Biking While Black Is a Crime

"And that bike," Adderley says, throwing a finger at the rider, "is not registered. You would see a little sticker."

"It's essentially fishing for crime."

Adderley sports Sistrunk bona fides. Today, Fort Lauderdale's first black police chief still lives in the small white bungalow where he grew up, steps from the notorious boulevard. As a kid, he watched hookers and johns cycle through a boxy building across the street. Now, like many structures on the block, that building is sealed with boards.

The chief bats off criticism about the city's bike ordinance. "The police department, we have to respond to the concerns of the community. And if people say, 'Hey, we've got this drug problem, this burglary problem, and we've got people that are on bikes committing these crimes,' we need to ignore them?" he says, those last words hiked up an octave in disbelief.

Lekeithra Smith was pulled over by Fort Lauderdale PD on her ride home. The officers took her bike, issued her a citation, and stranded the 22-year-old in a strange part of town.
Kyle Swenson
Lekeithra Smith was pulled over by Fort Lauderdale PD on her ride home. The officers took her bike, issued her a citation, and stranded the 22-year-old in a strange part of town.
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley denies that racial profiling drives the bike ordinance enforcement.
Fort Lauderdale Police Department
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley denies that racial profiling drives the bike ordinance enforcement.

Back in the mid-'90s, Fort Lauderdale saw a spike in crime, with numbers that outpaced urban horror shows like Detroit and Washington, D.C. But when broken down by specific offense, it wasn't murder, rapes, or burglaries topping local stats.

"The biggest crime we had was bicycle theft," remembers Tim Smith, a white, longtime Middle River Terrace fixture who served on Fort Lauderdale's City Commission between 1997 and 2003. "You really could not own a bike if you didn't attach it to your leg."

Smith brainstormed a solution. If Fort Lauderdale had a bike registry with serial numbers, police could track stolen bikes and return them to their rightful owners.

But the stolen-bike craze dovetailed with the flood of crack in the city's northwest area. To limit their own exposure, the older dealers used young kids on bikes as drug couriers, Smith says. After the bike-registration ordinance passed in 1999, police would stop bikes to check for registration and frequently find crack slingers sitting on the seat.

"There's no question that the fact that people had to register their bicycles probably helped in the effort to stop the crack dealing," Smith says.

Adderley defends the use of the bicycle ordinance and denies that any type of racial profiling is involved. When he replays the complaints from downtown (and particularly from white politicians like Finkelstein), frustration comes crashing through the façade of the cool and careful public servant. There's a realpolitik of street policing to consider, he argues. Without the ordinance, crime in the black neighborhoods would go up.

"We have to reduce crime," Adderley says. "And if we have a high number of burglaries and robberies and complaints of drug activity in a certain area and we figure out the majority of offenders are riding bicycles, we shouldn't just ignore it because Howard Finkelstein has a perception.

"Really, who's more racist?" Adderley says, miming Finkelstein's position: "'The black people don't know what they're doing, so let me come over and tell them how to do it for themselves.'"


The concept of "probable cause" isn't likely clouding anyone's thoughts at the beach, where the faces are predominantly pasty.

It's Sunday, the sky above Fort Lauderdale is a bulging blue, and the afternoon ritual is rolling along as usual. From the Elbo Room, the double-decker dive bar at Las Olas Boul­evard and North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, cheers from NFL fans rain down onto the sidewalks clogged with pedestrians. Across the street, the sand is packed tight with sunning skin. And when you look around, bikes are everywhere — chained up to light posts, weaving through pedestrians, stacked in the back of pickup trucks. None appears to have a registration sticker.

Sitting on the wall with his back to the sand, a bearded white guy in his late 30s leans over his smart phone, watching a video. He plucks out his earbuds to listen to a question. Is his bike registered? "Nope," he answers. Is he worried about violating the city ordinance? "Never heard of it," he says, his face crunching up in a perplexed look. Ever been stopped by police for a bike registration check? "No," he answers again, eyes slicing to the side, as if waiting for a camera crew to pop out and reveal a gag.

A hundred yards up the pavement, a beefy Caucasian man in a safari hat is getting ready to push off on his bicycle. He shakes his head and rubs a hand across his sweaty face, missing a gob of suntan lotion smeared above his lip. As a longtime Fort Lauderdale resident, the registration law is breaking news to him. "And I've had over ten bikes here," he says.

A young dude in his 20s, sporting a red tank top and workout shorts, stretches out after chaining his bike to a nearby tree. "It sounds like something I would be interested in signing up for," he says earnestly. "Do you know how I can sign up?"

A white man in a neon shirt, catching his breath after a ride, noticeably tenses when informed that he could lose his unregistered fiberglass two-wheel beauty to police since it's not registered.

"Why? This bike isn't stolen or anything," he says, steamed anyone would suspect otherwise. "Why would I have to register it?"

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
21 comments
bearkmor9701
bearkmor9701

my Aunty Caroline recently got an awesome 9
month old Mercedes-Benz C-Class Convertible only from working part time off a
pc. my review here buzz55­.­
­o­m

hannha
hannha

No I don't think it's the police. I would just like to know how come anytime something happens to a black person it spreads like wild fire but yet when it happens to another race it's swept under the rug. My husband was biking on a1a and got pulled over for no reason and asked for his green card just because he's hispanic yet it never made the news. I'm not saying black people are the problem I'm just saying that when all you hear on the news is a race problem against black people that it gets old especially when a black person is the leader of our country. Clearly this world can't be that racist if we elected a black president! 

cosmicsoul477
cosmicsoul477

I have been riding my bicycle in Florida for commute and recreation for more than a decade, and I have never heard of statewide bicycle registration being mandatory. I was even involved in bicycle and pedestrian advocacy. And mandatory bicycle registration, for the state, is news to me. 

