers its operator, operators of other vehicles and pedestrians, shouldn't the police intervene? Then again, since enforcement of bicycle ordinances is sporadic, it would be naive to believe that traffic safety is the primary motivation when police officers decide to stop someone riding against traffic or without lights.

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