It’s highly likely that black cyclists are disproportionately cited for infractions by Minneapolis police, especially for riding without lights and reflectors or on a sidewalk, a Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition study has found.
The cautiously worded conclusion reflects the relative paucity of racial identification data that researchers were able to obtain. The study is based on seven years of police reports in which 169 cyclists identified by race were ticketed, arrested or referred for further investigation, but excludes a larger group of 1,101 bike-related citations during the period that did not include the cyclist’s race.
Minneapolis police now collect race and other demographic information with traffic stops, including bike stops.
“Our department has not had enough time to review the report and to comment on it,” said officer Corey Schmidt, a police spokesman.
Black cyclists made up nearly half of those involved in the police reports even though they make up less than one-fifth of the city’s residents, the study found.
The racial disparity was highest for cyclists who were riding on a sidewalk in a business district, which is against state and local law. It also was high for cyclists who didn’t display lights or reflectors as required by state law.
Minneapolis Bike Coalition study director Melody Hoffmann said the findings are in line with an American Civil Liberties Union study released last year that found people of color in Minneapolis were nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for low-level crimes than their white counterparts.
But she said more data is needed, and that the nonprofit bike and pedestrian advocacy coalition will again examine citations issued to cyclists once new data is collected.
Many of the police reports involving lights or sidewalk riding were on Nicollet Mall, W. Broadway, E. Lake Street or the University of Minnesota area. Almost all involved men, many of them ages 20 to 29.
Hoffmann said that one reason people may be riding on the sidewalk is to avoid riding on busy streets such as Lake, which suggests those streets should be better designed for cyclists.
Anecdotal comments in the reports suggest that police may have a negative perception more often of cyclists of color than white cyclists, the study found. But Hoffmann said she’d hesitate to ascribe the overall pattern of disparity to police bias with such a limited amount of data.
“This first set of data points gives us a lot to chew on,” said Bill Dooley, a coalition activist and a member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.
The coalition will hold a community discussion of the findings by Hoffmann and co-author Anneka Kmiecik at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 at Hope Community Inc., 611 Franklin Av. E., Minneapolis. Limited seating may be reserved at bit.ly/2dWX2sk.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438