As to the notion of Black Americans crying racism: A Black person might simply report an incident to the necessary agency, and it is the media which sometimes applies a racial perspective (which is actually good journalism). 

However, with that said, after what Black Americans and their ancestors have been through in this society, they can, frankly, say anything they want. 

Whites might feel guilt, discomfort or annoyance, but at the end of the day, they have not been through what Black people have, so I really don't feel that white people really have a right to tell Black people what to say, do or feel, no right whatsoever. 

foaswag
foaswag

All bikes in Florida are required to have a registration. This is nothing new. I'm 42 and every bike I've EVER had was registered with a special sticker. 


Nummbers
Nummbers

2008 (Jan-June) New York City Crime Statistics by Race (from Yahoo News)

-83% of all gun assailants were black, while making up 24% of the population

-Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98% of all gun assailants

-49 of every 50 muggings and murders were carried out by blacks or Hispanics

-Blacks and Hispanics commit 96% of the crimes in New York, but include only 85% of those stopped during ‘stop and frisk’ incidents

NorthoftheBorder Gold
NorthoftheBorder Gold

You have to admit some crazy shit happens between black folks and police. Police seem like they are trying to find something to nail on them.

Sam Wright
Sam Wright

^^ Maybe Magda should read the article before making an ignorant comment, facts are a tricky thing: "Of the nearly 460 citations handed out in the past three years in Fort Lauderdale, 86 percent went to African-Americans. Almost none were handed out in white neighborhoods east of Federal Highway"

Magda Amor
Magda Amor

yes, these days anything that happens to a Black Person is racist.

concerned citizens committee,inc
concerned citizens committee,inc

I stated already this is rather distrubing.. especially in leaving a women abandoned, as with ms. smith, the police should let her keep her bike & appear in court @ a latter day. I don't believe this is a bad law necessarily (.. help prevent crimes/ potential engagement in a crime.. ) but this also appears to be " PROFILING" ..as Dr. lorie Fridell stated., somewhere down the road this law MUST BE TWEAKED for the correct balance..chairwomen concerned citizens committee,inc liberty city, miami,fla

hannha
hannha

I'm not missing the point, I am just saying what I feel about the situation. My husband is Hispanic and he got stopped while riding his bike he did nothing wrong and they asked him if he had a green card! I didn't go to the press, or the news channels. Every ethnic group has some kind of profiling from someone but it's funny because you never hear about it. The only time it ever really makes the news is when it's a black person. So honestly yes I'm kinda over it. 

hannha
hannha

This is truly getting out of hand. You can't do or say anything to a black person these days without them calling out the race card! Really? we are in 2013 with a black president Get over it, maybe you got stopped because you looked like you were up to no good, and maybe one of your "own" people called the cops on you.... It's not only about race and i'm tired of having to walk on eggshells because anything you do or so to a black person makes you a racist! 

hannha
hannha

@Sam Wright  No actually I think it's just that every little thing that happens to a black person is in the news and is considered racist. Like I said before every race has something happen to them yet it doesn't make the news, so it kinda gets old thats all.

cosmicsoul477
cosmicsoul477

@hannha Well, you should direct your ire to law enforcement. You must admit that, lately, law enforcement has been overreaching their boundaries. Sure, it could be media hype, but it seems to me if citizens of any race or ethnicity are being hassled and harassed for every little thing by police then it is clear that the police are the problem and not Black people.

ellenhaas2001
ellenhaas2001

@hannha I am an older white woman who works for the federal gov't and was pedalling to work one morning around 7:00 am. I was ticketed while riding my bicycle [cop didn't show at the hearing and the b/s ticket was dismissed] and the cop had the nerve to ask me if I was on drugs and where was my drivers license! I think the common thread is the bicycle. Cops hate cyclists...

greenbiker97
greenbiker97

You are missing the point. Hundreds of bikes travel up and down A1A every day. I myself ride there frequently. I have never seen a police officer stop anyone, and I have never been stopped. But I ride a road bike and am dressed in shorts, helmet, gloves, etc. and I am African American. My bikes are not registered. I have been riding my cruiser more, still no stops yet.If whites in these areas are being stopped as often as African Americans, fine. If not, the quacking alone identifies the duck.

greenbiker97
greenbiker97

You are missing the point. Hundreds of bikes travel up and down A1A every day. I myself ride there frequently. I have never seen a police officer stop anyone, and I have never been stopped. But I ride a road bike and am dressed in shorts, helmet, gloves, etc. and I am African American. My bikes are not registered. I have been riding my cruiser more, still no stops yet.

If whites in these areas are being stopped as often as African Americans, fine. If not, the quacking alone identifies the duck.

mahonpau
mahonpau

@cosmicsoul477 @Nummbers I read the same article as Nummbers.  I can't remember the source but it was up on Drudge a few days ago.  I think the point is that it's wrong when an individual's civil rights are violated through unwarranted stop and searches.  But that problem is miniscule within the black community compared to the problems that have lead to the high rate of violent crime perpetrated by black males.

cosmicsoul477
cosmicsoul477

Why do we have to make comparisons? Both are problems that should be addressed. We're not vying for which deserves more attention. Stay on topic, please.

 
Loading...